Why I Give: A conversation with Tim Erickson of CORE Construction

Tim Erickson, President of CORE Construction, and Becky Dluski, CORE’s Office Manager, delivering hand sanitizer and antibacterials wipes to Easterseals

CORE Construction. has been a long supporter of Easterseals Central Illinois, with an incredible 25 years of giving. Recently, President Tim Erickson saw a great need and acted swiftly and selflessly to fill it. CORE donated hand sanitizer and antibacterial wipes to Easterseals, filling a need that extends well beyond financial support.

“There are different things [face masks, hand sanitizer, wipes] that are hard to find that we have been able to get. Hearing that Easterseals had a need for these items, we knew we could help connect the dots. By donating these items, we know that Easterseals can use their money to buy other things,” shares Tim.

CORE initially began supporting Easterseals under the leadership of Wayne Baum whose love of his community cemented a culture of giving within his organization. When it became time for him to pass the baton, he saw Tim’s passion for philanthropy and connected him to Easterseals. Under Tim’s leadership, CORE has been a huge supporter of the Easterseals Telethon, organizing staff fundraisers and uniting CORE around a common goal.
Tim states that “we [at CORE] are lucky to be in a position where we can do these things to help the community. There are a lot of people and organizations who need help, and this is the culture that has been set in our company. We want to help people.”

Tim shared with us that his personal mission in life is helping people, and doing his part to make a difference in the lives of others. He also mentions his affinity for Easterseals Timber Pointe Outdoor Center, citing it as a “gem”, and stating that one of his favorite memories as a board member was going out to camp and watching the campers swing and go down the zip line.

His message for potential supporters? “Come and see what’s going on. They need to visit Easterseals. They need to visit Timber Pointe and see what it is, what it does and how much it means for the kids. When I went to Easterseals for my first tour, [Easterseals Ambassador] Hayden was there, and hearing his story and seeing his enthusiasm – that’s what people need to do. Come and see for themselves what we do and how we make a difference.”

Thank you Tim, and the team at CORE Construction, for all that you do.

Learn more about CORE Construction here.

Meet Brevyn! Virtual Easterseals Fashion Show

Life is a party – Dress like it!

That is the theme for this year’s Easterseals Ladies Auxiliary Fashion Show! An event which started in 1955 as a small fashion show with just over 100 people in attendance, has grown into a fundraiser that raised $40,000 last year to benefit the children of Easterseals Central Illinois. The first fashion show fundraiser was held at the Peoria Country Club in 1955, when a small group of women recognized a need to help children with disabilities receive necessary therapy services. Today, Easterseals Ladies Auxiliary is made up of an outstanding group of women who are not only friends, but teammates in their efforts to raise funds for Easterseals.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Easterseals Ladies Auxiliary has shifted their in-person fashion show celebrating local businesses to a virtual runway walk! Viewers will enjoy this season’s latest trends from businesses like A Perfect Pear Boutique, Curvology, Rambler, RC Outfitters and more. Viewers will also get to know several past and present Easterseals Ambassadors. One of these amazing past Ambassadors is our friend Brevyn.

Brevyn & her mom Johanna on the phones at the 46th Annual Easterseals Telethon.

Brevyn is 8-years-old now, and still remembers receiving Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy and Counseling service from Easterseals nearly five years ago. Brevyn was referred to Easterseals after being diagnose with Right Hemiplegic Cerebral Palsy. Her mom, Johanna, shares that almost immediately after starting at Easterseals it was as if all of the pieces of the puzzle came together for Brevyn.

Currently, Brevyn plays softball, participates in hip hop, jazz, tap & ballet, does tumbling, and also enjoys riding her bike, swimming, jumping and going to the park. Through her hard work at Easterseals, Brevyn has gained the skills and confidence needed to chase all of her dreams. During the Virtual Fashion Show on July 31, viewers will see Brevyn perform one of her tumbling routines, as well as meet several other ambassador families who are currently chasing and living out their dreams with help from Easterseals.

For more information on the Virtual Fashion Show, visit eastersealsci.com/events.

