Vatican To Hold Premiere Autism Conference This Week

The Vatican’s first ever conference on autism, “The Person with Autism Spectrum Disorders: Animating Hope,” is being held this week. Pope Francis has established the conference in the hopes of ending the stigma of autism and the isolation of those living with autism. Pope_child

In the spirit of inclusion and volunteerism, Pope Francis will call on the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics to embrace people with ASD. This is the latest example of his efforts to make the church a “home for all” by rethinking social issues and the role of science, and by embracing people who may be marginalized.

One of the largest medical conferences on autism, more than 650 experts from 57 countries will discuss genomic research, treatment, and acceptance of the estimated 70 million people worldwide living with autism. Topics include the brain and behavior; environmental factors in autism; early diagnosis; technology like iPads that can improve the quality of life; and ways for volunteers to help.

This conference is not the first of its kind for Pope Francis. His fondness for children with special needs is well-known. In addition to raising awareness during the conference, the Pope will also deliver a speech to the audience gathered at the Vatican hall. Music and movement for the children will be included in the session.

Pope Francis’ call-to-action and focus on social, economic and environmental justice is a message that he has taken to the secular leaders of the world, as well as to members of all religious denominations. The question becomes, “How can we fulfill this mission in our daily lives?” Please share your thoughts on this important issue.

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Operation Warm Coat Came to Erie

Operation Warm Coat 2014Brrr … it’s 14 degrees in Erie with a -2 wind chill. Three feet of snow is predicted, but the storm has stayed over the lake.  Thanks to the generosity of PNC Grow Up Great, sixty BNI preschoolers have winter coats in the nick of time through Operation Warm.  Now in its eighth year of support of Operation Warm, the PNC Foundation is providing over 1,000 coats to children in Northwestern Pennsylvania.

Founded in 1998 by entrepreneur and philanthropist Dick Sanford, Operation Warm has partnered with a wide range of foundations such as PNC Foundation to ensure children in need receive coats each year.  This important gift of a new winter coat provides children with the freedom and confidence to play more, learn more, and do more.  By the end of 2014, 1.7 million children in nearly every state across the USA will have received the happiness and warmth of a new Operation Warm winter coat.

As the temperatures continue to drop our children will be keeping warm in their new coat, hat and mittens.  Thank you, PNC Grow Up Great Foundation and Operation Warm.

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ELBS Student Wins State-wide Art Contest

ELBS student Todd Harvey won first place with his masterpiece using A.R.T.

ELBS student Todd Harvey won first place with his masterpiece using A.R.T.

I am pleased to announce that ELBS student Todd Harvey was selected as a winner of the statewide art contest for artists with disabilities, Art: The Universal Language.   He won first place in the acrylic medium for students ages 12 and under. Todd created his masterpiece through a revolutionary art program, A.R.T. (Artistic Realization Technology).

What is A.R.T.? Through the use of a target laser, the artist selects the canvas, paint colors, brush sizes and textures to create their artwork. A trained Tracker then follows the laser light to apply paint to the canvas. This process allows the artist to not only paint, but also to provide a vehicle which showcases their humanity. As Tim Lefens, creator of A.R.T. states, “the art is totally uncompromised. What you see is exactly what the artist wanted.” The laser becomes more than a bridge to the canvas — it is a bridge to the community as it dismantles misconceptions about individuals with physical challenges.

The Barber National Institute first learned about A.R.T. from Tim Lefens, an abstract

Karen Kyler, COTA and Todd Harvey

Karen Kyler, COTA and Todd Harvey

artist who developed this program for children and adults with significant physical challenges. After reading about the BNI on the web, Tim contacted us and told us he had secured a grant from the Christopher Reeve Foundation to provide training on A.R.T. at sites across the United States. Were we interested? Of course, I responded yes! In 2008 Tim came, trained us in A.R.T. and we were off running.

Todd started training two years ago in A.R.T. using a laser pointer to direct the application of paint to his canvas. Through Yes and No questions and eye gaze, Todd selected the size of his canvas, background color and color choices. He also chose a tool, either a brush, sponge or pallet knife. His Tracker, IMG_6332Karen Kyler, COTA, followed the laser light, a virtual brush. This extraordinary painting took 12 months to complete. Todd’s painting was also on display at our annual Art Show in April.

