A February newsletter brought to you by Rhonda Davis, OSB Parent Liaison
The City of Brotherly Love Our School Our City Our Time poster created by the students in elementary

~A message from Todd Reeves, ED of OSB~

Greetings!  I hope this letter finds you and your family in good spirits as we are now moving toward the back-end of winter and anticipate the arrival of spring.  Even though the days are getting longer, the chances of inclement weather still exist, so please be aware of the SchoolMessenger calls, as well as information that is conveyed on the website.  As you likely already know, we typically follow the School District of Philadelphia's determination for school cancellations and late starts.  If you are having trouble receiving the SchoolMessenger information, please let us know.  We want to make sure you're getting the information you need when you need it.

I have a big favor (well...not THAT big) to ask of you:  If you haven't already, very soon you should receive a survey that seeks to gain your input (your own story, so to speak) about the path you traveled to enroll your child at Overbrook.  We want to make certain that all children who can benefit from an education at Overbrook are provided the opportunity to do so without any unnecessary barriers.  Are there certain things we can do better?  Are there challenges you experienced that perhaps we can't completely control but we can counteract?  Was it a struggle to enroll your child at Overbrook?  And if it was completely smooth sailing, we want to hear that as well!  Thank you in advance for your participation -- we can't build a better school without you.

And while OSB's school safety and security record is impressive, we always want to ensure  it is the best possible. Toward that end, we will be contracting with an outside school safety and security firm to audit the school's operations and crisis plans. From the time that I began my service here in July, I've been very impressed with the Security staff here at Overbrook -- I think they do a stellar job and work well as a team.  I've worked at four specialized schools in my career, and Overbrook by far has the strongest security present of the four.  But it's always good to have "a fresh set of eyes" examine our policies and procedures, and make recommendations for even stronger safety measures for our students, staff, parents and community members.  We'll update you when we have solidified the next steps.

If anyone would like to spend an afternoon in Harrisburg (everyone's idea of a good time, right?), you're invited to be in the galley during testimony before the Senate Appropriations Committee on February 20 at 3:00p.  State support doesn't cover all the costs necessary to operate the School, but we'd be unable to operate without it.  This year, the Senate Appropriations Committee has asked the four Chartered Schools for the Deaf and Blind (Pennsylvania School for the Deaf, Overbrook, Western Pennsylvania School for Blind Children and Western Pennsylvania School for the Deaf) to testify as to how state funds are used at their schools.  I will be testifying along with Dr. Steve Farmer from the Western Pennsylvania School for the Deaf.  If you're able to be there, please let me know -- you're more than welcome to attend.  

I better conclude before this letter takes up the entire newsletter. If there's anything I've omitted that you'd like to know more about, please email or give me a call -- I want to make sure you always have the information you need to be and feel an important part of the Overbrook community.


Todd Reeves
p: 215-877-0313 Ext 267


~~Family Spotlight~~

~~Welcome to~~ Family Spotlight, a feature of the newsletter where we will learn about a different family each month to help us get to know each other. Please let me know if your family would like join in the fun!

Thank you so much to the GILBERTs for sharing the intensely moving experience of welcoming their beloved Mari into their lives. Have a box of tissues nearby as you read Ms. Gilbert's words. They are sure to inspire, and they remind us of the love and strength we all have access to when faced with difficult challenges.

