Meet our newest Bilingual Physical Therapist Dr. Beverly Reyes.
• Primary GSR location/setting?Orange Park & PRN PPECs
•What do you love most about being a PT?Love to see the kids to thrive and become independent and meet their goals.
• What is your favorite or proudest moment as a PT?When the kids achieve their milestones (i.e. crawling, walking, riding a bike independently) .• What is your go-to therapeutic activity or resource? Music- dance to promote balance and coordination, balance beams and jumps.
• What do you help children improve? We work on functional mobility like walking, stairs, getting in and out of chairs, safety on the playground, strengthening to improve balance, coordination to help them to interact with peers through play.
•Anything you want to add or have ppl know about you?I am fully bilingual and love to be able to learn and share about different cultures including food!
Blue Halloween buckets are meant to alert candy givers that a child has autism. This Jacksonville company is giving them out for free. Author: First Coast News Staff Published: 11:03 AM EDT October 21, 2019 Updated: 11:25 AM EDT October 21, 2019
One Jacksonville company is giving away free blue Halloween buckets as part of a national movement advocating for inclusion.
The pumpkins are intended to be a subtle and dignified way to alert others that a child has autism.
Strides Rehabilitation Inc. will be giving out the blue pumpkins to
children who are on the autism spectrum (or suffer from other
developmental disabilities) starting on Monday.
can pick up a free blue pumpkin at Great Strides Rehabilitation’s
Mandarin and Doctor’s Lake offices by visiting the reception desk. You
can call the office prior to coming to make sure they still have
pumpkins available at 904-886-3228.
The company will also be
hosting a “Practice Trick or Treat” this week designed to help children
with Autism and other developmental disabilities gain exposure to
activities that typically occur on Halloween.
Families of children
with Autism and other developmental disabilities are welcome to attend
the “Practice Trick or Treat” on Thursday from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. at
their Mandarin Location, 12276 San Jose Blvd. Suite 508.
Created by the Mom of a Child with Disabilities and Long-Time GS Patient
There’s a new “hot spot” in town that brings together children of all abilities in their own special play gym. It’s the adaptable sensory gym, Sensory Towne, opened in July, which helps children with balance, social skills, body awareness and overall development of the senses.
The students and patients at Great Strides Rehab, along with all the children the therapists work with at various fragile care centers, were recently treated to a fun night there by Dr. Edenfield, Executive Director, to check it all out. More than 25 kids, from ages three to teenagers, and their parents participated in this “patient appreciation night” swinging, sliding, playing games on interactive floors and other adventures.
Such a place did not exist in Northeast Florida and beyond before Kimberly Belzer, a mom of a son with disabilities, became determined to create her decade-long dream of a place where all abilities, whether “typical” or “special needs,” could “fit-in” and play together.
Belzer, a single parent to a multi-handicapped son, now age 14, was born with the genetic disorder Hydrocephalus, is autistic, nonverbal and has survived 16 surgeries and cancer. Brandon, and kids like him, require a lot of sensory input — spinning, rocking, calming lights, vibration, squeezing, and touching — to function during the day. Since Brandon was four, his mom has searched for, and not been able to find, an inclusive play space for children of varying needs that Brandon could enjoy.
Determined to create such an inclusive play-space, Belzer has spent years researching the best sensory input activities and equipment. She also credits Dr. Edenfield’s advice and support in helping make Sensory Towne a reality.
Dr. Edenfield and his therapists have been working with Brandon since he was two months old.
This was even before Great Strides Rehab was created, when Dr. Edenfield was working as an occupational therapist at Wolfson’s Children’s Hospital. Great Strides therapists Hanna and John Kirkland have worked with Brandon for close to a decade on many everyday skills from something as simple as pointing to learning how to feed himself and walk up steps.
“Great Strides has helped so much with Brandon’s independence so that now he can dress himself, select his own games on the I-pad, open the fridge and drawers, and get in and out of the car without assistance,” said Belzer. “They are highly caring people who will do anything to help you with your child’s needs, such as when Hanna and her husband came to my home and re-engineered Brandon’s bidet so he could push the button without turning around. “
And now Sensory Towne helps children with special needs in their development while having fun with most activities at wheel-chair level. There’s a sensory house, rolling slide, foam pits, a tactile library, motion-sensored interactive game floor, a chill spa (calming room) with vibrating bubble tubes, fiber optics and ocean sounds, rock walls and swings that spin, let a child lay-down, or allow multiple children for social interaction. There’s also an adult size changing table in the bathroom for parents that have older special needs children, and a sensory store to purchase unique sensory items.
“Since opening, we have had children of all capabilities come to play and it has been a beautiful thing to see,” said Belzer. “Sensory Towne is about kids playing together and learning about one another in the same space.”
Classes are now being formed for kids dance and yoga, music and movement, and interactive story-time. Check out listed schedules by going to www.sensorytowne.com or see all the fun on Facebook. Sensory Towne is located in the Centurion Square Shopping Center on the corner of Baymeadows Road and Philllips Highway.
“If there is something you’d like for your child and we don’t have it, tell us about it and we will try to get it,” said Belzer.
