Ambassador Update: Alex & Bennett

A little over two years ago, Wendell and Kathleen welcomed tiny twin boys named Alex and Bennett. Their family celebrates these boys as their ‘one in a million kids.’

Bennett loves to clap along to music, play peek-a-boo, and pop bubbles. He loves making faces at himself in the mirror and following along with his brother, playing beside him. Bennett has a diagnosis of Down Syndrome.

Alex loves to read books with anyone who will join him, splash in the water, and explore new surroundings. He loves to climb on a large box in the family living room. He has a diagnosis of Mosaic Down Syndrome.

Both boys have low muscle tone, meaning they do not have the strength that many children do early on. They receive physical therapy through Easterseals and build strength and endurance every day. They are reaching milestones like sitting, crawling, and walking.

Recently, Kathleen shared this message with the students of Limestone High School “Easterseals is a huge blessing to our family. And you are a blessing by raising funds to help our kids and many precious kiddos. So thank you. Thank you for fundraising for Easterseals. Thank you for taking the time to be a friend to us today.  Thank you for any time you take for any child or adult with special needs throughout your days. It will make your life richer too.”

“Teaching our children kindness and providing opportunities to be a friend to people with disabilities help them realize how much alike we all are! Also, the way we adults talk about others who are different from us impacts the next generation in greater ways than we may realize.”

Kathleen, Alex & Bennett’s Mom

Hear Kathleen’s full speech from the LCHS Easterseals Kickoff Assembly:

Ambassador Update: Cruz and Livia

In October of 2017, The Romero family received a prenatal diagnosis that their son would likely have Down syndrome. Those words changed their lives forever.

“He was born in May 2018 and he changed our whole family forever. He is the light of our lives and is always doing funny things.” Said his mom, Trisha.  Cruz started receiving physical therapy and occupational therapy with Easterseals at 9 months old.  He learned to crawl and walk; now he is running. Some of his current goals include jumping and walking up & downstairs. He is also working on eating foods with a fork, putting on a coat and zipping it and taking off his shoes.

In 2020 the Romero’s were looking into special needs adoption when they saw a photo of a beautiful, dark-haired girl in an orphanage on the other side of the world. They spent 6 weeks in Ukraine during the adoption process of their sweet daughter Livia. Like their older son Cruz, Livia has a diagnosis of Down syndrome. At that time she had low muscle tone, limited physical movement abilities and could only drink pureed foods and milk out of a bottle. When they returned to Central Illinois they were able to get Livia in to the same therapy team at Easterseals that was helping their son, Cruz. She has come so far in the last 18 months. She is now walking around and playing with her three older brothers. She is also learning to use utensils and loves all kinds of foods.

Trisha Romero recently shared this message with the students at Limestone Community High School:

“Thank you for all your support of Easterseals. Please continue to treat people with differences the same. I never thought I would get so much from having children with special needs. Learning to slow down, enjoy life and all the little things.”

Hear Trisha’s full message here to the Limestone students below

Easterseals Central Illinois to Host Free Virtual Trainings During Autism Acceptance Month

Every year, communities rally together during the month of April to support individuals and families living with autism in Central Illinois, and across the globe. According to the CDC, 1 in 44 children have Autism Spectrum Disorder. As a leading provider of autism services for children in our community, Easterseals Central Illinois has assembled our team of experts to provide four free trainings during the month of April.

Easterseals Central Illinois is proud to offer multidisciplinary, family centered care for children with developmental delays, disabilities and other special needs. Our experts are excited to offer a series of sessions that are designed to support families and professionals in several different areas. These trainings are for professionals, caregivers, community members or anyone interested in child development in general.

“We support over 5,000 families a year at Easterseals Central Illinois. We are excited to have an even larger impact by providing these free, virtual training to our community,” said Katlyn Linsley, BCBA and Manager of ABA services at Easterseals Central Illinois. “These sessions are useful for any caregiver, not just those caring for a child with autism. These strategies can improve the day-to-day lives of children and families regardless of ability level”.

