Today we celebrate the progress of Special Education!

What exactly is special education? Special education features instruction and interventions designed to meet the individual needs of each child with a disability. While this doesn’t seem like such a dramatic idea to us now, it is fairly new. In fact, in 1975, the U.S. Congress enacted the Education for All Handicapped Children Act. This landmark law – together with subsequent amendments in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act – protects the rights of infants, toddlers, children and youth with disabilities and their families.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, “Before IDEA, too many children were denied access to education and opportunities to learn. Providing appropriate education to youngsters from diverse cultural, racial, and ethnic backgrounds was especially challenging. Further, most families were not afforded the opportunity to be involved in planning or placement decisions regarding their children, and resources were not available to enable children with significant disabilities to live at home and receive an education at neighborhood schools in their community.”

The IDEA has four main purposes: Continue reading “Today we celebrate the progress of Special Education!”

Family Support: The difference in success

089Recently I’ve been thinking about what makes Easter Seals North Georgia’s programs unique. Okay, lots of places provide early education, early intervention and/or support services. I realized almost immediately that the thing that makes us unique is our commitment to FAMILY. We cannot fully educate, support or provide therapies to children with special needs if we do not focus on their families too.

As Thanksgiving approaches, let’s talk about family and their importance on a child’s development.

Easter Seals North Georgia’s overarching goal is that parents will be their children’s first and most important teacher. How do we do that? Continue reading “Family Support: The difference in success”

#SuccessStartsHere: Volunteers

Every year, our corporate partners spend over 4,000 hours volunteering their time and talents to Easter Seals North Georgia. Volunteers read to and play with children, clean and sanitize classrooms or do something unique. One such group was from Turner Broadcasting.

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Employees across Turner Broadcasting System – which includes CNN, TNT, Cartoon Network, Turner Sports and many more – donated more than 2,000 books for infants to five-year-old children and their parents.

Team lead Colleen Sullivan met with ESNG several times to develop a plan for a new library in our Sylvan Hills location. Then, on Thursday, September 15, a team of 17 volunteers came to our child development center to do some hard work. For more than four hours, they built, painted and created the most beautiful library our kids have ever seen. Continue reading “#SuccessStartsHere: Volunteers”

Live, Learn, Play for All

Easter Seals is the largest provider of inclusive learning in the country. What exactly does inclusive instruction mean, though?

Inclusive instruction means recognizing, accommodating, and meeting the learning needs of all students. It means acknowledging that all students have a range of individual learning needs and are members of diverse communities. Most importantly, inclusive teaching avoids pigeonholing students into specific groups with predictable and fixed approaches to learning.

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ESNG introduced inclusive learning at our child development centers back in 1992. The innovative program soon became a model for the state of Georgia. Today, we educate and care for 1,503 children, 30% of whom have a disability. We have partnered with Atlanta Public Schools (APS) to offer children with disabilities an inclusive learning environment. There are five collaborative classrooms in our Guice and Sylvan Hills centers with two APS special education teachers and two ESNG teachers.

What are the benefits of inclusive learning?

Children learn from each other. 
Clearly, the children do not know their friends have special needs or require any accommodations. They just see their friends. Children with special needs see typically developing children following directions, singing, dancing, and talking. It becomes a part of their everyday activity and soon will follow those behaviors.

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Children learn to be leaders.
Children with special needs and typically developing children have classroom jobs. They set and clear tables, lead lines, and clean up together. One teacher says, “This year, Kayla has really become a leader. She was in the program last year and knows exactly what to do. She loves setting the table and telling her friends that lunch is ready. I can definitely tell that her confidence has improved remarkably since last year.”

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Children learn from structure.
We encourage families to keep their children in the program for multiple years to get the most out of it. One of the reasons is because children thrive from structure, especially kids with special needs. They know what to expect and what is expected of them. A teacher told me, “Caleb used to throw his toys when it was time to clean up. It took him a couple of months to get used to the schedule, but he got it. Now, he hears the clean up song, grabs the toy bin and puts the toys away.”

