Authors: Lynne Stokley, CEO, Easterseals Alabama and Debbie Lynn, Executive Director, Easterseals Central Alabama
We spoke to Easterseals Alabama—an organization that serves children and adults with disabilities and special needs in Alabama—to learn more about the range of opportunities they offer to individuals across the state. Read on to learn more about what Lynne Stokley (CEO, Easterseals Alabama) and Debbie Lynn (Executive Director, Easterseals Central Alabama) have to say about their stellar organization.
What is Easterseals’ mission?
Easterseals’ mission is to assist adults and children, with disabilities or other barriers, and their families to live, work and play in their communities.
What are some examples of the ways your organization supports the disability community?
While programs and services will vary in our different locations across the state, some examples of what we do are: Medical therapy programs like Speech, Occupational and Physical Therapy; Diagnostic and Evaluation for Learning Disabilities and Autism Spectrum Disorder; Job Readiness, Training and Development; Dogs on Call Therapy Dogs (in specific locations); Work Skills Training; Workforce Development Skills; Vocational Evaluation & Assessment; and Camping and Recreation, such as Camp ASCCA in Jackson’s Gap.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
The most rewarding part is seeing the positive outcomes in peoples’ lives.
Do you have any uplifting stories of interactions from Easterseals that you can share?
I would like to share a few stories of heartwarming interactions that have come about through Easterseals.
Andrew Minton, this year’s Easterseals Central Alabama (ESCA) Ambassador, is an example of an individual Easterseals has helped. Andrew was 18 months old when his parents saw a sudden change in their son. He would not look you in the eye and he had no speech. His parents were unable to go out with him to simply eat in a restaurant because it was overwhelming to Andrew, and he would completely melt down. Their pediatrician diagnosed Andrew with severe developmental delays and autism. His parents were devastated and did not know where to turn. Having recently re-located to the Montgomery area, someone suggested that they try Easterseals Central Alabama. With speech therapy, Andrew began to speak and was making eye contact. It has been a long road but his mother was determined that he would overcome his challenges. Today, Andrew is a 7th grader in a mainstream class needing no assistance. He makes straight A’s! Recently, Andrew decided to disclose that he has autism to his school and classmates in hopes of educating them that he is just like them. He held a fundraiser for ESCA to give back to an organization that helped him so much!
Mary, an adult who had experienced a devastating stroke, came to ESCA for vocational evaluation and job development. She graduated from ESCA’s six-week computer course combined with an intensive job readiness component and is now working. At the course graduation ceremony, Mary stated, “I appreciate Easterseals for giving me this opportunity to learn new skills and for allowing me this chance to go back to work after being out of work for so long due to my disability.”
I also received a wonderful testimonial from Easterseals mother, Angela. She wrote me the below note about her daughter Zoe Grace:
Zoe Grace came into the world happy and smiling. Zoe was very expressive, creative and loved to tell stories. By the time she was in Kindergarten, she seemed to be well above average. Then one day, something changed and I realized that she was “reading” from memory. After experiencing roadblocks with the local school system, I took her to see a Neuropsychologist who confirmed Zoe not only had dyslexia but a tracking disorder and colorblindness. My audacious, brilliant daughter became quiet and unsure of herself. Other children bullied her for not being able to read. Despite the obstacles, Zoe persevered and overcame those issues by fighting even harder to learn. Approaching high school graduation, it was Zoe’s dream to go to college. Her counselor with the Alabama Department of Rehabilitation referred her to Easterseals Central Alabama where she went through the Learning Disabilities Evaluation Program. Through testing, Easterseals was able to identify accommodations that Zoe would need in the classroom to help her be successful. Although Zoe is a natural born leader and advocate, these services have given Zoe the confidence and the tools to be successful. Thankfully, Zoe is completing a successful first semester at the University of Montevallo. Our family is so thankful to Easterseals and their staff for believing in Zoe!
How can others get involved in your initiatives? Are there any upcoming events that we should be aware of?
Involvement varies depending on your location, please contact the Easterseals in your area for more information. For instance, in April, Montgomery had an Autism Crawfish Boil and Selma had a Chili Cook-off. Please refer to the website and go to the links for your area to learn more: www.easterseals.com/alabama.