Research shows that a child’s first three years are the most important time for learning. Assistance through programs such as Early Steps helps children proceed on the right path as they learn and develop.
Early Steps is a statewide system of early intervention services for families with infants and toddlers who are not reaching age-appropriate milestones.
With a focus on helping children reach their full potential in how they live, learn and play, Early Steps providers teach parents and other caregivers ways to improve child development through everyday routines. Locally through Easterseals Northeast Central Florida, Early Steps North Beaches is helping little ones develop and learn to their highest potential.
"At North Beaches Early Steps, our top priority is to help each and every child meet their individual developmental milestones," said Program Director Stephanie Ellis-Clark. "We understand that all children are special and that there is no comparison as to when a child will meet that milestone. Our focus is to make sure that we celebrate with them, every step of the way!"
In honor of national Easterseals 100th anniversary this year, Ellis-Clark offers 100 typical developmental milestones for children ages two months to three years based on CDC research, listed below. More information about Early Steps North Beaches can be found on the Easterseals Northeast Central Florida website.
100 Typical Developmental Milestones
2 months old
One of Easterseals Northeast Central Florida‘s biggest champions for the past several decades has been David Hood. We learned earlier this week that David passed away with his family by his side. We at Easterseals are heartbroken at this news, while at the same time we continue to be grateful for his life, legacy and all he’s accomplished for our Easterseals families.
David was an incredible leader in Easterseals gift planning initiatives, and through his personal dedication and widely embraced leadership style, helped Easterseals realize some of its most spectacular wishes and dreams. David’s leadership made possible Easterseals Autism Center of Excellence, Easterseals Charter School, Easterseals Tennis Everyone! program, and Easterseals nearly $3 million capital campaign, which he co-chaired with the late Gloria Cook.
And, this is just the beginning of what David helped Easterseals achieve since he became a volunteer director more than three decades ago.
After serving as a board member, chairman of the board, and honorary director, David was named an Honorary Life Director. He also was a recipient of the Lily award, Easterseals Northeast Central Florida’s highest local honor.
It may go without saying that David also was a generous financial supporter of Easterseals, not only during its community-wide campaign drives, but also privately and behind the scenes when specific needs have arisen. David is the kind of leader who asks, “What does Easterseals need most right now?” and his heart led his service.
Easterseals President & CEO Bev Johnson continues to see David’s legacy of caring leadership at Easterseals.
“When I first joined the organization and let people know I worked for Easterseals they all asked how David was,” said Bev. “He was so passionate about Easterseals that the mention of the organization almost seemed to automatically connect him to it.
“While I didn’t enjoy the privilege of knowing him personally, he certainly left a legacy of kindness and caring for our clients and the families who love them,” she added.
Former Easterseals President & CEO Lynn Sinnott remembers David with reverence and affection.
“David Hood demonstrated his commitment to individuals with disabilities in many ways. He served on the Easterseals board in many capacities, including the chairman of the board, board chair for the newly established Easterseals Charter School, and co-chair of the Capital Campaign Committee that raised $2.7 million for the renovation and expansion of the Easterseals facility on Dunn Avenue,” said Lynn. “David shared his business and leadership expertise with board and staff, serving as my mentor when I first started at Easterseals.
“In addition, David was a major donor, helping Easterseals start several major programs that changed the lives of individuals with special needs,” added Lynn. “I know he will truly be missed in the Daytona community.”
Our thoughts and prayers are with David’s family during this difficult time. Easterseals Northeast Central Florida always will be indebted to this great man, humbled by his servant leadership and forever transformed by his passion. He will be greatly missed.
Easterseals Northeast Central Florida’s passionate supporter, lifetime director and beloved matriarch Gloria Cook passed away on March 17. While we at Easterseals are brokenhearted at the news, we also remember Gloria with great reverence, and honor all she’s meant to our organization – the one that was closest to her heart for more than 60 years.
Gloria’s relationship with Easterseals Northeast Central Florida began in 1953 when she, as a young Junior Service Leaguer, donned a crisp white uniform and worked hands-on with an Easterseals therapist to treat the special needs of children with disabilities. That first volunteer assignment began a lifelong unpaid career in serving the needs of people of all ages with disabilities.
Gloria’s involvement in day-to-day activities of the Junior League Orthopedic Center (which became Easterseals) eventually evolved into fundraising and volunteer management, and she soon worked her way up to the board and presidency of the local and state Easterseals affiliates. By 1980, Gloria was elected as the National Easterseal Society President and was the first Floridian and only the second woman to occupy that position.
As national president, worked with as many as 800,000 volunteers across the country, and met with various private and governmental agencies and hospitals, national media offices and state rehabilitation facilities and all Easterseals affiliates to further the mission of serving persons with disabilities.
