April Is Easter Seals Hawaii Awareness Month

2016 marks Easter Seals Hawaii 70th Anniversary of providing programs and services to generations of individuals and families in Hawaii who live with disabilities or special needs.

In honor of this momentous anniversary, April has been designated Easter Seals Hawaii Awareness Month via Proclamations sponsored by Mayor’s from Oahu, Maui, Hawaii Island, and Kauai on behalf of their respective counties.

Commemorating its 70th anniversary this year, we mark this special anniversary with a one hour prime time television special airing April 24 at 6:30p- 7:30p on KFVE channel 5.  In this documentary film directed by award-winning filmmaker, Edgy Lee, the diversity of families and the vast array of needs served by Easter Seals Hawaii over the past 70 years, is revealed.  Historical highlights and personal reflections span decades. They include stories from community supporters like Don Robbs, Danny Kaleikini, Ed Sultan and others.   Whether one is familiar with Easter Seals Hawaii services or new to learning about Autism Spectrum Disorder, Customized Employment (where businesses hire Easter Seals Hawaii clients) or Youth Enrichment services that empower young people through skill development to maximize their independence as they embark upon adulthood and build their self esteem – this is a biopic about a great legacy of a community service organization in Hawaii.  Most compelling are the real-world glimpses into the daily lives of children and their families, Hawaii families who found themselves at childbirth, unexpectedly stepping into the world of special needs.

Narrated by Danny Kaleikini, the 70th Anniversary TV Special “Easter Seals Hawaii: Serving Hawaii’s Families for 70 Years,” the documentary film takes you into a unique and different world, a reality that redefines “ohana” to include not only family members and close friends, but dedicated staff and the many volunteers whose every day jobs are to provide life-enhancing services to people with disabilities and special needs so they may achieve independent fulfilling lives.

 Our programs and services at Easter Seals Hawaii are as important and necessary today as ever, and our dedicated staff, like their predecessors, work hard every day to empower people with disabilities and special needs to achieve their goals and live independent fulfilling lives,” said Ron Brandvold, CEO of Easter Seals Hawaii. “Through a 70th anniversary TV Special and a Gala dinner event, we look forward to honoring many individuals who have helped shape our organization and to sharing our vision for providing disability services well into the future.”  Ron Brandvold, President and CEO.

WHAT:          “Easter Seals Hawaii: Serving Hawaii’s Families for 70 Years”
WHEN:          Sunday, April 24, 2016; 6:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.
WHERE:        Aired on KFVE, Channel 5, (UHF Digital Channel 22)
INFO:             www.eastersealshawaii.org

 About Easter Seals Hawaii

Offering programs that offer a range of services on Oahu, Kauai, Maui, Lāna‘i and Hawai‘i Island, for 70 years, the organization has changed the lives of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, by providing resources and support to entire families.

Easter Seals Hawaii is the state’s largest provider of Early Intervention services for infants and toddlers and is one of the state’s largest providers of Medicaid Waiver services for adults with disabilities.

As the mission grew to include services for adults with disabilities, the organization became known as Easter Seals Hawaii, which now has 14 facilities and serves more than 2,000 individuals with disabilities every year across the Hawaiian Islands.

Easter Seals Hawaii’s programs are accredited by the Commission on the Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF), assurance that the organization meets nationally accepted standards. For more information, visit http://www.eastersealshawaii.org.

History of Easter Seals Hawaii
In 1946, Edward and Olga Sultan founded the Sultan Foundation Nursery School, and with support from a group of business leaders and parents committed to helping children with disabilities, their vision expanded and The Easter Seal Society for Crippled Children was founded. Charter members included Dorothy Devereux, Olga Sultan, Governor John Burns, Hilo Hattie, and Judge Chuck Mau.  As the mission grew to include services for adults with disabilities, the organization became known as Easter Seals Hawaii, which now has 14 facilities and serves more than 2,000 individuals with disabilities every year across the Hawaiian Islands.

