Community Partnership: Bringing Services to Synagogues and Schools

By Molly Buckman

The Oak Park - River Forest has a thriving Jewish community. To better deliver the agency’s services to Oak Park, JCFS formed a Synagogue Community Partnership with two local synagogues and hired clinician Molly Buckman to work two days a week—not just in Oak Park and River Forest, but in the synagogues. Here’s Molly’s report about this groundbreaking program.

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Legal Advocacy Presentation to Become National Webinar Series

In January, Sande Shamash, Director of the Legal Advocacy Center (LAC), and LAC Staff Attorney, Marissa LaVette, submitted a paper for a presentation on childhood trauma and its impact on special education. Their presentation, “Recognizing Childhood Trauma: Identification, Implementation and Advocacy for Trauma Informed Approaches in Special Education” was one of the submissions selected to be featured at the 17th Annual 2015 Counsel of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA) National Conference in San Diego. COPAA is a national organization that serves to protect the legal and civil rights of and secure excellence in education on behalf of the 6.4 million children with disabilities in the United States.

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Parenting and Girl Drama

Your 4th grade daughter comes home from school upset and crying. At first you don’t know what is happening. Then it becomes clearer; she is upset about something that some other girls said to her at school. Your mind swirls as feelings of helplessness, anger and protectiveness rise within you.

You are now in a parenting moment, desperately wishing for a book to tell you what to do. You certainly don’t have any magic answers for your daughter. You wonder…

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Become a Foster Parent and Help a Child with Special Needs

Jewish Child & Family Services works to find caring, qualified foster parents for Chicago-area children with special needs, supporting the families who welcome, love and guide these children…whether toward reunification with their families or adoption by new families.

Right now, the need for foster parents is greater than ever with nearly 400,000 children and youth who need stability, mentoring, love and care. There is no ideal profile of a foster parent--the demographics are broad and include single adults or coupled partners—and while the challenges are very real, the experience is also rewarding for both child and foster parent. But what exactly are "special needs" and what should a prospective foster parent know? The following are some frequently asked questions about parenting a child with special needs:

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Every Kid Healthy Week

by Dena Goldstein, Grants and Planning Associate

Bite-size fruit snacks, squishy Capri Sun juice packs and Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes all fall under the category of delicious, “kid-friendly” foods that kids love. They are also utterly lacking in nutritional value. Typically high in sugar, salt and/or unhealthy fats, these pseudo-snacks and meals lure kids in with toys, animated mascots and easy-to-open packaging. In our fast-paced world, kids, parents and schools are often drawn to processed foods—they are fairly inexpensive; accessible at convenient stores, vending machines and gas stations; and don’t require time to make. Added to the dearth of nutrition in their snacks, children are also leading more sedentary lifestyles. On average, kids spend over seven hours in front of a computer or TV screen every day. Poor food choices coupled with minimal physical activity not only affect their physical health, but also academic success.

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A Reflection On Camp Firefly

by Julie Feldman, LCSW, Firefly Day Camp Director and Liz Robbin, Speech-Language Pathologist, Firefly Overnight Camp Director

We remember our first day of camp as if it was yesterday. Bashful glances and giggles from the children; watchful eyes and tearful goodbyes from parents. The sounds of luggage moving into cabins and young campers climbing into bunk beds; counselors chatting and smiling ear to ear.

Our first day at Camp Firefly changed our lives forever. As Camp Chi campers and staff alumni, we were thrilled to be back at camp in a different capacity. We returned to camp with skills from our professional backgrounds as well as everything we learned from our years of experience on staff at Chi. And while our studies and work experiences provided a solid foundation for what to expect, we were amazed from the start at the careful planning and preparation the staff undertook – no detail left unnoticed, no hour left unplanned. We saw firsthand how Camp Firefly provides a safe and nurturing camp experience for kids and teenagers with social disorders who often find the camp environment to be overwhelming. As anyone who has been to camp knows, it is a magical place where friendships are formed, new skills are developed and confidence is built.

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Give Your Child a Boost in Their Language and Thinking Skills This Summer

Summer doesn’t have to be a time for children to fall behind in their speech and language skills. Although school therapy sessions have ended, continued intervention with a speech therapist can maximize a child’s communication growth.

An intense 1-2 hours per week in a pediatric clinic during summer break can enhance their understanding of language, including following directions and improving their ability to express their thoughts.  These skills can help children relate better to friends and share information with their parents, in addition to providing a jump-start for the next school year.  

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The Impact Noisy Toys Have on Children

Does it ever seem like some toys are just too noisy? The sounds that many infant and children’s toys make are loud enough to reach hazardous levels. As cited in an article for Advance Healthcare Network for Speech & Hearing , 200 toys were recently tested and 98% of them measured at sound levels greater than 85 decibels at arms’ length.  That level of noise has the same impact as being near an airplane when it takes off.  White noise machines also exceed healthy hearing levels; some even exceed safe levels for adults. This type of exposure can put a child at risk for noise induced hearing loss.

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Yoga for a Healthy Night's Sleep

by Sara Zryl, M.A. Pre-Doctoral Psychology Intern

Let her sleep-For when she wakes- She will move mountains-― Napoléon Bonaparte

Feeling overtired? You can improve sleep patterns just by adding some Zen into your life. It is not uncommon, every so often, to feel run down, overtired, less motivated or fatigued. If this occurs on a day to day basis, you may experience difficulty sleeping throughout the night. Sleep health is a relatively new field of study that examines how we sleep and what factors impact sleep. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention  provides sleep guidelines from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (2013). The amount of sleep recommended changes as we age; however, individual sleep needs vary.

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Feeding & Swallowing Therapy: One Mother's Experience with Our Team

The speech-language, occupational and developmental therapists and social workers at the Integrated Pediatric Interventions program at Jewish Child & Family Services work with infants, toddlers and children who are experiencing developmental delays.

These early childhood experts are passionate about working with the entire family—child, parents, siblings and family as a whole—not only to ensure the therapies are consistently worked into daily family life, but to address related issues that arise from raising or living with a child with a delay or disability. We love to share how their passion translates into real life stories of success and hope. Here is one mother’s experience, in her own words…

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