Gloria was named Honorary Lifetime Director for Easterseals Volusia/Flagler in tribute to her continuous board member and committee roles and in 2004 was honored with Easterseals’ Volusia and Flagler’s highest honor, The Lily Award. Additionally, she served multiple leadership roles with the statewide Florida Easterseals chapter over a span of 21 years – including president, vice president, secretary and past president – and assisted the House of Delegates of Easterseals national headquarters. Her commitment to serving others also flowed into several additional national and local roles, including the White House Conference on Food, Nutrition and Health and the National Institute of Health.
One of Gloria’s most notable achievements as an Easterseals director was co-chairing with the late David Hood a $3 million capital campaign to construct Easterseals’ Daytona Beach facility. Notably, Gloria was the Easterseals chair when the original facility was built as well. Her leadership brought both projects to reality, though more than 40 years separated them.
Gloria’s life’s work for Easterseals shaped countless public policy and helped decision-makers understand issues important to Easterseals. And, while she often focused on state and national initiatives, she remained equally engaged in the local agency’s day-to-day projects. From collection donations for Harley Give-Aways during Bike Week, to supporting the inaugural and now decades-established Rotary/Easterseals Golf Tournament (a tournament started by her late husband Tom in tribute to Gloria’s dedication), Gloria was a hands-on supporter.
Easterseals VP-Gift Planning Susan Moor recalls their friendship and Gloria’s sincere interest in Easterseals families.
"Gloria was a wonderful friend and mentor to me since day one and throughout my Easterseals career,” said Susan. “I think what I valued the most in her contagious and unbridled pride for all things Easterseals, was her incredible ability to remember and value details about her interactions with our clients and their families. Our clients meant the world to her and she would often arrive at meetings and functions early enough to peek into the classroom and therapy areas to see kids at work and play."
“Gloria has been a guiding light for us at Easterseals for many, many years,” said Easterseals President & CEO Bev Johnson. “Her kind spirit and love and dedication to the clients we serve is absolutely irreplaceable. She will be missed greatly.”
Former Easterseals President & CEO Lynn Sinnott also shared her sentiments.
“Gloria Cook loved Easterseals and served individuals with special needs throughout her adult life. She served in so many capacities during more than 60 years she was a part of Easterseals it would be almost impossible to name them.
“I remember her as gracious, strategic, fun, loving and caring,” added Lynn. “She took time to discuss a small or strategic issue with me, pen the most beautiful notes, help to make a connection and even questioning a budget number. Every action was handled thoughtfully. I will miss her, as will whole Easterseals organization and all who experienced her passion.”
Instilling in her children a love for Easterseals and a desire for service, Gloria’s daughter Sheryl continues to be a leader with Easterseals Northeast Central Florida.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the Cook family during this difficult time. Gloria’s vision, heart and loyalty live on in Easterseals Northeast Central Florida. She always will be an important part of our family – a beloved matriarch to whom we owe much gratitude.
More than 2 million Americans live with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), a neurological developmental disorder that impairs the ability to communicate and interact. With love and community support, they can live independent and productive lives.
Show your support by wearing blue and attending the Autism Resource Fair from 9 to 11 a.m. Monday, April 2, followed by educational workshops by local experts from 11 am to 1 pm, at Easterseals of Northeast Central Florida, 1219 Dunn Ave., Daytona Beach. The Autism Resource Fair coincides with World Autism Awareness Day, which also is April 2.
The event will include autism-friendly events, educational activities and refreshments. Attendees can test their knowledge of autism, create awareness art, and learn more about autism spectrum disorder.
Experts will be on hand from Easterseals’ Autism Center of Excellence, Volusia County Schools, Welcoming Hearts, doTERRA Wellness, Early Learning Coalition of Volusia & Flagler Counties, Tobii Dynavox (assistive technology for communication), Strategies, ADAPT, Special Olympics Volusia, The House Next Door, WORC, Beachside Music Therapy, Neural Balance, University of Central Florida Center for Autism and Related Disabilities (CARD) , Marcody Ranch, Disability Solutions, Brail and Talking Books Library, Blue Jay Academy, Chase Academy, City of Ormond, Hope Reigns and more.
Each year, Easterseals of Northeast Central Florida serves more than 500 children who have been diagnosed with ASD. The nonprofit agency also operates the Autism Center of Excellence – a one-stop center for diagnosis, interventions and case management for children who were referred by their physician for evaluation of ASD. To learn more about Easterseals’ autism services, visit http://www.easterseals.com/necfl/our-programs/.
For more information about the Autism Resource Fair or World Autism Day, contact Dorothy Lefford, OTL/R, Vice President – Clinical Services, at 386-944-7856 or email@example.com.
