Monthly Archives: January 2016

New Year, New Budget?  Understanding the State’s Budget Stalemate 

By: Scott Kuczynski, Senior at University of Wisconsin, Political Science major

Illinois is entering its seventh month without a state budget.  A lack of a budget for this extended period of a time is unprecedented in the state’s history.  The prolonged stalemate has resulted from political and ideological differences between Republican Governor Bruce Rauner and Democrats who hold a supermajority in both chambers of the state legislature.

Negotiations between the lawmakers have made little progress since the July 1, 2015 budget deadline as there is very little middle ground between the two sides.

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Representative Patricia R. Bellock

This is confirmed by Illinois State Representative, Patricia R. Bellock, who notes, “Budget negotiations are still ongoing but I feel it is unlikely that anything will happen until March.” There’s concern in the state that the budget impasse could continue well into the spring or not at all as Governor Bruce Rauner and Speaker of the Illinois House, Michael Madigan, have been unable to make progress towards a budget compromise.

Despite the lack of a budget, the state is currently receiving a majority of its funding due to court orders, laws and federal money.  This has funded 89.4% of the total budget, leaving the remaining 10.6% unfunded.  The unfunded percentage primarily consists of higher education and human services such as child care and many other grant funded programsThis has put enormous strain on nonprofits, many of whom are receiving delayed payments from the state and operating on the premise that they’ll be paid back for human services provided.

Until that time, many nonprofits are forced to make tough decisions which have already resulted in cutting the number of clients they serve, cutting staff, utilizing their full cash reserves, and tapping into lines of credit to continue operations.  In order to avoid further irreparable long-term consequences for human services agencies across Illinois, it’s critical that the state reaches a budget agreement as soon as possible.

Budget Stalemate effects:

The lack of a state budget has created uncertainty and put tremendous stress on nonprofits during the past seven months. United Way of Illinois recently released a survey of human service agencies across Illinois putting the impact of the budget impasse into perspective.  The survey describes the impact on individuals and communities as:

  • 85% of agency respondents have cut the number of clients they serve, up from 34% in July.
  • 84% of agency respondents have cut programs, most impacting children and working adults.

The survey also reveals the fiscal condition of many human services agencies has deteriorated since the budget impasse, forcing these agencies to take measures to ensure the continuation of operations for their clients:

  • 49% of agencies have tapped into their cash reserves
  • 26% of agencies have tapped into lines of credit.
    • Taking on a combined $35 million in debt
    • The average credit extension taken on by respondents was $300,000
  • 27% of agencies have laid off staff as a result of the budget impasse.

The protracted budget stalemate has caused lasting long-term impacts on human services throughout Illinois. Some agencies have already closed their doors while others are in danger of doing the same the longer the budget impasse endures.  They have continued to operate in an atmosphere of uncertainty over delayed payments and potential cuts to critical programs.

What does this mean for Easter Seals Dupage & Fox Valley?

OElectionsne of the biggest concerns for Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley is the uncertainty in relation to the State Early Intervention program and whether Early Intervention will face small or large cuts in a potential budget.  Early Intervention programs are essential to enhancing the development of children across Illinois and their services are considered 2 ½ times less costly than special education services in preschool and elementary years. Lawmakers need to recognize the importance of the Early Intervention services and reflect its significance in a final budget agreement.  Here’s what you can do:

  • Email Governor Rauner through his constituent page and let him know you oppose potential Early Intervention cuts:
  • Email/fax/call your Illinois General Assembly Legislators to let them know the importance of protecting the Early Intervention program! Don’t know who your rep is?  You can look it up online through the state’s board of elections site:
  • Send a letter to your Legislator.
  • Continue to raise awareness on social media using the hashtag #EImatters.CI110442953630484434

Our commitment

Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley remains committed to continuing services.  While we are committed to service continuity, we question our ability to do this if the budget stalemate continues. It’s also important to understand how the budget impasse might be impacting families and human services throughout the state.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this blog series about the budget outlook. Learn more about Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley here: https://eastersealsdfvr.org/.