Emma picked up a ruffled pink blouse from the stack of clothes waiting to be put out for sale, placing it on a hanger. Next, she grabbed a T-shirt and hung that one up with the other blouse, carefully making sure it was placed on the rack with the girls’ shirts. Dr. Edenfield praised her as they continued to sort and hang clothes together.
Once-a-week, Dr. Jon takes Emma to Spectrum Thrift Store on State Road 13, a special thrift store that encourages teens and young adults on the Autism spectrum and with other developmental disabilities to volunteer and possibly be employed at the store. Opened in January 2018, such a store has been a dream for mom Alisa Tillman who both enjoys collecting items and refurbishing used furniture and has an Autistic son that she wants to teach business skills and ensure he has a future career. She is accomplishing both by creating Spectrum Thrift Store, and, in the process, has also helped close to a hundred other children so far from ages 16 to 23.
Dr. Jon brings Emma to increase her skills and provide social interaction, another way of encouraging her growth into more independence. And just like with Dr. Jon, many other kids with development disabilities, whether from another therapy center, The ARC Jacksonville, Reach Academy or UNF’s THRIVE program, come to the store with a job coach or occupational therapist for on-the-job training to qualify for a future job. These are not counting the students with the Bright Futures Scholarship Program that volunteer with a “buddy” to put in their required community service hours.
Although wanting to provide an opportunity for her son, Lucas, “in case no one else did for him,” Tillman has also done that for others like two Reach Academy students Ethan Anderson and Ian McFather who are employed part-time at the store. “It just inspires me that I got the job,” Ethan Anderson, 16, said. Of the 30 students from ARC that have volunteered, Tillman boasts that seven have gone on to get jobs in other businesses and five are now working at Spectrum.
What’s even more inspiring is that out of the four students from UNF’s THRIVE program that has come to Spectrum, one keeps their accounting books and does their payroll during the summer, (you can see Carter Talbert presenting Tillman with her check on their Facebook page), while student Matthew Campbell set-up and maintains Spectrum’s electronics.
You can check out the bargains while helping a worthy cause any day of the week with Spectrum open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., Saturday from 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. and Sunday from 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. And say hello to Dr. Jon and Emma as they make a fun task of learning some important marketing skills.
The store is open every day during the following hours:
Monday through Friday: 10 a.m. – 6:30 p.m.
Saturday: 9 a.m. – 6:30 p.m.
Sunday: 11:30 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Just six days before Christmas, Maleah has a family to call her own. The Fennell family is adopting the little girl after she was abandoned at a hospital by her biological mother.
Christmas may be a week away, but Wednesday is the morning that several families have been waiting for all year long. That’s because Judge Gooding will be presiding over multiple adoptions at the Duval County Courthouse.
From the way little Maleah clings to Alijray Fennell’s arm, it’s hard to believe she’s only been living with him and his wife, Staci, since August.
Maleah is just 6 years old and has what is known as DiGeorge syndrome. She struggles to crawl and speak and she’s fed through a gastrostomy tube. But caring for children with special needs isn’t new to Fennells, Staci is a CNA at All Kids Care of North Jacksonville. Her husband owns Al’s Kitchen and also is a driver for children with physical and mental disabilities.
In March, they got a call that Maleah had been abandoned by her biological mother while she was in the hospital and they jumped at the opportunity to help.
“He (Aljiray) was like who do we need to call? He was like ready right then, I said I don’t know but we will make some phone calls today,” says Staci Sessions-Fennell.
From their first doctor’s appointment in July, to finally being able to bring Maleah into their home in August, they say it has been incredible.
“This child I never had personally looks at me as a mother and looks at him as Dad and it’s just amazing how it happens,” says Staci with tears in her eyes.
The Fennells wanted to make it permanent, so adoption coordinators Kinsey Whyte and Rebecca Margulies from Jewish Family and Community Services helped them along the way and were also overjoyed by Maleah’s progression.
“It is a hard job and sometimes it is really hard to see what happens,’ tells Rebecca Margulies with Jewish Family and Community Services “But then we get to do stuff like this and Staci was saying how far she (Maleah) has come and she really has: physically, developmentally and emotionally. It’s really fantastic to watch.”
Though they are already a family, they can’t wait to make it official!
“Yeah, it was meant to be!” laughs Staci.
Other families like Yaacov and Erin Petscher have been waiting for a while to officially add their adopted son Teddy into their family.
“A complete stranger sent a picture of him and asked if we knew anyone who was looking to adopt someone like him and we fell in love,” Erin Petscher said.
“It’s the best gift ever because we hoped it would be by Christmas, it looked like it would be in January so it’s a special Christmas surprise he’s a part of our family with our last name and everything,” Petscher added.
It’s a gift that Judge David Gooding has given to families for over a decade. Gooding launched the Home for the Holidays event in 2004.
“We all know that a permanent family is better than the best foster care systsem in the world. We see children transition from foster care and into their families, and I’ll hear back year after year from these families about the improvement in the child and in the family,” Judge Gooding said.
Families like Joshua and Darlene Gibson adopted their first child Skylar, and they are relieved that “Gibson” became his last name.
“It’s a great day for us, it’s been a long process, about a year and a half. We’ve gone through some ups and downs, some good and bad but it’s all good now because we’ve finally got him,” Darlene Gibson said.