Easterseals Central Illinois Response to local news story on bullying and Autism

Earlier this month, a teenager with an autism was attacked by peers in her hometown. As we strive to create a world where every child is 100% Included and 100% Empowered, we released the following statement in order to provide support for Makenna and education for our community.

­The vision of Easterseals Central Illinois is to ensure that every child is 100% included and 100% empowered. As the leading provider of services and supports to families living with autism, we all too often see them suffer the painful isolation of being excluded, misunderstood and mistreated.

 We are not only a resource for the families we serve, but we are here for our community. Our advocacy and awareness programs are available for families, schools, community groups, first responders and workplaces. Using our virtual Ability Awareness Program, we encourage families can take action today by educating their children on what makes everyone unique, and how to celebrate differences.

Autism currently impacts 1 in 54 children. It is estimated that over 7,000 children with autism live right here in central Illinois. Together, we can do better.

Go Team Alex

At Easterseals, we have the privilege of meeting amazing families in our community. We are also incredibly fortunate to have friends and families who use their time, energy and resources to fundraise for our organization.

Rock the Farm is an annual concert that Team Alex organizes, with proceeds from the event benefitting Easterseals. Typically held at Mackinaw Valley Winery, the event has transitioned to a virtual live stream from Bloomington’s Castle Theatre. Participants can stream the concert featuring the Way Down Wanderers and Chicago from the comfort of their homes.

Team Alex fundraises in honor of a very special boy – Alex Camacho! Alex is 13 now, and began receiving services from Easterseals when he was 5-months-old. Team Alex shares that during his time at Easterseals, he has made great strides and reached milestones through feeding & speech therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy and more.

While working through an initial diagnosis of Cerebral Palsy, Alex’s family noticed that he was having trouble with his vision, and at 7-months-old, Alex was diagnosed with Cerebral Visual Impairment (CVI). CVI is a neurological visual impairment, meaning the eyes are able to see, but the brain is not interpreting what is being seen. CVI is the leading cause of blindness in children in the developed world, but is treatable with therapeutic intervention. While treatment or CVI is known, it is not widely available.

All proceeds from Rock the Farm support Easterseals Central Illinois, benefitting Alex and many other children and families in our community. With the funds raised over the seven years of Rock the Farm, Easterseals is launching The Alex Center for CVI, which will begin its first clinics later this year.

This Friday, June 19 at 7 p.m., Rock the Farm will be live streamed from the Castle Theatre in Bloomington and will feature performances from The Way Down Wanderers & Chicago Farmer with special guests The Home Fires. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased at www.GoTeamAlex.com

Autism Awareness Month: A Day in the life with Gabriel

This year, autism awareness month is hitting at a time when everyone across the globe is dealing with a change in their routines. This disruption in our lives is just a small glimpse into the lives of those living with autism spectrum disorder. Today, we would like to introduce you to Gabriel! He is a student at the Easterseals Learning Academy and has been home with his parents during the stay at home order. His Mom, Andrea, shared some images of their day.

We try to have Gabriel wear his weighted vest and do some work every day.
We go on walks daily in the morning (and sometimes again in the afternoon!)
Gabriel loves bouncing on his exercise ball
Because my husband and I are both working from home there have been times when Gabriel has come to work with me and he’s been able to play on the sensory swing.
He listens to calendar songs with Dad.
We’ve worked on sitting on his bike.

Easterseals Central Illinois Supporting Children and Families when they need us most

Easterseals Central Illinois began piloting telehealth services with plans to expand in the coming weeks; the organization will resume offering limited in-person services on April 8 in ways designed to protect the health of those involved and slow the spread of coronavirus.

“We continue to comply with the Illinois’ stay-at-home order; but some families urgently need in-person services. The pediatric therapy services we provide are vital to helping children with developmental delays, disabilities and other special needs reach their full potential,” says Angie DeLost, vice president of Programs & Services. “For the families we serve, missed therapy services can significantly impact the trajectory of their child’s development.” 

