Your child is one of a kind. We want to be your partner in helping them thrive in their own way. At Easterseals, we are honored to be a member of so many families' support systems. We have on-demand resources, parent training, orientation sessions, and care coordination ready to help.
On November 4th, we will come together to celebrate Steve and Mo Thompson
for their dedicated years of service and all the milestone moments of
Easterseals. Join us in celebrating a future where every child is 100% included and 100%
empowered — a future where the best is yet to come.
Autism Spectrum Disorder is a developmental disability. Children and adults with autism have difficulty with social communication/interaction and exhibit restrictive and/or repetitive patterns of behavior. There is a wide range of ability among people with autism. Some people with autism are gifted and others need significant levels of support to ensure their health and well-being. While great strides are being made, there is no known cause, or a known singular effective treatment for autism.
People with autism have challenges in the areas of social communication/interaction and restricted/repetitive behaviors. A few examples:
Social Communication/ Interaction
Difficulty establishing or maintaining back-and forth conversations and interactions
Inability to initiate an interaction
Problems with shared attention or sharing of emotions and interests with others
Abnormal eye contact, posture, facial expressions, tone of voice and gestures, as well as an inability to understand these
Lack of interest in other people
Difficulties in pretend play
Engaging in age appropriate social activities
Problems adjusting to different social expectations.
Stereotyped or repetitive speech, motor movements or use of objects
Excessive adherence to routines
Ritualized patterns of verbal or nonverbal behavior
Excessive resistance to change
Highly restricted interests that are abnormal in intensity or focus
Hyper or hypo reactivity to sensory input or unusual interest in sensory aspects of the environment
No two people with autism are the same. There is no single behavior that is always present in every individual with autism.
Dylan is extraordinary. He has one of only 2,500 known cases of Phelan-McDermid Syndrome (PMS)…
Dylan is extraordinary.
He has one of only 2,500 known cases of Phelan-McDermid Syndrome (PMS). This rare genetic disorder often causes speech and developmental delays, as well as autism spectrum disorder. Dylan began showing symptoms early on, walking much later than the average toddler and experiencing significant speech delays.
A few days before his first birthday, a specialist confirmed that he has autism. Three weeks later, he was diagnosed with PMS.
Dylan has low muscle tone, which slows his physical development and impacts his language and communication skills. While there is no cure, physical therapy and occupational therapy help. Dylan has a high tolerance for pain and, like others with PMS, the tendency to overheat. Coupled with his communication challenges, it can be hard to know if he is in pain and needs help. He also struggles with sleep. A sleepless Dylan means sleepless nights for mom and dad.
Raising a child with a rare disease isn’t easy. There’s stress, worry, exhaustion, but also an enduring love that helps families keep going. And thanks to donors like you, there’s Easterseals Central Illinois.
Thanks to support from generous donors like you, Dylan visits our Peoria Service Center 3 times a week where he receives speech therapy, occupational therapy and physical therapy. He is making great progress and his family is grateful for the support.
Community Foundation of Central Illinois provides LiteGait system to Easterseals Central Illinois
Monday, August 22, 2022, 9:39 PM
Learning to walk is a fundamental milestone for all children. Some children, however, need some add…
Learning to walk is a fundamental milestone for all children. Some children, however, need some additional help reaching this milestone. Easterseals’ LiteGait program is designed to help children learn (or re-learn) to walk more easily, faster, and with more confidence. The LiteGait system addresses the needs of children learning or re-learning to walk through a specialized body-weight support system that provides a safe, supported environment where children can learn (or relearn, in the case of injury or surgery) basic walking skills. Thanks to a grant from the Community Foundation of Central Illinois in the amount of $12,500, we can purchase this system to assist the children in Central Illinois in reaching this important milestone.
It uses a mechanical system and a harness to support the individual and control balance and posture over a treadmill or over the ground. Using the LiteGait over a treadmill allows clients to practice walking over an “endless walkway”. The therapist doesn’t have to worry about having to stop a child’s walking because they came to the end of a hallway and now have to turn around or worry about balance.
Using the harness, the child is totally supported, so there is no risk of falling. The LiteGait provides therapists with an extra set of hands during therapy sessions. In this way, the therapist can assist with the child’s leg movement over a longer distance and for a longer period of time.
The child gets to practice walking in a way that cannot be done without this support. Essentially, they can walk farther and faster when supported over the treadmill than they can otherwise. This helps children progress to walking with a walker, or alone if possible, recover from surgery or injury, or build endurance. It can also improve their gait patterns, so they can walk with better balance and control. Medical research supports the use of body weight-supported gait training for children with cerebral palsy, Down Syndrome, and children and adults with various conditions and disabilities.
Melissa joined the Easterseals Central Illinois team in 2021 as the Chief Operating Officer and quickly put her 17 years of nonprofit/healthcare experience to work! She sat down with us yesterday to answer a few questions to help our extended Easterseals family (all of you) get to know her a little better.