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Children learn from play.
That is to say, though, it’s not fun and playful. Children with disabilities – just like children without disabilities – learn from running, throwing, and dancing. Children with low muscle tone can gain strengthen by running on the playground. Children with sensory issues can get used to different textures in a sandbox. And, music helps children with behavioral issues learn to follow directions.

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Children learn empathy.
One of the beauties of childhood is they often don’t see the differences in people. Children in inclusive classrooms see children in wheelchairs and know that they cannot use their legs. Teachers and kids talk about it and kids know that they need to help their friends who need it. Four-year-old children may not know the importance of what they are learning now, but as they meet people with different abilities and thoughts, they will know how to help.

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More info:
The benefits of inclusive learning. One family’s story – http://www.easterseals.com/our-programs/childrens-services/the-benefits-of-inclusive-childcare-for-all-children.html

 

Tips to Make School Transition Easier

I know it’s hard to believe, but the new school year is right around the corner (if it hasn’t started yet). ESNG’s Early Childhood Mental Health Manager Dr. Juanita Brigman offers some advice to help you and your young child have an easy transition as he/she starts preschool.

Weeks before starting school:

  1. If your child had a later bedtime during the summer, help him/her get into a preschool schedule by keeping to his school bedtime about 2 weeks before school starts.
  2. Read books about starting school. Here is a list of recommendations.
  3. Visit the school and let the child tour the classroom and meet the teacher.

The night before the first day:

  1. Let your child choose (weather- and school-appropriate) clothes for her first day.
  2. Pick a bedtime that gives your child a good night’s rest before the first day. Keep the bedtime routine soothing and relaxing. Don’t focus too much (or at all!) on the first day of school unless he wants to.
  3. Have a nutritious breakfast that helps your child focus on fun not hunger.

The morning of the first day:

  1. Children pick up on the reactions of the trusted adults in their lives. So try not to look worried or sad, and don’t linger too long. Say a quick, upbeat good-bye and reassure your child that all will be well.
  2. Think about creating a special good-bye routine. For example, you can give your child a kiss on the palm to “hold” all day long. Or, the two of you can sing a special song together before you leave. Good-bye routines are comforting to children and help them understand and prepare for what will happen next.
  3. When you enter the classroom on the first day, calmly reintroduce the teacher to your child, then step back to allow the teacher to begin forming a relationship with your child. Your endorsement of the teacher will show your child that he or she will be happy and safe in the teacher’s care.

Resources:
https://www.zerotothree.org/resources/78-preschool-prep-how-to-prepare-your-toddler-for-preschool

http://www.scholastic.com/browse/article.jsp?id=1372

http://kidshealth.org/en/parents/adjust-to-preschool.html#

Monthly wrap up – June & July

Don’t get mad at the messenger, but summer break is almost over! We did a lot in June and July and here’s a quick wrap up of our activities:

Awareness:

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We hope you are enjoying the lazy days of summer. When we say lazy, though, we hope you don’t forget the importance of safety during the season of pools, beaches, sun, trips, insects, and heat! Just to help you out so you can go back to enjoying the fun, we’ve put together some quick safety tips.

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They say that parenting is the hardest, yet most rewarding job. Dads play an equally important role in parenting as do mothers, but sometimes their importance gets overlooked. How do Dads make a difference? Here are just 5 of the many reasons why.

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Don’t forget that it’s very important to make sure your kids continue to learn even though they are not going to school in the next couple of months. Here’s a look back at our tips to help you and your kids prevent summer brain drain.

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At ESNG, we believe in inclusive learning. That includes summer camp. Meet Nicholas, who has spina bifida, who attends a fun and engaging summer camp – with just a few accommodations.

Around ESNG:

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This month two of our centers, Brookvalley and Mansell, joined Premier Academy, Madison County, and Warsaw in receiving the prestigious Quality Rating from the Department of Early Care and Learning: Bright From the Start. According to Bright From the Start, “Quality Rated is Georgia’s system to determine, improve, and communicate the quality of programs that provide child care.” We are thrilled to be recognized for our staff’s hard work to educate vulnerable children in Atlanta and northeast Georgia.

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Children at our Mansell location had an exciting visit from local emergency workers. Firefighters and paramedics came by and showed kids what they do to keep us safe. They also talked about what kids need to do to be safe in our communities.