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Raising A Reader

 

By, Jessica Drake-Simmons, M.S. CCC-SLP

Everybody knows the importance of learning letters but the lesser-known imperative pre-reading skill is phonological awareness.  Phonological awareness refers to the ability to hear and play with sounds, syllables and words of spoken language.  Children who are able to think about the sounds in words have the necessary foundation of understanding how letters and sounds operate in print.

Phonological awareness is one of the best predictors of future reading success.

Phonological awareness skills develop with exposure and direct teaching.   Here are some ideas to facilitate phonological awareness skills in your child:

Infants & Young Toddlers

  • Sing fun songs or nursery rhymes
  • Increase awareness of environmental sounds (animal sounds, sirens, trains, etc.)
  • Change pitch and volume

2-3 year olds

  • Make up rhymes that include your child’s namereading blog2
  •  Read rhyming books; give your child the opportunity to fill in the rhyme
  • Do these words sound the same game? (barn-bat, house-house, hippo-house)

4-5 year olds

  •  Encourage your child to come up with rhyming words (this is a fun game for the car!)
  • Clap out the syllables of family members names
  • Talk about the first sound in words.  Have your child think of other words that start with the same sound.
  • Take a walk around your house looking for things that start with the same sound (e.g.,door, dishwasher, dog, etc.)
  • Listen for words that start with a given sound while reading a book
  • Have your child figure out the segmented word that you say (e.g., “For lunch, we are going to have mac-a-ron-i”)
  • reading blog 1

Visit our Pinterest page for developmental norms and more phonological awareness teaching ideas.

For more information about Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley please visit EasterSealsDFVR.org.

 

 

Stir Crazy Kids: How to Stay Active this Winter

By: Laura Bueche, Occupational Therapist

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Oh the weather outside is frightful, and we are going crazy indoors. Just because there is snow and ice on the ground, does not mean your child’s arousal level is any lower.  On the contrary, it’s probably reaching a boiling point and you are looking for ways to get your kids the sensory stimulation and gross motor activity their little bodies are craving.

Getting your kids up and moving has a lot of benefits. The Department of Agriculture’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that children and adolescents engage in at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity on most days of the week, preferably daily. As an occupational therapist, I love physical activity because of the regulating aspects of proprioceptive input*, as well as development of coordination skills and strengthening opportunities.

*Proprioceptive input are sensations from joints, muscles and connective tissues that underlie body awareness. Input can be obtained by lifting, pushing, and pulling heavy objects, including one’s own weight. For example, climbing on a jungle gym, swinging across monkey bars, or pulling a wagon.

15_Brady PembrokeWhy is it helpful? Providing your child with more proprioceptive input throughout the day can help them:

  • Tolerate sensations and situations that are challenging
  • Regulate emotions, alertness and increase attention span
  • Reduce unwanted sensory seeking and sensory avoiding behaviors
  • Handle transitions with less stress (sensorysmarts.com)

For more information about sensory processing check out the post, How Sensitive is Too Sensitive?

In these bitter winter months, it is difficult to get your kids the physical
activity they need. Here are just a few ideas for indoor activities to give you and your family a much-needed break from being stuck at home.

Ideas for Local Indoor Activities

Ideas if You Can’t Leave the House

There is a crazy blizzard outside, what can I do with what I have at home? Here are some ideas to get kids some movement breaks when stuck indoors:

  • Build a furniture fort by pushing and pulling furniture and cushions from around the house.
  • Make an obstacle course by army crawling, jumping and doing jumping jacks to get to the finish line in record time.
  • The floor is hot lava! We all know this favorite.
  • Animal walk relay races: bear walk, crab walk, wheelbarrow, and penguin waddle across the room to roll the die of a board game or get stickers for a craft project.
  • Jump and crash into a pillow pile or onto the bed.
  • Jump rope with rhymes and songs.
  • Squeeze, squish, and smash Play-Doh.
  • Use a scooter, tricycle, or scooter board to propel through the house.
  • Squish your kids in a pillow pile; making sandwiches.
  • Swing your toddler in a blanket between you and another adult.
  • Push a vacuum or mop, collect the garbage, wipe down the table, load the laundry, and push the laundry basket.Cooper