Did you know Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) are the fastest growing developmental disabilities in the world today, affecting 1 in 59 children?
It takes a team approach to deliver exceptional care to children with ASD. Nowhere is that more evident than at Easterseals of Northeast Central Florida.
As the clinical coordinator for Easterseals’ Autism Center of Excellence, Debbie Neller, OTR/L, has the privilege of meeting with families, conducting autism diagnostic testing, and presenting her findings to physicians.
“Every day I am able to discuss observations, situations and unusual findings with others on our team who have wisdom and knowledge I may not have,” Neller said. “I don’t have to look far to find resources for myself as well as for the families I interact with.”
As the mother of a special needs child, she understands the alternating emotions of fear and hope that many parents experience.
“I am inspired every day by the children we serve and their families who come with concerns, hopes and fears,” she said. “To be able to speak to their concerns, maybe even alleviate some, and connect on common ground is so fulfilling. Having ‘walked a mile in their shoes,’ it is the ultimate full circle to be able to offer guidance and help to families who may feel lost.”
Since she joined the Easterseals in 1995, Neller has gained confidence, a sense of purpose, and a drive to help these families. She has also found the uncommon element of pure joy in her work.
“I can make a difference,” she said. “On a professional level, I am stretched each and every day. Children are amazing in all they are, and no two are alike. Working together with these amazing children and their parents, the Easterseals team is able to provide quality and compassionate care.”
Easterseals’ Autism Center of Excellence is a recognized leader in providing early diagnosis, functional assessment and intervention treatments for children with ASD. Learn more about Easterseals at www.eastersealsnecfl.org.
Do you know someone in Central Florida who exemplifies how to #BeBraveForCourageousKids?
Nominate your “Champion for Children” and enter them to win a free rappel down the 8-story International Motorsports Center in Daytona Beach in Over the Edge at ONE DAYTONA on November 3!
To nominate your “Champion for Children” for a free rappel, send the nominee’s name and 150 words or less about how they’re a hero for kids in our community to firstname.lastname@example.org by 5 p.m. Monday, October 22.
Keep an eye out for our announcement of the winner, which will be posted on the Over the Edge at ONE DAYTONA'S Facebook page by Thursday, November 1, 2018.
Proceeds from Over the Edge of ONE DAYTONA support Easterseals of Northeast Central Florida and The NASCAR Foundation. The event will welcome more than 100 rappelers to step over the edge to show love and support for children in our community with special healthcare needs. Please note that all “Champion for Children” nominees must be 13 years or older.
To rappel, sponsor or volunteer at Over the Edge at ONE DAYTONA, Nov. 2-3, 2018, visit www.daytonaovertheedge.org.
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.
The National Alliance for Caregiving reports that more than 43 million caregivers in the United States provide unpaid care to an adult or child annually. And, according to the National Respite Coalition Task Force, family caregivers are more than twice as likely than non-caregivers to report "usually or always" feeling stressed.
If you’re a caregiver, maybe it’s time you took a healthy break. Easterseals of Northeast Central Florida wants to give you that gift of time.
Joey’s Gift Respite, an Easterseals program, is designed to care for your child with special needs between the ages of 1-18. Joey’s Gift Respite offers four-hour breaks on designated Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The next session will be October 20 at the Easterseals Child Development Center, 1219 Dunn Ave. in Daytona Beach.
Trained staff and volunteers care for children in a safe and fun environment. Siblings are welcome, too. Plan to pack a lunch for all children attending, and if needed, include personal hygiene supplies or medications.
Complete the enrollment form for Joey’s Gift Respite if it’s your first time attending. All caregivers must sign up online in advance or call Easterseals at 386-944-7816 at least five days before the scheduled program.
Take a break, with confidence, with support from Joey’s Gift Respite. Take time to take care of you.
Ready to challenge yourself with a new language? Sure, German comes in handy around Oktoberfest, but American Sign Language is the one that can change lives – including yours – right off hand. (Pun intended!)
Thousands of Volusia and Flagler Counties residents are deaf or hearing-impaired and, chances are, that includes someone you know or will interact with in your community.
Here are five reasons to learn sign language through Easterseals of Northeast Central Florida this summer (classes begin Oct. 22!):
1. It’s not uncommon. American Sign Language is more widely used in the U.S. than Chinese, French, Vietnamese or Korean. Thus, it’s likely you’d be practicing with people you meet day in and out.