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Our STEM consultant, Garry Harris, was recognized by President Clinton for his achievements in STEM and early education. ESNG is excited to partner with Mr. Harris and have his expertise as we prepare our children with the tools and knowledge they need to be successful in school and life.

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Office Depot Foundation generously donated 300 sackpacks filled with school supplies to us earlier this month. This donation ensures that our children will be ready to learn come August! Thank you, Office Depot.

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Even though it’s summer time, that doesn’t slow down our volunteer program. We had six groups of corporate volunteers from Frazier Deeter, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Kabbage, Cox Automotive, Salesforce, and UPS. These volunteers played with and read to our kids or painted and sanitized classrooms to get them ready for August!

Thank you to all these groups!
Here are photos from the events.

Success Starts with our Staff

Last Thursday we celebrated the end of the school year and the great job all of our staff does at our 11 child development centers and Babies Can’t Wait. One of our favorite parts of the day is when we recognize a person from each center. They receive an Individual Excellence Award for their commitment to the values ESNG holds true.

This year’s recipients are:

Brookvalley: Shirley Smith, Assistant Teacher

Guice: Linda Kilgore, Teacher

Linda Kilgore, Guice

Mansell: Yolanda Carrillo, Assistant Teacher

Yolanda Carrillo, Mansell

Premier: Julie Golphin, Teacher

Julie Golphin, Premier

Sylvan Hills: Erica Holmes, Family Support Advocate

Erica Holmes, Sylvan Hills

Warsaw: Michelle Gonzalez, Family Support Advocate

Michell Gonzaelz, Warsaw

Barrow: Kayla Mosher, Teacher

Kayla Mosher, Barrow

Jackson: Jenny Gentry, Teacher

Jenny Gentry, Jackson

Madison: Tiffany Moss, Teacher

Tiffany Moss, Madison

Walton: Sandra Channer, Family Support Advocate

Sandra Channer, Walton

Winder: Angela Walter, Teacher

Angela Walter, Winder

Jimmie Moss, a teacher from our Madison location, received the President’s Award. This award highlights the work of a staff member who goes above and beyond everyday duties.

Jimmie Moss, Madison

Staff also recognized President/CEO Donna Davidson for her hard work in leading the organization for the past 24 years.

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We also celebrated many staff’s anniversaries with ESNG.

Five years:

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Pictured L-R: Angela Johnson, Warsaw; Shantay Howell, Guice; Rozza Gadson, Warsaw; Dorothy Anderson, Guice; Arshameyon Anderson, Sylvan Hills; Lynn Black, Guice.

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Pictured L-R: Sherley Preal, Brookvalley; Mireya Moorer, Brookvalley: Tonya Marion, Sylvan Hills; Fawn Thomas, Guice.

Not Pictured: Bonar Kyles, Sylvan Hills; Johanna Ayers, Brookvalley; Bernice Baptiste, Mansell; Quiesta Laws, Warsaw; Charlene Molina, Mansell; Missy Phillips, Guice.

Ten years:

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Pictured L-R: Patricia Shepherd, Sylvan Hills; Angela Hughes, Sylvan Hills; Rose Johnson, Brookvalley; Julia Swift, Sylvan Hills; Tina Nguyen, Corporate; Cheryl McSweeney, Mansell; Dominque Vincent, Guice.

Fifteen years:

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Pictured L-R: Zelda Nix, Mansell: Michael Murray, Guice.

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Lendalee Dunn, Guice

We also wished the very best to Ms. Ethel Johnson who is retiring after 16 years of service with ESNG. Her co-workers at Sylvan Hills shared Ms. Johnson’s love with all of us!

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If you are interested in working for an organization where you change the lives of vulnerable children, we would love to hear from you. We are looking for teachers, assistant teachers, nutrition techs, social workers, and administrative positions. Come join the ESNG family. Find out more here.

Monthly wrap up – April

Awareness: 

April is a month in which we shine a light on autism spectrum disorder. We learn the signs and symptoms in young children, learn about therapies that can help children play and communicate, and meet children who received therapies to help them start school healthy and ready to learn. One of those children is Jacob. Read his story here.

