Don’t forget that “good tidings of comfort and joy” applies to you too

Happy Holidays! It’s that time of year again when we spend our days shopping for gifts, running from place to place trying to catch the best deals to put a smile on the face of those we love! While it is an exciting time, it can also be time that we neglect the most precious gifts we already have, our families, especially our children. While we are taking care of holiday business let’s find ways to keep our family and children knowing how special they are to us. Continue reading “Don’t forget that “good tidings of comfort and joy” applies to you too”

Traveling with children with special needs

Spring break is just around the corner, and we have the pollen to prove it! We’ve asked Marjan Holbrook to share her tips for traveling with children with special needs. As a mother of a child with a mitochondrial disease, she knows that preparation is key to a fun, relaxing and family-friendly vacation!

Prepare your child – Use social stories to talk to your child about where you are going and what you are doing. Show them pictures of the places you will be visiting. Consider downloading a GPS app onto a tablet or phone for them, so they know what to expect and possibly save yourself from having to answer the dreaded question(s): are we there yet? Continue reading “Traveling with children with special needs”

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”

It’s the Final Countdown…

…to ESNG’s Trick or Treat Trot 5K and Family Fun Festival.

We are just over a week away from our big event. You may have seen posts, tweets, pictures, videos – you name it – about the event, but do you really know what it’s for? I’m sure if you look, you could find a run/walk that supports a local nonprofit every weekend in metro Atlanta. So, what’s the big deal about this one? I’m so glad you asked.

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It’s for the children: Children like Castin receive therapies through our early intervention service, Babies Can’t Wait. Speech and language therapy have given Castin a voice and confidence to become the smart, kind and happy child he is today.

Mansell DadIt’s for the families: Families like Morgan and her dad Dermeko have access to community resources to ensure that they are happy, healthy and self-sufficient. Continue reading “It’s the Final Countdown…”

5 Reasons You Should Participate in the Trick or Treat Trot 5K and Family Fun Festival

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Our Annual Trick or Treat Trot and Family Fun Festival is Saturday, October 29 at 9 a.m. at the Infinite Energy Center in Duluth. We are super excited to celebrate with as many families as possible. Hopefully, you don’t need that much cajoling to come run and have fun with us. But, if you do, here are 5 reasons why you should participate:

  1. It’s in a great location– Since Easter Seals North Georgia serves families in the 44 counties throughout metropolitan Atlanta and North Georgia, the Infinite Energy Center is a central location – right off of I-85. There will be lots of parking, too.download Continue reading “5 Reasons You Should Participate in the Trick or Treat Trot 5K and Family Fun Festival”

#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”

#SuccessStartsHere: Eliavah’s Story

This month we are looking at how ESNG can help your special needs child overcome challenges – social, emotional, or physical – and live, learn, and play fully and freely. One of the many ways we do this is through the Champions for Children program. The program works with families whose children do not qualify for the Katie Beckett Waiver. Their children’s medical needs require so much attention that it’s difficult for them financially. One such child is Eliavah.

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Eliavah is a sweet five-year-old girl who has been in therapies since she was six months old. She was diagnosed at birth with tetralogy of fallot, and underwent open heart surgery at four months old to repair her defects.

Later, after not meeting typical milestones, she was diagnosed with low muscle tone. A team of specialists has followed Eliavah her whole life to try to determine a cause behind her conditions. Although an exact cause has not been discovered, she struggles daily to overcome developmental delays and sensory processing disorder.

In the last two years, she has struggled with sleep issues and possible allergies that affect her daily living. Her family is in the process of trying to detect the cause of these, and how to best help her.

It is because of Champions for Children that Eliavah has been able to continue her needed therapies, and get help with extraneous medical expenses that would be a burden on the family otherwise. She continues to show progress and even spends half of her day in kindergarten in general education class!

She is very proud of her abilities that she has gained through hard work and therapy. She can now read and her writing is improving daily. Her independent skills are also improving in areas such as self dressing and grooming.

She is truly becoming a more confident young lady. Her mother says, “We are forever grateful for the blessing in our lives through Champions for Children. The staff has not only been loving and encouraging, but prompt and professional in helping our family and this makes a huge difference in the lives of parents that have children with needs!!!”

 

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.