TO REGISTER: Visit or call (309)686-1177

Autism 101 (Spanish)

Wednesday, April 6 5:30-7 pm

Hosted by: Mariela Munguía, BCBA

La orientación sobre nuevo diagnósticos de autismo (Autismo 101) está diseñada para ayudar a los padres, familiares y amigos a comprender los trastornos del espectro autista (TEA). Este programa beneficiará a cualquier familia con un niño que haya sido diagnosticado recientemente con un trastorno del espectro autista o para personas que sospechan que su conocido tenga autismo. Los participantes aprenderán; señales tempranas de autismo, qué es trastornos del espectro autista y cómo afectan a las personas, qué tipos de intervenciones están disponibles y qué recursos comunitarios que están disponibles para padres, familias y profesionales que viven/trabajan con TEA.

New Diagnosis Orientation

Wednesday, April 13 – 5:30-7:00 pm

Hosted by Jennifer Simpson, Manager of Care Coordination and Family Support

The Autism New Diagnosis Orientation (Autism 101) is designed to assist parents, extended family, and friends in understanding Autism Spectrum Disorders -ASD. This program will benefit any family with a child who has been recently diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder. Participants will learn; what Autism Spectrum Disorders are and how they affect individuals, what types of interventions are available, and what community resources are available for parents, families, and professionals living/working with ASD.

Promoting Positive Food Experiences for Your Selective Eater

Wednesday, April 20, 6:00 – 7:30 pm

Hosted by: Alyssa Huschen, MOT, OTR/L and Michelle Bognanno, MA, CCCSLP/L

Join us to learn how to make mealtimes more positive, productive, and fun for the whole family. You are not alone in dealing with a selective eater at home! Many parents encounter children with difficult feeding patterns, making mealtime a stressful experience for the whole family. This training helps parents and caregivers understand why their child may struggle to eat a variety of foods, and that they are not responsible for creating the problem. Attendees will leave with an understanding of how to make mealtimes more positive, productive, and fun for the whole family.

Behavior Basics

Wednesday, April 27, 5:30 – 7:00 pm

Hosted by: Katlyn Linsley, BCBA and Manager of ABA services

Behavior Basics will cover the ground level of why kids do the things they do! Tips will be given on how to reduce problem behavior and increase the good behaviors everyone is looking for! This workshop is perfect for parents, grandparents, babysitters, or teachers who need an entry-level knowledge of behavior management.

Timber Pointe Outdoor Center 2022 Summer Camp Registration now open

Registration is now open for Timber Point Outdoor Center day camp and overnight camp programs. Camps begin June 6 and run through August 12, 2022. The beautiful 160-acre facility located in Hudson, IL is designed to offer specialized, inclusive, and adapted programming to meet the needs of campers (children and adults) with disabilities, developmental delays, and other special needs. To register for camp programs, visit

Everyone can participate in every activity at Timber Pointe Outdoor Center, regardless of their ability level!  Some of the most popular activities include the high ropes challenge course, zip line, heated outdoor pool, archery, equestrian arena, hiking, canoeing, boating, arts and crafts, sports and team competitions and so much more.

“A camp experience at Timber Pointe is transformative, not just for the camper, but for the entire family- giving parents/caregivers a well-deserved break, while giving campers unique and adaptive adventures through which they learn about and love themselves, as well as others different from them,” said Lydia Gartner, Director of Timber Pointe Outdoor Center. “They return home with confidence, independence, and hope, because when you’re here at camp, you discover that anything is possible– that everything is possible.”

Inclusive Day Camp Program:

Timber Pointe Outdoor Center day camps accept kids ages 5-17 of all ability levels and focus on each individual’s needs. Day camp runs Monday-Friday of the listed weeks from 8:00am-5:00pm. Breakfast and lunch are included. Cost is $335 per camper. Day camp is inclusive for kids with and without any type of disability. To learn more about our day camp programs visit   

Overnight Camps:

Our overnight camps focus on our mission. Impact campers with challenging differences through life-changing experiences. At Timber Pointe, campers do what they’ve been told they can’t. For some campers, this could mean staying away from home for the first time, for others it is the feeling of flying across the zip line. For every camper, this week provides an opportunity for relaxation, independence and friendships.  The cost for week long overnight camps is $1100, and there are a variety of grants and scholarships available for families to reduce that cost. To learn more visit