Easterseals Central Illinois provides essential services and is approved to continue operating. The Easterseals telehealth platform links therapists and families via live video. Even before piloting the telehealth platform, Easterseals has been supporting children and families through phone consultations and by providing resources through social media and its website. Those resources are available for all children and families in our communities on the web at esci.link/resources and on the Easterseals Central Illinois Facebook page.

“Where possible, we are using telehealth initiatives,” adds DeLost. “We are here for our families and their children.”

Easterseals therapists and care coordinators are available to families by phone and email during regular business hours. In person services are being scheduled on a case by case basis.

“We are working closely with referring physicians to make decisions about in person therapy sessions,” says DeLost. “We continue to follow the thorough infection control policies and processes we have always had, as well as CDC guidelines related to screenings and communication related to all patient care.”

Per Illinois guidelines, Early Intervention face-to-face services for children age 0-3 years are on hold through at least April 15.

Easterseals Learning Academy is following the direction of the State of Illinois, which currently has schools closed through April 30 and using e-learning practices. At this time, Timber Pointe Outdoor Center summer camps are scheduled to begin in June.

For the past 100 years Easterseals Central Illinois had been committed to serving our communities. We continue, even during the coronavirus pandemic, to ensure those we serve are empowered to reach their full potential.


Having Fun with Handwriting at Home

By Alyssa Huschen, OTR/L

Daily handwriting practice is necessary for making printing a natural process. The more automatic writing is, the more a child can then focus on WHAT they are writing rather than HOW to write. When participating in e-learning, children may not be practicing handwriting as much as they would be during their typical school day. Choose some of these fun activities to try at home to ensure COVID-19 doesn’t contribute to loss of quality handwriting for your child. Make it a goal to practice handwriting for 5-10 minutes every day. 

  • Write letters to friends or family, make up a story, or help write the grocery list.
  • Play games like tic-tac-toe (use different letters each time), hang man, or guess what word/letter I’m writing. 
  • Practice handwriting with different utensils or materials. Finger paint, write in shaving cream/pudding/flour/sand, use chalk on the sidewalk, write with washable markers on a mirror or window, write on a tablet or magnadoodle, etc. 
  • Have your child be the teacher and “teach” you how to write in order to practice verbalizing the correct way to make letters. “Grade” work by circling the best letters or words in order to understand what makes writing legible.
  • Print or make up fun sentence starters to complete (i.e. My favorite place to go is… or If I could be an animal, I would be…).
  • Play restaurant where your child can prepare simple foods and “sell them” to you. Practice printing by creating a menu to order from.
  • Complete mad libs, cross word puzzles, or word scrambles. These can be found online or in activity books.
  • Work on number writing by having your child count things around the house and record them (i.e. doors, fans, pictures of them, etc.)
  • Complete scavenger hunts. Let your child write down what objects they find based on your clues or let them write down items for you or a sibling to find.  
  • Cut pictures out of magazines to make a collage and write about it.
  • Search Google or Pinterest for many more fun printables and ideas!

Ways to Stay InTouch Distantly with Family and Friends

By: Easterseals Central Illinois Therapists

Most of us love the excitement of visiting or getting visits from families and friends.   Right now we are helping to keep everyone healthy by staying at home.  This will not last forever, but while we are stuck at home we can be creative to stay connected with people outside of our home.  We all miss hugs, high fives, and playing with neighbors, cousins, grandparents, kids at school, and other family friends, but there are ways we can still stay connected to our loved ones from home!

  • Talk to your child about how there are different ways to visit people we love:  Sometimes we see them in person at their house or our house, sometimes we talk by phone or Facetime.  Right now everybody is practicing visiting with people in new ways, but later we will be able to visit in person again. 

