10 Things I Learned About Telehealth

By Megan Pedigo, Director of Marketing, Easterseals Central Illinois

My name is Megan Pedigo. I am the mom of energetic, 5-year-old twins, and the Director of Marketing for Easterseals Central Illinois. 

Since starting at Easterseals a few years ago, I have been able to use my experiences as a parent to put myself in the shoes of some of our families. Through observing therapy sessions at our location, trying activities with my own kids at home and getting to know the families of children we serve, I feel very connected to the services provided by our therapists at Easterseals.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic & stay-at-home-orders everyone was working remotely. Because of this I felt disconnected from the experience Easterseals families were having with telehealth.

How did it look? How do you log on? How do you expect a child to sit still for an hour in front of a screen and do therapy? 

Because observation was not an option, my family offered to volunteer as participants and gave telehealth a shot. Together, we participated in a Speech Therapy Session, Counseling Session, Physical Therapy Session and Occupational Therapy Session.  Here are 10 things I learned from my telehealth experience.

  1. The child leads the session.

When one of my daughters interrupted the farm animal sound game to talk about her new sloth book, our therapist asked her to see it.  When my girls ran off, the therapist and I talked about their speech until they came back. She said that this was common – most sessions involve activities with the child, and conversations with the parents. Therapists have a set plan and activities for the session, but they are flexible and dynamic, allowing the child to lead and using their individual interests to sneak in therapy.

2. Sessions are active.

“How can you do therapy over the computer?” This was a question I had, along with so many parents who have children receiving therapy, particularly physical and occupational therapy. In short, Easterseals Central Illinois uses play based therapy. Play-Doh, bubbles, favorite stuffed animals….therapists make a therapy session an hour packed with a child’s favorite activities.  As the weather gets warmer, therapists anticipate going outside and seeing kids ride their bikes, play on swing sets and run in the grass.

3. Sessions are done in a natural environment.

The parent coaching model has always been a cornerstone of pediatric therapy at Easterseals Central Illinois. However, it can be hard to translate what the therapist does in a clinical setting to at home activities. Telehealth is bridging that gap. The therapist and the caregiver work together, as a team. The therapist provides support during the session (and offline) to help build caregiver confidence in implementing the strategies on their own.  This helps the child use these strategies for success throughout the week, rather than just during the session. This therapy is also happening in the child’s natural environment, with their toys and their caregivers. Challenges may present themselves more prominently in the home, which can make therapy more effective.

4. Therapists are patient.

Our first session, both girls were seated and ready to engage. That lasted about five minutes. They kept interrupting the therapist, shouting out things and running off camera. By the fourth session, I was logging on right at start time and wrangling them into the room within camera view. I had to resist the urge to interrupt the session and put my girls back on track. Being coworkers, and understanding I was trying to get a feel for telehealth – the therapists all told me to chill.  They are able to engage with the child on their terms and guide them back to tasks. As many families know, therapists are highly regarded, sometimes worshipped by the kids they serve. If your child wants to show off their trophies from years of soccer, go for it. If your child is having a meltdown, leave the camera on and let the therapist observe. If your child only wants to play with you and not engage with the therapist, back up and let the therapist observe your play and guide it along.

5. The technology is user friendly.

I will admit, I struggled with the technology a little at first. We had four telehealth sessions with Easterseals in one week and each had a specific link.. Once I figured that out, it was seamless. My recommendation: as soon as you get the link create a calendar entry and put the link in there. Set a reminder for 15 minutes before so you have time to transition your kids out of their activity and prep for therapy.

6. Location and attitude matter.

For the first two sessions, we cleared out the space, had materials ready and discussed expectations beforehand. The last two sessions I was running late, scrambling and tossing the girls in front of the computer at a different location. It showed. They were more distracted, and I had to run around getting materials rather than engaging in the session. The girls got less out of it, and I was having to ask the therapist to repeat a lot.

7. Use stationary technology.

Cell phones and tablets are an option for telehealth.  However, a laptop worked best for us, and same goes for a lot of families. With facetime, video calling and games being played on phones and iPads, kids are used to grabbing the device and walking around. If a laptop is unavailable, make sure the phone or tablet is at a place where the child cannot grab it and walk around with it. This will also help the session run smoother.

8. Therapists are able to address common challenges in real time.

Have you ever found yourself having a hard time explaining a challenge you are having at home to a teacher or therapist? Much like the praise for ‘natural environment’, therapists are getting a firsthand look at the child’s day to day life. Parents can show the therapist a commonly occurring challenge in the home, and the therapist can address it in real time.  The child can work on asking for a snack with their mom in their own kitchen.  They can work on climbing their own stairs, or getting dressed in their own room.

