January 7, 2022
Citing the rising need in Arkansas for both information and services for individuals on the autism spectrum, Easterseals Arkansas announced today their plans for the “2022 Race For Autism Awareness and Understanding” initiative.
In making the announcement, Easterseals President & CEO Ron Ekstrand also announced the organization’s plans to utilize writer, public speaker, and professional flagman for the NTT INDYCAR Series, Aaron Likens, as a key content creator, presenter, and public spokesperson for the initiative.
Ekstrand referenced the unique professional and personal relationship he shares with Likens. “Aaron and I first met during my tenure at Easterseals Midwest, shortly after his successful publishing of Finding Kansas, a book in which Aaron shares his personal experiences and insights after being diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, a part of the autism spectrum.
“Immediately upon meeting Aaron, it was clear that Aaron was not only a writer, but a very impactful public speaker with the ability to connect with his audiences through his combination of personal experiences, humor, and humility. The insights that he brings are brought to life with great stories and examples that really resonate with people.”
Since beginning his public speaking activities with Ekstrand, Likens has gone on to be a highly respected presenter for an assortment of audiences, which include other Easterseals affiliates, local, state and federal organizations – including the FBI, health care providers, human resource officers, educators, parents, and more.
In his role as Autism Ambassador for Easterseals Arkansas, Likens will produce weekly blogs and deliver presentations in the community. His daily blogging will take readers on a journey with him as he shares his day-to-day experiences as someone on the autism spectrum while he navigates the responsibilities, opportunities, and challenges that come with his flagging responsibilities on the NTT INDYCAR Series.
Easterseals Arkansas will also launch an outreach program that will work to make Likens available to speak to audiences, large and small, in the Little Rock area and across the state.
Easterseals Arkansas Marketing & Public Relations Director Jillian Jacuzzi is excited about the programming opportunities for the organization. “With Aaron, we have the ability to work with individual public and private sector audiences to identify their specific areas of interest and set up to have Aaron present either virtually or in person,” she stated. “Whether it’s in the board room, classroom, luncheon podium, or conference facilities, Aaron will serve to inform and inspire the audiences.”
Please reach out to Jacuzzi for further information or to book Likens for an engagement at email@example.com.
About Easterseals Arkansas
For more than 75 years, Easterseals Arkansas has provided exceptional services to empower children and adults with disabilities to be full and equal participants of society. Easterseals Arkansas is leading the way to 100% equity, inclusion, access through life-changing disability and community services. Services include developmental preschools in Little Rock and Stuttgart; speech-language, physical, and occupational therapy; independent living programs; and transition programs to promote employment. www.eastersealsar.com
Thursday, August 4, 2022, 2:24 PM
Adults with disabilities often face unique challenges when it comes to finding services that are acc…
Adults with disabilities often face unique challenges when it comes to finding services that are accessible and meet their needs. In order to help these individuals find the necessary resources, it’s important to have an understanding of what services are available.
If you are an adult with a disability and want to know where you can turn for assistance, read on! In this article, we'll explore the different types of services for adults with disabilities; some common issues they might face when seeking those services; and advice on how to navigate the disability services system.
There are a variety of services available, including resources for helping people with intellectual, learning, and physical disabilities. There are also many services designed to support the social and emotional well-being of adults with disabilities. Examples of these services include support groups, social work, and counseling.
Easterseals can help you or your loved one access support services for adults with learning disabilities, mental health services for adults with intellectual disabilities, and protective services for adults with disabilities. We also offer programs designed to strengthen skills and improve the quality of life for adults with disabilities, including:
Our services for adults with disabilities have helped thousands of people improve their lives, their skills, and their quality of life as they work to achieve their dreams.
Some common issues that may lead to difficulties accessing services include a lack of understanding of individuals’ needs, a lack of awareness of accessible services, social stigma, and financial issues resulting from low-paying jobs, low or no income, or a lack of accessible transportation. Some of the issues that may cause a delay or an outright denial of services include an unwillingness to look beyond the person’s physical appearance or the fact that they are cognitively or developmentally delayed.
If you feel that you are unable to access the help that you or your loved one need, contact Easterseals Arkansas. We can help–or help connect you with the appropriate resources for your specific circumstances.
If you’re interested in becoming an advocate for people with disabilities, there are many opportunities available.
Finding and hiring an appropriate service provider can be a challenging process for an adult with a disability. Programs aren’t always well advertised, especially those offered through the government.
Easterseals gives you a place to connect–both with the community and with your peers. We can help you build the skills you need to pursue the life you want. From independent living to job placement, we can help you achieve your goals and access the programs you need to succeed.
