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.
Funding provided in whole or in part by The Autism Program of Illinois and the llinois Department of Human Services.
Adaptive Swim Lessons
Semi-private, private, and adaptive swim lessons are available for children 4 years old through 10 years of age. Lessons will address skill levels I-Introduction to Water Skills, II-Fundamentals of Aquatic Skills and III-Stroke Development. Our instructors are certified through the American Red Cross and classes are based upon the American Red Cross swimming progression.
Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)
Applied behavior analysis is a therapy based on the science of learning and behavior that aims to decrease challenging behavior and target socially significant behaviors for each individual. ABA is a validated approach that uses evidence-based interventions and data collection in order to make treatment decisions based on your child’s individual progress. An evaluation by a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) is completed to determine the treatment plan and the treatment setting using a family-centered approach. Our team builds an individualized plan for each child, outlining goals and addressing challenging behavior. Easterseals’ ABA therapy can be provided in a variety of settings including 1:1, small group, classroom-like environment, in the home when appropriate, or a combination of all these settings.
Assistive Technology Clinic (AT Clinic)
Children who have an autism diagnosis may benefit from an evaluation through Easterseals Assistive Technology Clinic, specifically if there are significant mobility issues impacting the caregiver’s ability to transport or the child’s safe participation in home, school, or community settings. A child may be evaluated for a variety of equipment based on need, including adaptive seating systems and bath chairs. Therapists can also provide families with additional education and resources to address safety concerns (such as adaptations to decrease elopement from car seats/seating systems).
Augmentative & Alternative Communication (AAC) Evaluation and Treatment
AAC improves a child’s ability to communicate wants and needs through high-tech devices such as a DynaVox® or an iPad®, and low-tech strategies such as the Picture Exchange Communication System. The use of AAC can provide children and adolescents with an immediate means of communication and facilitates language and speech development.
Autism Diagnostic Clinic
Easterseals is here for you at all stages of your child’s autism journey. Being one of the very few organizations in Illinois that offers a multi-disciplinary Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) Diagnostic Clinic, Easterseals starts with your family at the earliest phase: diagnosing children who may have an autism spectrum disorder. Our common goal is to diagnose early, provide the most comprehensive assessment with recommendations and provide families with the support they need to best care for their child. Diagnostic clinic may result in a diagnosis of autism, in addition to other diagnoses that are identified through the evaluation process. Your family will leave the clinic with treatment options and support to help your child reach their full potential.
Autism Resource Center
Easterseals supports the entire community to spread resources and information about autism. The resource centers in Peoria and Bloomington support families, service providers, educators, caregivers, and the general community by providing ASD information, referral support, and overall assistance. The centers also contain a variety of items (visual supports, books, DVDs, learning aids, and more) that can be borrowed for additional support and information.
Children who are on the autism spectrum are at increased likelihood to experience challenges with anxiety, depression and other co-occurring mental health difficulties. Common goals in counseling include emotional and behavioral regulation, learning coping skills, improving social interactions as well as providing parenting strategies and support. Counselors are able to provide support services for the individual child, their parents, and the entire family via family counseling. Easterseals counselors value collaborating with other disciplines to support a child’s development.
New Diagnosis Family Orientation/ Autism 101
This introductory training session provides caregivers and community providers in an understanding of Autism Spectrum Disorders. Sessions are for adults only and are free of charge but registration is required.
Occupational therapy services for children who have a diagnosis of autism are focused on the family and child’s priorities. Therapists work in collaboration with each child and his/her family to identify treatment goals. Occupational therapy services may address various skill sets including self-help skills, gross motor and fine motor skill development, sensory processing, self-regulation, and social interaction in order to increase a child’s independence within his or her daily routines.
Physical therapists address motor and coordination delays to increase participation in walking, running, jumping, and playing with peers. Physical therapy can address strength, balance, and ball skills. Children with autism may demonstrate toe walking and sometimes benefit from physical therapy and home programming for stretching, proper heel toe walking, shoe inserts/orthotics or, if range of motion is limited, serial casting may be recommended.
Sequential Oral Sensory (SOS) Feeding and ASD:
Children with a diagnosis of autism may experience sensory aversions to food textures, smells, and/or tastes. These difficulties can lead to a very limited diet, impacting overall nutrition and intake. Some children may become extremely rigid in their feeding patterns, eating only specific foods prepared in very specific ways. A child may eat a certain preferred food for some time and then will no longer eat that previously preferred food. This pattern of eating only very specific foods and then dropping those foods from one’s diet is known as “food jagging.” The SOS feeding approach focuses on the use of a sensory based model to teach children and their families ways to interact with food and have positive experiences with feeding and mealtime.