9. Limit your distractions.

I am guilty of being pulled away from their therapy session because of a phone notification or laptop ping. As the session got going and my girls were engaging with the therapists, I noticed my mind wandering and my phone magically ending up in my hand. I missed what they were doing, and lost the opportunity to ask questions or learn how to implement at home.  I got the most out of their sessions when I left my phone in the other room on silent.

10. The benefits are emerging.

Telethealth is not a replacement for in-person therapy. However, there are a number of benefits emerging. With participation rates soaring, we are able to see how things like parent coaching and treating the child in their natural environment are improving the child’s progress. We are able to take down geographic barriers and optimize therapist schedules. As we slowly begin to open up for in-person therapy to resume, telehealth will remain a key part of our service delivery model.

This pandemic has put everyone in a situation they never thought they would be in. Parents, who are already juggling many tasks, are now taking on even more. Telehealth is not something many of us thought would be a huge part of our weekly lives, but with patience, individual adjustments and benefits emerging, it is something that will carry us all into the future of pediatric therapy.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at MPedigo@eastersealsci.com or give Easterseals a call to get started on your telehealth journey today- (309)686-1177.

Get in the ZONE: Helping Children Manage Big Feelings

By Alyssa Huschen, MOT, OTR/L, Easterseals Central Illinois

Tired, annoyed, excited, silly, embarrassed, frustrated… These are just a few of the feelings our children experience throughout the day. For some children, they may all be felt in the span of an hour. However, despite being in the midst of this whirlwind of feelings, our expectations often demand that children be polite, behave appropriately, and learn new things. Children need a way to make sense of what they are feeling so they can remain in control. The Zones of Regulation® is a self-regulation model created by occupational therapist, Leah Kuypers, MA Ed. OTR/L, that is becoming more widely recognized in homes, schools, therapy clinics, and other locations that serve children. It helps children to classify their emotions based on color coded and easy to understand “zones.” 

“What are the zones/colors?”

The Blue Zone

  • Feelings: Tired, bored, sad, etc.
  • Actions: Yawning, frowning, head down, etc.

The Green Zone

  • Feelings: Calm, happy, focused, etc.
  • Actions: Sitting still, making eye contact, smiling, etc.

The Yellow Zone

  • Feelings: Excited, frustrated, silly, nervous, etc.
  • Actions: Fidgeting, pacing, bouncing, etc.

The Red Zone

  • Feelings: Angry, terrified, out of control, etc.
  • Actions: Yelling, hitting, crying, etc.

“Is any zone bad?”

No! Some children and adults are under the impression that the blue, yellow, and red zones are undesired and we should strive to be in the green zone all day. In reality, life would be boring if we lived in one zone exclusively. For example, at a funeral or before bed, being in the blue zone can help us to show empathy or wind down. If we’re playing tag at recess with friends, we will probably run faster if we embrace the excitement of the yellow zone. A wide range of feelings is normal and a child should never be punished for being in a particular zone. When children learn and accept that all zones are ok and experience the natural consequences that come with them, they will be more willing to try tools for moving between the zones.  

 “I’m in the red zone, now what?”

Through the Zones of Regulation® program, children learn various sensory and coping tools and strategies for moving to a more appropriate zone for the situation they are in. In the red and yellow zones, the best tools typically have a calming effect. Some great ideas to try include:

  • Asking for a hug
  • Rocking or swinging
  • Chewing gum
  • Taking a drink of water
  • Going to a quiet space
  • Listening to music
  • Taking deep breaths

“I’m in the blue zone and can’t focus. What should I do?”

There are plenty of tools that could be used to achieve greater alertness when in the blue zone. Strategies with a typically alerting effect include:

  • Running
  • Jumping jacks
  • Getting out of your seat and moving around
  • Bouncing on a ball
  • Eating a crunchy snack

Keep in mind that no two children have the same sensory needs, so the way they self-regulate may look very different. If one strategy doesn’t have the effect you desire, try another! Be creative! 

“My child would not understand this.”

The Zones of Regulation® program can be introduced at any time starting around the age of 4 and with varying developmental levels. Lessons can be kept fairly basic for young children. The wide variety of visual tools the authors of the program have published makes it possible to implement with children who are non-verbal or have other disabilities that impact their communication or social skills. It is recommended that the zones concepts are discussed as a family. This not only helps improve a child’s understanding of the material, but also normalizes the zones so that kids don’t feel like they are expected to discuss it as a form of consequence. 

“We understand the zones, what’s next?” 

