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Lifesteps helps along life’s journey

Smiling faces of children attending a class at Lifesteps
These smiling faces are children attending a class at Lifesteps. Submitted photo
Services changes, but mission consistent in 100 year history

Lifesteps’ mission is to help individuals and families with life’s changing needs by developing programs and providing services which will improve their quality of life. More important is the organization’s vision, which challenges Lifesteps to “improve the quality of life for members of our communities.”

A lot has changed about Lifesteps over the last century. The organization has gone through name changes and a rebranding, shifted from all volunteers to paid staff, and expanded service delivery to help more people.

One thing that hasn’t changed is the quality of the nonprofit’s programs and services.

From programs designed to identify disabilities at an early age to group homes serving adults with disabilities, Lifesteps continues to evolve to address needs within the communities it serves.

The nonprofit’s central office is in Butler Township, but Lifesteps’ reach extends to providing programs and services in 10 counties: Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Green, Butler, Indiana, Lawrence, Mercer, Washington and Westmoreland counties.

Most Lifesteps programs are provided in person. However, others may be offered through teleservices. The organization has seven classifications of programs and services.

Liz Audo conducts at child check screening at Lifesteps
Liz Audo conducts at child check screening at Lifesteps. Submitted photo
Children’s Services — Early Care and Education

√ Child Care (Integrated) — Lifesteps provides quality child care and educational services for children with and without special needs ages 6 weeks until kindergarten. Children receive loving care from qualified, dedicated teachers, teacher aides, assistant group supervisors and volunteers in a comfortable, friendly atmosphere. Children age 3 and older participate in a developmentally appropriate preschool class. Children receive speech/language, hearing and developmental screenings to assess proficiency and progress in all the developmental domains. Lifesteps participates in Keystone STARS.

√ Child Care Aware of America — Respite Child Care for Military families — Lifesteps is proud to serve military families through the Child Care Aware Military Subsidy program by providing child care services free or at a reduced rate. Child Care Aware has partnered with the United States military and Department of Defense to offer families child care through the Fee Assistance and Respite Child Care Program.

√ Crisis Childcare — In conjunction with Beaver and Butler County Children and Youth Services, eligible families in crisis may receive child care at no charge to help alleviate stress, thus reducing the potential for child abuse and neglect.

√ Developmental Learning — Children may be eligible for developmental therapy through a full developmental evaluation that identifies strengths and weaknesses in fine motor, gross motor, speech and language, social-emotional and cognitive areas. Therapy is individualized and treatment plans encompass goals to maximize abilities.

√ Early Head Start — This program provides services to low-income pregnant women and families with children from birth to age 3. Services provide support to eligible families in Beaver County through home-based visits designed to help meet the needs of each child and their family through parent involvement, education, health/nutrition, disabilities/mental health, and social services. The program is provided through a federally funded grant.

√ Infant Toddler Contracted Slots — This program is a free child care program for infants and toddlers, age 6 weeks to 36 months, who are eligible for the Child Care Works subsidy program without annual redetermination. It supports high quality services in child care classrooms that offer a 1 staff to 4 children ratio and successful transition from infant-toddler care to child care, preschool, or Pre-K Counts program. The program is offered through Office of Child Development and Early Learning funding.

√ Special Needs Services — Children are served in Lifesteps Early Care and Education programs who present with risk factors and/or qualify for supportive services including, but not limited to: Autism Spectrum Disorder, Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder, behaviors, developmental delay, physical disabilities, speech/language, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, and/or medically complex needs.

√ Preschool (Integrated Developmental) — Preschool programs are for children with and without special needs from 3 to 5 years of age in a small classroom setting offered in full or half-day sessions. Each child receives individualized educational services using the Pennsylvania Early Learning Standards and Creative Curriculum and is assessed in multiple areas of development including: communication, cognition/ thinking, visual motor, physical and social-emotional.

