E-news from The Baby Fold

Hammitt School Providers Copyright New Data System

Kelsey Kercheval and Alissa Calandra

Two staff members at The Baby Fold's Hammitt Schools are helping address the needs of special education students in new, more effective ways through a data system they created.

Kelsey Kercheval, Therapeutic Specialist and Consultation Supervisor, and Alissa Calandra, School Clinical Counselor, recently copyrighted the new data system entitled "Road to Regulation." That copyright paves the way for implementation in special education classrooms across the community and beyond, helping even more children become their best selves.

Kercheval and Calandra's new system adopts The Baby Fold's trauma-informed care philosophy and focuses on understanding the underlying skill deficits and physiological needs of each student. Road to Regulation has more data points, which creates a more well-rounded perspective of each child's current abilities, giving teachers, clinicians, and families a more positive and balanced picture of the child.

students working in a classroom

The system is based on current research in neuroscience, trauma, and child development and uses two charts to help staff “map” each student’s developmental level. This mapping enables educators and clinical staff to pinpoint developmental gaps accurately, facilitating tailored teaching strategies to nurture individual growth.

Essentially, Road to Regulation helps staff systematically identify specific developmental milestones and provide targeted interventions to promote brain growth. It also provides data to show the effectiveness of interventions, hopefully leading to quicker progress.

Through a pilot of Road to Regulation earlier this year, Hammitt staff have already been mapping students to create goals and write IEPs (Individualized Education Programs) for students and are receiving positive feedback from parents. With clearer, more targeted goals, teachers expect to see results and student progress more quickly.

Road to Regulation will be fully implemented at both Hammitt School campuses this fall.

Devices Open Communication Channels for Students with Autism

This Autism Acceptance Month we are celebrating the amazing students in our autism program at The Baby Fold's Hammitt Schools.

screenshot of a video

The young girl lifts her hand to her communication device and presses “Things,” then “Toys,” then “Bubbles.” 

This seemingly simple process is evidence of years of hard work and shows incredible progress for a non-speaking child. For more than two years, this student, her family, and The Baby Fold staff have worked hard together to bring her the gift of purposeful, focused communication. Here, she uses her communication device—without prompting—to politely ask to play with bubbles. 

Communication devices—also referred to as AAC (Augmentative and Alternative Communication)—are a critical component of the educational experience for 21 students at Hammitt Schools. These students are on the autism spectrum and/or they struggle with traditional communication. They use communication devices to participate in just about every aspect of their school day. Without their devices, the students would not be able to express their wants, needs, and emotions, leaving them isolated and disconnected from their teachers and classmates.

According to Leslie Garthaus, Supervisor of Speech and Language Services, most students at Hammitt Schools use an iPad with a communication app such as Proloquo2Go or Touch Chat. Most iPads are provided by the student’s home school district, but some students obtain iPads and apps through grants, insurance, or our generous donors. (Garthaus noted that iPads and iTunes gift cards for these communication apps are always needed.)

No matter how they are acquired, AAC devices play a pivotal role in each student’s life. “They give the students who are non-speaking or minimally-speaking a way to communicate—they give the students a voice,” Garthaus continued. “But it’s so much more than that.”

“The ability to communicate helps reduce frustrations for the student, and it sets the foundation for improved communication skills. We have students who grow from communicating by demonstrating intense behaviors to later being able to use specific words on their device to request their wants and needs” she said.

In addition to functional communication, the AAC also helps students socialize and build relationships. The devices help them learn language, literacy skills, letter identification, and even spelling. Garthaus noted that research has even shown that use of voice output communication devices can help improve a child’s speech as well, and it also proves that devices do not keep a child from learning to talk.

The results of this intervention are profound. “It’s seeing the excitement in a child’s eyes when they are first introduced to a device and can ‘say words’ for the first time. It’s seeing their progress over the weeks, months, years. It’s knowing a child since he was 5 years old when his primary mode of communication was intense behaviors, to now as a teenager using his device independently to communicate. The students, their personalities, and seeing their growth and progress—that’s what I enjoy most.”

