Easter Seals (U.S.)
Easter Seals (founded in 1919 as the National Society for Crippled Children) is an American nonprofit charitable organization that assists more than one million children and adults with disabilities and special needs (including autism) through a network of more than 550 service sites in the United States, Canada, Australia and Puerto Rico.
Sites provide services, therapies and treatments tailored to meet the specific needs of the particular community they serve. The organization assists children and adults with physical and mental disabilities and special needs resulting from any cause, whether diagnosed at birth or incurred through disease, accidental injury or the aging process.
Easter Seals meets the standards of the National Health Council and the Better Business Bureau/Wise Giving Alliance.
Easter Seals offers a variety of services designed to meet individual needs. Therapists, teachers and other health professionals help people overcome obstacles to independence and reach their individual goals. Families are treated as active members of any therapy program. Services include, but are not limited to:
- Medical Rehabilitation (including physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech-hearing therapy and early intervention)
- Residential Services (serving children, adolescents, and adults)
- Job Training and Employment
- Child Care for children ages 6 months to 5 years
- Adult Day Programs for adults with disabilities and older adults
- Camping and Recreation for children and adults to experience all aspects of camp without usual limitations
- Substance Abuse Programs
Easter Seals is a grassroots, community-based organization. Approximately 90 percent of Easter Seals' revenue supports services in the areas where funds are raised. For more than 25 consecutive years, Easter Seals has ranked first among National Health Council members for the percentage (94 percent) of program dollars spent on direct client services. Easter Seals receives funding from a variety of sources, including private insurers, government agencies, public contributions and fee-for-service. Public contributions help cover the difference between actual program costs and what clients can afford. Easter Seals primary services benefit over 1.3 million individuals each year through more than 550 centers in the U.S., Canada, Puerto Rico and Australia.
The name "Easter Seals" derives from an earlier fundraising program: beginning in 1934, colorful adhesive seals, the size of postage stamps, were sold around Easter; purchasers stuck these on mailed envelopes to demonstrate their support for the organization. These seals became so well known that the organization changed its name to Easter Seals in 1967.
Children and adults with disabilities disproportionately rely on government programs in order to access education, health care, housing, transportation and employment services. Easter Seals has been active in public policy advocacy since the 1920s, working with federal, state and local officials and agencies to advocate for the passage of legislation to help people with disabilities achieve independence. This includes the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Passed in 1990, the ADA guarantees the civil rights of people with disabilities by prohibiting the discrimination against anyone who has a mental or physical disability in the area of employment, public services, transportation, public accommodations, and telecommunications.
Easter Seals headquarters offices in the Willis Tower in Chicago and in Washington, D.C., provide assistance to 83 affiliates through management training, implementation of best practices, consultation services, fundraising, marketing and corporate relations. The headquarters office in Washington D.C. advocates for the passage of legislation to help people with disabilities achieve independence. Easter Seals public policy priorities focus on issues such as early intervention and education, employment, health care, child care, disability program funding, the Americans with Disabilities Act and services to aging Americans.
Affiliates and service sites
Nationwide, Easter Seals' 83 affiliates and over 550 service sites provide services to people with disabilities and special needs in their local communities. Each affiliate operates as an independent Easter Seals corporation.
Board of Directors and House of Delegates
Easter Seals is governed by a National Board of Directors, which is composed of volunteers, most of whom are nominated by one of the organization’s approximately 85 affiliates across the country. Elections to the Board, composed of between 15 and 19 members, are held annually by another larger volunteer body, Easter Seals National House of Delegates. Directors are elected for three-year terms, and terms are staggered to achieve strength and continuity on the board.
Easter Seals National House of Delegates consists of volunteers certified by their affiliates to represent them as delegates at the organization’s annual convention, thus ensuring broad representation of Easter Seals affiliates nationwide. In addition to the numerous training and motivational sessions offered to Easter Seals board members, delegates and affiliate staff throughout the convention, the Annual Meeting of the House takes place, when the house elects new members to the national board and addresses any other motions put before it.
Autism spectrum disorders and the road ahead
Over the last 20 years, Easter Seals has seen a dramatic increase in the number of people with autism the organization serves, both through its services developed specifically for people with autism and through services that include children and adults with autism among other service recipients. The organization works internationally to provide children and adults with autism individualized treatment plans and comprehensive services.
Easter Seals programs across the country provide a wide variety of interventions that help individuals of all abilities, including those with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Easter Seals currently has a combination of services specifically targeting individuals with the diagnosis of ASD as well as other services that include individuals with ASD among their service recipients.
- Beth (April 3, 2015). "It's Easter this Sunday – is that why we're called Easter Seals?". Easter Seals blog. Retrieved October 24, 2016.
- Easter Seals: Autism Services
- Boone, Pat. "The Human Touch: The Story of Easter Seals." Weiser & Weiser, Inc. 1991
- Williams, James E. Jr. "75 years of caring for the disabled." Fundraising Management. September 1994 (http://www.allbusiness.com/specialty-businesses/non-profit-businesses/464825-1.html)
- Easter Seals 2005-2006 Financials (http://www.easterseals.com/site/PageServer?pagename=ntl_annualreport_financials)
1Easter Seals: Autism Services (http://www.easterseals.com/site/PageServer?pagename=ntlc8_autism_service)
- Easter Seals website
- Easter Seals and Autism Web site
- Easter Seals legislative action
- Easter Seals' “A Symbol of America’s Generosity” video
- The Christmas Seal and Charity Stamp Society A non-profit organization founded in 1931, publishing catalogs of worldwide fund raising seals including Easter seals, and Christmas Seals; as well as a quarterly journal, Seal News.