√ Pre-K Counts — Lifesteps offers a free, quality preschool program for eligible children between the ages of 3 until age-eligible for kindergarten. The 3-hour, half-day program or 5½-hour, full-day program in Pre-K Counts classrooms are designed for children who are at risk of school failure because of income level and/or additional risk factors such as language/cultural barriers or special needs. Pre-K Counts classrooms have certified teachers with expertise in teaching young children, a structured curriculum aligned with the Pennsylvania Early Learning Standards and regular assessment of each child’s progress and the quality of the program. The program prepares children for reading and math through a structured curriculum, but also teaches children to pay attention, follow directions and get along with others. The Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts program was established by the state Department of Education in 2007.

√ Pre-Kindergarten (Preschool) Scholarships — Through the generosity of local businesses, Pre-Kindergarten (Preschool) Scholarships are available to assist eligible families with a high-quality education experience for their children through the Educational Improvement Tax Credit program. Families may apply to receive partial tuition scholarships for children enrolled in preschool age services (part-time or full-time) at Lifesteps’ Early Education Centers.

√ Summer (Camp) Discovery Program — A four-week summer program offered to children with and without special needs to improve and maintain developmental, communicative, and social skills, as well as encourage interaction with peers in a structured social program.

Family that seeks services through Lifesteps
A variety services are available for families at Lifesteps. Submitted photo
Family Services

√ “Child Check” developmental and autism screenings — Child Check is a free developmental screening for children from birth to 5 years old. Professionals screen a child's development in areas such as talking, seeing, hearing, moving, thinking, personal social skills and discuss the results with parents/caregivers. The purpose is for early detection of developmental delays. Autism screenings are also available. Resources and tools are provided to educate parents/caregivers for helping children reach developmental milestones, as well as offer outreach/education such as referrals and information on community resources.

√ Choosing Healthy Outcomes for Infants & Children — Services assist families in Beaver County at risk for drug use or abuse to remain healthy and safe by providing in-home family skills training, child development screening and education, and by connecting families to the social determinants of health resources within their community. Newborns who have been prenatally exposed to illegal substance use by the child’s mother are referred by Beaver County Children and Youth Services to Lifesteps. After a safety risk assessment is completed, Lifesteps develops a plan of safe care to promote the health and safety of mother and infant-child by identifying overall needs and providing support to improve their quality of life.

√ Early Identification/Crisis Intervention Program — This program helps families in Beaver County by providing Developmental Screenings for children from 3 months to 6 years of age with screenings in hearing, speech, behavioral and development to identify possible delays and who may be at-risk for abuse or neglect. Additionally, Crisis Child Care helps to provide a safe environment for children, from 6 weeks to kindergarten age, who are at-risk, along with providing home-based family support for families who may be experiencing the effects of poverty, mental/physical health concerns, developmental delays, behavioral delays, addiction, single parenting, or other stressors that may impact their ability to parent effectively and/or safely.

√ Families Forever — Families Forever is a program for adults struggling with the family changes brought about by divorce, separation or living in a divided family situation and the pain, frustration and stress resulting from custody issues. A four-hour seminar better equips adults with methods for responding in a way that will protect the well-being of the children, help talk about divorce or separation in a healthy manner, learn the behaviors a child may exhibit and how to deal with those behaviors.

√ Family Care Mobile Resource Center — The mobile resource center offers resources to families on topics including self-help, parenting, maternal health, behavioral health issues, adult literacy, disabilities information, child development, advocacy, grief and loss, social media and technology use and more. In addition, referral and community resource information is provided.

√ Home-Based Family Resource and Referral — This program helps families to find the resources and supports needed to work through life’s challenges. Services can be provided to families that may benefit from more intensive case management within the home.

√ Home-Based Family Support Program — This program offers families a unique opportunity to work toward family stability and reduce the risk of out-of-home placement by providing families with caring, personalized, in-home support. The Home-Based Case manager or family resource specialist meets the “total” needs of the child by guiding and assisting parents or guardians in gaining access to necessary medical, educational, rehabilitative and social services. Additionally, the program connects families with other community resources and supports.

