Managing Holiday Temptations for People with Special Needs or Disabilities

By Guest Blogger Laura O’Reilly, R.N., B.A., AVP Health and Wellness, Easter Seals New Jersey

Celebrating the Holiday Season is a reason to eat, drink and be merry. Who can resist? Is it possible to get through the holiday season without gaining weight? I cannot promise that, but it is possible to minimize weight gain and use each day as a chance to get back on track by trying some of these tips.  It is important to know that all of us, whether or not we live with a disability or other special need, can enjoy a healthy and productive holiday season!

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Guide to Understanding an Individualized Education Plan (IEP)

1In New Jersey, as well as other states across the country, an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) is a written document that outlines a child’s (with a special need or disability) education, ages 3-21.  The plan is tailored specifically to the individual student, so they receive maximum educational benefit.  The key word is individual.  A program that is appropriate for one student, may not be right for another.

For a child with a disability, the IEP is the cornerstone for their education.  It identifies the services that a child needs so that he/she can grow and learn during the school year in a manner that recognizes their disability and challenges.  An IEP is also a legal document that outlines three key topics:

  • The child’s special education plan that includes their goals for the school year
  • Services needed to help the child reach those goals
  • A strategy to evaluate the student’s success and progress

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Tips on Finding the Best Support Coordinator in New Jersey

What Is A Support Coordinator?support coordinator

For those of you that do not know, a Support Coordinator is someone with expertise in assisting individuals with special needs and their families in their planning process and with coordination of services.  Focusing on an individual’s needs, hopes, and dreams, Support Coordinators use their expertise to guide them in the development of their support plan, used to coordinate and monitor appropriate services and supports for the individual.

A few specific ways Support Coordinators provide assistance according to the New Jersey Department of Human Services include:

  • Assisting individuals and their families in the person-centered planning process
  • Working with individuals, their families, and mentors to identify outcomes and utilize their budgets to achieve those outcomes
  • Assisting in identifying services and supports that will achieve the individual’s stated outcomes and can be accessed from a provider who is appropriately qualified by the Divison of Developmental Disabilities (DDD) to provide those services
  • Becoming and remaining familiar with all applicable service

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6 Helpful Tips For Caregivers During National Family Caregivers Month

Thank you to all family caregivers!

Easter Seals New Jersey recognizes the various struggles that many caregivers sometimes face when they are caring for a loved one.  Often times, these same individuals neglect to care for themselves.  For all of you that do not know, November is National Family Caregivers Month, and to honor all of you caregivers out there who work hard all day, every day, to care for your loved ones, this post is for you.

In the most recent studies on Caregivers in the US there was an estimated:

  • More than 65 million caregivers nationwide
  • 52 million caregivers caring for adults with an illness or disability
  • Caregivers spend on average 20-35 hours per week providing care
  • 17% feel their personal health suffers due to caregiving
  • 40%-70% of caregivers show significant signs of depression
  • Only 12% of caregivers report using respite services
  • 78% report needing more help and information about caregiving
  • 35% of caregivers report having difficulty finding time for themselves,
  • 29% report trouble balancing work and family responsibilities


As most of you know, being a caregiver can be extremely stressful, not giving yourself enough time in the day to worry about your own needs because you are always concerned about someone else’s.  When you do focus on your needs, it may feel selfish and unnatural.  It is important to understand that an essential part of being a caregiver is to make sure you put yourself first at times.  While you may think it will compromise the care of your loved one, you have to understand that it will not.  Both your life, and the life of your loved one, depends on your well-being.

With that being said, here are 6 helpful tips on how to manage caregiver stress and the busy lifestyle that comes with it.

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Employment Tips For Individuals With Special Needs and Disabilities

IMG_1344Whether you are an individual living with a disability or special need, or if you are a parent/caregiver of a special needs child, you have probably thought about what opportunities are available for young adults with disabilities after high school.  Many individuals, parents, and caregivers may not know what is next when it comes to planning for adulthood, however, one option, is to develop skills that can be used in the community that can be applied to a job.

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Halloween Costumes for Individuals Living With Disabilities

UntitledeHalloween can be one of the most exciting holidays for individuals of all ages.  From the fun costumes, to all the candy, no one wants to be left out of trick-or-treating or attending fun Halloween parties where they have the opportunity to become something else for a night.  However, for individuals living with disabilities, the task of finding a Halloween costume may be a struggle, or they might find the experience of  wearing one a bit troublesome due to sensory issues.  While store bought costumes may work just fine, there is also a chance they can be scratchy and uncomfortable to wear for some.  Some store bought costumes also may not be designed for individuals who use walkers, canes, are in wheelchairs, etc.  But do not give up!  There are several options to address the above concerns and many different costumes out there that can be adapted or created to suit individuals living with a disability.

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Easter Seals New Jersey’s Fall Walk With Me & Community Resource Fair!!!

FALL WWM Flyer 10-17-15 GhostAt Easter Seals New Jersey, our goal is to enrich the lives of people living with disabilities and special needs, and those who care about them, by providing opportunities to live learn, work, and play in their communities!

On October 17th, individuals, families and friends, will participate in the premiere Easter Seals New Jersey Fall Walk With Me & 5K Fun Run to raise critical awareness and funds for individuals living in New Jersey with disabilities and special needs. Proceeds will benefit the nearly 8,000 individuals and families served through Easter Seals New Jersey’s various programs statewide!

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Tips To Avoid Back To School Bullying for Individuals With Special Needs and Disabilities

1It’s that time of year again, summer is officially over, and youth all across the country are now back to school.  For some parents, it’s a day that they were waiting for all summer, finally able to get their children out of their hair.  While for other parents, they have been dreading the day because of the chances that their child may be bullied in school.

Parents of youth living with special needs and disabilities, such as physical, developmental, intellectual, emotional, and sensory disabilities, may be at an increased risk of their child being bullied while at school.  While bullying may not seem like an issue to most parents, to a parent of child with a disability, it can be a big worry.  Ensure your loved one is not being bullied at school by following some of the tips below.

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Welcome To Easter Seals New Jersey’s New Blog!

Hello everyone!  Firstly, welcome and thank you for choosing to visit our new blog.  Easter Seals New Jersey would like to welcome and tell you a bit about what you can expect to find here.

We aim to bring you a new blog every tESNJ Custom NJ CSCL1948 Tagline PMS186wo weeks (maybe more!) as a way of sharing with you our thoughts, opinions and knowledge about a wide variety of topics.  To begin, Easter Seals New Jersey has enriched the lives of people with disabilities and special needs, and those who care about them, by providing opportunities to live, learn, work and play in their communities since 1948.  We offer a wide range of programs and services that helps connect them with a world of possibilities depending upon their goals.

After doing a few months of research, speaking with caregivers, parents, support professionals, and loved ones about what they would like to see here, we have decided that with this blog, we will focus our posts around our mission of live, learn, work, and play as well as a variety of other popular topics including, but not limited to, resources, health/wellness, education, workforce/skill development/employment, support and physical therapy/fitness.

In addition to blogs from us, we also want to shed a bit more light on the variety of our work, and give you the chance to get to know some of our staff and the important work they do each and every day, by featuring guest bloggers.

Whether it is sharing practical advice, a great resource, success stories, or changes within the state of New Jersey, we hope there is something here for everyone.

Lastly, another great way to get updates about our organization is to follow us on Facebook and Twitter.  You may also find valuable resources by visiting our website at

Thank you again for visiting our blog!