~~"On 22nd September 2006, my life changed...  After a normal-to-date pregnancy, I started to have low back pain which I thought was from a back injury.  But, at 1:00 am, when the pain had not subsided and I noticed that it was cyclical, I started to worry.  We decided to go to the ER where I still did not realize that I was in labor.  I was terrified.  The babies we had prayed for and worked for and loved so dearly, were in jeopardy.  The ER doctor quickly called the OBGYN who said that I was fully dilated and they could see the sac of one of the twins.  I was quickly rolled to an operating room and connected to an ultrasound.  The OB told my husband and me that one child – twin A – had a foot coming through the birth canal.  I was fully dilated and there was nothing that could stop labor; I had to deliver my children right now.  I was only 23 weeks pregnant, so the chance of survival of the babies was low, less than 25%.  The medical community considers 24 weeks the limit of viability – meaning the age at which babies are most likely to survive.  23-week babies would not have the lung support or strength to survive outside the womb. 
So, since time was of essence, I was put under general anesthesia.   The next thing I remember was being awakened in a room and told that at 4:04 am and 4:06 pm we delivered two girls.  They both survived delivery, but were small and unstable. One girl, twin A, was 1 pound 3.8 ounces and the other, twin B, was only 15 ounces.  The girls would be transferred to a major hospital as soon as they could be stabilized.  They survived, but the road ahead would be a long one.  We were not ready for our babies yet, so we did not have names.  For now they were Gilbert Girls, Twin A and Twin B.
Twin B was more stable at birth, needing less resuscitation. When they brought her in on her way to be transferred out, I did what I knew – I sang to her.  To my surprise and delight, twin B opened her eyes when she heard my voice, and looked at me.  My 23-week micro preemie knew her mommy's voice and let me know it by opening her eyes.  Even that astounded me, since her eyes were still supposed to be fused closed.  Twin A took longer to stabilize and I was not able to see her on her way out.  I was heavily drugged, in pain and sad and scared and I could not sit and hold the babies I had so dearly wanted and prayed to God for.  I truly did not feel that anyone could understand my pain.
Twin B only lived 4 days.  My Miranda Kristina (her name meaning Miraculously Anointed) joined God’s Army much sooner than I was ready to let her go. Twin A spent 6 ½ months in the Neonatal ICU at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.  It was three days before they had names.    My Mari Kendall (her name meaning Wished for Child; Gift from God, Ruler of the Valley) has beaten all odds of what the medical community expected, yet she manages her challenges daily.
Fast forward 10 years and we have a very happy, engaged, energetic, and smart young lady.  She joined Overbrook at 3 years old and our first PT goal was to have her stand for 10 seconds unaided.  Now, she travels the halls as though she built them.  She is fiercely independent and forever determined and we support every OUNCE of her development by encouraging both.  I am blessed that God chose me to be her Momie… and she is Blessed to have my husband as her father and we all agree our son was the best thing we did for her – as she learned to teach him, he taught her and he sees no wrong in her, but accepts her for and as she is…  Who knows what the future holds.  We do know that many great things will come as Mari learns and grows and shows the world that it is a better place because she is here…"~~~

...And what a better world it is, thanks to the families who share all manner of experiences with each other. Thank you so much to the Gilbert family!
Workshops@Woodbine House
There will be three more Parent Ed Workshops@Woodbine House throughout Spring 2018!  Woodbine House is located at 6398 Woodbine Ave, corner of Woodbine and N. 64th St., around the corner from OSB's main entrance. (No need to check in at the main entrance, go directly to 6398 Woodbine Ave. There is plenty of street parking!)
During out last workshop,  OSB parents gathered together to laugh and learn (a lot!) during "Understanding Evaluations," a training brought to us by a partnership between Temple University's Institute on Disabilities, the PEAL Center, and Elwyn. There's nothing like spending time with others who really get what we're going through in support of our children with special needs!

NEXT Workshop@Woodbine House:   ~Creating a vision for your child~
March 22, 2018, 10 am to 1:00 pm:  Lunch provided and childcare reimbursed.
Mark your calendar for future dates:
Thursday, April 19, 2018~ Playpen Zen, including 
Thursday, May 17, 2018~ Addressing Challenging Behaviors
Two more excitng, out of school OSB events to Note!
Saturday, April 7, 2018: A Spring Walk and Roll in the Woods- Please join other OSB families for a picnic and "walk and roll" at location TBD.  More info to come.

Friday, June 1, 2018:  Funky Friday Swim and BBQ- Another chance to gather for a little fun! This time, we'll get to enjoy the beautiful Kappen Aquatic Center, and patio. More info to come.