√ Maternal Health — Lifesteps Maternal Health Home Visiting provides services to help low-income mothers achieve healthier pregnancies, healthier children and greater economic self-sufficiency. Services provided include evidence-based/evidence-informed tools. Assessments of child development and social determinants that impact maternal and child health during the first 18 months following birth are conducted. In addition, participants are assisted in accessing community resources as appropriate to meet mother/child needs; including, but not limited to, health care, mental health services and early intervention; housing, utilities and financial assistance; employment, transportation and child care; and essential personal items including hygiene, clothing and food.

√ Stepping Stones — An outreach program at select low income housing locations for families struggling with family situations such as low income, abuse, divorce or other types of crisis. Lifesteps offers a variety of fun and educational activities that encourage the families to spend quality time together.

Worker at Lifesteps employment services
Lifesteps offer employment services for those with intellectual/development disabilities. Submitted photo
Members of Lifesteps Transition Program, The Next Step
Lifesteps offers a Transition Program … The Next Step. The program is designed for high school students and young adults with intellectual/developmental disabilities. Submitted photo
Intellectual/Developmental Disabilities

√ Adult Training Facility-Basic Education & Socialization Training — This program provides learning opportunities for people with disabilities and medical challenges in a variety of supportive environments. It focuses on assisting individuals with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities, including autism, to become more active members of their community through integrated social interactions that strengthen natural supports, participation in community events, volunteerism and vocational exploration and assessment. Person-centered plans are developed to help with self-sufficiency in daily living skills, cognitive functioning, socialization, health and safety, and prevocational skills. The individual, family, friends and staff focus on skills needed to function independently as well as community integration.

√ Adult Training Facility-Community OutReach Program — The Community OutReach program is an adult training facility focused on assisting individuals with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities, including autism, become more active members of their community. Individuals participate in individual and group community-based vocational, recreational and social activities with individuals participating in a community-integrated setting that reflects their individual goals. Prevocational skills, educational activities and activities of daily living are provided at the center in a variety of group and individual activities, allowing for individualized instruction/assistance in the development of competency in specific skill areas and the enhancement of a positive self-image.

√ Life Sharing/Family Living — In this program, individuals with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities reside in the private home of a host family. This residential living option offers individuals with disabilities the opportunity to live with a family or individual who will support their desires and goals. The host family treats participants as another member of their family, even though they are not usually related. The host family provides food, shelter, personal care, transportation and comprehensive supports to one or two individuals. In exchange, the host family receives a stipend, ongoing training, assistance with problem-solving, resources, respite and regular visits for support. The mission of Life Sharing is to enhance and enrich the lives of people with disabilities by matching those who choose this option with those who choose to open their homes.

√ Preemployment Transition Services — Provided to school students ages 14 to 21 with intellectual, developmental or physical disabilities, including autism. The curriculum offers students the opportunity to acquire skills and gain knowledge that prepares the student to achieve their highest potential as the student transitions to adult life. Areas of Instruction include: daily living skills, self-determination, workplace readiness training and job exploration. The program and curriculum offers flexibility and can be modified to meet the needs of the students and/or school.

√ Residential Community Homes — Lifesteps offers individuals with intellectual, developmental, and/or physical disabilities, including autism, the opportunity to live an everyday life in residential neighborhoods and communities. In residential community homes, individuals receive support toward independence while meeting needs as outlined in the Individual’s Support Plans. Special adaptations may be made to the participant’s home to accommodate special needs and promote independence.

√ Residential Community Homes with Remote Supports — Lifesteps offers individuals with intellectual, developmental, and/or physical disabilities, including autism, the opportunity to live an everyday life in residential settings with increased independence through the use of remote supports and assistive technology. Participants may spend time living alone through self-direction while being supported by remote or in-person staff when necessary.