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In April, we also recognize the importance of volunteers. We spotlighted the work of one particular group, SIG, and the recycling project they helped implement at our Mansell center. Read that story here.

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Around ESNG: 

This month two of our centers, Warsaw and Madison County, joined Premier Academy in receiving the prestigious Quality Rating from the Department of Early Care and Learning: Bright From the Start. According to Bright From the Start, “Quality Rated is Georgia’s system to determine, improve, and communicate the quality of programs that provide child care.” We are thrilled to be recognized for our staff’s hard work to educate vulnerable children in Atlanta and northeast Georgia.

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Families at our Madison County center had a great time at the Home Depot’s Build with Dad. We love to incorporate fun ways to foster family time and to learn through doing. This is yet another great example of putting that into action.

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One of the groups that came out to volunteer at our centers in April was Comcast NBC Universal. On Saturday, April 23, a day that they dedicate to volunteering in our community, a large group came to our Warsaw center. They cleaned, sanitized, and decorated the center since the children were out for the weekend. They also built a much-needed shed! Thank you, Comcast NBC Universal, and all the volunteer groups that helped us this month.

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Thank you: 

Speaking of Thank You, we wanted to dedicate a special shout-out to this year’s sponsors for Topgolf. A huge woot to the following companies on behalf of the entire organization!

Comcast, CVS, Mitsubishi Electric, Century 21, US Foods, Jones and Kolb, PNC Bank, Creative Mischief, Fraternal Order of Police, Insperity, Cox Automotive and PricewaterhouseCoopers.

It’s not too late to sign up for the event. Check out topgolfevent.com for more information and to register.

 

Monthly wrap up – March

Awareness:

March 21st marked World Down Syndrome Day. Celebrated on the 21st day of the third month of the year, the date is symbolic of the third copy of the 21st chromosome that characterizes Down syndrome. At ESNG, we have had the pleasure to provide services to several children who have Down syndrome. Whether they attend our child development centers, receive support from Champions for Children, or receive therapies from our early intervention services. Oliver is a two-year-old boy who has in-home physical therapy to help him reach his milestones. Read his story here.

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March is a great month to highlight two integral parts of our early education and care program: social work and nutrition. Both are so important in creating healthy and happy children and families in our community.

Social work: earlier this month, we met one of our family support advocates, Ms. Kim Tillman. Read about what she does to help families reach self-sufficiency.

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Nutrition: we also learned a lot from one of our nutrition specialists, Teedra Jones. She works with the child development centers to ensure our kids receive healthy and delicious foods to eat every day. Read her tips to incorporate healthy eating habits at home, too.

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We made it to spring – a season in which we can finally enjoy the outdoors. To celebrate the beauty of inclusive sports, we spoke to a pioneer and an everyday athlete on this blog post.

Spring is also a season where we start traveling. Marjan Holbrook gave us some great tips on traveling with children with special needs on this blog post.

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Around ESNG:

“The more you read, the more you know” – Dr. Seuss

It’s not a coincidence that Dr. Seuss’s birthday shares the same month as Read Aloud Month. All of our 11 child development centers celebrated Dr. Seuss’s birthday with lots of fun reading time! At our Winder location, each classroom dressed up as a Dr. Seuss character and participated in a parade around the center. What a great way to bring books to life!IMG_20160304_111107

Brookvalley had an incredible STEM day on Tuesday, March 15. Children, parents, and teachers had a great time making edible cars. Each classroom, including the toddlers, made their version of a car using cookies, candy, fruits, and veggies. Everyone used trial and error to make the most beautiful and delicious looking cars. Here are some great photos from the day!

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On Friday, March 25, Sylvan Hills offered an excellent parenting class at its facility. Darryl Freeman with Fathers Incorporated talked with moms and dads about the importance of having a strong father figure in their children’s lives. There is plenty of research backing this notion. In fact, children who spend quality time with their fathers are 80% less likely to be incarcerated, 75% less likely to become unwed parents, and twice as likely to graduate from high school and enter college.