Timber Pointe Outdoor Center is committed to working with families to ensure that our camps are as financially accessible as they are physically. Financial assistance is available through our Campership program. Campership grants help cover the cost of camp experiences for children and adults with a disability, developmental delay or other special needs. For more information on financial assistance, visit

Overnight Session 1: June 5th-10th (Youth ages 7-17 with a disability)

Theme: “Til’ the Cows Come Home”- Yeehaw! Start summer off on the right hoof as we take you down on the farm for an epic hoedown throwdown! This week will be jam-packed with barnyard-themed activities that will leave us snorting and hawing with laughter! Hang on to your hats though, partner, we’ll also ride into the Wild West for more adventure, playing and haying til’ the cows come home!

 Overnight Session 2: June 26th-July 1st (Youth ages 7-17 with a disability)

Theme: “Storytellers”-  This week, we’re diving in to timeless tales and powerful plots full of wonder, adventure, and friendship! We’ll head through the wardrobe into Narnia, follow the yellow brick road to Oz, experience magic at Hogwarts, fall down the rabbit hole into Wonderland, create some chaos with Thing 1 & 2, and so much more! No need for a golden ticket, just come with your curiosity and courage as we live out beloved stories and tell our very own tale at camp.

Overnight Session 3: July 3rd-8th (Adults ages 18+ with a disability)

Theme: “Holiday Hooplah”- Experience not just the 4th of July, but more of your favorite holidays all in one week! We’ll get spooky for Halloween, count down for New Year’s, go green for St. Patrick’s day and of course pull out all the stops for a July 4th celebration! Bring your holiday cheer and get ready to recreate special moments and magical traditions with your camp family, all with a unique camp take!

Overnight Session 4: July 10th-15th (Youth ages 7-17 with a disability)

Theme: “Wonder Emporium”- Creators and dreamers, wish-makers and wonderers, this week is for

construct in Build-Your-Owns, design and decorate in the 2nd Annual TPOC Cake-Off, and finally answer the question– CAN we make art from the top of the zip line? Get ready to explore infinite possibilities as you step into the Wonder Emporium!

Overnight Session 5: July 24th-29th (Adults ages 18+ with a disability)

Theme: “Groovin’ Through the Decades”- Calling all cool cats! Put on your boogie shoes and join us for a far out week exploring the roaring ’20s, nifty ’50s, the disco decade (’70s), and more totally tubular times! Full of tie-dye, hot rods, disco, and throwbacks like shrinky dinks and Pac Man (with their own camp twists), this week’s activities will be the bees knees!

Overnight Session 6: August 7th-12th (Youth ages 7-17 with OR without a disability)

Theme: “TPOC-TV”- Things will get REAL this week as we play and contend in camp spin-offs of reality TV show competitions! You’ll complete Survivor-style challenges, become fashion designers in “Project Funway,” show off your skills in “TPOC’s Got Talent”, whip up tasty treats in “(Pie)-Iron Chef” and judge your favorite camp staff as they battle it out in “Dancing with the (Camp) Stars!” Epic entertainment awaits, so step away from the screens and into the very real world of TPOC-TV!

Ambassador Update: Eloise

Two-year-old Eloise has the incredible ability to smile even when things are really challenging. She is a spunky, opinionated, and amazing girl who has the resources and support to make her own story. Her parents, Rachel and Zach, share, “There is something supernatural about Eloise’s joy.”

When Eloise was born, her parents were told that she would not be able to make intentional movements or communicate. But when we met with an occupational therapist at Easterseals, they saw Eloise exceed those expectations. She reaches for things and tries to swipe at different stimuli. Ever since that first meeting, Eloise has made huge leaps in play.

Her parents want the world to know that Eloise is an incredible, beautiful, hardworking, and joyful little girl. She has a disability, which means that her life looks different. However, she still deserves every opportunity other children have, and Easterseals is paving the way to make that happen.

“Easterseals is a resource to help parents learn how to empower and equip their children to live their lives to the fullest, whatever that looks like for them. Easterseals comes alongside children to help them reach their individualized, full potential.” 