I am very proud of Todd for his amazing piece of artwork. Each of our children has an exceptional talent; it’s up to us help them reach their fullest potential.

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Happy Veterans Day!

veterans-day-poems-thank-you-5The faculty and students at ELBS say THANK YOU to our veterans.


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The Importance of Early Childhood Education

Speech TherapistsI had a great opportunity last week to attend the PNC Grow Up Great Advisory Council meeting. It’s hard to believe that PNC Grow Up Great is celebrating its 10th anniversary of programming. I wanted to share with you some of the key topics.

  • The PNC Foundation joins Sesame StreetTM in helping to bring laughter and learning to young children all over the country with the new campaign ~ “Words are here, there and everywhere”.
  • Through Grow Up Great, PNC supports families, educators and community partners to provide innovative opportunities that enhance learning and development in a child’s early years. Two new grant initiatives, reaching children earlier through intensive programs designed to close the vocabulary gap are Save the Children – Early Steps to School Success, Louisville, KY and the 30 Million Words Initiative, Chicago School of Medicine. Ten participating cities (Atlanta, Charlotte, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Detroit, etc.) are also receiving 2 year grants with the focus on vocabulary building.
  • Focusing on family engagement PNC early childhood educationGrow Up Great will fund a project in which partners collaborate to promote families awareness of the importance of talking with their children to build vocabulary and help give them the skills parents need to do this effectively. Engaging older siblings, extended family members, and the community at large this program will assist families to develop positive routines and habits that support children’s development of vocabulary and concepts for the long term.
  • A new section of the PNC Grow Up Great website – The Lesson Center – will serve as a reliable source for high quality early childhood teaching ideas.
  • PNC Grow Up Great sponsored the Guinness World Records attempt of the “Largest Vocabulary Lesson” last Thursday (Oct. 30th). Thirty seven cities, 57 locations and 4,000 children participated in this challenge centered around Mr. Tiger Goes Wild by Peter Brown.
  • The conversations about early childhood education have dramatically changed since ECE_coverPNC Grow Up Great was initiated 10 years ago. There is no longer a conversation about why. Instead the conversation centers around access with quality. In 2004 states were spending $2.5 billion on early childhood education. Today they are spending $5.4 billion. The challenge going forward is to make early childhood education funding a priority and break the cycle of incrementalism.

I am honored to serve on the PNC Grow Up Great Advisory Board and be a part of the movement to prepare America’s youngest children for great things in school and life.

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Did You Vote Today?

Your vote countsRyan and I were at the polls by 7:15 a.m. voting for our “favorite” candidates. Since he began voting at 18, I have stressed its importance to him. Typically we discuss the candidates a week prior to Election Day, identifying their position on various issues that we care about. Of course, supporting programs for children and adults with disabilities is right on the top of our list.

I truly believe that your vote is your voice to our legislators, governor and president. It is your opportunity to influence the direction of the state and country. With so many legitimate needs and limited funding it is essential to reach out to legislators to rally them to your cause.   Advocacy is a 12-month effort that begins with voting-paper-ballotsyour vote.

Here are a few links for more information.

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Have a Hauntingly Booo-tiful Halloween!

Halloween is all about dressing up as scary, ghoulish, funny characters knocking on the doors of neighbors and friends, collecting treats and relishing in the fun. However, I always think about how we can create a safe and fun Halloween.

So if you and your child are going out Trick or Treating, think about …10.30.14 Halloween Graphic

Photo Oct 29, 9 28 59 AM

Ryan’s first Halloween.

Our Halloween week is already in full swing. Ryan can’t wait to go a haunted house this evening. It’s his favorite Halloween celebration. Tomorrow I’ll be attending our Halloween parade. There will be over 150 children dressed in elaborate costumes walking through the halls of Barber National Institute. Pictures will be posted on the Barber National Institute’s Facebook page.

I have also included two links for Halloween Social Stories.

I wish you a safe and happy Halloween.

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