Social Skills Therapy Groups provide structured opportunities for children with an autism diagnosis to learn and practice appropriate social skills including greetings, emotions, non-verbal cues, vocal tone, appropriate boundaries, and manners. Specific social skills such as how to initiate a conversation, share, solve a conflict, and cooperate are presented by the leaders and then practiced by the group members as they participate in games and fun activities. Children receive immediate feedback about their behavior and positive incentives (e.g. praise, stickers…) are provided to reinforce prosocial behaviors.
Speech-language therapy helps children with autism improve their verbal, non-verbal and social communication. Each child’s treatment plan is individualized to their specific needs as well as the family’s priorities. Some of the treatment areas that may be addressed include: receptive and expressive language, intelligibility, verbal or non-verbal communication, alternative communication, pragmatic skills, conversational skills, and social skills in order to be able to communicate his/her wants and needs, interact with others and be able to participate in an educational setting.
Water Seals Group
The goals of this class include helping children with autism improve water safety, social skills, motor planning, and sensory processing ability in a warm water setting. This class is led by a licensed certified occupational therapy assistant and a swim instructor/lifeguard. Families also receive educational videos that correspond with the lessons learned each session.
Bloomington-Normal YMCA & Easterseals Central Illinois Facility Update
Monday, May 2, 2022, 9:01 AM
We are so excited to be nearing completion on the Bloomington-Normal YMCA facility in just a few mon…
We are so excited to be nearing completion on the Bloomington-Normal YMCA facility in just a few months! This building includes our new Easterseals Central Illinois home in Bloomington-Normal. Check out this amazing flythrough video created by the YMCA to get to know the space a little better.
Our partners PJ Hoer Inc. Also shared this video on their youtube page
Our friends at WMBD news also shared a news story featuring our very own Ambassador Reece and his mom Dezi!
A few months later WMBD returned with President Kinzy of Illinois State University for another tour
We asked our partners at CEFCU why they #Rally4Easterseals here is what they shared: At CEFCU, helpi…
We asked our partners at CEFCU why they #Rally4Easterseals here is what they shared:
At CEFCU, helping people is more than a nice idea – it’s the reason we’re in business. We were founded on the principle of “People Helping People”, which means we not only are committed to members’ financial well-being, but also to supporting the areas where CEFCU members live and work. That’s why we’re proud to RALLY with Easterseals – an amazing non-profit that works tirelessly to help the children living in central IL with development delays, disabilities, and other special needs. By partnering with organizations like Easterseals who are doing good in our communities, we ensure that we are living our values by helping to make a lasting difference in the areas we serve.
We #Rally4Easterseals at CEFCU year-round by sponsoring many of their events, volunteering our time, sharing our resources, and giving back to their mission. We are thankful for our partnership and look forward to supporting them for years to come!
Organization announces new Executive Director and Collaborator The Autism Collective Board of Direct…
Organization announces new Executive Director and Collaborator
The Autism Collective Board of Directors, along with founding members Easterseals Central Illinois and OSF HealthCare Children’s Hospital of Illinois, are pleased to announce the appointment of Kelly Nimtz-Rusch as Executive Director of the organization. Additionally, the University of Illinois College of Medicine Peoria (UICOMP) is joining The Autism Collective as an official collaborator.
The Autism Collective launched in 2019 with a mission to end the isolation of autism by uniting experts and connecting families. Since then, the organization has helped 910 individuals across the state of Illinois navigate the complex web of services available for children and adults with autism.
The Autism Collective unites a broad spectrum of expertise to support families. As Executive Director, Kelly Nimtz-Rusch will bring more than 20 years of clinical expertise to the organization.
Nimtz-Rusch joins The Autism Collective from OSF HealthCare where she began her career as a pediatric nurse at OSF Children’s Hospital of Illinois. She served in a number of leadership roles at OSF Saint Francis Medical Center before becoming the Vice President of Nursing and Clinical Education for the OSF HealthCare Ministry. In addition to bachelor’s and master’s degrees in nursing from Saint Francis College of Nursing, Nimtz-Rusch has a doctor of nursing practice from American Sentinel University, in Aurora, CO. She brings a wealth of experience in new program development, innovative solution design work, and quality improvement in clinical practice to The Autism Collective.
The Autism Collective is meeting a vital need for our community and across the state. I am so excited to be a part of this organization, bringing support to individuals and amplifying their voices.
Kelly Nimtz- Rusch, Executive Director of The Autism Collective
The addition of the University of Illinois College of Medicine Peoria as a collaborator will give The Autism Collective expanded access and growth opportunities into the medical field as it continues its mission of uniting experts to end the isolation of autism.