Rachel, Eloise’s Mom

Eloise has Holoprosencephaly (HPE). She began receiving occupational therapy and physical therapy services from Easterseals when she was 4 months old. Now, almost two years later, her parents are excited as they see her excel in her own way.

“Eloise’s life is not about hitting milestones; it is about learning about Eloise’s capacity and then empowering her to live her life. – and that is what Easterseals does!”

Ambassador Update: Jordan

For the Rodiguez family, Jordan’s behavior challenges can be a daily struggle, but with the help of Occupational Therapy at Easterseals, Jordan continues to make great progress! Most notably, he has used his skills to improve his relationships with his teachers & friends.

He is currently working on following directions in general & self-regulation in the morning to get ready for school. Ms. Erin, Jordan’s Occupational therapist, starts the session by talking to Jordan and agreeing on the activities. She gives him choices during the session so he feels motivated & excited to participate. By meeting Jordan where he is at emotionally for the day, Erin makes the session fun, enjoyable, and something he works forward to!

Telehealth has been a great option for their busy family, while still providing quality therapy. He is able to thrive and work on independence, with support and supervision from his mom. 

“Easterseals, in my experience, is a top-notch professional service for all sorts of needs. They are diagnostic at the start. Individualized action plans are well thought out & shared buy-in is obtained from the family. Therapists work toward specific goals & are specialists in what they do. Therapists are committed to a child’s success & are willing to be on a larger team with school & medical professionals to problem solve. In general, I can’t imagine any better service provided to Jordan in meeting his unique needs.”

Kathy, Jordan’s Mom

Kathy shared what she wants the world to know about her amazing son;“ I want the world to know the REAL Jordan.  The one that can make a room of people laugh through his storytelling. The one that would do anything to help or care for someone he cares about. The one who has overcome the trauma of his toddlerhood, the loss & grief of life as he knew it to enter a new world & family without any say in the matter & functions better than most, given his circumstances. The one who loves to be loved & is capable of reciprocating.”

Easterseals Ambassador Helps prepare new Bloomington Therapy Spaces

Easterseals Ambassador, Reece, grabbed a paintbrush and got to work. He left his mark on the wall, much like he has left his mark on Easterseals over the past few years.

Reece’s mom brought him to check up on the construction of the new Bloomington-Normal YMCA that will be the new home of Easteresals Central Illinois in Bloomington! the construction site. The new site is expected to open in Summer 2022. Check out the WMBD news story below!

Does your baby always look to the same side? Torticollis and when to ask for help.

By Joanna Stuck, PT, CIMI  Easterseals Central Illinois

A concern that many parents of new babies share is that their baby seems to have a preference for the position of their head. This preference may be torticollis (tor-ti-col-lis). The word comes from two Latin root words, “tortus” and “collum,” that together mean “twisted neck.” This condition is relatively common in babies and often can be noted very soon after birth. There are several different reasons this may occur and so it is important to determine why this is happening so that it can be quickly understood and getting help to resolve it can begin. The earlier it is noticed and intervention begins, the faster it can be resolved! This is great news!

Here are things you might notice and want to bring to your pediatrician’s attention:

  • Your baby’s head tilts or rotates to one side
  • Limited range of motion in head and neck
  • Asymmetry in your baby’s head and face (flattening on one side of the head)
  • Breastfed babies may prefer one side over the other
  • A small, soft lump in your infant’s neck
  • The most commonly noticed symptom is a flat spot appearing behind one ear and on the side the baby likes to look toward

There are very effective solutions to these concerns and they include tummy time, positioning strategies, and often physical therapy. Physical therapy will include measuring how much your baby is turning their head, tracking head shape, designing a plan for improving motion, and supporting you by answering questions and being a partner in the care of your baby.

When strategies to correct the side preference begin by 2-4 months of age, resolution of concerns generally occurs quite quickly. Very few children require surgery to correct this condition and this is generally not considered until other attempts have been made to resolve the concerns.