Community Schools Collaborations Bring STEAM Fair to Fairview Elementary School

students in line for the Star Lab

Learning was center stage at Fairview Elementary School's STEAM Fair! It was a fantastic event providing family connection and academic enrichment.

STEAM combines science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics to create hands-on, creative learning for students.

Rebecca Kinsey, The Baby Fold's Lead Community Schools Coordinator embedded within Fairview Elementary School, collaborated with a variety of community partners to make the night a success, including the Children's Discovery Museum; Illinois Art Station; BCAIBreaking Chains & Advancing Increase Cultural Arts & Humanities; Creative Healing Art Therapy, LLC; and Mr. Rackauskas from Normal West High School.

The University of Illinois Extension office also generously provided activities and their Star Lab. Fairview Elementary students got to experience the Star Lab during the school day, and families attending the STEAM Fair also took part in Star Lab presentations.

Reading made an appearance at the STEAM Fair, too. Families could choose free books to take home, and a Scholastic Book Fair was available for browsing.

It was a great evening of learning and exploration. The Baby Fold loves helping to create enriching academic experiences for children in our community!

students complete an activity
young child with a table of books

The Baby Fold Opens New Center of Excellence

attendees pose before cutting the ribbon

To increase our capacity to reach a wider audience with trauma-informed training, The Baby Fold opened its Center of Excellence in Bloomington.

The Center of Excellence is a training center that will be used to provide educational opportunities to individuals, families, and professionals in child welfare, including local counselors and teachers. Future training sessions at the location will feature Reflective Supervision, TheraPlay, Trust-Based Relational Intervention, Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES), Neurobiology of Trauma, Autism Strategies, and more.

A ribbon cutting with the McLean County Chamber of Commerce recently commemorated the opening of the new training center. Several local media outlets attended the ribbon cutting and shared more information about both the event and the Center of Excellence.

Sharing knowledge and expertise builds wellness and resiliency in children, families, and communities. When we share knowledge, everyone benefits.

Learn more at the links below.

Introducing The Baby Fold's New Development Officer

Joy Miller

The Baby Fold is pleased to welcome Joy Miller as our new Development Officer. Joy brings a decade of fundraising experience, most recently working with Eureka College and Illinois Wesleyan University.

She is a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP), Bloomington Pub Club Rotary, Bloomington Normal Young Professionals, and is active in the McLean County Chamber of Commerce. Previously, Joy served as the Main Street Director in her hometown.

Joy and her son, David, live in Pontiac. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with family, taking long walks on Route 66, and volunteering. 

Joy Miller and her son David

Joy would love to connect with you about how you can support the children and families served by The Baby Fold. You can connect with her at jmiller@thebabyfold.org, (309) 451-7206, or on Facebook and LinkedIn

Thank You to The Baby Fold's Dedicated Volunteers!

It's National Volunteer Appreciation Week, and The Baby Fold would like to thank all of the amazing volunteers who help make dreams possible for our kids and families year-round. Lives are changed because of your continued support!

Earlier this month, the Bloomington Pub Club Rotary donated 500 Easter eggs and then hid them for the students at Hammitt School on Willow. The egg hunt was a highlight for the students, with smiles and excitement all around!

spring tabletop decor
spring wreath
A student excitedly points to eggs
A student marks off an egg on a worksheet

The Interact/Rotary Club at Central Catholic High School recently made care baskets for The Baby Fold's dedicated foster parents. Thank you for blessing our wonderful foster families and showing your support for the important work they do!

High school students make care baskets
Two students pose with baskets they put together

Members of Zeta Tau Alpha at Illinois State University spent an evening helping spruce up The Baby Fold's Willow Campus. They gathered sticks, cleaned up the sensory garden, and even planted spring flowers.

spring tabletop decor
 volunteers gather sticks

If you or your group would like to volunteer for The Baby Fold, contact Lori Bultemeier at lbultemeier@TheBabyFold.org or (309) 557-1075.

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