Celebrating Mom! Easterseals former Ambassador Carolyn McGahan shares a loving tribute to the Advocate Mom that pushed her to always reach for the starsRead Now
My name is Gabriella Goeke and I have been a speech language pathologist with Easterseals for two and a half years. I service clients in our Easterseals charter school and work in the Autism Center of Excellence. I provide evaluations as a part of a multi disciplinary team. I supervise our speech therapists during their clinical fellowship as well as provide resources for our classroom teachers, staff and clients.
I enjoy the opportunity to educate and guide families through the assessment process. Working as a part of the multi disciplinary team allows me to see the child as a whole while giving valuable input regarding a child’s speech and language development. I believe when a child has a comprehensive evaluation, the parent can receive all evaluations for every area of development in one place which in turn saves them valuable time.
I feel that everyday my skills as a speech language pathologist grow tremendously through continuing education and my everyday experiences in our Autism Center of Excellence and Charter School. I have received extensive training in the areas of articulation, language, feeding and oral motor therapies. I also learn so much from my clients and their families. As I educate them, they educate me as well and help me grow as a therapist.
As a “speech therapist” most people think that I only work on helping children pronounce sounds/words. However, I am a speech-language pathologist and I do work on helping a child pronounce their sounds as well as supporting language development.
When people think about Easterseals, I hope they think we are a place they can turn to in a time of need and uncertainty to gain answers and guidance regarding their child. I love my job as a speech language pathologist and I love coming to work everyday knowing that I am making a difference in helping children find their voice.
One last thing I would say to parents, guardians and caregivers...Early intervention is key! If you have any uncertainty about the development of your child, don’t wait! We are here to help you and the earlier the better.
You can reach Gabriella through Easterseals Specialty Clinic at 386-944-7800 or email email@example.com.
Debbie Neller is not new to Easterseals, but now as Clinical Coordinator of the Autism Center of Excellence, her primary role has shifted. She is responsible for administering the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule, and other supporting assessments, managing assessments and information for comprehensive diagnostic evaluation report, and overseeing diagnostic meetings with Easterseals' physicians as part of the Autism Center's Early Diagnosis Clinic.
Debbie is a kind and patient clinician, and what she enjoys most about working with families through Easterseals is, "The opportunity to walk with families through a difficult moment, presenting information to them about their child in a compassionate manner."
Debbie loves working in a team-focused environment and being able to easily access other professional opinions/observations. Gathering supportive strategies for families is also a key part of Easterseals' multidisciplinary approach to diagnosis. She says this is a true advantage for those we serve, noting, "Families are provided complete information about their child’s strengths and abilities as well as their areas of need in multiple areas of growth and development. Our comprehensive assessment is just that…..comprehensive!
Although Debbie has practiced as an Occupational Therapist, mostly in the school system, the majority of her career, she says that her role as Clinical Coordinator for the Autism Center has given her professional growth opportunities. Debbie says, "I have a new appreciation for the uniqueness of each child. For their gifts and their unique challenges. I am challenged each day to creatively support the children and families I see. This job has expanded my perspective. I have learned much about myself, and my own challenges as it pertains to workplace interactions which is refining me both in my professional and my personal life."
When asked to share insight from her personal experience that may help parents just entering their journey with Easterseals, Debbie reinforces this thought, "There is no perfect answer for some of our families’ challenges. They just are. Easterseals stands as a shelter and guide through the journey. I came to work for Easterseals because of my own special needs child who is now 26," and she approaches each family with a sincere desire to walk alongside them and help their child on a path to thrive, regardless of a diagnosis or delays.
Even Debbie's daughter feels at home at Easterseals, "She feels it is an extension of our home, and she is proud to tell anyone where her mom works!"
To chat with Debbie, you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for who you are, and all you do, Debbie!
Jillian Overby is ending her second year as a lead teacher at Easterseals Charter School, where her role is to provide structured daily lessons in a supportive and caring environment to ESE charter students.
Teaching is a love for Jillian, and she says she "really enjoys working with children in the pre-k age group (3-5 years old), we are fortunate to see large amounts of growth and change happen in a relatively short amount of time. A variety of services are provided in the charter classroom: pre-academic skills, social-emotional skills, speech therapy, and occupational therapy are just a few of the many services we offer.By having a team of experts in these fields providing complementary services, our students grow leaps and bounds very quickly!"
