Cosmic Bowling with our Youth Program

COSMIC2Twenty-seven of our participants and teens in our youth program scored some strikes at Aiea Bowl this past Sunday! They were quite the bowlers and even learned how to perfect their form. The social outing was funded by the Avril Lavigne Foundation, which was geared to provide fun, educational opportunities for our Youth Services program. Our Avril Lavigne Rock Star Club members even invited some of their family members to partake in the bowling competition.

COSMIC1These teens joined our youth program to socialize and have fun! We found out that some of them were also part of a junior bowling league and gave a few tips on how to knock down the most pins. They were all treated to some melted, gooey, cheesy pizza.

COSMIC5This is Jan Pauline Honrales, she knocked down some pins with her lucky lemon yellow ball. Look at how fast it’s going!

COSMIC3Lastly, everyone wished Gabe a Happy Birthday. He just turned 19-years-old! His proud parents had a blast showing other participants how to bowl. Mahalo for coming everyone! We think we had the loudest (and proudest) cheers in the bowling alley!

Creative uses of technology present new ways for children with disabilities to communicate


[Photo credit: Eric Arveson]

Linda Burkhart shows the many technology gadgets used to help children with disabilities or special needs to communicate

By Eric Arveson, Assistive Technology Manager

Linda Burkhart, an international speaker on communication and assistive technology, addressed a packed house at the Pagoda Hotel for two days in Honolulu, April 4th and 5th, 2013. The workshop was a collaborative effort between the UH Deaf-Blind Project, Department of Health- Early Intervention Program and Easter Seals Hawaii.

Burkhart brought with her 39 years of experience as a classroom teacher, trainer, private consultant, and an augmentative communication and assistive technology specialist in a project operated by the John Hopkins University and the Maryland Department of Education. Physically, she brought along creative low tech and communication devices and materials for display, enough to fill four tables. Much of the technology Linda created when working directly with children with significant challenges. Her topic was for the workshop (catch your breath) was “Multi-Modal Communication and Learning Strategies for Children with Significant Challenges and Complex Communication Needs.”


With humor and professional experiences, Burkhart explained the brain functioning of children with Autism, deaf-blindness, cerebral palsy, cortical visual impairment, RETT syndrome, intellectual disabilities and other neurological disabilities and how communication development can be affected. She explained that the neural networks and cognition are learned through patterns and these patterns are best learned through experience. Communication systematically arranges vocabulary through patterns and, starting early, those patterns become “wired” into our brains.

Burkhart contends that speech is abstract and can be learned very early if presented “in natural contexts with consistent, meaningful patterns.” The multi-modal approach provides input in more than one area, building on the strengths of the child. Burkhart believes that repetition is needed, but must be modified so that the child remains actively engaged in the learning process.


Burkhart reviewed a number of communication devices and systems and described a method by which the child chooses the language through an interaction between the child and the adult. This system was developed by Gayle Porter (Melbourne, Australia), and is called PODD, Pragmatic Organization Dynamic Display. PODD uses picture symbols, representing a full range of communicative functions based upon the child’s communicative intents and is taught through strategies that parallel typical speech and language development.

Linda Burkhart’s website is loaded with handouts, “Make It Take It” ideas and more information about PODD. You can find her at:

First honorary Easter Seals Hawaii coin presented to Heather Mossinger


Easter Seals Hawaii CEO & President Christopher E. Blanchard proudly presents the honorary ESH coin to Safety and Quality Assurance Manager Heather Mossinger

Safety and quality assurance manager Heather Mossinger was the first recipient of the honorary ESH coin on Thursday, April 18th at Green Street. The coin was presented by CEO and President Christopher E. Blanchard after the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF) officials wrapped up their assessment of ESH facilities and operations. “Heather served as the lead staff member for the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF) survey last week.   The surveyors examined more than 1,000 CARF standards for across Easter Seals Hawaii programs.  Heather not only helped prepare the staff, but she conducted a remarkable amount of research to determine the standards in the many areas that were inspected.  It turns out, we did very well.  In short, Heather did a terrific job,” said Blanchard.


CARF officials give their approval of the excellent services, programs and facilities ESH offers to families all over the island.