Hometown: Metamora Community, where I currently reside today.
Family: Tony (husband), Lauren (daughter), and Tyler (son).
Pets: 2 Labrador Retrievers
Favorite sports teams: Chicago Cubs
Favorite weekend activity: Kids Baseball and Softball games
Alma Mater: Goshen College
Tell us about your career leading up to Easterseals:
I began my career with McGladrey & Pullen, LLP with a focus on auditing. One of my clients was The Children’s Home Association of Illinois. I had the chance to join their team as the Chief Financial Officer. Over the next 17 years, I was able to expand my experience as the President and Chief Financial Officer into the day-to-day operations including Human Resources, Information Technology, Quality Improvement, Facilities, and the overall mission of the organization. I enjoyed being a part of the statewide Child Welfare Advisory Committee, advocating for kids and families in the state of Illinois.
What is your favorite thing about working at Easterseals?
Obviously, the mission of Easterseals is incredible. Getting to be a part of this great work is so humbling. One of my favorite things is the team of dedicated, talented professionals that make up the Easterseals Central Illinois staff. Every single individual that works for this organization shows up each day wanting to make a positive impact on the communities we serve.
Easterseals believes every child deserves the best; what does ‘the best’ mean to you?
My background is in business operations. So to me, means our families deserve the best from start to finish. Our families have said that they receive the best in therapy, at school, and at camp. But ‘The best’ also means clear communication about insurance, billing, scheduling, and access to services. ‘The best’ means we work alongside families throughout the entire process at Easterseals to be their partner and advocate. Being the best means constantly listening and learning from our families.
What does the future hold for Easterseals?
For the last 100 years, Easterseals has been a solid foundation for families in our community. Thanks to the work of Steve Thompson and the leadership teams over the previous few decades, we are entering an exciting time for Easterseals.
When I think about the future, I think about sustainability and staying the course. Easterseals Central Illinois started providing services at a once-a-week clinic in a storefront over 100 years ago. This year we are opening a new facility in Bloomington with the Bloomington-Normal YMCA, renovating our Peoria Service Center, and expanding access into rural communities with telehealth. Timber Pointe Outdoor Center is leading the state in inclusive recreation opportunities, and the Easterseals Learning Academy is making an impact across 15 school districts. Our partnership with Child and Family Services in 11 counties in Central Illinois is improving access to vital early intervention services. Our impact is broad, and we are committed to sustaining that impact. We are committed to ensuring every child is 100% included and 100% empowered because that is what they deserve, it is what their families deserve, and it is what our communities deserve.
Steve Thompson Announces Retirement as he Celebrates 42 years with Easterseals Central Illinois
Wednesday, June 1, 2022, 10:13 AM
June 1 2022 (Peoria, IL)- After 42 years of dedicated service, President and CEO of Easterseals Cent…
June 1 2022 (Peoria, IL)- After 42 years of dedicated service, President and CEO of Easterseals Central Illinois, Steve Thompson, has announced his plans to retire effective August 31, 2022. Effective immediately, Melissa S. Riddle will step into the role of President assuming responsibility for all aspects of Easterseals operations. To support the transition, Steve Thompson will continue in his role as CEO through the end of August.
“It has been a remarkable privilege to be a part of an organization focused on ensuring that every child is given the opportunity to reach their full potential. I have been honored to work alongside our dedicated staff, tireless volunteers and an extraordinary Board of Directors.”
Steve Thompson began his career at Easterseals in 1981 and has served as President and CEO since 1986. During his first year, the organization served 875 individuals. In 2021, Easterseals Central Illinois served more than 5,000 families across its six locations. Thompson has been widely recognized as an exemplary leader and known for consistently making the needs of children with disabilities and their families his first priority. His life’s work, and that of his wife Morene, has been driven by a steadfast belief that every child deserves the best.
“I am proud of the positive impact Easterseals has had in the lives of children and families in Central Illinois for the past 103 years. Going forward, Easterseals is committed to sustaining and growing that impact,” shared Steve Thompson. “During the past year, Melissa Riddle has demonstrated a passionate sense of purpose and the skills to advance our mission. I’m confident that Easterseals will thrive under her operational expertise and leadership.”
Melissa Riddle joined the executive leadership team at Easterseals in 2021 as Chief Operating Officer. Prior to that, Melissa served as President and Chief Financial Officer of the Children’s Home Association of Illinois. During her 17 years with Children’s Home, she gained extensive knowledge in nonprofit management and the delivery of services for children and youth.
“I am grateful to so many children and families who have shown me that the “best” is not a destination but a never-ending pursuit. In this spirit, I know that the best is yet to come for Easterseals Central Illinois. With an excellent staff, high-quality programs, exemplary boards, generous donors, committed volunteers, and a strong endowment, Easterseals will continue to be recognized as a trusted and caring organization far into the future.”