Your physical therapist can offer fantastic support to you in providing what your baby needs to grow and develop and will help you know if further help, such as for head shape, is needed. We love to partner with families and support them in the growth and development of their children! If you and your pediatrician determine it is time to get the support of a physical therapist for your baby’s development, then please come and see us at Easterseals Central Illinois at (309)686-1177


Clinical Application of the Congenital Muscular Torticollis Clinical Practice Guideline by Micah Huegel PT, DPT,, ContinuED course date 11.9.2018

Participants from 47 area schools participate in The Autism Collective’s  ECHO Autism in the Classroom

Using the ECHO model, this innovative program is the first of its kind in the nation

The Autism Collective launched ECHO Autism in the Classroom on Friday, January 28th, 2022. This program aims to connect education professionals with experts on autism spectrum disorder. Participants will attend four sessions covering the basics of autism, behavior management, classroom-based supports, and supporting children through life and educational transitions. There are 50 participants from 47 schools, 38 school districts, and 18 counties across Illinois.

The Autism Collective is the first organization to host an ECHO Autism in the Classroom program. The program takes the ECHO Autism model, designed for physicians, and applies it to educators. According to the CDC, 1 in 44 children are diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. As a spectrum disorder, autism provides unique strengths and challenges to every person affected. 

ECHO Autism in the Classroom aims to empower educators with essential knowledge and connect them with experts.

“After two successful ECHO Autism sessions with Primary Care Physicians, we saw how this program could also be a lifeline to educators in our communities. By utilizing the ‘all-teach-all-learn’ education model, ECHO Autism in the Classroom focuses on interactive case discussions. We are excited to see how this program empowers participants and creates a supportive network across Central Illinois”

Holly Swearingian, Manager of Clinical Operations for The Autism Collective and the Hub Team Director

Project ECHO was started in New Mexico by a physician who saw far too many patients traveling extensive distances to find expert care. Project ECHO spreads knowledge from centralized locations into every community. ECHO Autism is a branch of Project ECHO that focuses specifically on spreading knowledge about Autism Spectrum Disorder. 

To learn more about ECHO Autism in the Classroom, The Autism Collective, or resources available in our community for persons with autism, visit

Easterseals Community Rally Returns to Central Illinois April 16th – 23rd 2022!

For the second year in a row, Easterseals is inviting all of Central Illinois to participate in the Easterseals Community Rally, April 16th – 23rd. This week-long celebration is a chance for community members to rally in support of Easterseals Mission; to ensure that children with developmental delays, disabilities, and other special needs can reach their full potential

“The last two years have presented challenges for all of us, but for families of children with disabilities and special needs, those challenges have been even more complex and daunting,” said Katie Musisi, Vice President of Development for Easterseals Central Illinois. “The Easterseals Community Rally is an opportunity to celebrate those families and the progress made, and we want the whole of Central Illinois to join us in that celebration and ensure that families can continue to feel that support year-round through Easterseals services.”

The Easterseals Community Rally is made possible by CEFCU. Special thanks to our honorary co-chairs Illinois State University President Dr. Terri Goss Kinzy, and Bradley University President Dr. Stephen Standifird.

There are many ways to rally for Easterseals:

  • Register for Run, Walk & Rally! A family-friendly 5K run /1 mile walk that celebrates participants of all abilities! Join us for a post-race party with prizes and games. Wheel chairs and strollers are welcomed and encouraged.
  • Tune in to the week-long telethon! WMBD and Easterseals are teaming up to raise money to support therapy services for the children and families of Easterseals! Tune in to WMBD/WYZZ newscasts Monday, April 18th – Friday. April 22nd from 4-6 pm during Community Rally week to make your donation.
  • Rally Your Own Way! Your support helps ensure that every child Easterseals serves can reach their full potential. Last year, Easterseals Central Illinois served over 5,000 families and provided 36,792 hours of pediatric therapy services.
    • Host a Fundraiser:  Create a fundraising page, host a small gathering or workplace challenge. There are so many ways to raise money for Easterseals and celebrate our message of inclusion and empowerment.
    • Make a Donation: Find a list of upcoming fundraising events or make a direct donation now at

Learn More: Interested in learning more about Easterseals Central Illinois? Consider hosting an Easterseals 101 presentation for your workplace or community group to learn about our services and opportunities to get connected.

Learn more at