  • Schedule time to visit remotely: If your child has a set routine of visiting or spending time with someone regularly (such as a grandparent), work to set up a schedule for a short phone, facetime, or skype session for him to look forward to (this could be daily, weekly…..).  Kids often do well having the structure a designated time gives to their routine.   This also gives parents a specific answer to questions of when they will get to talk to or see _______.
  • Written Word: Write email, notes, or letters to each other (notes and letters can be mailed or you can take a picture of the note/message and text it to the intended recipient).  An adult or older sibling can write/type note a young child dictates or they can draw a picture for the person.
  • I’m Thinking of you Projects: Child can spend the time they would normally be with the other person making something to give to them when he sees them next (craft, drawing, collage, etc.).
  • Do an activity together remotely: When connecting to loved ones by phone, skype, or facetime, it can be great for kids to do activities that they would normally do with that person.  Brainstorm ways to complete some of your daily routines or fun activities at the same time (i.e. bake cookies, make slime, read a book, sing together, watch a show).
  • Distant dinner party: Dinner out is a great way to socialize, but you can make dinner in a social experience as well.   Plan and cook the same dinner as family/friends.  You can facetime/skype during the meal for real time conversations or you can take pictures of family and food to share with each other (Food or dessert competition anyone???)
  • Take a Virtual Tour together:  There are museums, zoos, and amusement parks offering virtual tours.  These resources can be used for educational purposes but you can also have friends/family take the same tour and discuss what you liked the most, what you could do without, foods you would try….   Here is a resource for virtual tours you can take from the comfort of your own home:   https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/life/travel/a31784720/best-virtual-tours/

Easterseals Central Illinois continues to serve families across Central Illinois during COVID-19 pandemic

On March 16th Easterseals Central announced that all therapy appointments would be canceled through March 31st, along with the closing of the Easterseals Learning Academy for that same timeframe and any activity at Timber Pointe Outdoor Center being canceled through the end of April. “The health and safety of our clients and staff always comes first and we are committed to doing our part to mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 virus,” said Steve Thompson, President and CEO of Easterseals Central Illinois. “During this unprecedented time, the families we serve need us now more than ever”.

Stopping face-to-face therapy presents a unique challenge to an organization that employs over 200 people dedicated to helping children with developmental delays, disabilities and other special needs reach their full potential. However, in its 100 years of service the organization has always responded dynamically to meet the needs of the community. This time is no different. In an effort to support its clients and community, Easterseals Central Illinois staff is now dedicated to providing the vital resources that will bridge gaps and help children continue to make progress towards their milestones.

Easterseals therapists, teachers and support staff have been in contact with their clients, assessing needs and providing support over the phone. The therapists are hard at work creating and deploying resources for caregivers to use at home to help children of all abilities navigate their new reality.

Examples include:

  • Therapists are reviewing in-home programs with caregivers and providing additional support in the form of visual aids and educational materials
  • Assisting families in making daily schedules and social stories.
  • Providing calming strategies
  • Helping families identify local resources for basic living needs

Easterseals is providing these resources at no cost to the families, and all are available to the general public at eastersealsci.com. Like many businesses and organizations, Easterseals is facing unprecedented financial challenges with the suspension of program services and the cancelation of three vital fundraising events in April.

“As we continue to navigate this unchartered territory, we need the support of Central Illinois now more than ever” said Steve Thompson, “We will never stop supporting families who need us, and we hope the community will do the same”. 

Strategies for Speech Development on Walks

Created By:Kelsey Lutes, MS CCC-SLP

Think about the different senses and label

What do you see at the child’s level?
Label what you see with simple language.
1-2 words: tree, flowers, car, dog. Look doggie!

What do you hear?
Crunchy leaves, birds (tweet tweet), dog barking
(woof woof), cars (beep beep), airplane (ffffff)

What can you smell?
Smell flower

What can you touch?
Touch the leaves and grass

Get a bag and collect leaves

Model saying “Leaf” every time you put one in the bag

Use action words like “RIP” and rip the leaf “Crunch/Stomp” on the leaves
Throw” the leaves up in the area

When you get home, tape the leaves to a piece of paper and model action words like “leaf”, “stick”, “on”

Other Strategies

Sing songs while child is riding in stroller

Feel bumps in sidewalk – BUMP!

Get mail from the mailbox “open”, “close”

Wave and model “hi” to people you see