It’s easy to get caught up in the headline news and believe that there’s not much good left in the world. But it only takes a few minutes inside the Angle Lake Easter Seals Child Development Center in Washington State to change your mind. At least it did mine. I spent Monday morning taking a tour and participating in a media conference at the Center to celebrate their partnership with Comcast. The Center was selected as a recipient of the 2014-2015 Comcast Assistive Technology Grant Fund recipient to add a Mobile Technology Lab to their program. This new tech lab provides instructors and classroom teachers the tools they need for one-on-one sessions as well as classroom learning.
But What Does Easter Seals Do?
You’re likely heard of Easter Seals before, but you may not know much about them. Here in Washington State, they provided services to over 4,100 children and adults with disabilities. They focus on helping them gain everyday living skills, greater independence, and secure employment.
Identifying Learning and Social Disabilities Early
The Easter Seals organization focuses on early intervention so they’ve developed the “Make the First Five Count®” program. Its intent is to have all children assessed starting at two months of age to identify developmental delays as well as other issues that can affect a child’s ability to learn. The first step is for parents or caregivers to take the online test which only takes about 15 minutes to complete, but it will give the parents the information they need on whether their child is on target when it comes to his/her development. The organization’s goal is to have 100% of the kids entering Kindergarten ready and able to learn alongside their peers, but Easter Seals needs help to make that goal a reality.[w8_blockquote icon=”fa-quote-center”]Did you know that 1M children enter the school system with unidentified disabilities every year? In fact, more than one in five households have children who have special health care needs, so the need is great. Or that 1.3 million students from the class of 2010 dropped out before they graduated – that’s 337 billion in lost wages over a lifetime. [/w8_blockquote]
According to Cathy Bisaillon, President and Chief Executive Officer, “Easter Seals, and other organizations, what we’re is trying to do is change the system and make tracking a child’s developmental progress a natural part of educating and parenting, as it should be. So instead of waiting for that next doctor’s appointment, children are being assessed frequently with the Ages and Stages Questionnaire (ASQ). This tool allows us to ask parents, educators, and anyone in the child’s life questions like, ‘Does your infant play with her fingers?’ ‘Does your toddler imitate two word sentences,’ and similar questions about development. They can be an immediate first step to finding a delay in social skills or motor skills.”
Bisaillon is obviously passionate about children and their abilities and that’s where the Mobile Technology Lab comes into play. It will be able to help parents with the “Now What” question when their child is identified as having some delay. All children enrolled in the Easter Seals Centers are provided with individual assessments and education plans. The new Mobile Technology Lab instructor and classroom teachers will work as a team to take full advantage of the children’s learning time, both in the new sessions and throughout the day in their regular early learning classrooms. This allows for a more holistic approach in serving the developmental needs of the children.[w8_blockquote icon=”fa-quote-center”]Comcast Foundation by the Numbers: 6.3 million – in cash and in-kind to support Easter Seals’ mission in assistive technology. 25K – the estimated number of people the Comcast Assistive Technology Fund has helped since 2011. [/w8_blockquote]
Diem Ly, External Affairs for Comcast in Washington, says that she has one of the best jobs ever. With a broad grin and sparkle in her eye, she says that she plays the role of corporate philanthropist and it’s her pleasure to do so. She announced this partnership as one of six grant for the 2014/2015 year. It’s also the third year Comcast has supported Easter Seals at the national level. But why does Comcast support Easter Seals? Ly shared that, “For one, together we believe that every person, regardless of ability or development should have access to the same activities as everyone else, especially access to technology that can improve the quality of their life.” She went on to explain, “Comcast has believed in and supported technology access programs for years,” through various programs supporting teens and women as well.
Summer McGrady is the Marketing and Corporate Relations manager for Easter Seals – Washington, but she’s also the parent of a child with “different abilities”. She’s got a bright smile that’s addicting and a demeanor of someone who is appropriately named after the season of sun. She’s active in the hearing loss and disability communities and says that parents are excited about the tech lab and the learning it opens up to them. She’s passionate about the “Make the First Five Count® and it’s her job to reach out to the community and make sure parents know this free online service is available and that there’s help should it identify a developmental delay. McGrady, shared that, “This program is a great way for us to start answering the question, ‘What’s next.’ ‘OK, you’re telling me that my child potentially has a delay of some kind, what am I supposed to do now?’ Her hope is that this program is the beginning of serving the children very early through technology and one which can be replicated in other Centers.
But Do they Need Technology?
I’m not one to advocate more screen time for anyone, especially small children. But the Center is using the new Lab and the iPads that it utilizes as a way to bring children who might not otherwise be exposed to learning apps together. The games are fun and bright and make use of hand/eye coordination, movement, and more to keep the kids engaged. There’s also an instructor who can work one on one with the children to challenge them to explore, progress, and celebrate their achievements, so the time spent with the iPad is learning time disguised as fun. That I can support.
A Holistic Approach to Learning
The new Tech Lab is just one part of the center which is clean and bright and well cared for. The infant room was soothing and smelled fantastic When we visited the infants were content and calm, even after 10-15 people crowded in for a peek. When one young child became upset, he was gently carried from the room and comforted by a staff member. The other classrooms were warm and inviting with great furnishings to encourage imaginative play. Art supplies and toys are displayed on open shelves with a “Yes” attitude when it comes to using them. The kids are fed family style and encouraged to pass the dishes and help each other. There’s a genuine feeling of companionship between these tiny children.
I was very impressed with the overall design, function, and cleanliness of the center, though I’m sure they cleaned for our arrival, as any good host does before inviting guests to visit. But I’m confident when I return next week with some goods to donate for their dress-up stations that it will still be a place I’d like to have had my own kids in when they were small. And I think that’s what impressed me most. They treat every child as if they’re special and they have a right to be there, no matter what their ability or social-economic status which can only benefit us all because some day these children, ages five and under, will be teens and young adults. What they learn now will impact the adults they become. We have a choice to support these children now or later. I prefer now.
NBCUNIVERSAL and Comcast in Washington State:
Visit the Comcast Partner Spotlight page to learn more their partnership with Easter Seals. You can also find out more about Comcast in Washington State or download the Comcast Community Investment in Washington flyer. You may also want follow their Twitter feed for information about this partnership as well as others.
- Get involved with Easter Seals Washington!
- Find out how to Make the First Five Count!
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