The presentation of honorary coins is a new tradition for ESH, which was adopted from the military culture of using coins embellished with the unit’s motto and symbol as a reminder of extraordinary service. Blanchard’s military background was the basis of implementing a new way of thanking and recognizing ESH staff members who demonstrate merit when facing a challenge and also those who contribute to the organization. He said, “I will typically present the coins on behalf of the agency.  I plan to do it anytime and anywhere I see employees, volunteers, donors, or other supporters of Easter Seals Hawaii doing something extraordinary.  We had the year printed on our coins, and we hope that people will strive to earn one in each successive year and ‘collect the whole set.’  We may change it a little from year to year, but we must ensure it serves as a reminder of Easter Seals Hawaii.”

ESH coin

As far as the origin of the coin, Blanchard shared that soldiers as far back as the Civil War kept a coin as a memento of their wartime military service. Eventually, it was a means of expressing unit cohesion and military commanders began to have coins minted for them. For ESH, the coins bear the Easter Lily and the Hawaiian Islands. It services as a symbol of the passion and integrity of anyone who has a selfless commitment to ESH.

Easter Seals Hawaii testifies on changes in eligibility for EI services

April 23, 2013

Department of Health (DOH) Proposal

Department of Health, Family Health Services Division, proposed adoption of Hawaii Administrative Rules (HAR), Chapter 11-40, Early Intervention Services for Infants and Toddlers.

The proposal changes the definition of a significant delay to “at least one and one-half standard deviations below the mean for the instrument in any area of development”, compared to the current criteria for eligibility of one delay in a developmental area.  This change would leave 40% of Keiki enrolled in ESH EI program ineligible for services.

The Testimony                                

Approximately 12 representatives from Easter Seals Hawaii (ESH), including president and CEO Christopher E. Blanchard, were in attendance at last week’s public hearing to voice their opinions in opposition to the DOH’s proposed change in eligibility. ESH therapists, program managers and staff shared their thoughts and presented facts on how participants and their families would be affected. Two parents of participants also gave testimony and made it clear that the DOH is limiting the resources their children deserve. “If it weren’t for Easter Seals Hawaii, my son would not be able to talk,” said a concerned parent in tears. Many individuals had heartfelt stories to tell as proof of the success of the current Early Intervention services. Program manager and special educator for ESH’s EI program in Kailua, Carrie Pisciotto said, “I was especially touched by the parent testimonies (I cried) and how our staff stepped up to speak from their hearts about our children.” In addition to the verbal testimonies given at the Oahu public hearing, various parents from ESH programs have submitted written testimony opposing the change.

The public hearing also took place in the Big Island, Maui and Kauai, where ESH staff voiced their concerns about their participants and programs will be affected.

The Rolling Effect

The proposed change will result in up to 40% of participants enrolled in ESH programs to lose their eligibility for early intervention services provided by ESH. This will have a rolling effect on ESH, which includes parents will have to pay for services in order for their children to remain at ESH, a reduction in island wide EI resources and staffing.

ESH staff are concerned that not only current participants will be affected, but also parents will lose an important resource that helps them detect and remedy developmental delays during the critical stages of development. ESH Sultan program manager, Luke Kusumoto, said, “If other community resources and programs are not made available to those that don’t qualify anymore, they will fall through the cracks and will likely be identified at a much later time through the DOE system, which is when any developmental or academic issues will be harder and more expensive to address.”

ESH also believes that the Department of Education (DOE) will also experience increased costs as more children will be placed into special education classes and programs. To Kusumoto, this sends an underlying message that our youngest and most vulnerable keiki are not as important. Blanchard added, “Investment in early identification and services today does more than merely save future treatment costs; it demonstrates our commitment to provide our children with the tools they need to build success as they enter public schools. Maintaining the current deviation score for eligibility is essential.”

To recap:

  • Up to 40% of participants in each ESH program will lose eligibility to receive services. They would have to pay thousands of dollars for what was once a free service for their children.
  • Children with developmental delays that do not fall under the criteria will move on without aid in developing their skills.
  • ESH will experience cuts in the number of participants ESH is able to serve, a reduction of staff and eventually programs.
  • The DOE will experience increase costs as current and future participants enter special education programs.
  • Parents lose an important resource that helps detect and remedy developmental delays and their keiki will “fall through the cracks,” which results in identifying such delays years later when therapy may be more expensive.

A not-so-bright future

In today’s economic climate, in which budget cuts are not surprising Kusumoto thinks that the DOH’s efforts to change the cut-off for Hawaii’s keiki are unacceptable. “We’ve experienced many changes due to revisions in the law and budgetary restrictions. This is where we draw the line in the sand and say, ‘Do not cross!’ Statistically, the children who would be carved out of the budget are the same children who would benefit the most from EI services,” he said.