In the early days, a star-studded group of local entertainers, including Al Harrington and Danny Kaleikini, raised funds and awareness through the Easter Seals Hawaii Telethon, which also featured national stars like Arthur Godfrey, Ethel Merman, Henry Winkler and others who helped launch the early events in Hawaii.  Hosted by sports radio and TV icon, Don Robbs. Over its 70-year history, Easter Seals Hawaii has continued to raise funds by also hosting, “Taste of Honolulu” on the grounds of Honolulu Hale, a popular holiday event known as “The Gingerbread Festival,” and an annual Golf Classic, which will be held this year on September 23 at the Hawaii Prince Golf Club.

The Easter Seals Hawaii Anniversary Gala will be held on April 29, 2016 at the Hawaii State Art Museum with master chefs from


 

Oahu ProclamationOahu Proclamation Easter Seals

Autism Services: Katie Thomas’ Story

For Kathleen Thomas, nothing in the world is better than seeing her daughter, Katie, smile. Diagnosed with autism at a very early age it is imperative to Katie’s health and wellbeing that her life be as stable and consistent as possible, and Kathleen has dedicated her life to making this a reality. Fortunately for her Easter Seals Hawaii has been a true partner and a source of support for many years, and has been there to help her guide Katie through some of life’s greatest challenges.

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When Katie was in the third grade, she enrolled in the Pacific Autistic Center (PAC), where she thrived. A few years later the director of PAC sold the school to Easter Seals Hawaii. When Kathleen explained why it was so important to remain engaged with Easter Seals Hawaii, she said she knew Katie would move seamlessly into adulthood under the umbrella of this established organization. Kathleen said: “I know Katie will thrive here, and be loved, and be safe, and be a part of the community, and be valued, which is all that matters.”

katie familysm

2014 was an emotionally difficult time for Kathleen and This was also an emotionally difficult time for the family. Katie’s father was diagnosed with cancer, and his greatest fear was for Katie and her future. Fortunately before he passed away, he was comforted in the knowledge that Easter Seals Hawaii’s trained staff would know exactly how to handle this emotional period of the passing of her father. To help her Easter Seals Hawaii therapists put together a photo book with photos of Katie’s father and their family, routinely walked her through what had occurred, and helped her understand why her father would not be returning home.

When Kathleen looks to the future for Katie, her dreams for her daughter are pure and simple. She noted, “I want Katie to be loved, to be valued, to have a purpose and a joy every day of her life. I want her to have a job, be happy, and be healthy. That is what I want, for Katie to have friends and a place that feels like home.”

Easter Seals Hawaii strives to make Kathleen’s dreams a reality for Katie.

Sean Tarrant, Director of the Easter Seals Hawaii Autism Center

Easter Seals Hawaii is very respectful to its tradition of providing a vast range of exceptional services for children and adults diagnosed with disabilities or special needs and their families. It is also committed to evolve and to be responsive to its participants and to the changing needs of the community, so when it recognized a growing need for autism services in Hawaii it took the initiative to expand and grow the program.

In June 2013, Easter Seals Hawaii hired several new full time staff members who brought with them decades of experience in diagnostic and assessment services, in developing effective treatment plans and communication, and, perhaps most importantly, family member support, education, and training. Easter Seals Hawaii was very fortunate to hire Sean Tarrant as its director of autism services.

Sean Terrant Photo

Sean has worked for over 15 years within the field of developmental disabilities and applied behavior analysis (ABA), a scientifically validated approach to understanding behavior and how it is affected by the environment. While still pursuing his undergraduate degree in psychology in 1999, Sean began working in the field of ABA as a behavior therapist for adolescents and adults with severe problem behaviors. Since then, he has worked in multiple areas within the field of developmental disabilities and ABA including in-home therapy and parent training, consultation with public and charter schools, residential and center based therapy, and the ethical reduction of severe problem behaviors. Over the years, Sean has come to realize that one of the most important things a parent can do to achieve positive changes in behavior is to increase the level of communication with their child.