The Zones of Regulation® program also includes a wide variety of lessons to increase understanding of facial expressions and body language, understanding others’ perspectives, recognizing triggers that move us quickly to another zone, understanding the scale of a problem we’re faced with and how to react accordingly, thinking positively, being flexible, and exploring sensory tools. 

Additional Resources:

5 Ways to Use Blankets for Indoor Sensory Fun

By: Easterseals Central Illinois Occupational Therapy Department

Using a blanket during play provides opportunities to address your child’s sensory processing skills, motor planning, and strength. Blanket activities can be used to provide proprioceptive (input to muscles and joints), deep pressure tactile, and vestibular (movement) input.

  • Blanket swing:

You’ll need two people for this activity.  Each adult holds one side of the blanket while the child lays inside the blanket.  Gently bounce or swing the child for vestibular input.  Slow, back and forth, movement is calming for the sensory system. Quicker movements are typically more alerting. Try incorporating language for requesting “more swinging”.  Try changing positions for sitting or lying on your stomach, side, or back.  Playfully engage your child in thematic play or songs.  Try interrupting quick movements with crashes.  Including siblings by taking turns pushing one another for heavy work. 

  • Parachute:

Hold edges of blanket and move blanket up and down/shake blanket.  You can engage in peek-a-boo by hiding underneath, put a ball/balloon on top to play “popcorn”, or change speeds.  This provides proprioceptive input and is a great way to play with your child.

  • Blanket Burrito:

Use blanket to wrap your child up into a burrito.  Have your child lay on the edge of the blanket, have them hold onto the edge, and then roll them up in the blanket tightly (leaving head free).  Provide additional deep pressure by squeezing with your hands or rolling a ball on top of your child.  You can then pull the edge of the blanket to allow the child to unroll quickly for a fast blast of sensory input.   Try playing “inch worm” by crawling across the floor or roll into items such as a block tower.

  • Blanket Sled:

Have your child sit on a blanket and pull them across the room to provide vestibular input. Vary speed to provide different intensities of input. Take turns and have your child pull a sibling or other items on the blanket for a proprioceptive “heavy work” input. Use this as a transition tool to get from one room or activity to the next.

  • Make a tent:

Use a blanket to make a tent under a table or push chairs together to make a tent. Having your child set-up the chairs addresses strength and motor planning skills; it also provides proprioceptive input. You can use this as a calming space or in pretend play.

5 Indoor Gross Motor Activities: No Special Equipment Required!

By Meghan Cotsones, PT, DPT

Animal Walks: Great for core strengthening, hip strengthening, range of motion, motor planning, and whole body coordination! Can add visual targets (sticky notes, pieces of colored tape, construction paper, etc.) to help with position of hands/feet for sequencing. Can have siblings or friends race or parents can try along with their kiddos.

Pillow and/or Blanket Obstacle Course: Great way to simulate uneven outdoor surfaces such as grass and woodchips from inside! Great for balance, hip and ankle strengthening, and motor planning. Can also jump between pillows for an extra challenge!

Ninja Kicks: Have child stack a tower of blocks or any other toy they like to stack and balance on one foot and kick the tower down with the other. Great for foot-eye coordination, single leg balance, and strengthening for hips and ankles! For added fun, can add ninja sound effects (hi-yah!).

Pushing/Pulling Laundry Basket: Have your child round up their favorite toys and take them for a ride the laundry basket! Have them push it forward and pull it backwards to practice backwards walking. Great for core and lower extremity strengthening! Parents can add heavier objects from around the house (soup cans, sack of potatoes, etc.) for an added challenge.

Box Hurdles: Put old Amazon or empty cereal boxes to good use! Line them up and have your child step, run, or jump over the boxes for a fun motor activity. Can also weave in and out of boxes in a figure-8 pattern a balance and agility challenge!

5 Ways to Use Pillows for Indoor Sensory Fun

By: Easterseals Central Illinois Occupational Therapy Department

Using pillows provides proprioceptive and deep pressure to the sensory system. Proprioception provides input to muscles and joints.  Proprioception and deep pressure both calm the sensory system.

  • Pillows squishes:

Use pillows to provide squeezes to your child’s body.  Great for deep pressure and calming. You can pretend you are creating a sandwich, tacos, or a hamburger.  Add more pressure with each topping.  Take turns and have your child “squish” you or a sibling.  This will provide good proprioceptive input. Use this game to playfully engage your child.

  • Pillow pushes:

Hold pillows up and push against each other.  Great for deep pressure, calming, and proprioceptive input. Try in sitting, kneeling, or standing. 

  • Pillow crashes:

Pull couch cushions or pillows into a pile, jump, and crash.  Try rolling off the couch onto the cushions or pillows.  Try jumping off a trampoline or a stool into the pillows.