UICOMP is one of four campuses that makes up the nation’s largest public medical school. The school educates 265 medical students and trains more than 300 residents and fellows annually while engaging more than 1,700 faculty physicians, professionals, and staff. Wendy Burdo-Hartman, MD, will join The Autism Collective Board of Directors in April 2022 as the UICOMP representative.
It is an honor to be appointed to the Autism Collective Board. As a neurodevelopmental pediatrician, the needs of children on the autism spectrum and their families are significant and cannot be provided by one organization. By bringing together Easterseals Central Illinois, OSF Children’s Hospital of Illinois and the University of Illinois College of Medicine Peoria, central Illinois is getting closer to meeting the needs of all children with autism spectrum disorder.
Dr. Wendy Burdo-Hartman, Associate Professor of Clinical Pediatrics at University of Illinois College of Medicine Peoria.
March is Cerebral Palsy (CP) awareness month. According to the CDC, CP is a group of disorders that …
March is Cerebral Palsy (CP) awareness month. According to the CDC, CP is a group of disorders that affect a person’s ability to move and maintain balance and posture. Symptoms of CP vary from person to person. CP is the most common motor disability in childhood. Read more from the CDC here.
Lucky for us, we have an expert at our disposal! Our Community Engagement Manager, Molly Hogeboom, has a diagnosis of CP and shares her perspective below.
What is Cerebral Palsy?
Cerebral Palsy is a congenital disorder of movement and muscle tone. The diagnosis often stems from a brain injury at or before birth. CP affects everyone differently. You meet one person with CP; you meet one person with CP. It can affect just your legs, muscles, your whole body, or as in my case, be only one side affected. For some, this may include impairments with communication also.
My CP affects a lot of my dexterity; in a sense, my right hand and arm are mildly paralyzed. My right leg is also weak, and my gait is different from an able-bodied person’s.
How has this diagnosis impacted you/your family
Ya know. My cp impacts me daily, but I have learned to navigate its challenges, one literal step at a time. I do not let my disability hold me back. Resources and therapy set a strong foundation for me to utilize all of my abilities. I don’t look at things with an “I can’t do that” attitude, but rather, “how can I do that?”. The answer to that question may be, getting creative… like using my mouth to paint my fingernails. Making multiple trips when getting my lunch ( Because I can’t carry my drink and plate simultaneously) or, most importantly….asking for help when I need it. That is part of doing things with a disability. I may not physically be doing it, but acknowledging and advocating that I need help is, in fact, doing it. I have had a rock star support system from day 1 of diagnosis. My mom and dad, my therapy team, family, and friends. At times, my “right hand” is my amazing husband, Wes. We have two boys under three… so our hands are full quite a bit.
How can our community ensure kids with Cerebral Palsy are 100% empowered and 100% included?
I hope that the community would be willing to learn more about CP as a whole. That goes for all ages… As an adult, know how your workplace or places of hobbies or interests can be more accessible. Offer help if you see a mom that needs assistance opening a door for their son or daughter that uses a wheelchair. Or someone, like me, looks like they might be struggling to carry something. And when I say offer, that is what I mean. I love when people offer assistance vs. just assuming the help is wanted. If you are a parent, teach your kiddo about friends of all abilities and how we are unique in our own particular ways. Hey, I can even bring the Easterseals CEFCU ability awareness program to your school. Learn about inclusion, the fantastic organizations in our area that may serve people, young and old, with CP, and donate your time, talent, or treasure.
What do you want parents/kiddos with a CP diagnosis to know?
To Parents- Maybe your journey is just getting started…or you are in the middle of the ride… please know. You are everything to your kiddo.. no matter how old they are. You are the fiercest advocate biggest cheerleader…. Someone to wipe the tears and to celebrate progress with.
You are seen, loved, and know that those around you know you are doing the very best for your child. “You’re the engine that makes all things go, And you’re always in disguise — a hero.”
To kids with CP…. I would first say that reminder that they are not alone. I know firsthand that sometimes it is not always easy, but your CP makes you the star you are… Having CP only adds to your shine. Depending on where you are in life.. that might not always be easy to see. Still, I promise you in life, the possibilities are endless with the right team and support behind you. The obstacles you face might not be the easiest, but they are what make you, you! Embrace CP as a part of who you are, don’t be afraid to tell your friends and people around you how it affects you if you need to. As Abbey Curran once said. “I have Cerebral Palsy; Cerebral Palsy doesn’t have me .”I hope that statement sticks with you as much as it does for me.
Check out this video to learn more about Molly, her family, and their Easterseals journey.
A little over two years ago, Wendell and Kathleen welcomed tiny twin boys named Alex and Bennett. Th…
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: