The Strength for Surgery

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The goals of our adapted karate program (as are all our free playgroups that are open to children in The Caroline School, Children’s Therapy, Infant Program etc) are physical, cognitive, and social-emotional. In addition to the strength, balance, and coordination that are necessary to complete the movements in adapted karate, children develop friendships, work on following directions, participate in and work as a group, understand others’ differences, and build self-confidence. The culmination of all the students’ hard work is the belt test ceremony. Students who are prepared are invited to show off their skills for their families and a panel of black belts from the community.

Jackson is a star pupil, and has consistently attended our classes for the past several years. He has a diagnosis of cerebral palsy, but not even the braces on his legs can slow him down. While preparing for the upcoming belt test, we learned that Jackson would be unable to attend because he would be undergoing major surgery. Instead of waiting for months of recovery and rehabilitation, the black belt panel agreed to host a special belt test for Jackson before his surgery. Our Sensei, Master Luis Garcia, has always told our clients that if you could earn a belt, you could do anything; that in comparison to the discipline, hard work, and commitment it takes to earn a belt, everything else is easy. Jack beltJackson had shown us already that he had earned his belt, and we wanted him to take that belt, and the strength it represents, with him as he went in for this surgery.

When we asked his mother, she was so excited. She told us that Jackson loves karate and even has his older earned belt and certificate up in his room.

Jackson had his entire support squad with him on the day of his test! His parents, grandparents, friends, therapists, and aunt all came to support this very special young man on his big day. He showed off his improved flexibility and balance with his kicks. He impressed us all with his fast reflexes and good control during blocks and partner self-defense. The highlight of the night, everyone’s favorite part: board breaking. Jackson completed an advanced board break—on a real board, he would tell you—as if it were nothing. He did so well, and he knew it! Jackson was so proud of himself. His family was elated, beaming with pride.

Jack breakIt is through community support that we are able to offer our playgroups which also include dance, music, yoga, art and teen night for free so that all children with disabilities can attend, learn  to socialize, improve the skills they are already working on in therapy and build their self-confidence.   What a gift.

Daryn Ofczarak, M.A., CCC-SLP, Easter Seals Greater Houston, Speech Language Pathologist

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College-bound… Katy Parent Night Out helps teens prepare for college!

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Easter Seals Greater Houston Katy Parent Night Out has a long history of helping teens on the spectrum, including providing informational services for career and post-secondary education opportunities.  Two of our very special clients, brothers who joined our program back in 2016 when they were 13 and 14 years old, have benefited from PNO’s guest speaker program, providing guidance for adolescents transitioning into adulthood!  In 2017, a representative from HCC’s VAST (Vocational Advancement and Skills Training) Academy, a branch of HCC that provides “Opportunities include vocational certificates, pre-college, and freshman success bridge courses, career readiness credentials, internships and employment assistance offered through an inclusive, relevant and affordable avenue.”.  Both boys, who have speech and developmental delays, have been accepted into HCC’s VAST program and are thriving in their new role as “big men on campus”.  They are seeking vocational certificates that will help them find meaningful employment after graduation.  These clients have overcome multiple obstacles (including losing their home from Hurricane Harvey in 2017) and Easter Seals Parent Night Out is proud to provide support and encouragement as they’ve grown into amazing young adults.  PNO continues to inspire teens like these brothers, and WE are inspired THEIR success!

Kelly Knight, Easter Seals Greater Houston, PNO Respite Coordinator 

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Looking to Volunteer?

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Know any retired, hardworking individuals that need something to focus their energy on?? We are the perfect group!! Our program could not function without dependable volunteers on our team! I currently have 5-7 volunteers that are volunteering with me on Mondays and Wednesdays at Easter Seals Greater Houston’s Adult Life Enrichment Program (LEAD) but I am in search of 1 – 3 more long term volunteers.73087196_2745919965427523_4184794379765940224_n

Why volunteer with our LEAD program? Hear from our volunteers yourself:

“My volunteering with Easter Seals’ program is the most enjoyable thing I do all week. The participants are genuinely friendly, warm and accepting of everyone, group members and volunteers alike. It is easy to volunteer because the activities are well planned and always interesting. But the most valuable thing to me is experiencing relationships with persons who have faced a lot of struggles and yet remain upbeat lovers of life. I find that inspiring. And, no group has more fun than we do!”