  • Make a pillow boat:

Fill a cardboard box, tub, laundry basket, or large container with pillows and blankets to provide deep pressure and calming input.  This can serve as a “safe spot” or a space to “take a break”.  Try reading a book, doing a puzzle, singing a themed song, or pretending you’re sailing off to sea. 

  • Floor is lava:

Place pillows on the ground and jump or step from one to another without touching the ground.  Try crawling, wheelbarrow walking, changing your speed, adding obstacles, or playing “red light”/”green light”.

Children should be supervised when completing all suggested activities.  Parental discretion is advised to ensure safety.

Easterseals Ambassadors: Where Are They Now?

In 100 years, Easterseals has had the honor of having some remarkable people pass through our doors. As we prepare for the Easterseals Century Ball we are taking the time to reflect on past Ambassadors. Read on to see what one of our past Ambassadors is up to now!

Jessica Rosenbohm

Jessica can do remarkable things thanks to her hard work at Easterseals and the way that emphasis was always placed on what she could do, rather than what she couldn’t. For Jessica, empowerment stems from having the fortitude and courage to live a satisfying life while contributing to society. She has felt empowerment many times and in many ways, from being able to walk at 2-and-a-half years old to winning golf medals in Special Olympics. Now she puts that empowerment into action.

For the last 13 years Jessica has been a full time employee at Peoria Production Shop in north Peoria. She has worked in several areas around the shop including packaging, labeling, staging and assembly.

When we caught up with her at work, she was working on one of the new auto-bag machines. “I like it over here,” she said, as she demonstrated the machine. Her supervisor, Patrick Stark, said she has been successful in every job she has taken on in the shop. He describes her as kind and hardworking. “She is always upbeat,” he said, “She walks laps during break and picks up pieces of wood to give to the maintenance guys who build stuff with them — she is very thoughtful like that”.

Kindness and a strong work ethic are two very important things to the team at Peoria Production Shop, whose mission is to be the premiere employer of individuals with disabilities. For more than 75 years they have been providing comprehensive packaging, manufacturing, assembly and custom labor solutions, and they do it well. The Peoria Production Shop was recently awarded Caterpillar’s Supplier Quality Excellence Process Gold Certification, which requires a proven track record of excellence in quality, delivery and cost, and is only awarded to those who demonstrate this level of performance on an ongoing basis. They manage to achieve this level of excellence while providing a sense of family and community amongst their 184 employees.

In addition to helping her team at Peoria Production Shop, Jessica finds time to give back. She works tirelessly each and every year to support the Easterseals Telethon. So far she has raised nearly $43,000 for Easterseals Central Illinois since 2005, with no signs of stopping.

Thank you, Jessica!

How can we get to 100% Included. 100% Empowered?

We asked our Easterseals families, staff and supporters to answer that question. We received hundreds of stories of amazing kindness, big moments and little gestures. We also received a lot of questions from the community. One of them being: How can we be more inclusive?

Inclusion is kindness.

Being friendly, generous and considerate of others is the most inclusive thing you can do. We can teach our children to be kind, think of others first and treat others with respect. Inclusion can be as easy as a knowing smile or reassuring comment to a parent. It is encouraging your child to ask someone on the sidelines to come play. It is as simple as saying hello.

Inclusion is honesty.

If you aren’t sure, ask! Some of the most empowering moments that we hear about from our Easterseals parents involve asking honest questions. Like how to accommodate a child with special needs at a birthday party or playdate. Having a coach ask how they can better instruct a child, or a neighbor ask how they can educate their own children on special needs.

Inclusion is a feeling.

A resounding answer we received from families and people with special needs is that inclusion is a feeling. Everyone knows if they are being truly included or not. A true feeling of inclusion is not just being invited into the room, it is about participating. It is about being celebrated, not accommodated.

Inclusion is brave.

At Easterseals, we empower our families every day through therapy and companionship. They take that feeling of empowerment out into the community and brave new situations every day. It is up to the community to respond bravely, embracing these families wherever they go and helping us to create a more inclusive world.

Sound Effect Checklist

by Kelsey Lutes, MS CCC-SLP Speech-Language Pathologist

Sound effects are a fun and effective way to help young children learn to talk by developing vocal imitation skills, transitioning from pre-speech to speech sounds, moving the articulators, developing prosody (the melody of speech) and transitioning from automatic to voluntary sounds. Pair these
sounds with actions when possible. For example, pretend to beep a horn with your hand with “beep beep!”. Be silly and extra animated!