√ Residential Community Homes with Respite — Lifesteps' Respite program provides a temporary (usually up to 30 days) residential placement on a planned or emergency basis. A team of direct care professionals works with each individual to help them maintain self-sufficiency in daily living skills, socialization, and leisure skills during this transitional period. Lifesteps strives to provide an environment of learning, care and support so individuals in need of temporary housing can maintain their present abilities for the duration of services.

√ Transition Program … The Next Step — A program designed for high school students and young adults with intellectual/developmental disabilities, including autism, to assist in reaching personal potential in independent living, employment and secondary education. Individuals may attend the program full or part-time. A themed daily schedule allows for participation tailored to the students’ needs by utilizing technology, simulation, hands-on practice and visual aids to develop prevocational, educational and daily living skills. The program offers individual and group community-based career exploration, vocational, recreational and social activities for individuals participating in a community integrated setting that reflect individual goals.

Other Programs and Services

√ Employment Services — Employment Services offer supports to people with disabilities that impede employability and assists each person individually to prepare for, obtain, and maintain employment. Supports can include community-based work assessments, job coaching, job development, social skill development, behavior training, and other work site interventions designed for an individual to secure and maintain employment. Job coaches support individuals in locating positions consistent with long-term career interests, practice interviewing, and résumé development as well as providing guidance in securing and retaining competitive integrated employment.

√ Behavioral Support Services — Specialized training and supports are provided for both families and professionals who care for children and adults with challenging behaviors. Lifesteps professionals, including board certified behavior analysts, work with an individual and their care team to implement positive support strategies that will help a person achieve their fullest potential. Functional behavior assessments are used to shape support strategies.

√ Early Care and Education Council — A Butler Countywide collaboration of families, businesses, individuals, organizations and schools are united to increase the quality of early care and education to address the needs of all young children to support their future success. By raising awareness of the importance of early development, building partnerships and developing resources to support learning, the council seeks to create a community in which all children enter school ready to succeed.

√ Speech and Language Evaluations — Evaluations for individuals of any age include caregiver interview, observation and interaction, and standardized testing by a speech-language pathologist to assess an individual’s communicative strengths and needs in the areas of speech, language, hearing and social skills. Referrals may come from parents/caregivers, physicians, or screening programs. Upon completion of the evaluation, results and recommendations are shared with the individual and/or caregivers with additional resources identified as needed.

√ Speech & Language Therapy — Speech-language pathologists provide evidence-based, individualized treatment for a variety of communication needs, including childhood apraxia, articulation and phonological disorders, language delays, pragmatic/social communication disorders, voice, and fluency. Therapy is designed to incorporate an individual’s personal interests and daily activities including play-based intervention for younger children, materials designed to support school curricula for students, and daily living skills for adults. Caregiver involvement is a key component to progress.

√ Hearing Screenings — Puretone and tympanometry screenings are conducted in both ears for children and adults. If an individual does not pass the screening measures, a recheck may be conducted in two or four weeks, or the individual may be referred for an audiological evaluation and/or a medical examination. Children younger than 3 are screened using a Hear Kit consisting of a variety of sounds and/or pitches.

√ Assistive Technology and Remote Supports — Assessment, demonstration, and education related to assistive technology and remote supports is offered to increase independence and functional ability. Additionally, the program promotes increased inclusion, participation and engagement in school, workforce, and civic/social life for individuals Lifesteps serves.

Members of Adult Day Health Services
Lifesteps offers Adult Day Health Services. Submitted photo
Members of Adult Day Health Services
Lifesteps offers Adult Day Health Services. Submitted photo
Senior Services

√ Adult Day Health Services — This medically monitored adult day health program serves participants who are medically fragile and/or socially isolated or have a functional impairment. The program provides daily activities, socialization, nutritious meals and snacks, medication administration and daily exercise. Participants receive weight checks, health education, blood pressure monitoring and dispensation of medication by a nurse. The program is designed to maintain or improve individual functioning, provide caregiver relief and prevent or delay nursing home placement.