Barbara (Barbie) Overton is a Pre-Kindergarten teacher at Easterseals Charter School in Daytona Beach. In her role, Barbie works to lay the foundation for creating a love of learning that will stay with her students throughout their lifetimes.
From day to day, her classroom activities focus on helping students build empathy and compassion, problem solve and enter kindergarten ready to learn. She focuses on designing activities in a creative learning environment that keep the youngsters’ interest, all the while teaching them how to be their best.
“Some of the outcomes I want to see in my students are being able to cooperate, share and care for others; being able to think for and express themselves confidently; and being able to appreciate diverse views,” explained Barbie, adding that being resilient in the face of adversity and having a lively curiosity about things are daily goals for her students, too.
Barbie enjoys many aspects of teaching, but one stands out.
“I love seeing the growth that my students make,” she said. “Not just the big growth made from the beginning to the end of the school year, but all of the smaller ones in-between. Kids have a lot of ‘aha’ moments and I love being a part of that.”
It’s no surprise that this enthusiastic teacher, like so many others, also values teaching children how to have fun and care for others, too.
“I enjoy seeing my students' faces light up and hearing their laughter when they are having fun doing the learning activities,” said Barbie. “And, I treasure it in my heart when I witness compassion and caring in my students for others, such as comforting someone who is sad or hurt, helping someone remember what to do, or working peacefully and happily together on a project.”
A common misconception about how preschoolers learn is that they are learning even when it looks like “just playing,” she said, adding that the more teachers a child has in their life the better they are and the further they will go. She encourages parents and caregivers to become a teacher for their children.
Added Barbie: “Make everyday moments teachable moments, especially ‘oopsies.’ We often learn best from our mistakes.”
If you have a love of teaching or an interest in helping children and adults with disabilities reach their fullest potential, you may have a place at Easterseals. All current job opportunities may not be available online, so contact HR Generalist Fran DeCinto at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. In the meantime, complete our application for employment opportunities, available here. Additionally, Easterseals has partnered with GettingHired.com, an online resource that connects people with disabilities to employers in search of qualified jobseekers with disabilities. Visit GettingHired.com to open your door to opportunity!
Easterseals of Northeast Central Florida serves the region with facilities in Daytona Beach, DeLand, Bunnell, and Leesburg. To learn more about Easterseals of Northeast Central Florida, please visit www.eastersealsnecfl.org.
Myracle Andrews, 5, is a VPK student with Easterseals of Northeast Central Florida. Her mother Precious Smith is delighted with the positive changes she’s witnessed in her daughter’s development since she began with the program last September.
“She has improved a lot at Easterseals,” said Precious, adding that before Easterseals, Myracle was attending a VPK program her little girl wasn’t keeping pace with.
Today, only months into Easterseals’ VPK program, Myracle has grown by leaps and bounds in her verbal communication skills, in particular, improving greatly with using sentences, using more verbs and nouns, and expressing feelings.
“She’s learning to express herself now and that’s a good thing; she never did that before,” said Precious. “She can say, ‘I’m angry,’ or ‘I’m upset,’ and explain why.”
At home, Precious reinforces classroom learning by also teaching Myracle things her daughter will need to know for kindergarten, including learning and drawing shapes, coloring in the lines, and learning to write her name. So far, she’s getting the hang of “M.”
“Those are some of the things we’re working on at home so she’ll be caught up with the class when the time comes,” said Precious.
Myracle has three older brothers and one baby brother. Her mom says she’s a helpful big sister. She’s grown into the role, said Precious, and it’s another positive indicator of her development.
During playtime, Myracle loves to pretend-play cooking in her pint-sized kitchen. She adores her baby dolls and loves dressing up as well.
Precious admits she had reservations about Easterseals before a case worker at her daughter’s former school mentioned that Easterseals VPK may be a good fit for Myracle. She now realizes there was no need for hesitation.
“She’s doing things she was not doing before coming here,” said Precious. “At the other school, she wasn’t learning like she is now.”
“I would recommend that any parent who is interested in help for children (who have challenges) like Myracle to looking into Easterseals; it’s a very helpful environment,” she said. “I’ve seen a big change in Myracle since she’s been here. (The children) are learning a lot here and it’s a good atmosphere.”
Added Precious: “They love Myracle. That is the most important thing. She is loved here at Easterseals.”
Myracle is ready for her big day as a Walk With Me Ambassador on April 26 in Daytona Beach! Join her team, register to walk or donate at www.walkwithme.org/daytona.
Oatmeal, barbeque chicken, applesauce and sweet potatoes. Together, they’re healthy food options for any growing youngster. But, if that’s all he’ll eat from day to day, it’s reasonable that his parents may get concerned.