If you’re looking for a job, you may find that the job listings are not designed to accommodate adults with disabilities. For example, some employers don’t list job openings that are accessible for people with disabilities, or they don’t include accommodations (e.g. modified interview questions, sign language/texting interpreters) that make the job accessible.
Easterseals offers post-secondary education and training as well as job skills training and placement with local businesses that have partnered directly with us. They are fully aware of the benefits of hiring people with disabilities, and we ensure that they have the proper accommodations in place before we send in our students.
If you need accommodations in your current job, but you’re having difficulty accessing them, contact Easterseals Arkansas. We’re happy to direct you to the appropriate resources. You are guaranteed reasonable accommodation for your disabilities by law under the ADA.
Many adults with disabilities may need assistance with independent living skills. These skills include tasks such as managing your finances, getting a driver’s license, managing your medications, managing your household, setting up an office space, or going grocery shopping.
At Easterseals Arkansas, we offer several options for independent living, including four apartment complexes in Little Rock for people with disabilities: Armistead Village, Wilson Court I, Wilson Court II, and Harold Court. Along with an on-site manager and laundry facility, our independent living facilities are all fully wheelchair accessible and designed to accommodate live-in aides. There are also scheduled social activities and community outings with your peers. ‘
The Butler Adult Living Center is a residential facility that works closely with our residents to help them–and their families–become more independent. With 24-hour supervision, training in self-care and ADLs, nursing and psychological services, and recreational activities, the Butler Adult Living Center is designed to prepare adults with disabilities for a more independent lifestyle.
If you are an adult with a disability, you’ll have a much easier time finding appropriate services or resources if you know what to expect. Although it may be a difficult process, it is possible to find the right services for you. We know that every person with a disability is different, and what works for one person may not work for another.
Explore your options by contacting Eastersealas Arkansas today. We’re happy to help you find the programs that will most benefit you or your loved one. Our goal is to offer services for adults with disabilities that will help them live, safe, healthy, happy, and fulfilling lives.
Tuesday, June 14, 2022, 4:42 PM
Claire was able to graduate from an ACCE program. She then found employment with the Little Rock Dev…
Claire Ballard graduated from the Academics, Community, Career Development and Employment Program (ACCE) through Easterseals Arkansas in 2020. Claire enrolled in the program to learn more about the careers available to her and explore employment opportunities. In a video interview, which you can watch below, Claire says her favorite part of the ACCE program was the hands-on experience. This experience allowed her to prepare for her future career as a preschool aide.
Claire’s graduating class faced extra challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic. She and all her fellow students had to go virtual and, as Claire put it in her graduation speech, “be patient” while they learned to use Zoom and Google Hangouts. Despite these obstacles, Claire persevered. She was able to graduate and find employment with the Little Rock Developmental Preschool as a preschool aide.
Now, Claire is a key member of the preschool’s team as a preschool aide. She keeps the classrooms and offices organized and running smoothly. Claire says she loves being a preschool aide. She adores working with the school because it allows her to feel useful and makes her happy. "Claire is vibrant and outgoing," says Keasha Mosley, director of the Little Rock Developmental Preschool. "Her personality is one of a kind. Claire is dependable, honest, and takes pride in her job. She brings so much joy and laughter to the preschool, and we are lucky to have her as part of our team."
When asked about the application process, Claire said the school was looking for someone dependable, flexible, and “who doesn’t complain at all!” She was exactly the right person for the job.
Easterseals’ ACCE Program offers post-secondary education and training for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
This two-semester program in a college setting allows students to have a college experience and prepare for competitive employment. In addition to academics, members of the ACCE program have access to social support, work exploration, and job placement services. It’s a streamlined service designed to help students with disabilities find meaningful careers, like being a preschool aide, that adds to their lives and community.
This program is open to high school graduates and is ideal for young adults with intellectual or developmental disabilities. This includes disabilities such as autism spectrum disorder or cerebral palsy. Many students like Claire have successfully graduated and found gainful employment in their communities.
Enrollment is happening now for the 2023 class. If you’re interested in applying to ACCE, download the application form here.
The Little Rock Developmental Preschool is an inclusive developmental preschool that serves all children—including those with and without developmental disabilities, autism, or other special needs. In addition to special education, these schools offer pediatric outpatient physical, occupational, and speech therapy; pediatric feeding disorder therapy; and applied behavior analysis (ABA) services.
The mission of the Little Rock Developmental Preschool is to help prepare your child for kindergarten and give them the best possible start. We are committed to providing every resource for your child to further their development, well-being, and happiness.