PS...Thanks to all who came out for OSB's first ever Funky Friday Family Game Night!!! We had tacos for all, bowling, games and dancing! More than 30 families came to celebrate TOGETHERNESS!!!  We hope to see you all (and more) for our next Funky Friday event on June 1st.
PERC Corner
Where you'll get the latest from your PERC representatives!
Wawa Shorti Hoagie coupons are available!! They are $4.00 each, and are great for lunch,  or dinner on the run! Coupons will be delivered via your child’s book-bag as orders are received.  Preferred payment is cash; however, checks can be made out to: Overbrook PERC.  Please return this completed form and payment to school in an envelope marked: “Rhonda Davis – PERC Wawa”   Questions? Contact the PERC at:

Mixed Bag Spring Fundraiser!! Orders can be placed online at .  An eCatalog (PDF) is available upon request by emailing .  Your order will still be placed online, and shipping and handling may apply. The Spring Mixed Bag Fundraiser  will run through March 30, 2018.

Designer Bag Bingo April 21, 2018The PERC has teamed up with OSB to host the 1st Designer Bag Bingo. It will be held at the OSB Field House with doors opening at 6PM.  Bingo begins at 7PM. The PERC and OSB are jointly asking for volunteers to help at the event. If you can volunteer, please contact Tina Pilkauskas at   The PERC and OSB are also asking for raffle baskets donations – adult oriented items please as this is non-child event (21yrs+).

Beeping Egg Hunt:  We are coordinating the 1st Annual Beeping Egg Hunt for March 21, 2018!  Save the date! We will send out a flyer in the next couple weeks to invite everyone to participate in the fun-filled event! 

Staff Appreciation Luncheon: This annual event is scheduled for March 28, 2018!!! We are looking for volunteers to help serve food and for parents to contribute deserts for the sweet table!!! We will be sending home a flyer for everyone to fill out with what they are able to do!!!

Next PERC meeting: Monday, February 19, 2018 at  6 pm at Ruby Tuesdays 2053 Chemical Road, Plymouth Meeting, Pa.

Happy February from the PERC Board, Tina Pilkauskas, President, Medea Mc Glynn, Vice President, Leighann Stone, Secretary, and JD Dougherty, Treasurer. 

~Mark Your Calendars~ 

Mighty Writers, Mighty Toddlers is a free program for children 2-4 years old at three locations throughout Philadelphia.  “Each session will include alphabet play, read aloud and story acting. We’ll learn that toddlers can make books, too. Parents, stay to play and learn with us!"  Click on the spring calendar for more information.

Upcoming CP-NET Webinar!  Finding Community: Social Media for Families of Children with Disabilities
Thursday, February 8 | 12:00pm - 1:00pm EST

Disability is a culture of identity to which parents aren't given a handbook, and families of children with disabilities often experience significant stress and feelings of isolation. Social media can be an excellent tool for connecting with other families to share lived experience, for support, resources and mentorship, while the accessibility of social media can bridge the barriers of geographic distance and rare diagnoses.
Join us for this free webinar as we discuss how to get started. We'll share some considerations you might not have thought about as you explore social media. Register today  Hosted by Childhood Cerebral Palsy Network.  

The Susquehanna Valley Chapter of Team River Runner (TRR) will be hosting the first ever Kids are OuttaSight! (KAOS) State Adventure on August 24 to 26, 2018 at the Pennsylvania Lions Beacon Lodge Camp in Mt Union.   This unique program teaches students who are blind or vision impaired, along with their families, how to safely kayak as a family activity. This weekend adventure is available to any student ages 8-18 years living in Pennsylvania who are blind or vision impaired along with their families. Any attending family members / guardians over the age of 18 will learn how to safely guide the student during one day of training on a lake and one really fun day on a calm and beautiful section of the Juniata River.

In order to properly prepare for this unique opportunity, we need your help. Please take a few minutes and complete this brief survey. Once you submit your answers you will be entered to win a $15 Target Gift Card.

Take a minute to explore our website to learn more about Team River Runner and KAOS (   In order to participate in any kayaking activity, each kayaker must be able to meet the American Canoe Association’s (ACA) essential eligibility criteria.

SPIN Caregivers Support Tuesday February 13th from 5:30-7:30 p.m,​ will focus on Transition to Kindergarten. This is a great opportunity to explore all of the questions you may have about special education supports as well as questions about private, religious or charter schools. FREE, see flyer.