Food aversion is one of the challenges that Melissa and Chad Chesley have experienced with their nine-year-old son Carson. Just as they had called upon Easterseals of Northeast Central Florida to provide in-home behavior, occupational, physical and speech therapies to Carson, who was diagnosed on the autism spectrum at a young age, they also have looked to Easterseals’ TR-eat® Model (Transdisciplinary Effective Assessment and Treatment) for answers to his selective eating.
The TR-eat® Model includes behavior strategies that are combined with skill building, facilitation, sensory desensitization, and oral motor intervention to help children overcome their resistance to non-preferred foods.
Carson had been receiving Easterseals services for a couple the of months when the TR-eat® Model became available to him. Melissa recalled the extent of Carson’s food aversions when he began the program.
“During Hurricane Matthew (in late September 2016), we had evacuated. Out of our home, Carson doesn’t really eat very much anyway, but then he contracted a couple of stomach bugs (during that time) and had stopped eating all his foods but one,” remembered Melissa.
Carson was so underweight at one point that it concerned his primary care doctor, who had strongly suggested Carson use a feeding tube as a solution. But, his parents were hopeful for a better way.
During the same time period, Easterseals therapist Amy Michaelis also had been supporting Carson and family in the home with feeding strategies. Carson did not (and still doesn’t) like to eat anywhere other than home and that includes school, explained Melissa, but Amy was able to harness some eating victories with Carson that gave the family hope.
“Once there was success with a new, more portable food: Uncrustables® sandwiches,” said Melissa. “Amy went to school a couple of times and had a session with Carson with the new food. (Before that) he had never eaten at school at all. Most days he’d go from 7 p.m. to 5 p.m. the next day without eating.”
At the same time, Carson began the TR-eat® Model as part of his occupational therapy sessions at Easterseals. He slowly started trying new foods and was eating the sandwiches at school. “The good news is he went from not eating all day to eating during the day,” said Melissa. “And now, he’ll still eat the new food but also eat things before it and with it.”
In addition to his appetite for foods slowly expanding through the TR-eat® Model, Carson has experienced impressive leaps in his speech development, said his mother.
“We’ve seen a huge uptick in his language,” said Melissa. “He went from one-word requests to actual sentences. We are on the verge of something really big.”
“I think of the word ‘advocacy’ all the time,” said Chad. “When I think of Carson or any of my children, I think, ‘what is their fullest potential?’ So, it doesn’t matter if Carson has a diagnosis. Whatever his fullest potential is, we want him to reach it. If other people want to be part of that, because we don’t know exactly what that looks like, then it’s exciting for us.”
Melissa, who now works side by side with Easterseals therapists in her role as Easterseals Chief Financial Officer, can’t say enough good things about her colleagues.
Said Melissa: “I have personal experience with them, and we’ve spent a lot of time together. All of the therapists here are amazing.”
The Chesley family is anticipating being a part of the 2019 Honorary Ambassadors program. Join Carson and his family for Walk With Me on April 26 in Daytona Beach. Connect with their team, register to walk or donate at www.walkwithme.org/daytona.
Scarlett Valdez is a curious, sweet-tempered four-year-old who’s been in the Easterseals of Northeast Florida family since her birth. Her connection with Easterseals began via her enrollment in Early Steps when she was only a few months old. The in-home visits by Early Steps therapists began soon thereafter.
When Scarlett finished the Early Steps program, she entered Easterseals Charter School in DeLand, where she’s been enrolled of two years.
Some of the challenges Easterseals therapists have addressed with Scarlett include walking and communication. Today, Scarlett is much more exploratory and inquisitive, too, evidence she’s on the right path.
“Before Easterseals Charter School, she didn’t want to do much,” said Rachael, adding that Scarlett is feeling braver and more independent through the helpful support of the Easterseals team.
Every day, Scarlett gets stronger and more confident, and her personality continues to shine through brightly.
Her brother Emmett, age 7, is one of her biggest fans and is quick to talk about what his little sister enjoys most: Disney, “Toy Story,” “Monsters Inc.” and “Big Hero 6” top her list these days, he and his mother said, while “Tangled” remains an all-time favorite.
While muscle coordination and speech therapy continue to be developmental focus areas for Scarlett, for Rachael, Easterseals’ support has resonated above and beyond those.
“Easterseals is very helpful,” she said. “(This) is a lot of stress; it’s very stressful when you have no idea what to do. (Now) I have people I can talk to, and they answer questions.”
“We encourage families to look into Easterseals for all of the resources they provide,” she said.
Rachael and Emmett are proud of Scarlett for being a Walk With Me Ambassador, and they look forward to seeing you at Walk With Me on April 26 in Daytona Beach! Join their team, register to walk or donate at www.walkwithme.org/daytona.