Our preschools in Little Rock and Stuttgart are enrolling now. If you’re interested in enrolling your child, fill out this form, and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible!
Tuesday, May 31, 2022, 3:00 AM
Easterseals Arkansas Outreach met over Zoom with our Autism Ambassador Aaron Likens to discuss Natio…
Easterseals Arkansas Outreach met over Zoom with our Autism Ambassador Aaron Likens to discuss National Autism Awareness Month.
Aaron, thank you so much for joining us today. We are really excited about hearing from you. A lot of people know that April is World Autism Month, and I know I’ve had the pleasure of hearing you speak through Easterseals of Arkansas. But in case anyone who is watching this hasn’t heard you speak before, can you give us a little background history on yourself?
Yes. I was diagnosed on the autism spectrum at age 20. Later in life, it became clear that all the signs were there ahead of time, but nobody knew what to make of me. Unfortunately, when I got my diagnosis in 2003 – autism awareness, understanding and acceptance didn’t exist compared to today. So, my doctor didn’t know what it was. He just told me good luck. So, I had to look it up on the internet, and I had never heard of Asperger’s myself.
So, the first thing I read stated that people with Asperger’s will never have a job, will never have friends, will never be happy. Horrible introduction, and unfortunately, I believed those words and became extremely depressed.
But 15 months later, I sat down on my computer and I started to write. I never intended on writing a book. I never intended on anyone really reading it. It was primarily just for my parents – to explain who I was, and why I was. And from there I wrote a book by accident. I had no intentions of writing a book. And after the book was published, one place asked me if I wanted to give a presentation. And one presentation turned into five, and since 2009 I’ve given about 1,050 presentations to almost 100,000 People.
All the while, I was heavily involved in motor sports. And that’s one of the unfortunate things about when I got my diagnosis. When I let that diagnosis define me. I forgot who I was.
At the time I was the flagger for the St. Louis Karting Association. And I stayed in motorsports since 2003. In 2020, I became one of the starters – or flagmen – for the NTT IndyCar Series. Flagging at the top level of American motorsports is an extreme rush. I still can’t believe that I got that opportunity.
So Aaron, in April, like I said earlier, we celebrate World Autism Month. And those watching may have heard of autism awareness in the past. Maybe they’ve heard of autism acceptance. You know, there’s kind of been a shift in the last decade, transitioning to what it’s called. Do you have any thoughts or preferences on that?
Yeah, we needed awareness 20 years ago. As I mentioned, my doctor was unaware of it, which led to catastrophic results from me looking online. Because I didn’t know what it was, and very few people knew what it was. The first time I told a person that I had Asperger’s, they looked at me and they said, “Wait, did you say you ate a hamburger?” They didn’t know the name of it.
The trend this year has been autism acceptance. Myself, I take things literally. So, I don’t know, I’ve been struggling with what are we accepting? Because if I would have accepted my fate or my misguided flawed-logic fate when I read that website, was I supposed to accept what was going to happen? I struggle with that just for my introduction. So, I my personal message is “autism understanding”. What does it mean to be on the spectrum?
I believe that understanding is the foundation for hope. That’s been my motto since I began speaking. If I understand myself, and those around me understand, it’s going to be much better for all parties. And I think growth in each individual is just going to go so much further. So, I personally liked the term “understanding” more, but there are still some areas in the country and in the world that need the awareness aspect. The world needs to be aware that autism does exist, yes, but I like to see that shift more towards the understanding aspect.
I like that. I haven’t heard that understanding component before. Kind of along the same lines. When I was going to school to be a teacher, the big emphasis was on using person-first language. So, if you’re talking about someone, you’re saying, “This is Bob. He has autism,” instead of saying, “He’s autistic,” But lately it seems there’s been a shift and some people prefer to say that that’s part of their identity and they prefer to use that in their introduction. Do you have any cool thoughts on that?
I had arguments with people a decade ago when this shift was happening. And it was really weird for some individuals to tell me how I should be called. Shouldn’t it be each individual person’s choice of language? I mean, some people would want to be a person with autism. And other people might want to say, “No, I’m autistic.” That’s okay. It’s not a bad thing. It isn’t a put down, it isn’t slander. That’s who they are. Just describe them like that.
I got into a different argument about this 10 years ago. For me, if you’re changing the natural flow of your language – X person is autistic, not a person with autism – it’s concerning. If you’re changing your language so much, you must think what I have is really, really bad. If you are altering the natural flow of language, then to you what I have must be so awful that you have to dance around it. I understand people that do use that type of language, that they are thinking that it’s bad. They’re trying to be polite, but for myself, it disrupts the natural flow.