Elwyn Seeds February Calendar of Activites!
Teen Mental Health: MedlinePlus has pulled together resources related to mental health for families who have teenagers with special health care needs or mental health concerns. Resources speak directly to the teen and are also available in Spanish.    Teen Mental Health Resources

The NNCC's Safe and Healthy Homes is accepting new referrals! This is a FREE program for low income families with children who could use some support to address issues such as asthma triggers, pests (bedbugs, lice, roaches, mice), fire and lead prevention. If you would like a referral, contact Rhonda Davis at 

Inclusion and Special Needs info:  Check this out!  The California Inclusion Program's "Teaching Pyramid" collection of FREE family and teacher friendly handouts about behavior, special needs and inclusion is AMAZING!! These resources are available in CHINESE and SPANISH.  Really useful info for handling everyday situations w/any child.

~Previously Shared Resources~ 
  • Congresso's Family Social Services is a family support program that provides assessment and short-term case management for resource connection. The program is available to anyone, regardless of language or where you  live. Please see this flyer for more info if you feel you could use some extra support!  (or call 215-763-8870
  • For parents of middle and high school students, take a look at this thorough transition resource:  Autism Speaks announces the launch of a new version of the popular Transition Tool Kit. The Tool Kit was created to serve as a guide to assist families on the journey from adolescence to adulthood.  There are many helpful items that will relate to OSB students with and without an Autism diagnosis!  Their most recent newsletter covers this topic in depth and is worth a read.
  • Children’s mental health emergencies, like other emergencies, need prompt assessment and care. Recently,  the place to go for children’s mental health emergencies has changed to:
The Philadelphia Children’s Crisis Response Center 
3300 Henry Avenue, Falls Two Building, 3rd Floor 
Philadelphia, PA 19129. 
Phone: (215) 878-2600

Open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
For other behavioral health emergencies, please be familiar with these resources

To sign up for Cap4Kids emails (an amazing resource!), click here 

Looking for help to get the most out of the IEP process? Take a look at at the Wrightslaw  website, and consider signing up for their newsletter.  This issue has "How to" Tips for Parent Input.  Another helpful topic is How to Manage your Child's Documents.  

Did you know you can dial 2-1-1 on your phone for access to resources?

2‑1‑1 SEPA is part of the national 2‑1‑1 Call Centers initiative that seeks to provide an easy-to-remember telephone number, chat, text, and a web resource for finding health and human services– for everyday needs and in crisis situations.

Every day, highly trained 2‑1‑1 call specialists provide referrals to:

  • Basic Human Needs Resources: food banks, shelters, rent and utility payment assistance
  • Physical and Mental Health Resources: crisis intervention services, support groups, counseling
  • Employment Support: financial assistance, job training, education programs
  • Support for Older Adults and Persons with Disabilities: home-delivered meals, transportation, health care
  • Youth and Child Care Programs: after school programs, summer camps, mentoring, protection services
  • Regional Disaster Preparation

With one phone number, callers gain free, confidential access to thousands of programs and services that can help improve the quality of their lives. Help is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week by calling 2‑1‑1 (or 1-866-964-7922). TTY and language services are available in more than 170 languages and dialects.

Free Adaptive Fire Alarms for Philly Homes
The Philadelphia Fire Department announced recently that it's getting nearly $1 million in grant money to buy and install at least 30,000 smoke alarms over the next two years. The funds will pay for about 26,000 traditional alarms and 4,000 adaptive alarms for residents who are deaf, hard of hearing, blind or have low vision.  The Fire Department hopes to begin installing the traditional alarms in October and the adaptive alarms starting in December. 

Adaptive alarms are designed to warn persons with hearing or vision loss about a possible fire. They come in multiple designs, including some that shake beds and others that activate strobe lights - and they can cost 10 times as much as traditional smoke alarms.   

Need an alarm? Call 311

**If you need a smoke alarm, please contact 311 and specify if you need an adaptive alarm. For traditional alarms, it could take 60 days from the date of the request until the alarms are installed. The PFD hopes to begin installing adaptive alarms starting in December.

**Important for any family with a growing child who uses a wheel chair**
Disability Rights Pennsylvania (DRP) is investigating the Department of Human Services’ (DHS) failure to provide Medical Assistance coverage to children with physical disabilities for medically necessary wheelchair lifts, stair glides and other equipment for their homes.  If you or someone you know has a child who has been denied coverage or could not identify where to send a request for such equipment for a child, please call DRP’s intake line at (800) 692-7443.