2. It’s a helpful tool for communicating with the public. ASL-trained residents who work in service to the public may be able to better serve hearing-impaired individuals.
3. It improves personal communication, too. ASL-trained family members, friends and colleagues of hearing-impaired persons can put immediately actionable signing to use toward more effective communication.
4. Classes are inexpensive! $50 covers a nine-week session.
5. Classes are convenient! Meet beginning Monday, October 22, from 6 – 7:30 p.m. at the DeLand Family YMCA (761 E. International Speedway Blvd.), or meet beginning Tuesday, October 23, from 4:30 – 6 p.m. at Easterseals in Daytona Beach (1219 Dunn Ave., Daytona Beach). All classes are taught by an ASL-certified instructor.
Register now; space is limited! Register online here or call Shae, ASL instructor, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Pictured, left to right, are Tracey McLaughlin, Chele Wallens, Cat Hammons, Lourdes Rodriguez, Jaslyn Clemmons, Brenna Giblock, Lori Ebanks, Lynn Carew, and Awilda Koolhaas.)
At the Sept. 13 annual meeting of Easterseals of Northeast Central Florida, held in Daytona Beach, several staff members were recognized for going above and beyond in their efforts at the nonprofit. “The Extra Mile Awards” were distributed by Board Treasurer Melissa Burt DeVriese to a room full of Easterseals board members, volunteers and staffers.
“At Easterseals, we recognize that our staff is extraordinarily involved in our overall success towards our mission. They do the meaningful, hands-on work at Easterseals, and are the driving force behind our purpose,” said Burt DeVriese. “They are our link to clients, giving us insight into the real impact we have in stories and in numbers.”
“They are the ‘heart and soul’ of Easterseals,” she added.
Burt DeVriese individually recognized the 2018 recipients of The Extra Mile Awards; her remarks are below. Easterseals thanks and honors these recipients for a job well done!
The Extra Mile Award Recipients
Tracey McLaughlin – Daytona, Executive Assistant
Tracey is always willing to take on additional assignments, tasks and responsibilities. She is an incredible researcher, diving into every question or problem and seeking answers before ever asked to do so. Tracey happily accepted the responsibility for HIPPA Compliance across the organization this past year and is staying one step ahead of the game, ensuring we are safe and secure around every corner.
Chele Wallens – Daytona, Accounting Manager
Chele has been with Easterseals for 11 years. She is very knowledgeable about the organization and is a resource for everyone. A great deal of change has occurred in the last year and Chele as embraced it; she continues to help make our organization more efficient.
Cat Hammons – Daytona, HR and Accounting Coordinator
When the HR and Accounting Coordinator role was suddenly vacated, Cat jumped into it with no experience. She was not afraid to dive in and figure things out in the human resources office. Cat is always pleasant and has a great, willing attitude. She is great with following up on tasks and has been very reliable.
Lourdes Rodriguez – Daytona, Charter Teacher
Lourdes is the first to step up and serve as a mentor to new teachers and staff in the Charter School. She embodies the definition of “team player.” She goes above and beyond to ensure the children have materials they need to learn successfully (she’s the master of garage sales, too!) and works with the families to ease any concerns about their children transitioning to kindergarten, or as they call it, “big school.”
Jaslyn Clemmons – Daytona, CDC Teacher
Jaslyn is a committed and caring member of the Child Development Center staff. She doesn’t leave the building until she knows everything, and everyone, are “okay.” She constantly seeks ways to improve her craft as a teacher, and when you walk into her classroom you never want to leave. Jaslyn moved from the one-year old classroom to the two-year-old classroom this year and our parents couldn’t be happier. They didn’t want to lose their “Ms. Jas!” and we couldn’t agree more.
Lori Ebanks– Deland, Site Administrator
Lori has been the backbone of the Easterseals DeLand campus. During the center’s transition and opening of the Charter School, Lori wore many hats to keep things running smoothly. She always asks, “What do you need?,” and provides an answer, delivering more than expected. Lori is a key member of our ECE team.
Brenna Giblock – Deland, Early Steps Supervisor
Brenna is hard working and very attentive to details. She has stepped up in Early Steps and has taken on more responsibilities to include not only supervising her DeLand staff, but she also becoming more involved in other aspects of the program to include file reviews and auditing. Further, she represents Easterseals occasionally on the west side for check presentations and outreach. She has been a tremendous asset to the program.