– Linda Meriwether, 5 years

“When I decided to retire from teaching after 33 years, I knew I needed to find something for me to do to occupy my time a few days a week.  When I was growing up, my mom did volunteer work for an organization in Indianapolis and I remember how much she loved it.  Easter Seals has been very special for me.  I feel I have found another family and I am very humbled to be able to work with these outstanding adults and young adults.  They brighten my day each time I go to group.  I leave every time feeling fulfilled after working with Ashley and the other terrific helpers. I know the adults and young adults have a wonderful experience every time we meet.”

-Tom Clancy, 7 years

“I ALWAYS look forward to Mondays and Wednesdays when I volunteer at the LEAD program. This is an amazing program!  It is so much fun to spend time with the clients and visit with the other volunteers. This is a very important program to the clients because most don’t have many other social-enrichment activities in their lives, and this program has allowed them to form friendships and have fun.  It is personally fulfilling to volunteer my time to this program.  I have had many blessings in my life, and this is a chance to ‘give back’”.  -Paul Smith, 4 years

“For more than nine years I’ve really enjoyed volunteering with the  Easter Seals Houston’s LEAD program… Working with everyone makes my day and week and year. I am blessed to have this opportunity to change lives for good and I get much more than what I put in. I am thankful for the chance to make a difference and have so much fun.” -Alyson Gershenson, 9 years

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Details:

– Mondays and/or Wednesdays

– 9am to 12pm: 12pm to 3pm; or all day 9am to 3pm

– Memorial area at two different churches: MDPC and MDUMC; occasional field trips to movies, mall, sporting events, etc.

– what is LEAD? Life-enriching program for adults with varying disabilities which meets twice a week. Activities include: dance, yoga, crafts, music, games, karaoke, and more!

– duties: help individuals with varying disabilities participate in activities scheduled by Program Coordinator; assist with meals (serving and feeding); activity set-up and clean up; ensure the safety of all participants; encourage independence and participation of participants; work as a team with other volunteers and Program Coordinator

– must be able to pass background check

–  must be compassionate and caring; willing to learn how to work with all individuals no matter level of disability

– Preference: Personal reference of reliable volunteer; member of one of the two affiliated churches (MDPC & MDUMC)

Ashley Nichols, Easter Seals Greater Houston,  Program Manager, Adult and Recreation Services

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Celebrating National Disability Employment Awareness Month

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Abner Medrano was referred to Commissioner Adrian Garcia’s 2019 Summer Internship Program in June. Abner interviewed with Ms. Yhari Jones, the Coordinator for the internship program, and other staff from Commissioner Garcia’s office. Abner and nine other interns were chosen for the program. They visited a Commissioner’s Court session and met all of the County Commissioners and the County Judge.

He completed the onboarding process and began working in the Human Resources Department on Wallisville Road on June 25th. Abner has a Certificate in Office Administration from Houston Community College and was placed in a job processing mileage checks, filing copies of documents in staff personnel files, updating personnel spread sheets, and checking and verifying online materials that were then added to staff files. Abner’s work schedule was 8:30am to 4:00pm, Monday to Friday.IMG_1435

With the end of the internship in mid-August, Abner now has an addition to his resume and several nice letters of reference from his supervisor and co-workers. Thank you to Commissioner Garcia and his staff for making this opportunity available to Abner and the other interns. This great annual program offers young persons the chance to experience real paid work and to add something to their resume that will make a difference in their future job search.

Again, thank you to Commissioner Garcia and Precinct 2 staff. Abner came to Easter Seals via Texas Workforce Solutions (DARS) in 2018.

Abner and our Transition Program staff have complete a number of online applications, which have resulted in six face to face interviews.  While none of the interviews have resulted in permanent employment, Abner has worked with the Houston Livestock and Rodeo Security Division for the past two years.  This new opportunity to work and gain further hands on experience with the Summer Internship for Harris County Precinct 2 was a great opportunity to demonstrate Abner’s office skills.  This will be added to his resume for further enhancement.

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Easter Seals Greater Houston provides transition services for youth ages 16-27 with autism and mental health conditions. Services include transition evaluation and planning, social skills training, family and community resources and goals which reflect the youth’s realizable aspirations in areas of education or work, peer supports, job placement, job coaching and supported employment. Learn more.