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Thank you:

Our Guice location received the 2016 Sibley Award to implement a STEM in early education initiative. Funding from the Harland Charitable Foundation and Pittulloch Foundation will improve the educational outcomes for 157 children, engage families in their children’s education, and increase teachers’ professional development. On March 30, ESNG received the award at Guice. Photos of the event can be found here.

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On March 12-13, Century Novus Realty held its first annual Reels for Seals fishing tournament in Lake Wedowee, Ala. The event raised $5,000 for Easter Seals North Georgia’s early education, early intervention, and support services. ESNG thanks Century 21 Novus Realty, sponsors, and participants for their support!

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PNC presented a gift of $6,000 to our Warsaw location. After volunteering at the North Fulton center, bank representatives saw our program in action. As an organization that supports early education programs, PNC’s financial contribution and employee engagement help us to improve the quality of people’s lives.

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At ESNG, we recognize and value the work of our volunteers. March was full of great groups of volunteers that visited many of our child development centers. These include VWR, Comcast YPL, Pinecrest, North Georgia College, Southwestern University, Trinity, Infinite Energy, and Salesforce. Click here for photos of the events.

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2015 – A Year in Review at ESNG

In 2015, Easter Seals North Georgia experienced thrilling change, impactful partnerships, life-changing stories, a monumental anniversary and many inspiring milestones that will carry us into 2016 ready to support and educate more children with and without disabilities and their families. Join us!

*The following is listed in no particular order

  1. On May 26, ESNG President/CEO Donna Davidson was recognized by Easter Seals national with the Myrtle M. and Tom B. Medder’s Award at the 2015 Leadership Summit awards dinner in Chicago. Read more.

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2. STEM – The 2015-16 school year started off with a new project for our students at Brookvalley. Children ages three to five enrolled at the child development center are learning Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics through a creative and hands-on curriculum. This first-of-its-kind program geared toward preschoolers will ensure they are on par with their peers as they enter kindergarten. ttt

3. The Clark and Ruby Baker Foundation graciously gifted us with a grant for the Champions for Children program. This program supports families who do not qualify for the Katie Beckett Waiver and face high medical bills. Read more about this program.

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4. One of the strengths of ESNG is our partnerships. We are super excited about our newest one with the Marcus Autism Center. The prevalence of  autism spectrum disorder has greatly increased. Fortunately children who are diagnosed early and receive effective treatments early have been showing remarkable improvements. We are piloting a new screening tool that is proving to be more sensitive to identifying children with possible ASD diagnoses. Read more about our ASD program.
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5. The Georgia Health Foundation awarded us with a grant to expand our autism spectrum disorder program in metropolitan Atlanta and Northeast Georgia. Funds from this award will us provide evidence-based therapies to children in their homes. Therapies through the PLAY Project center around the child’s everyday activities and involve the entire family. Read more about our ASD program.

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6. Our biggest annual fundraiser, Trick or Treat Trot, was a huge success. Around 500 runners, walkers, families and supporters came out to the Infinite Energy Arena to help us raise funds and awareness for children with disabilities. Photos from the event.
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7. Easter Seals North Georgia’s child development center at Sylvan Hills received the Sibley Award to fund a new project that engages families in their children’s education. Read more about our early education and care program.
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8. Donna Davidson was named one of the top 50 nonprofit leaders in Atlanta in 2015 by the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Donna ABC Instagram - Blank

9. Grandpa George Richardson was recognized on Veterans Day for his service. Our Foster Grandparent program is such a great way for seniors to stay involved in their community and, at the same time, children learn from seniors and all that they have to offer. Grandpa Richardson (one of the 100 seniors that volunteer at area child care centers) was recognized for his service to our country by Senator Loudermilk on Veterans Day. Read more about this program.
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10. Last year we reflected on how far the country has come since the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act 25 years ago. While we are still working to make improvements for the lives of so many Georgians with disabilities, we should also celebrate our accomplishments. Read moreada-twitter-icon-red

And one to grow on – Easter Seals has been serving residents of Georgia for 65 years – here’s to another successful year of raising disability awareness and educating and supporting our children so they will be successful in school and life.
Mansell Learning