Jillian says that our team-focused approach allows us to provide clear and meaningful supports to our families, noting, "Our charter classrooms are extremely team focused, and we meet regularly as a team to ensure our goals are cohesive for each individual student.Working so closely together gives me the unique opportunity to learn new things – nearly every day!Whether it is the speech therapist teaching me a new technique, or the IEP specialist helping me develop a new goal, there is the potential to grow as a professional every day."
"I began collecting a printed certificate of every professional development opportunity I have completed since starting with Easterseals nearly two years ago.In this short time I have filled a one-inch binder with certificates and credentials. Without a doubt, Easterseals has provided me with more professional and personal growth than any other organization I have worked for," says Jillian proudly.
Jillian really wants people to understand how deeply our childcare teachers care and the intentionality and planning that goes with helping children of all abilities achieve goals for lifetime success, "Some assume I only provide childcare services, and my job goes way beyond that. Each student arrives in my classroom with 3-6 individualized goals to work on. My biggest responsibility is ensuring my students are consistently working on these goals.I monitor and track progress, and I develop strategies for growth if needed. I provide our families with progress reports and data every four and a half weeks, at a minimum.Working in the charter classroom is paperwork and data heavy. I put forth 100% effort during EVERY minute I spent on the job."
So glad you are on our front line, Jillian!
Blue Jay Academy is an Academic School for students K-12th grade as well as summer camp programs. "Students will receive an education by teachers that show compassion, empathy and genuine concern for their well-being," says Lisa Eddy, DeLand Principal
Meet Jennifer Haaf, FTRI Program Manager. Jennifer has been with Easterseals over 12 years, overseeing all aspects of the Florida Telecommunications Relay, Inc., or FTRI program, including Community Outreach, Equipment Distribution, training on specialized equipment, as well as all administrative work from audits, paperwork, new hires, inventory, etc.
Jennifer loves her role, and describes it as a "feel good job" saying "We provide a service through the FTRI program that benefits so many clients with hearing and speech disabilities. I am honored to be able to provide individuals with a much-needed resource. Knowing that a client's life was made just a little bit easier because of what we do makes it all worth it."
Her biggest joy is the opportunity to grow both personally and professionally over the last decade. She notes, "Easterseals has given me the ability to see life through the eyes of our clients which has taught me a great deal of understanding. My work, as well as the work of my teammates and co-workers, has taught me to change my way of thinking - to be more empathetic, rather than sympathetic. Understanding someone's needs is so much more fulfilling than feeling sorry for their needs. It gives me the ability to be that helping hand and provide them with what they need. "
One thing she would like to shout from the rooftops is the fact that the Florida Telecommunications Relay equipment is offered to qualified Florida residents at no charge. "They really are FREE!!! One of the biggest challenges is convincing people that this equipment really is FREE. "
The Easterseals FTRI program has grown leaps and bounds over the last 10 years. Currently we have experienced a setback due to the pandemic. Our biggest challenge right now is keeping community awareness of the FTRI program alive; making sure everyone knows we are still here, active, open and available. If we can continue to do that, we will continue to thrive and grow.
When people speak of or think of Easterseals, Jennifer hopes they think of us as a helping hand, a partner in their journey to achieve all they were meant to achieve. After all, Jennifer shares, "Life is full of challenges, some much greater than others. Asking for help is difficult for many, but it's important to realize help is available if you are willing to accept it, you just have to be willing."
To learn more about the FTRI program, visit https://www.ftri.org/daytona4 or email Jennifer Haaf at email@example.com.
My name is Meredith Ligon and I am the Site Supervisor for Easterseals Early Childhood Center, Bunnell, Florida. I have been at this location for a year first starting as a Lead Preschool Teacher. As a Site Supervisor I strive create a safe, loving, educational, and fun atmosphere. I train my staff and spend time in each classroom to ensure that the curriculum meets every child's needs.
I have worked in childcare for 17 years and I am willing to share my knowledge with the staff to make our center better. I work hand in hand with Project Warm to help the children have a comfortable transition to the facility, and give a sense of normalcy to them as they are reunited with their mothers. My staff and I also help guide the mothers. When the mothers are reunited with their little ones some feel unsure because their child has been with foster care or with close relatives, it our job to let them know they are not alone in this process and offering some tools that they might need. I know I’m making an Impact on my community, I form a bond with all the families and feel wonderful when they are successful in Project Warm. Seeing the smiles on their faces brings me joy and pride. Being part of the Easterseals team is rewarding with in itself. Christina Hopkins has taught me many of the ins and outs of the program and is so supportive and Beverly Johnson has been very encouraging.
