Children don’t play as much as they used to. Structured after-school activities have replaced spontaneous get-togethers with other kids in the neighborhood, while free-flow creative time has been replaced with scheduled activities.
Being a kid today simply isn’t what it was 50 years ago, and for Dorothy Lefford, OTR/L, VP-Clinical Services with Easterseals Northeast Central Florida, lack of playtime is so much a concern that she’s actively working to change it in our communities.
“We call the phenomenon ‘play deficit,’ and we see many consequences for not allowing children to use their imaginations and play freely within healthy parameters every day and for significant intervals” said Lefford.
Play deficit has been studied extensively in recent years, and Lefford is an engaged champion dedicated to reversing the phenomenon.
“Whenever I assess a child’s development, I consider how much play is incorporated into their lives and whether it’s an issue that needs to be addressed. We can learn a lot about a child from how much unstructured playtime they enjoy,” she said.
Experts have documented the repercussions of play deficit for many years. They explain that lessened play time, notably since the 1950s, has contributed to increased mental disorders in children, higher instances of childhood anxiety and depression and increased suicide rates among older children and young adults.
“Kids need a chance to be free and explore in safe environments that allow them to thrive,” said Lefford, who now speaks to local childhood development leaders about the seemingly unlimited benefits of childhood play.
In her program, “Movement to Learn: The Brain/Body Connection,” Lefford trains professionals on the research behind movement and brain development, and its impact on performance in school and after-school programs. Further, she helps groups understand environmental factors impacting motor development and what the body needs to ultimately function.
In each session, staff learn resources and strategies to implement stress management and movement into the classroom too, and in the case of the Boys & Girls Club of Volusia/Flagler Counties, how to implement play into after-school programs.
“When children are playing, they are learning,” said Lefford. “They not only flex their imaginations, but also learn to cooperate, share, and how to be assertive without dominating. These are the kinds of social skills that serve us throughout our lifetimes.”
Added Lefford: “Playing is too important to ignore. I’m proud to work with organizations that understands its value.”
To learn more about and bring Easterseals’ “Movement to Learn” training program to your organization, call Dorothy Lefford at 386-944-7856.
If you can’t remember what happens when you give a mouse a cookie, or why the pigeon wants to drive the bus, you may need to brush up on your reading – children’s book reading, that is.
Reading to children ages 0 to Pre-K is a fun and effective way to help them develop their literary skills. Reading aloud to youngsters offers them numerous benefits, including building their imaginations and learning about their world and worlds they have yet to explore. In even the youngest children, reading supports social skills, basic speaking skills and increases their vocabulary. Books help children increase empathy too.
All of these are some of the reasons Easterseals of Northeast Central Florida is recruiting readers for its 100 Leaders, 100 Readers program, which is kicking off soon in Daytona Beach and DeLand as part of Easterseals 100-Year Celebration.
As part of 100 Leaders, 100 Readers, members of the community will be making guest appearances and reading aloud to students in Easterseals Charter Schools classrooms. (If you’re interested in this volunteer opportunity, please email Susan today!)
If you’re out of practice reading books aloud to little ones, fear not. Check out these tips on how to keep your audience of youngsters captivated while you share your time and talents to support and encourage children’s literacy and Easterseals:
Pick up a children’s book today and read to a child you love, or join our 100 Leaders, 100 Readers program. As J.K. Rowing knows all too well, “…something very magical can happen when you read a book.”
Sources: Pre-KPages.com, Pearson.com, ReadBrightly.com, ChildDevelopmentInfo.com, and Rasmussen.edu.
The holiday season can be a time of great joy, but for children with sensory issues, new schedules and once-a-year happenings can spell a-n-x-i-e-t-y.
To reduce that possibility, Easterseals offers eight strategies to help parents and guardians and their sensory-sensitive children enjoy this festive season:
1. Prepare a schedule. A verbal, visual or handwritten schedule is imperative for busy days with sensory-sensitive children, particularly days that include multiple transitions and activities that may be unfamiliar to your child. Discussing events in advance and reviewing them several times can help a child understand what’s next, clarify expectations and reduce anxiety. Using social stories that include the timeline, activities and who’ll be attending can be comforting for children. Encourage questions and plan for any foreseen obstacles.
