Even during a pandemic, the mission of Easterseals Southwest Florida remains steadfast: To provide exceptional services for persons with disabilities and their families across a lifetime with the highest quality of care and services. We serve children, youth and adults with special needs so that they can enjoy access, opportunities as well as increased and enhanced life choices, regardless of financial ability and have for more than 74 years.

With our 75th anniversary on the 2021 horizon, we are especially proud of our agility. The new year certainly delivered a new perspective along with the need to pivot … quickly. 

Easterseals Southwest Florida continued to serve our community this year, helping our clients to navigate the stresses and dramatic lifestyle changes that resulted. We transformed our center-based therapy to teletherapy, our classrooms to virtual schools and even our art instruction to video-based lessons that could be delivered easily to family and group homes. The important thing, as always, is to connect and we did just that. 

Individuals who live every day with disabilities suffer even more dramatic effects from the sudden change homestays forced. While concerns of already-compromised medical conditions were our primary concern when it came to dealing with this global health crisis, we also had to weigh the added, more exaggerated depression and frustration our clients suffered from the change in routine and, worse yet, the fear of regression from missed occupational, physical, speech and behavioral therapies. 

Equally important, our team worked to provide outreach to families and caregivers who found themselves serving as at-home therapists, teachers, instructors and more, all while dealing with pressures about employment, finances and other obstacles delivered through this months-long challenge. 

Our staff worked closely with our families to deliver the best packages of care through digital technology, keeping children and adults engaged. We provided training and “what to expect next” sessions for caregivers who now experienced 24-7 exposure, finding themselves in the unexpected role therapy or teacher assistants – sometimes both. Their commitment will always serve as an inspiration.

Easterseals began serving victims of polio in 1948. Since then, the mission has evolved and embraces individuals who live with physical and behavioral disabilities. Today, individuals of all ages who live on the autism spectrum are cared for through a Comprehensive Autism & Disabilities Program. This efficient, effective and sustainable model provides a wide variety of therapies, education and employment with many tools, including: 

  • early intervention and diagnosis, which will be enhanced dramatically through our new clinic; 
  • OT, PT, ST and behavioral therapies;
  • classroom setting for students aged Pre-K to 12th grade;
  • neurofeedback with brain mapping (QEEG); 
  • equine-assisted therapy with our partner InStride Therapy; 
  • adult employment services; 
  • respite care for families;
  • and, now even address mental health and wellness components for our clients. 

Programming also includes enrichments such as art, music and yoga classes. 

Our therapy team continuously trains, this year adding to its inventory additional PECS, ADOS-2, CPI and other training to better serve those on the spectrum with communication and behavioral interventions and diagnostics, among other new platforms. Our teaching staff pursues similar continuing education, benefiting the student body while continuously bettering their own experiences.

We continue to serve our clients and their families as we have since 1946, serving the whole family no matter the circumstances. Yet, regardless of what surprises lie ahead, we are confident that Easterseals Southwest Florida will continue to work to meet the needs across our region and help everyone’s abilities shine.