So, shouldn’t the language just be a person’s choice instead of a blanket statement that all people need to conform to? Each person is going to have a different preference on how to be referred to.
Absolutely. That’s kind of what we came to a consensus on with my group – ask the person. Ask about their preferences and find out and then you don’t have to worry about offending someone or saying the right thing. Just have a conversation.
Absolutely. And the most important thing anybody can know about autism is if you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism.
Perhaps that slipped in the awareness aspect. We still need to make people aware of that fact. Don’t put everyone into the same box. We’re all unique. We all have different strengths, different weaknesses. Some will be social, some will not be, but we’re all different. So, don’t do a blanket statement on what all of us want to be called.
I have one more question for you just to wrap this up.
If you had a magic wand, and you could choose one thing for people to take away from World Autism Month, what would be that thing?
The one takeaway, I think, that the world should have on World Autism month, is that autism doesn’t end at the end of April.
It’s an everyday thing for us on the spectrum. Just this past Sunday, while I was working the race at Long Beach, there was a group of security people that were happy that the day was over. They were they were almost like a flash mob. And my coworker and I drove by on a golfcart. And like the flash mob of security people quit dancing and singing as we got nearer in my coworker just said, “What, your job stopping the party in my account?” And he got out and started dancing with them for about 15 seconds. It was really magical, But I’m sitting there absolutely frozen. I had no idea what was going on. Even if I wanted to, I couldn’t partake in spontaneous jovial activity. I couldn’t do it even if I tried with my whole might.
Now is that a major thing in a person’s life? No. But when that happens every day, when a social situation can be confusing, when you take that type of situation and think about what goes on in the classroom – where every single day a person on the spectrum may see random social encounters like that and not be able to partake in it.. And when they are thrust into a social situation like that, they may struggle. They may not know what to do. They may just not be able to communicate whatsoever in those situations.
If you don’t have the understanding of those around that person, we’re going to seem aloof or standoffish. Like we’re almost trying to be rude that we’re not socializing. When some of us in those situations, we quite simply can’t act like the others.
So, the one takeaway is how great my coworker is. He understood what was going on. And he didn’t say, “Why didn’t you join in? Why didn’t you? Why didn’t you?” There was none of that language of “Why didn’t you?” He understood that that’s not my thing. He’s okay with it. He understands it. We continued the day, and everything was fine.
So, that understanding outside the month of April is what I hope people take away. And if the people in the room just understand that even a small percent more, I will come away from that situation not just dreading that. Why can’t I do that? Why can’t I do that?
What I can do is pretty awesome. Everyone has their strengths. Everyone on the autism spectrum most certainly has their weaknesses. But who I am is pretty great. And if those around me understand that, you know, it’s okay. So, I hope the takeaway is just: Try to understand us. Try to be a support for us and our growth and our contributions. And society is going to grow through that understanding.
Tuesday, May 24, 2022, 3:34 PM
In celebration of May as Better Speech and Hearing Month, Easterseals Arkansas is highlighting our s…
In celebration of May as Better Speech and Hearing Month, Easterseals Arkansas is highlighting our services for evaluations and treatment of pediatric feeding disorders.
In August 2021, we began working on building a feeding program by having staff undergo training to be able to effectively treat a wide range of feeding disorders.
Services that we offer may include but are not limited to:
Meet our qualified team:
Karen Hobgood, M.A., CCC/SLP
Karen, who works in our outpatient/preschool therapy department, has been with Easterseals Arkansas for 27 years. She has obtained more than 100 hours of continuing education in Pediatric Feeding Disorders that include evaluations and treatment strategies for sensory based and motor based feeding disorders. In addition, she has been a part of our High Risk Infant Monitoring team for the past 22 years.
Lindsey Fink, M.S., CCC/ SLP
Lindsey has been with Easterseals Arkansas since 2019, working in the outpatient/preschool therapy department. She has taken several feeding courses that include SOFFI: Supporting Feeding in Fragile Infants, Sensory-Motor Approaches to Feeding, Picky and Problem Feeders, and the SOS Approach to feeding. Lindsey is also on the High Risk Infant Monitoring Team.
Alexa Milam, M.S., CCC/SLP
Alexa has been with Easterseals Arkansas since 2021. She currently splits her time between the Little Rock Developmental Preschool and The Academy. Alexa has been trained in the SOS Approach to feeding and participates in and leads feeding groups.