ESH Development Officer in Kauai, Ellen Ching, agrees that the change will have a significant effect on Hawaii’s keiki. “It could affect an entire person’s life. You could have a child with a developmental delay, and with a little bit of speech therapy, he or she can move on to regular schools. If they enter kindergarten without the skills needed, they are placed in special ed and they are automatically labeled. They have to deal with this stigma their entire life,” said Ching. “If we are a state that focuses on education and reforming education, this is the early education that you are talking about. Ages 0-5 are the most critical ages.”

How You Can Help:

  • Write a letter in opposition to the proposed change in eligibility. Written testimonies will be accepted until May 31st. Send to Children with Special Health Needs Branch (HAR 11-140), 741 Sunset Avenue, Honolulu, HI 96816.
  • Recently, President Obama recommended $20 million should go to early intervention services. Get informed and sign the national Easter Seals petition to convince Congress to pass it.

We’re getting ready for Earth Day!


[Photo: Brandi Salas]

We are getting ready for Earth Day at our Napuakea location! Our adult participants will celebrate Earth Day by harvesting their chemical-free fruits and vegetables (kale, eggplant, rosemary, etc.) from their Tower Gardens and using them to prepare a healthy and delicious lunch. The Earth Day harvest is significant for the staff and the participants at Easter Seals Hawaii (ESH) because it helps to give them a sense of accomplishment as they produce clean vegetables and fruit without chemicals or fertilizer.

The Tower Gardens are a verticle aeroponic system for growing the best nutrient dense fruits and vegetables. This non-traditional and modern way of gardening is faster, uses less water and requires less maintenance. A long-time supporter of ESH and owner of Juice Plus Aloha, Wendy Loh, donated these Tower Gardens to the participants at Napuakea. “I had just returned from a conference where I saw The Boys and Girls Club of Memphis sharing about what they do with their Tower Gardens. It was amazing and I thought that if they could produce all these great veggies, then the Easter Seals participants can do it too,” said Loh.

The Tower Gardens do not only add to the participants’ list of activities, but it also helps them build confidence and instill respect and responsibility to care for the ‘aina. “I feel that they are experiencing a sense of internal pride. It leaves a smaller footprint on Mother Earth, water consumption is 50% less and the elderly and young on wheelchairs can still harvest and plant with easy access,” said Loh.

The program staff has found that this is a valuable, enriching experience and hope that others adopt the idea of using Tower Gardens as the way to clean and healthy lifestyles.

Former participant Cody Santiago makes headlines as a valued employee at Safeway

Cody SantiagoAs part of Disabilities Awareness Month, KHON2 News’ Olena Heu featured our former participant Cody Santiago as a valued employee and independent individual at Safeway Manoa yesterday morning.

A few minutes before the interview and filming of the news package, Cody appeared nervous, yet excited at the opportunity of appearing on camera and having people take interest to what he does at his job. But once the camera started to roll, he was enthusiastic to show off his dazzling customer service skills. A Kalani High School graduate, Cody never let any of his struggles get in the way of leading an active and independent life. He was diagnosed with intellectual disabilities and took advantage of the services and programs provided by Easter Seals Hawaii.  His case coordinator, Chandiss Keller, said that Cody is a very independent adult that leads an active social life.

According to Chandiss, the one thing that Cody dreams of is appearing on Hawaii Five-O. Watch his segment to get a glimpse of his first shot at fame. [Full video &  article at KHON News]

We’re so proud and thankful for Cody representing Easter Seals Hawaii and showing others what we do best! We give adults like him the skills and experience needed to live an independent life. Don’t forget to select Easter Seals Hawaii at your local Safeway checkout stand! Money raised goes to support keiki, teenagers and adults with disabilities in Hawaii.

Max thrives on supporters like you

When Max was born with severe develomental delays, doctors told his parents that there was little hope that he would ever walk and he would have various developmental issues. His parents sought out services provided by the Easter Seals Hawaii Early Intervention Program and eventually started to take steps, sit up and talk.


Max walking with the help of a walker.

Thanks to generous donors, Max was provided with excellent care, education and the valuable equipment for him to walk. Today he is in preschool and his progress was only possible because of our compassionate donors. Max thrives on the support of the community and their generosity. Keiki throughout our islands are waiting for their chance at the therapies, services and programs that could change their lives. Will you help other children like Max strive for greater independence? Donate here and change a life!