Many individuals diagnosed with autism are unable to communicate, which leads to challenging behavior. According to Sean, being able to ask your child what they want and how they feel, and know that they are able to tell you this is incredibly important.
The Easter Seals Hawaii Autism Center is committed to focusing on increasing the
level of communication and also utilizing the many techniques available for increasing functional behaviors and reducing those that may cause harm or interfere with learning. It provides complete and coordinated care throughout a child’s life to bring about meaningful and positive change in behavior, and empower the individual to realize
his/her full potential.

Dennis Maher’s Unbreakable Commitment

Dennis C. Maher has spent an entire lifetime living with a family member with an intellectual disability. His brother, now 41, has Down syndrome, cannot speak, and is legally deaf and blind. His son, 12, has autism. Many people would find a reason to complain, but what truly sets Dennis apart is his unbreakable commitment to his family, his community, and everyone with a disability.

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Dennis is the director of facilities and security at Trump International Hotel Waikiki Beach Walk, and one of his responsibilities is looking for ways to improve and streamline the day-to-day operations. The hotel has a green program focused on recycling, and he realized that finding a charity to benefit from the 5c recyclables would be a win-win for both the hotel and the charity – it would save the hotel valuable resources if another entity took over the program, and the charity would benefit from the regular revenue stream. Since his brother had been engaged with Easter Seals Hawaii for many years he made one phone call which, as it turned out, was all he needed to do to start the program which now provides many recipients the opportunity to be employed and engaged with the community.

dennis groupsm

Working closely with representatives from Easter Seals Hawaii he has grown the program to extend far beyond the Trump Hotel and include other condos in the area. For Dennis, his passion and devotion to assisting people with intellectual disabilities has been a lifelong commitment. When he was in high school he worked in a summer camp for people with disabilities. Now, in addition to being engaged with Easter Seals Hawaii, he was a coach for several sports through Special Olympics and is also on the board of Autism Hawaii. As with many true heroes he sees the best in others, and is the first to give the credit to other people he has known who also give their time freely. He noted, “I have a child with a disability, I have a brother with a disability. I have a reason to do this. That is where it comes from. I give a lot more credit to those without a family member with a disability, those are the real heroes. The real heroes are the people that do not have a reason other than a big heart. I give them a heck of a lot more credit than I give myself.”

New Health Insurance Benefit for Children with Autism

During the 2015 session of the Hawaii Legislature, a Bill was passed affecting children with a diagnosis of Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) under the age of 14 yrs. This law, known as “Luke’s Law,” mandates that all health insurance policies issued or renewed after January 1, 2016 provide coverage for the diagnosis and treatment of autism. Because this is a health insurance law, the diagnosis and treatment must be “medically necessary.”

The diagnosis of autism may involve assessments, evaluations, and tests.

The treatment of autism includes applied behavior analysis (ABA) necessary to develop, maintain or restore functioning. ABA may involve design, implementation and evaluation of environmental modifications, using behavioral stimuli and consequences to produce socially significant improvements in human behavior and includes direct observation, measurement and functional analysis of the relations between behavior and environment.

Treatment of autism (ABA) must be provided by a Autism Service Provider licensed by the State with a maximum benefit of $25,000 per year.

What does this mean to you and to Easter Seals Hawaii?
Easter Seals Hawaii Autism Center has been a provider of ABA services but funding for those services has been limited to private pay, Tricare (for military families) or, in some cases, support from the Department of Education. With this law, Easter Seals Hawaii is negotiating with five health insurance companies in Hawaii to become one of their providers, allowing families access to ABA services for their children with ASD. The Autism Services at Easter Seals will be growing as we recruit, train, and add qualified staff and expand services.

Anyone with health insurance coverage with questions about this benefit for their own child should contact the insurer. The benefit is required when the policy is issued or renewed and policies may renew at different times during the year.

We will do our best to keep you informed as this new law is implemented in 2016.

Jennifer Schember-Lang, VP Programs and Services

PS – for a background on “Luke’s Law” read this Civil Beat article from 2013.