√ Alzheimer’s Caregivers Support Group — This support group is a social group for families attempting to handle the challenges presented after a diagnosis. The group provides opportunities for social events in a warm, friendly atmosphere, as well as education and information sharing.

Support Services

√ Advocacy — The mission of Lifesteps is to help individuals and families with life's changing needs by developing programs and providing services which will improve their quality of life. Lifesteps supports inclusion and diversity and advocates to make community services accessible to those with and without special needs.

√ Health Monitoring — Nurses support various programs including, but not limited to, Early Care and Education Centers, Adult Training Facilities, Residential Community Homes and Adult Day Health Services.

√ Information and Referral — Lifesteps provides information about community resources through this program. Lifesteps has extensive listings of the resources available in these areas and works collaboratively with other agencies to ensure individuals are referred to the most appropriate agency or service.

√ Public Awareness/Professional Education — Speakers on a variety of topics such as child development, issues on aging, and the Americans with Disabilities Act can be scheduled to talk with groups in the community. Lifesteps’ professionals educate on topics and answer questions which may arise.

√ Social Activities — Community and social activities are initiated through Lifesteps' Basic Education & Socialization Training and Community OutReach Programs. Chorus participants entertain family and friends, and there are social activities throughout the year for many of the children and adults that attend Lifesteps programs. Additionally, Lifesteps may coordinate a variety of family-oriented activities.

Subsidiaries

√ accessAbilities First Steps Early Intervention Program — Early intervention services are free for children from birth to age 3, who exhibit a 25% delay in one or more areas of development or have a known physical or mental condition which has a high probability of resulting in a developmental delay. Services and therapies range in scope from physical, occupational, speech, vision, special instruction, nutrition and other specialized therapies to early childhood education. The therapists and early education specialists work with the family in the child’s home or in the location of the child’s caregiver to develop an Individualized Service Plan based on the family’s priorities.

√ accessAbilities Home and Community Services — Personal assistance services are provided to eligible youth, adults and seniors to facilitate independent living and help individuals remain in their home and a part of the community. Supports assist with activities of daily living such as bathing, dressing, grooming, food preparation, eating, ambulation, transportation, medication reminders, and supervision. Qualified individuals may also be eligible for shopping, laundry and housekeeping assistance.

√ accessAbilities Companion Services — Companions provide help to ensure an individual’s independence while maintaining health and safety in the home and community.

√ accessAbilities Home and Community Habilitation Services — Services support individuals to acquire, maintain, or improve the skills necessary to live in the community, to live more independently or to be more productive and participatory in community life. Supports may include instruction in using transportation or services to assist in shopping or other necessary activities of community life.

√ accessAbilities Homemaker Services — Services for Seniors to provide assistance to eligible residents in Indiana County who are age 60 or older including laundry, house cleaning, and errands.

√ accessAbilities Respite Care — An interval of rest and relief for family caregivers who may take time for themselves while being reassured their family member has the needed support and services.

√ All Abilities Service Coordination — Participants are assisted through the identification, coordination and facilitation with necessary services that enable a person with a physical disability to remain in their home. Service coordination includes completion of a needs assessment and care plan/service plan, advocacy, arranging for services from local resources and coordinating services to help participants to live as independently as possible. Services can include coordination of transportation, vehicle modifications, home modifications, and personal emergency response systems. All Abilities also arranges for nursing and/or personal assistance services and durable medical equipment. Service coordinators focus on the participant’s health, safety, and welfare.

Lifesteps offers generations of care from infants to seniors. Submitted photo
A look back at one of Lifesteps children’s services classroom
Lifesteps Look Back: Here is a children’s services classroom. Submitted photo
Workers at Lifesteps employment services
Lifesteps offer employment services for those with intellectual/development disabilities. Submitted photo
Individuals at the Adult Training Facility
Lifesteps offers learning at the Adult Training Facility for people with intellectual/developmental disabilities.

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