My staff is like my family and we grow together to make this center beautiful. Being a strong team ultimately helps our families because the line of communication is away open. I am learning to take a leadership role I'm just not speaking on the behalf of myself anymore but the Easterseals name. I represent my staff, the Easterseals cooperation and they childcare center. As a Site Supervisor I am extremely involved in the dynamics of the classroom. My goal is to build an environment and to cater to each individual child's needs by giving my staff all the tools they need to be great.
I was diagnosed with dyslexia at age five and received help with speech at age three and I remember feeling lost. I learned differently and at times I was afraid to speak up, afraid to say I was struggling. With the support system I had with in the schools, and within my family I am in this great position to help give a child the strength to take on their challenges to embraces what make them different and love it, to not feel ashamed. I want them to be looked at as individuals, as a child sometime I was cast aside or belittle because it took me a little longer to understand a classroom activity. It is my goal to have no child ever endure the feeling of being lost, afraid and unable to ask for help. I want to be a role model for every child that struggles with a disability or parent that has a child that might have learning delays. I want them to know there is a light at the end of the tunnel. All teachers need to be mindful of this. Each child deals with their own outside difficulties and circumstances. It is our jobs to be empathic and to address it with kindness and patients.
When people think about Easterseals they think about an accepting place that caters to all children needs. I am so thankful to be a part of such a wonderful foundation and to play a role in each of our families’ lives.
“Breathe. Let go. And remind Yourself that this very moment is the ONLY ONE you know you have for sure.” Oprah Winfrey
"My name is Lauren Allen, I am the lead pediatric physical therapist at the Autism Center of Excellence, as well as a physical therapist in the Volusia County Schools. I am coming up on my 2nd anniversary here at Easterseals. My primary responsibilities are ACE evaluations, re-evaluations, treatments in the clinic and schools, and assisting in managing the physical therapy assistants. I enjoy working with the families here at Easterseals!
I like to help educate families, so they feel less overwhelmed and more empowered and involved in their children’s care plans. The advantage to working in a TEAM centered environment is that we can all utilize are areas of expertise to provide for the “whole” child. This allows me to share my 20 plus years of pediatric experience, my knowledge from my yoga training, my neurological background, and my handling skills with other clinicians and families.
I have grown in my professional career by learning more about autism and sensory integration. Most people do not understand that I do not just work on gross motor skills with children. I also look at fine motor, speech production, social skills, and overall development and wellness. I want to be known as someone who will always take the time to listen, problem solve, do research, or help with difficult treatments. I am currently challenged by the new growth of physical therapy clients at Easterseals- scheduling issues, space constraints, and creating a sensory friendly space. I believe we are at a critical period of growth here at Easterseals and look forward to seeing where this path leads."
Welcome to the IMPACT Team, Lauren!
Jennifer Scally joined Easterseals nine months ago as a new Family Resource Specialist. The Family Resource Specialist (FRS) is a resource for families served through local Early Steps and a community link to support family-centered efforts and activities within the local Early Steps. The FRS supports families served in Early Steps by expressing the views, perspectives, and needs conveyed by families. The FRS also solicits feedback from families receiving early intervention services to ensure diverse input regarding programs, policies and the delivery of Florida’s early intervention services.
Jennifer says what she enjoys most about her work is "the ability to connect with families and raise their spirits. That could mean I am just a listening ear or making recommendations for various community resources that can assist their family. I love helping families and finding them the resources they need. I enjoy learning how to put the monthly newsletter together and put pride into it being informational and enjoyable."
One of her joys at Easterseals is being in a team-focused environment. She says, "When you work in a team you get into different situations in your work culture that will get you to observe how the work is done. Teamwork simply makes you more open to different things and implies that you get new ideas and learn new things from other members of the team. I have grown personally becoming more outgoing and comfortable speaking in public as well as with strangers. Professionally, I have grown in a short period of time reaching personal goals as well as reaching leadership standards."
Jennifer is at ease in her role, but definitely reports that COVID has been her biggest challenge. She says, "I have grown personally becoming more outgoing and comfortable speaking in public as well as with strangers. Professionally, I have grown in a short period of time reaching personal goals as well as reaching leadership standards."
Welcome to the Easterseals team, Jennifer!
Vocational Rehabilitation-Florida Department of Education
There are many resources and supports for persons with disabilities available through Vocational Rehabilitation - Florida Department of Education.
Amanda Muller, VR Consultant