Lynn Carew – Daytona, Medical Records
Not many people see Lynn as she is often in our medical records room organizing and caring for our clients’ charts, but Lynn always has a smile on her face. Lynn took on a huge project this past year and did so willingly – she is extremely organized and keeps us moving in terms of all our health information.
Awilda Koolhaas – Leesburg, Early Steps
No matter what Awilda has going on, she has a smile on her face. It is quite apparent that Awilda loves her job and helping the families she works with through Early Steps. Awilda can be found at many of our community events spreading information, education and her beautiful smile.
Need support in addressing challenging behaviors in children with autism? Just ASK.
Easterseals’ Autism Center of Excellence’s Debbie Neller, OTL/R, is spearheading a program with parents and caregivers in which she provides behavior-modification tactics through ASK: Autism Strategies Know-How. The one-hour program is empowering parents by improving their understanding of autism and increasing their confidence in supporting children on the autism spectrum.
Neller begins each session by explaining what autism is: A neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by difficulty with communication and socialization and often displayed with restricted interests and repetitive behaviors. According to statistics by Autism Speaks, autism occurs in 1 in 59 births and is 4-5 times more common in boys.
Common challenging areas for children with autism usually include anything sensory related, such as feeding, toileting, speech and oral or physical hygiene. Throughout each training, Neller encourages parents and caregivers to be astute observers of their children, and to not be afraid to implement new tactics. She recommends five research-supported strategies:
Neller encourages parents and caregivers of children with autism to be patient with themselves and remain hopeful on their journey while she illustrates the many strategies they can employ.
“I remind parents that their child is still the child they know and love and many methods exist to help their child in the most beneficial ways,” said Neller. “The ASK program helps adults understand the mind of a child with autism, while adding tools to the toolbox if and when they are needed.”
“We want these children’s homes to be filled with enthusiasm and laughter,” said Neller. “Empowering parents to be more effective in how interact with their children is an important step toward that reality.”
For more information about ASK or to schedule a presentation, contact Easterseals’ Autism Center of Excellence at 386-255-4568.
Just as there’s no escaping the news coverage of Hurricane Florence this week, there’s no escaping a hurricane when it’s headed your way. Caring for children – including those with special needs -- during such an event can be doubly daunting.
Faring well in a hurricane is all about preparedness, and resources from FEMA to the American Red Cross bring us tips on preparing emergency kits for such weather. (If you’ve not yet secured your hurricane preparedness kit, it’s time to do so. Florida’s hurricane season continues through November 30, and September is a peak month for hurricane activity.)
For parents and caregivers of children with special needs, preparation takes on additional importance. Aside from physical preparations a family may need to undertake, the emotional and psychological trauma of uncertain and scary weather can be challenging for children.
To help keep youngsters calm during storms and severe weather – once they are safely evacuated and/or secure – experts offer several ideas for families:
1. Demonstrate and encourage calm behavior. Calm parents and caregivers help children remain calm, too. Limit news coverage to only the necessary messages and monitor the media entering the child’s world. Non-stop meteorologist commentary can overwhelm anyone.
2. Explore the science of weather. Hurricanes and severe weather are scientific marvels. If your child is curious about what’s happening outside, gear up with some educational resources to help explain and entertain. Curriculum examples multiple grade levels are available via the National Education Association.
3. Keep routine as much as possible. Maintaining as much consistency in schedule as possible can help a child feel secure. If your child finds comfort in routine, keep the elements you can, such as eating lunch at a certain time or playing a favorite game after dinner.
4. Be honest and confident. If your child asks questions about the storm, answer them honestly; it’s okay to be brief. Confidently explain the measures the family has taken to ensure you’re all safe and you’re well prepared. Encouraging children’s questions will help them express their fears.
5. Encouraging hugging. From snuggling a favorite stuffed animal to sitting on daddy’s lap, cuddling up can help quell anxiety.
6. Give the kids a job. Feeling helpful can bring purpose to uncomfortable situations. Let your kids be helpers if possible. Ask them to collect candles, check the flashlight batteries or pack some snacks.
Severe weather doesn’t have to be a severe bummer. Prepare your children and make the best of inevitable inconvenience by employing activities and mindsets that can bring the calm to any storm.