Robert Williams, Easter Seals Greater Houston, Transition Director 

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Parent Night Out

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After years of holding Respite Services’ Parent Night Out event at Gethsemane United Methodist Church in Bellaire (and inheriting the beloved Houston Area Respite Center or HARC), Easter Seals Houston needed to make a change due to upcoming renovations at the facility.  We made the move this past Friday night to our very own Easter Seals Greater Houston location at 4888 Loop Central Drive.  The exact location is inside our beloved Caroline School.  We will be holding the PNO program on Friday evenings from 6:30 P.M. to 10:30 P.M. unless otherwise noted (weather/holidays etc.). PNO

Our first night in the new location – we had an amazing time with our clients, the volunteers and staff and we all agree that it was a great success!

Parents Night Out is intended to provide Respite services for our caregivers, those who love and care for our clients’ day in and day out. It gives parents and guardians a small break from their normal duties to relax and have some down time.  This is also a treat for our clients, who look forward to having fun, interacting with new friends and getting out of their daily routines.  We are planning theme nights and a variety of activities make PNO even more fun and engaging!

As the Respite Family Coordinator & the Parents Night out Program Coordinator, I am beyond excited to see what our future nights hold. At Easter Seals we understand the necessary support you need as a caregiver and if this is what we can offer then I can only strive to make it the best.

PNO.jpgIf you or anyone you know who is active, has a positive attitude, a big heart and would like to volunteer, please reach out to me at arico@eastersealshouston.org for more information on our program. Please reach out if you are interested in enrolling as well.

“The functions of intellect are insufficient without courage, love, friendship, compassion and empathy.” -Dean Koontz

Adriana Rico, Easter Seals Greater Houston, Respite Family Coordinator

*PNO is a Friday night out-of-home Respite program currently held in two locations around the Houston area.  Children, teens, and young adults with disabilities are welcome to come and have an out-of-home opportunity to socialize in a safe and fun environment.  Depending on age and activity level, one of the two locations can be recommended for appropriate care. Application and reservations must be submitted prior to attendance.

 

 

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School is in Session

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It’s been a great three weeks back in session at The Caroline School at Easter Seals for new and current students alike as well as teachers!

We have enjoyed getting back to our schedule and seeing old friends, like Mr. Bernie, the pet therapy dog, as well as meeting new friends and teachers. In Classroom One we welcomed Mrs. Tiana, Violet, and Paxton and in Classroom Two we added Clarke!

Our teachers were excited to use the new OATECA assessment and curriculum thanks to Anthony and Elizabeth DeLuca. This new curriculum measures goals and objectives that are created from the curriculum to foster each student’s learning experience.  tcs6

What better way to get to know each other than to ask questions and share experiences? Classroom Two did this by creating a collective Summer Adventures book. Students used communication devices, voices, and assistive technology to share pictures, text, and even color preferences.

All students at The Caroline School have access to utilize high tech assistive technology devices such as iPads and Apple TV’s to low tech devices like the Big Mac through Easter Seals BridgingApps, award winning smart technology lab and program. Teachers and staff implement assistive technology for communication, academic goals, and if necessary as a positive reinforcement on a daily basis and as appropriate for each child.

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We would love to add new friends to our book! To learn more visit CarolineSchool.org

Tabitha Hernandez, Caroline School Director, Easter Seals Greater Houston

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LEADing with the Dogs

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“Each Monday and Wednesday are a certain kind of special to me, as I get to hang out with our LEAD (Life Enrichment for Adults with Disabilities) Adult Programs at Easter Seals Greater Houston. We have two programs based on age: 18 – 30-year-olds and 30+-year-olds. In the morning, we have 20 young adults who get together to socialize, dance, craft, exercise, and sing. Is there a better way to start your morning? I am lucky enough to get to watch these newly graduated young adults find themselves in their community. We intentionally include outside Zumba and yoga teachers, so our adults have more opportunities to interact with new faces and make new friends. Once a month, we are beginning to include a therapy dog group called Believe in Dog Therapy. Boy oh boy, was I unprepared for the giggles, new conversations and bonding opportunities that these dogs gave to our young adults last month. These dogs provided chances for stress-free conversations, sensory time with their fur and licks, as well as practicing turn-taking and gentle touches, all of which our adults can struggle with on a daily basis. This past week, during dog therapy, we re-cycled old t-shirts and jeans to make dog toys for a local shelter called Houston Pets Alive. Again, how lucky am I? Houston Pets Alive is pretty excited too. Stay tuned for more pics of the group making the toys and donating them!

If you want to join in on the fun by volunteering with us, please contact me: Ashley Nichols – ANichols@eastersealshouston.org

Believe in Dog Therapy’s Website: https://believeindogtherapy.com/

Ashley Nichols, Program CoordinatorEaster Seals Greater Houston

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