16 Ways to Prepare Children with Autism for Holidays

The following blog post was originally posted on Easter Seals’ National website.

16 Ways to Prepare Children with Autism for Holidays

by Cathy Pratt, Ph.D., BCBA-D

While many happily anticipate the coming holiday season, families with sons/daughters on the autism spectrum also understand the special challenges that may occur when schedules are disrupted and routines broken.

The following tips were developed with input from the Autism Society of America, the Indiana Resource Center for Autism, Easterseals Crossroads, Sonya Ansari Center for Autism at Logan, and the Indiana Autism Leadership Network. We update our list of suggestions annually, and our hope is that by following these few helpful tips as the holiday approaches, families may lessen the stress and anxiety created by the holiday season and make it a more enjoyable experience for everyone.

Continue reading “16 Ways to Prepare Children with Autism for Holidays”

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”

2016: A Year in Review and A Look Forward

The theme of 2016 at ESNG was expansion. We expanded our programs, reach, events and accreditations. Let’s take a look back at what we did as we get ready for a fun and exciting 2017.for blog

Last year, we piloted the innovative STEM in early education at our Brookvalley location. Thanks to funding from the Sibley Award and Frances Hollis Brain Foundation, we are expanding the program to our Guice, Mansell and Warsaw locations.

20151112_143926_resized Continue reading “2016: A Year in Review and A Look Forward”

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!”

ESNG is thankful for our heroes

As we all know, November is a month of being thankful. So, this month we are going to meet some members of the ESNG family that we feel are our heroes. To get us started, we talk to Laura Moncada, who is the service coordinator for our early intervention program, Babies Can’t Wait. (To read more about the beneficiaries of the program, check out this previous blog post.)

Castin Jennich

  1. How did you come to work at Easter Seals North Georgia?

In 2009, I finally finished my Bachelors in Early Childhood Care & Education (Birth to 5) and was looking for a position. I saw the Service Coordination position posted on a job website and applied.

Elias Cloer now Continue reading “ESNG is thankful for our heroes”

Easterseals is your resource for family fun for all

Fall is a great time of year to get out of the house and do fun things around town. If you have a child with special needs, enjoying those activities may be a little more difficult. We’ve compiled a list of ideas for you to enjoy with your family.

The Arts

Center for Puppetry Arts – The Center for Puppetry Arts has modified regular programming to allow guests with autism spectrum disorder to experience sensory-friendly Family Series performances, Film series, and Create-A-Puppet Workshops™. The next sensory-friendly performance is The Headless Horseman of Sleepy Silly Hollow on Sunday, October 30. http://puppet.org/programs/asd/


RMS Drama Aladdin, Jr. Free Special Needs Community Show – A very special free preview show of Aladdin, Jr. will be held for the special needs community on Tuesday, November 8 at 5:30 p.m. by Riverwatch Middle School Musical Theater. Adults and children with special needs and their families are invited to take a magical journey with this sneak peek performance. This show will be held at Lambert High School (805 Nichols Road, Suwanee, GA). Reservations for this sensory-sensitive show only can be made by calling 678-414-1031. www.facebook.com/RMSDramaSpecialNeedsShow

Continue reading “Easterseals is your resource for family fun for all”

What do inclusive sports teach us?

It seems like it’s a childhood rite of passage – afternoon baseball practice, morning swim team practice, or Saturday morning soccer games. We all did it, and we have the awkward team picture to prove it. For children who have a disability or other special need, this should be a part of their childhood too.

The beauty of inclusive sports is that it’s just that – inclusive. This isn’t a team made of all participants with special needs. It reflects society. Children learn together, live together, and they should play together.

According to researchers from the University of California at Berkley, there are two profound effects of participating in inclusive sports. First, the physically challenged athlete can grow in her motor and social skills. The confidence she gains from playing a sport will benefit her social interactions at school. The second effect is that the typical peers grow in areas we do not always focus on – empathy and compassion. The authors note, “Typical peers learn how we all face challenges in our lives, disabled or not, and that part of being a good teammate is to use your specific skill set to help others become great. This continues to break down barriers and helps these typical players grow in their leadership, compassion, and making others great.”

Recently, I had the pleasure to meet two people who participate in sports in two very different ways but for the same reason. Scott Rigsby is the first double amputee to complete an Ironman World Championship in Konia, Hawaii. Grace Callahan is a 12-year-old who receives support from our Champions for Children program.

Scott Rigsby – paving the way for inclusion

scott rigsby photo

When I met Scott Rigsby, we talked about the importance of inclusive sports. As the first double amputee to finish the Ironman Triathlon, he knows a thing or two about it. He grew up in South Georgia playing football. After an accident had changed his life forever, his love for sports helped him physically and mentally. Yes, he could have competed at the Paralympic Games, but he chose to pave the road for all athletes.

His performance acts as a motivator not only for people with disabilities but also for able-bodied athletes. In fact, the number of participants who complete the 2.4-mile swim, 112-bike, and 26.2-mile run greatly increases when Scott competes. He sees this as an example of how everyone can benefit from inclusive sports. “People need to experience service. We live in a world where everyone needs help from someone. Kids need to learn that early, and inclusive sports is an excellent way to promote that,” he said.

Now, it’s not that he can just put on some shoes and go for a run. It’s an ordeal. He has specialized prosthetic legs that need adjusting throughout long runs. His legs rub against the prostheses and cause a lot of pain. When I ask him what motivates him, he responds his older brother who is deaf and physically and mentally disabled. “I am doing something that he could never do. When my skin is rubbed raw, I think of what he goes through every day.”

On a side note: His brother lives at an Easter Seals group home in Pelham, Ga.

Grace’s unstoppable heart

grace callahan photo

Grace’s nickname growing up was Amazing Grace. Her story is truly amazing. She was born on Easter Sunday 2003 and diagnosed with an enlarged heart at 11 days old. Almost seven years later, her heart was deteriorating very quickly, and she needed a heart transplant as soon as possible. The gift of a new, strong, and healthy heart on Easter Sunday 2010 let Grace live just as other little seven-year-old children, which included participating in sports.

While her surgery scar prevented her from contact sports or sparring, her parents encouraged her to participate in extracurricular activities – the more active, the better. Grace dabbled in karate, Tae Kwon Do, ballet, and gymnastics. Right now, she’s in her second season of lacrosse and is gearing up for her fifth summer swim season.

Grace plays with and competes against children of all abilities. She has a couple of accommodations, but nothing sets her too terribly apart from her peers. She needs to warm up and cool down more than her teammates and can overexert herself more easily. In fact, most of her lacrosse teammates do not know about her heart transplant.

Her parents see two primary benefits of Grace’s participation in sports: health and social. The aerobic activity helps her circulatory system, which can stave off coronary artery disease. Just as important, though, is that Grace doesn’t feel singled out for being different. She is a part of a team.

Participating in sports for Scott and Grace is more than an hour in the pool, it’s a chance to be just like everyone else – because they are.