2. Be mindful of your child’s sensory needs. Try to avoid predictably stressful scenarios. For example, if your child does not like crowds, try shopping early in the morning or at night. If loud noises bother your child, try a smaller venue, or offer ear plugs or noise-reducing headphones. Determine a “break area” to serve as a safe escape as needed in case your child becomes overstimulated or overwhelmed.
3. Enlist your “village.” Have a family meeting and discuss holiday plans/activities that include your child. Discuss expectations with your family and problem solve potential obstacles in advance with them.
4. Prioritize sleep and meal schedules. Try not to deviate too much from your child’s daily schedule, with special attention to meal and nap/bed times. Keeping these predictable and scheduled as usual will pay off when it’s time to transition back to school, too.
5. Take proactive breaks. Locate a calm space/relax zone for each place you go and when possible, determine it in advance. Bring your child’s comfort toy(s) and identify a code word that your child can use to indicate they’re distressed. These often provide children with a sense of control and can reduce anxiety. Many meltdowns have been avoided by taking pro-active breaks.
6. Keep your child comfortable. Pack comfort items for your child when they’re out and about. These may include a favorite toy, book, music or coloring supplies. Bring extra items for your child to share with others to encourage socialization, too. If your child loves to play on your smartphone or another digital device, limit its use and only provide it during agreed-upon times (unless the device is used for communication with you).
7. Stay on track-food sensitivities: If your child has food allergies or sensitivities that may prevent them from enjoying holiday treats, bring alternatives enough to share.
8. Keep your holiday décor simple: The holidays are filled with twinkling lights, festive music and many new scents. To acclimate your child to changes in their home environment, for example, involve them in decorating. Allow them to help decide what and where holiday décor should be placed. Involving them in decision making gives a child a sense of control and can lead to some great “ah-ha” moments between you, too.
Happy Holidays from Easterseals of Northeast Central Florida! We wish you all the love and joy the season brings.
Fueled by the mission of taking on disability together, Easterseals organizations around the world bring awareness, treatment and advocacy to adults and children with disabilities in America.
The United States Government recognizes National Child Health Day every October 1 and stated in its 2018 Presidential Proclamation that “On Child Health Day, we renew our commitment to ensuring the health and well-being of our young people, who are the future of our great country. All children deserve to grow up in loving homes with parents or guardians who are dedicated to empowering them to live healthy, safe, and successful lives.”
Easterseals is a partner in making this vision a reality and achieves it by creating and managing programs and services that make profound, positive differences in people’s lives every day. Easterseals of Northeast Central Florida’s services can be organized by how they fit into the “Live, Learn, Work, Play, Act” model:
LIVE: These programs offer hands-on, comprehensive, vital services and support to help people reach their full potential—regardless of challenges, needs or disabilities. They include Agency for Persons with Disabilities - APD Application assistance, Autism Early Diagnostic and Functional Assessment Clinic, Feeding Aversion Clinic, Early Steps evaluation and treatment, an equipment loan program, Florida Telecommunications Relay, Inc., interpreter services, pediatric audiology, social skills training and more.
LEARN: These programs are designed to help children and adults learn—and often re-learn— basic functions, master skills needed to develop and thrive, and be sharp and active as they age. They include American Sign Language® classes, case management/service coordination, Child Development Centers, Easterseals Charter School, Pre-Kindergarten, Evelyn Lynn Child Development Center at Project WARM, school-based therapy, Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten and more.
WORK: These programs include a range of training, placement and related services that help people prepare for the workforce—because meaningful work is often the key to overcoming challenges and having a good life. Examples of Easterseals’ offerings include clinical training, Deaf advocacy, internships and physician in-services.
PLAY: Easterseals is committed to offering fun, healthy programs for children, adults and caregivers to relax, connect with friends and engage in constructive activities—all necessary to living the best life possible. These programs and activities include accessible playgrounds, Camp Challenge, Joey’s Gift Respite Care, social skills training, and Tiny Toes Play Group for Early Steps.