Adding to the list of nifty adaptive clothing: check out these shoes!
Sensory Friendly Clothing for Kids, list of sources for soft, seamless, comfy clothes: Check it out here~ 

Target has a new line of clothes that are "sensory friendly."  It is called Cat & Jack and has no tags, smooth seems and  soft fabric.  They have pants with extra room for older children who wear diapers, and they will continue to introduce  "adaptive pieces to help address the needs of children living with disabilities.”

Here is a resource  for those whose kids who have food allergies:  Right here~  (One of my kids has Celiac Disease, so I will be making use of this.) I especially appreciate how local attractions are covered,  so if you are taking your kids to the Zoo, for example, you can read up on what precautions to take, depending on your situation.

The Children's Advocacy Project of Philadelphia
For the most comprehensive list of resources for families in Philly, check out The Children's Advocacy Project, or Cap4Kids, created by a local doctor, Daniel Taylor, D.O.   You can sign up for his weekly email, where he will highlight a single useful item each week.

Free Tactile Art Kit for kids 2 to 8 years old!

Offered by The American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults This kit will provide tools for young children to create tactile experiences in many different formats. The kit will include:

**Substrate materials: sandpaper, rubbing plates, embossed grid paper, plastic canvas, and a Sensational Blackboard
**Drawing materials: ink pen, jumbo crayons, tracing wheel, chopsticks, and a slate and stylus
**Tools: print/Braille ruler, rounded scissors, basic shapes templates, French curve templates, and a glue stick
**Papers: Braille paper, parchment paper, copy paper, tracing paper, thermoform paper, tactile drawing film, and tactile pictures
**Sculpture material: Model Magic

To enroll in this exciting program, please complete the online application at, or fill out and mail the downloadable version to:

American Action Fund Tactile Art Program 
1800 Johnson Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21230

PLEASE NOTE:  NEW TIME for Weekly Phone in Discussion Groups 
Educating Communities for Parenting is excited to announce  phone-in discussion groups for parents of children impacted by blindness or visual impairment Tuesday evenings from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. 
Connect with others who understand the journey.  Ask questions - share advice - complain – brag – or just listen! 
To participate:    Call 515-739-1015   Access code 821175
For more information please call or email Anita Kulick   215-496-9780  

The Free Library of Philadelphia's Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (LBPH) for PA Residents

LBPH, as part of the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically HandicappedLibrary of Congress (NLS) serves Pennsylvania residents who have difficulty reading due to a physical impairment, a reading disability, or a vision challenge. Please view the Eligibility page for more details

If standard print has become difficult to read for you, a friend, or a family member, please call 800-222-1754 or 215-683-3217

LPBH offers a wide variety of services for customers throughout the Commonwealth. Some are available on site, and many are available free through the mail via our partnership with Carnegie Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped in Pittsburgh.

PEAL Center: Parent Education & Advocacy Leadership Center

The PEAL Center is a great resource for families with a child who has a disability. From their website: "The PEAL Center is an organization of parents of children with disabilities and special health care needs who educate and guide:

— Families of children and youth, ages birth to 26, who have disabilities and/or special health care needs
— Professionals and others who work with children and youth who have disabilities and/or special health care needs
— Youth and young adults up to age 26 who have disabilities and/or special health care needs"

Check out their most recent newsletter:
PEAL Center Newsletter in English 
PEAL Center Newsletter  en espanol!

Philadelphia Parent Support Groups

For families with a child with intellectual disabilities and/or autism, these are "grassroots groups" organized by families, for families receiving are seeking intellectual disability services, and are located in neighborhoods throughout Philadelphia. 

If you are interested in joining a Philadelphia Parent Support Group, contact Barbara Nattile, Philadelphia Support Groups Manager at 267-773-5288 or via email:  See more info about PPSG here, and where the various neighborhoods are located here.
Copyright © 2018 OSB, All rights reserved.

Rhonda Davis OSB Parent Liaison Contact Info:

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Overbrook School for the Blind · 6333 Malvern Ave. · Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19151 · USA

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