By Bernadette Thomas
Shining a beacon of light and hope in the dark and shadowy world of a mental illness diagnosis is an Easter Seals program known as Dream Unlimited Clubhouse, which is in keeping with Easter Seals’ 93-year tradition of excellence in serving the needs of people with disabilities and mental illness.
People struck by mental illness often find themselves cut adrift from their former lives. In all too many instances, they have lost jobs, homes, relationships, and lifetime savings. All too tragically, they have also lost the purpose and structure that gave their lives day-to-day meaning. Consequently, they — again, all too often — spend their endless days and nights sleeping and watching television.
This needn’t be the case.
Helping to see to the continuance of recovery is Dreams Unlimited.
By Anita Warner
For many years I suffered from mental illness; undetected, unnoticed, hidden by substance abuse. I could feel the deep depression, followed by surges of energy, followed by deep depression. I was confused because I had 2 beautiful children, marriage, beautiful home, good-paying job, money- I wanted for nothing, externally that is. Finally, after feeling this way for what felt like eternity; spiraling deeper into despair, I picked up the phone to make the most important call of my life to Easter Seals. This was a landmark decision. For me Easter Seals is the epitome of HOPE, this acronym means- Health, Opportunity, Peace, Empowerment.
Watch that Diet over the Holidays – not just the FOOD diet, but also your child’s SENSORY DIET…. Here are some tips to avoid sensory overload for your child when exposed to all of the lights, decorations, sounds, smells, and tastes of the Holidays to make it more tolerable and even FUN!
Visual: Christmas lights can be great for increasing visual attention and calming your child. However, if your child looks at everything, all of the time and becomes over-stimulated by things he/she sees, keep decorations and bright lights to a minimum. You can designate one room in your home as the “holiday room” that your child can easily avoid, where you can go “deck the halls” more fully. In the main living areas of your home, you can have more subtle decorations such as a tree with one color of lights and a few colored ornaments. Place the tree with the multi-colored lights and hodgepodge of family favorite ornaments in the “holiday room”.
- Avoid hanging lots of garland or tinsel
- Use blinking lights cautiously. If a child stares for long periods of time at the blinking lights, put the lights in the “on” mode.
- Avoid over-decorating surfaces; remove one “everyday” decoration for every holiday one you put out.
- Do not expect a child to be able to keep “hands off” decorations. Most children do not have the impulse control until they are DEVELOPMENTALLY over age 7 years. Place special items on shelves the child can’t reach.
Auditory/Hearing: Be aware of decorations that “turn on” when you walk by them. Avoid them except in the “holiday” room or keep them turned off, until you can warn your child of the sound the decoration will make just before turning it “on”. If your child reacts negatively to the sound, don’t make him/her try to get “used to it.” Just keep it off in their presence and maybe try again next year.
- Avoid bell ringers and talking holiday displays, unless they are pleasurable for your child.
- Avoid constant Christmas music in the background. Play instrumental music versus music with singing whenever possible. Your child will need more quiet at home when surrounded by extra noise everywhere else.
- Have earplugs available if your child can wear them for holiday gatherings when all the children are running around and adults are talking. If not, allow your child some quiet time in a designated room in your own home or ask your relatives to have a room designated as the ‘”quiet room” for your child away from the crowd. Have FAMILIAR toys, blanket, etc. available for calming or a new toy that is calming, not stimulating. This quiet area should be separate from any “time out” area for misbehaving children.
Smell: Be aware of smells that are calming for your child and those that seem to “set them off”. Have your child smell an unlit candle and see if they like it before actually lighting it and filling the air with that smell. Vanilla and lavender will be more calming than pine or citrus scents. Spice smells can be calming, but are more often stimulating, so be aware of your child’s reaction to the baking pumpkin pie or hot spiced cider on the stove. If the extra smells are unavoidable and seem to have a negative effect, keep fans running and crack windows for fresh air to circulate.
- Avoid real Christmas trees and garland, if your child can’t tolerate the smell of a lit pine candle.
- Avoid candle stores, home décor stores, etc. which may have strong odors.
Oral: The Holiday season frequently means lots of new foods in your home and places you may visit. If your child is a “picky eater”, you can encourage him/her to try a taste of a new food but be sure to have alternative foods that you know your child enjoys. Be sure to pack some of these “safe” foods that your child will eat if you will be traveling to other places.
Touch: Christmas decorations and holiday finger foods can offer great opportunities for tactile exploration, but can also be overwhelming. Encourage your child to help decorate a “prickly” tree or the sugar cookies with icing, but if they fear getting poked or messy, don’t force the issue and just let them enjoy the end product.
- Avoid Christmas displays within “arms reach”. Kids can’t help but touch.
- Provide a “feely” bag with 2-3 favorite tactile balls, strand of beads or calming toy in a fanny pack to keep their hands busy while you are shopping. Be sure to mark your items with a permanent marker so that you know nothing “extra” accidentally gets in the bag and you can “prove ownership if asked.
By now I am sure you have heard about the Supreme Court ruling. This ruling to uphold the Affordable Care Act is certainly an epic commitment to the people of the United States. It commits our government to the health and wellness of its citizens.
Today, President Obama speaking from the White House after the decision, said, “Whatever the politics, today was a victory for people all over this country whose lives will be more secure because of this law and the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold it. It should be pretty clear by now that I didn’t do this because it’s good politics,” Obama said. “I did it because I believed it was good for the country.”
This supports our current efforts in furthering our mission to so many that need the types of services and supports that we offer as well of our efforts of integrated care for those that we serve.
Autism Insurance Reform passes the Michigan Senate and is signed into law by the Governor .
Michigan has joined the growing number of 30 states adopting autism insurance reform. On April 18, 2012 the autism insurance reform bills (Senate bills 414, 415 and 981) were signed into law mandating health insurers to cover autism spectrum disorders and treatment. This is the first step in developing a comprehensive system that will support families with consistent educational information, a centralized source of community resources, and financial relief for the cost of treatment.
The bills define the autism spectrum disorders as any of the following pervasive developmental disorders defined in the DSM IV-TR: autistic disorder, Asperger’s disorder, and pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified. With an official diagnosis, evidenced-based treatment will be funded by the insurers for behavioral health, pharmacy care, psychiatric care, psychological care and therapeutic care.
A recent report by the CDC indicated that the number of children diagnosed with autism by the age of eight has risen by at least 25% since 2006, leaving many Michigan families in need of help they cannot afford.
“The Autism Spectrum Disorder legislation for health insurance coverage is essential for children living with ASD. These specialists and therapies are just as important to an autistic child’s life as they are for a child who has cancer!” Melissa Rohn the mother of Lukas our Ambassador Child of 2012.
Eater Seals Michigan offers a specialized array of services for children diagnosed on the autism spectrum. The infant mental health team works with caregivers to foster attachment and relationships with their children. The PLAY Project is an intensive, early intervention program for children 18 months to 8 years; occupational therapy (OT) improves children’s fine and gross motor skills, visual perception and their ability to perform everyday activities; speech and language therapy provides evaluations and ongoing therapy to enhance receptive and expressive communication, speech and sound production and functional communication; sensory integration improves the brain’s ability to register, organize and interpret information using all of the child’s senses.