ACT: Easterseals is fortunate to have a vibrant community of friends and supporters who stand with those who face challenges by volunteering, advocating, donating and participating in events that inspire us all and sustain our cause. We encourage all citizens to get involved with Easterseals as an advocate, joining a board or committee, engaging in community collaboration, joining the Disability Coalition, contributing to the equipment loan closet, giving or donating funds, participating in special events and volunteering.
To learn more about how to engage with Easterseals and learn more about its programs, connect by calling
386-255-4568, 1-877-255-4568 (toll-free) or 386-310-1157 (videophone); emailing email@example.com; or visiting us online at www.eastersealsnecfl.org.
They may not present themselves with ground tremors or baby-powder breezes, but August and September are the busiest months for births.
Did you know that Easterseals offers direct services to little ones ages birth to 3 years and their families? The program is Early Steps North Beaches, and it’s part of a statewide system of early intervention services for families with infants and toddlers who are not reaching age-appropriate milestones.
Early Steps is a Florida Department of Health program overseen locally by Easterseals of Northeast Central Florida. Within the program is Early Steps North Beaches, which serves Volusia, Flagler, Lake, Sumter, and Putnam county families. Annually, more than 2,500 children ages birth to 3 years are referred to Early Steps North Beaches by hospitals, physicians, community agencies and even parents themselves.
Easterseals staff and volunteers operate the program in multiple locations and positions, to include service coordinators, speech therapists, development specialist and administrative management and support. At Early Steps, early intervention is provided to support families and caregivers to empower them to help their children learn developmentally appropriate skills where they live learn and play. Thus, most Early Steps interventions are home visits.
The purpose of Early Steps North Beach is to ensure that families of children with disabilities are equipped to enhance the development of their children within their everyday routines, activities and places.
Early Steps North Beaches is funded by federal resources made available under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, and is used after Medicaid, private insurance and third-party funds have been applied. Evaluation of prospective families includes an examination of the child’s physical domains, cognitive abilities, gross and fine-motor skills, communication abilities, social and emotional development and self-help skills.
Interested in learning more about Early Steps North Beaches? Those with questions about Early Steps and caregivers are seeking an evaluation for their child can contact one of the Early Steps office below for a referral and to set up an evaluation appointment. Evaluations are provided at no cost to families.
Early Steps North Beaches
1673 Mason Ave., Ste 100
Daytona Beach, FL 32117
Early Steps DeLand
156 McGregor Road
DeLand, FL 32720
Early Steps Bunnell
301 Justice Lane
Bunnell, FL 32110
Early Steps Lake, Sumter, Putnam
1300 Citizens Blvd., Suite 300
Leesburg, FL 34748
Shhh…don’t tell the children, but when they play, they are doing their most important work.
That’s why Easterseals’ Early Step North Beaches offers free playgroups for local Early Steps children and their siblings through December.
The playgroups consist of circle time and gross motor time. Circle time is focused on enhancing cognitive, speech and peer interaction skill through songs, stories and sensory activities. Gross motor time uses mats, slides and balls to encourage children to jump, climb, balance and play.
Early Steps North Beaches offers playgroups through December 2018 in Flagler County and in east and west Volusia County:
· Flagler County – 1st Friday of the month from 10 – 11 a.m. Dates: Aug. 4, Sept. 7, Oct. 5, Nov. 2, and Dec. 7. Location: 301 Justice Lane (Bldg. C), Bunnell, FL 32110
· West Volusia County – 3rd Tuesday of the month from 10 – 11 a.m. Dates: Aug. 16, Sept. 20, Oct. 18, Nov. 15 and Dec. 20. Location: 156 McGregor Road, DeLand, FL 32720
· East Volusia County – 2nd Tuesday of the month from 10 – 11 a.m. Dates: Aug. 14, Sept. 11, Oct. 9, Nov. 13, Dec. 11. Location: 1219 Dunn Ave., Daytona Beach, FL 32114
Caregivers must stay and participate with their child for the entire playgroup, and socks are required for playgroup playtime. For more details, contact Deanna M. McGrath, Early Steps Family Resource Specialist at 386-873-0365 X116 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.