The post May is Better Speech and Hearing Month | Meet Our Qualified Team appeared first on Easterseals Arkansas Blog.
Tuesday, May 17, 2022, 7:30 AM
Colleges with programs for students with learning disabilities have better engagement & graduat…
While every college is required to provide basic support for students with disabilities and/or ADHD, there are some colleges with programs for students with learning disabilities that go above and beyond to create an inclusive and supportive environment for their neurodivergent students. Colleges with programs for students with learning disabilities have better engagement and graduation rates.
We believe this is because colleges with a culture of inclusion have a culture where students are encouraged to thrive, rather than just survive. When you’re sensitive to the needs of your students and provide them with many ways to learn and succeed, you’re not only helping students with learning disabilities, but also the entire student body.
So, before you start applying for college, check out this list of college programs for students with learning disabilities. Get the support you need to be successful and thrive.
The schools on this list were added because they scored high in one or more areas, including smaller class sizes, accessibility, coaching and tutoring programs, and individualized learning plans.
Many other colleges offer similar services that did not make it to this list. So make sure you check in with your favorite colleges before you decide whether to apply. Every college should offer information on accessibility, ADA compliance, and special needs programs.
Landmark College is different and notable because it is a school designed especially for students with learning disabilities. The school motto is “We Learn Differently”, and they seem to adhere to that dogma in every area of their curriculum.
They believe that people who learn differently are inherently capable of innovation. Their website states their mission is to ‘identify and assess ambitious opportunities and innovations that could provide future growth and institutional transformation.”
They offer traditional on-campus classes, online courses, and summer pre-college programs for students with learning disabilities. The school conducts and publishes groundbreaking research on autism, ADHD, and learning disabilities.
The University of Arizona offers an exceptional educational experience for students with disabilities. The college’s Strategic Alternative Learning Techniques Center helps every student create their own individual educational plan that boosts each student’s chances of success.
Another resource is the Access vs. Inclusion workshops, which help clubs and organizations educate themselves about inclusivity and accessibility issues within their organization or club memberships.
Dyslexic Advantage, Dealing with Different, Friendship Circle, The Atlantic, and College Magazine all endorse the school for its accessible approach to college life.
Mitchell offers the Bentsen Learning Center Program (BLCP) for students who need extra help. There are different levels of support available through all its two- and four-year programs. A freshman meets with a learning specialist three times a week to discuss and practice learning and writing skills, as well as learning about potential career paths and professionalism.
If you are concerned about your child struggling with the transition to college from high school, Mitchell also offers the Thames Academy. This is a gap year program that offers college credit in a highly structured academic environment. It is designed specifically for students with learning and thinking disabilities.
The Curry’s Program for Advancement of Learning (PAL) program at Curry College works with students individually and in small classes. The focus of this program is to work on students’ reading, listening, writing, and organizational skills. Students who enroll in the program will take a credited course every semester.
You can also enroll your child in the PAL summer program. This program is designed to help children with disabilities transition more smoothly from high school to college. This course is a separate expense and is not covered by tuition.
Wesleyan College has a program called Mentor Advantage Program (MAP) for students with learning disabilities. This program allows students to meet with tutors for several hours each week and work on their organizational skills, as well as strategies for success in specific courses.
Resources on note-taking, active listening, and study schedules are just a fraction of the resources available for students. Freshmen in the MAP program would attend an orientation course designed to help facilitate the transition from high school to college.
If you’re willing to pay an extra fee, you can also access MAP’s daytime check-in options. This gives students extra help with studying, organization, and test review.
Beacon College is another college specifically geared towards students with learning disabilities or who are neurodiverse in some way. The focus is on creating as customized an approach to learning as possible.
They achieve this through small class sizes—no more than 15—which allows each student to receive the attention and support they need to succeed.
Their approach seems to be working. According to recent numbers, Beacon’s students have a 70% on-time graduation rate, and over 80% of them secure employment or graduate school placement post-graduation. That’s well above the national average.
The University of the Ozarks has developed the Jones Learning Center (JLC) to assist students with their academic and organizational skills. Unlike many similar programs, there is no limit to how often you can meet with tutors or how many hours you spend in the program.
JLC has specialized services for students with ASD. There are also note-taking and peer tutoring services available.
Easterseals Arkansas offers several programs designed to help students with disabilities achieve their academic goals. Check out our Academics, Community, Career Development, and Employment Program (ACCE) through the UA Little Rock campus.
Contact us for more information about support for students with disabilities—both in Arkansas and across the country.
The post 7 Best College Programs for Neurodivergent Students appeared first on Easterseals Arkansas Blog.