Vehicle Sounds

___ Airplane (ahhhhhhh or ffffffff)

___ Car (beep beep, honk, brmmmm)

___ Fire truck (woo-eee—woo-eee)

___ Police car (siren)

___ Motorcycle (vrooooooom)

___ Train (choo choo or woo woo)

Animal Sounds

___ Dog (panting with tongue out / woof woof)

___ Cat (meow)

___ Pig (snort /oink oink)

___ Horse (neigh with head shaking “no”)

___ Sheep (baa baa)

___ Duck (quack quack)

___ Chicken (bak bak bak)

___ Fish (mouth popping sound or kissy sound)

___ Airplane (ahhhhhhh or ffffffff)

___ Car (beep beep, honk, brmmmm)

___ Fire truck (woo-eee—woo-eee)

___ Police car (siren)

___ Motorcycle (vrooooooom)

___ Train (choo choo or woo woo)

___ Owl (hoo hoo)

___ Cow (moo)

___ Bird (tweet tweet)

___ Lion / Dinosaur (roar)

___ Snake (ssssss)

___ Bee (zzzzzz)

___ Monkey (oo-oo-ah-ah)

___ Mouse (eee-eee)


___ weeeee!

___ boom!

___ Uh-oh!

___ Pee-u!

___ Ouch! / Ow!

___ Boo!

___ Ta dah!

___ Yay!

___ Whoa!

___ Yuck!

___ Wow!

___ Oh no!

___ No no!

___ Ick / Icky!

___ Oops

___ Ewwwww!

Exclamations Other Sound Effects

___ Drinking/slurping sound

___ Loud Exhale after drink (ahhhh)

___ Eating sound(num num num)

___ Mmmmmm!

___ Ah-choo!

___ Fake Cough

___ Snore

___ Yawn

___ Sigh sound

___ Shhhhhh (quiet sound)

___ Ughhhhh (grunt with effort)

___ Blowing raspberries

___ Kissing sound

If you have questions or concerns about your child’s speech and language development contact Easterseals Central Illinois today! (309)686-1177 – Eastersealsci.com.

5 tips for when your child is in the NO phase

by Hallie Johnson, M.A., BCBA

Model Positive Language

Tell your child exactly what you want them to do, not what you want them to stop doing.
I like how you are sitting in your chair! vs. Don’t do that!
Good job walking! vs. Stop running or No! Don’t sit down!
I like how you are using an inside voice vs. No yelling!

Provide Choices

Provide choices of two desired behaviors but allow them to choose.
You can sit in the red chair or the blue chair
You can walk by yourself or hold my hand
You can color or play with play-doh

Use First/Then Instructions

Provide your instruction using first/then structure.
First sit, then play doh
First stand up, then “toy”

Don’t Respond Directly to the Behavior

It is best not to directly respond to your child saying “NO” – giving it little to no attention. Ignore their “NO” and continue your original instruction either providing choices or using a
first/then instruction (see tips #3 and #4).

Reinforce! High levels of praise!

Provide your child with A LOT of praise and attention when they follow your instruction or exhibit the desired behavior! This will increase the likelihood that they are going to do it again in the future!

Easterseals Central Illinois is here to be your partner in raising
healthy, happy children. If you have questions about your child’s
development contact us today at (309)696-1177.

Easterseals Central Illinois receives grants for Autism Family Navigation

October 1st, 2019 – The Center for Disease Control currently estimates that 1 in 59 children have been identified with autism spectrum disorder. The diagnosis leaves many families wondering where to turn next. For years, Easterseals Central Illinois has been answering that call. Last month Easterseals Central Illinois received generous grants providing funds for our Autism Family Navigator Services. The three entities providing money for Autism Navigation; $35,000 Ameren, $25,000 PNC and $20,000 Wells Fargo.

Autism Family Navigators help families and caregivers “navigate” the often fragmented and confusing systems of care needed for their children with autism. These systems include education, health, dental and behavioral care, insurance and often other basic needs including housing and food.

Autism Family Navigators are experienced experts who assist families by connecting families with community-based resources, prioritizing needs, crafting treatment plans and working directly with medical providers, schools, public and private insurance providers.

Easterseals Central Illinois is excited to announce that we are also looking to hire another full-time Autism Family Navigator at our Peoria Service Center. Easterseals has been an indispensable resource for individuals and families faced with disability. We are proud to offer a variety of services that help children with disabilities and their families address life’s challenges and achieve person goals. To apply for this position, visit our Easterseals Central Illinois careers page.

About Easterseals Central Illinois
Celebrating our 100th year of serving children and families in Central Illinois. Easterseals Central Illinois provides exceptional services to ensure that children with development delays and disabilities can reach their full potential.