Sources: Omaha.com, huffingtonpost.com, americanredcross.org, fema.gov.
Early intervention is important to a child’s development. Research shows that a child’s first three years are the most important time for learning. When you know that your infant or toddler could benefit from an early intervention program, how do you pick the right provider?
It is important to find a service provider that can meet the needs of your child and your family. You should feel comfortable talking to the provider. Here are some questions you may want to ask:
· Is the provider a Part C provider? If so, Part C may pay for your therapy if your insurance doesn’t. (To learn more, contact your local Early Steps Program for an appointment to determine eligibility.)
· Does my insurance company have a preferred provider I must use to qualify for payment of services?
· How far away is the facility?
· Will the provider come to my house or my child's day care center?
· What are the provider's qualifications? Is he or she licensed? Does he or she have any special certifications in pediatric therapy, early intervention, child development, etc.?
· Is the facility clean and well-maintained?
· Does the provider have experience with other children like mine? What kind of success has he or she enjoyed?
· How does the provider include me and my child in the treatment plan?
· How will the provider participate in my child's family support plan or individual education plan?
· Is my family invited to participate in the intervention sessions?
· How is family education and support provided?
· What happens when my child turns 3 years old?
· How does the provider interact with my service coordinator and the local early intervention program?
Early Steps, available through Easterseals of Northeast Central Florida, is a statewide system of early intervention services for families with infants and toddlers (ages 0 – 3) 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. The Early Steps program is professionally managed by a program director, a manager, multiple family service coordinators and two family resource specialists. Early Steps covers Volusia, Flagler, Lake, Sumter, and Putnam Counties.
Contact one of Early Steps’ four convenient locations in Northeast Central Florida:
· Early Steps North Beaches (Daytona Beach) -- 386-873-0365
· Early Steps DeLand -- 386-873-3658
· Early Steps Bunnell -- 386-254-1248
· Early Steps Lake, Sumter, Putnam (Leesburg) -- 352-323-0612
Assistance through programs such as Early Steps helps children proceed on the right path as they learn and develop. Easterseals is proud to partner with parents and caregivers of young children to help ensure youngsters reach their full potential. Visit the local Early Steps website to learn more.
The 2018 edition of Over the Edge at ONE DAYTONA this November 2-3 will be successful for many reasons: the rappelers who fundraise to earn their spots on the ropes, the cheerleaders who encourage those Edgers to “be brave for courageous kids,” and the incredible businesses that support the unique event through their charitable giving.
Jeep Beach Inc., an annual event each April in Daytona Beach, has stepped up as a 2018 sponsor of Over the Edge at ONE DAYTONA and is excited about the opportunity.
“Jeep Beech chose Over the Edge at ONE DAYTONA because the funds raised from it go to such incredible kids in our communities,” said Charlene Greer, member of the Executive Board of Directors for Jeep Beach Inc. “The ability to continue the flow of support to children in our communities through Over the Edge was a natural fit for Jeep Beach.”
Jeep Beach celebrated its 15th anniversary this year when it welcomed more than 6,000 Jeeps inside and outside The Daytona International Speedway for the main event. The grassroots effort by volunteers in the “Jeeping” community has brought the event to the level it is now, supported by vendors and sponsors within the Jeep industry. The event attracts a very large, diverse demographic. The 2018 event saw participants from Brazil, Ukraine, Italy, Australia, Russia, and Canada. During the event, hotel occupancy in the Daytona Beach area was at a staggering 82 percent.
The organization is proud to give back locally to causes that make a difference.
“Jeep Beach Inc. has a unique opportunity to support many outstanding charities within our local Central Florida communities,” added Greer. “We have a very strong belief in ‘taking care of those that take care of you.’ If we take care of our communities, our communities will take care of us.
“And, I am excited to have the opportunity to accomplish something like rappelling 8 stories…I never thought I would ever do such a thing,” added Greer. I am nervous about taking that first step Over The Edge, but I want each child I am rappelling for to know that they are worth every second and all the time and effort put into this event.”
Jeep Beach 2019 will be held April 22-28, 2019. To learn more about the weeklong event and all the activities it entails, visit www.jeepbeach.com. To learn more about Over the Edge at ONE DAYTONA, November 2-3, 2018 and its sponsorship benefits, visit www.daytonaovertheedge.org.