A – to – Zephyr!

Congratulations to Zephyr who officially “graduated” from the Easter Seals Greater Houston Early Childhood Intervention Program on Friday August 28th!  Zephyr has been working hard in Speech Therapy with Jennifer Miller as his Speech-Language Pathologist and with his mom.

Zephyr enjoying a virtual Early Childhood Intervention session with his mom and speech-language pathologist

The following was written by Zephyr’s mom, Scarlett.

Zephyr was not verbally communicating much when he turned 12 months old. By our 18th month check-up with our pediatrician, it was recommended we get in touch with Early Childhood Intervention services. With the help of Jennifer, our assigned speech-language pathologist, and Alicia, Easter Seals Greater Houston’s service coordinator, we were able to get Zephyr back on track to his developmental stage just after his 2nd birthday. In these short months, I have watched his exponential growth in speech and it could not have been possible without the help and dedication of the Easter Seals ECI team with twice a month sessions even with COVID-19, although services needed to be virtual. The bond we have formed has been amazing, not only did my son looked forward to these meetings but so did I. I know they are only looking out for our well-being and the impact they have made in our lives will always be remembered and appreciated!

Thank you!

Scarlett P.

Easter Seals Greater Houston's speech-language pathologist Jennifer during a session with Zephyr

Easter Seals Greater Houston’s ECI Program is still providing all services via tele-therapy, including evaluations. Call Alicia at 713.838.9050 ext. 385 to schedule a free evaluation and to check on your child’s milestones.

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The Power of Communication

CTP 2nd blog Anna pic

For some children and adults having a voice to communicate comes from an augmentative and alternative communication option. A way to communicate.

Anna was referred to Easter SealsChildren’s Therapy Program to get specialized services to learn to use a high-tech communication device so that she can communicate her own thoughts to her family and friends. She uses a wheelchair for mobility and has a lot of difficulty controlling her motor movements including her breath support and muscles for speech. The therapists have been trying different communication devices that let her “touch” the screen with her eyes. In addition to her speech therapist, Anna works with physical and occupational therapists to strengthen her core, stretch her arms and legs, and relaxation techniques. All of this helps control her posture and head control so that she can successfully activate her communication device.

Anna has a great sense of humor and is really motivated to get her mom or therapists to laugh. She has been practicing telling jokes and silly stories. It has been great getting to know the “real” Anna now that she is able to show us how much she has to say. Her mom has been very excited to get to know Anna’s favorite things and hearing her opinions.

Due to the success she has had in her weekly sessions, Anna’s school is working with her family to provide additional supports for Anna to use her device at school and in the community. She is also starting a standing program to help her regain strength and function, help with transfers, and improve breathing and other quality of life measures.

Daryn Ofczarzak, Easter Seals Greater Houston, Children’s Therapy, BridgingApps

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The Triumph of a Family Meal

The following was written by Doris whose son, Edgar, participates in Easter Seals Greater Houston’s Children’s Therapy Program.

“We wanted to have a family meal where everyone was sharing a nice homemade meal. Sounds pretty easy, but it wasn’t. We sought out a food therapy program to help with Edgar’s limited diet, his overeating tendencies, and his textural sensibilities. When Easter Seals Greater Houston started offering food therapy, we quickly signed Edgar up for it because there would be no force feeding involved, a big plus for my sweet sensitive child!

I have noticed that after starting the food therapy program with Alysia, Edgar has gone from eating a handful of foods to at least trying out different foods I never thought would be possible. I never expected results in such a short amount of time. Lettuce, strawberries, and even hamburger meat? Those foods seemed like a long shot…a goal for the long run. Yet here we are, months into the food therapy program and my child is opening up! Suddenly, sharing the same nice homemade meal with the family doesn’t seem as far-fetched as I had imagined last year!

I can honestly say that the food therapy in combination with other therapies including his occupational therapy with Alysia, Speech Therapy with Miaya, Ingrid with Music, his kindergarten teacher, his school assigned case worker, and even his school principal have all helped propel my son forward. Alysia, I can’t thank you enough! Your creativity and your patience with Edgar has shown in many areas and now with Food therapy, you have given us a gift our family will always cherish.

Food is family and love!”

-Doris, Children’s Therapy Program Parent

Would you like to know more about how Easter Seals Greater Houston’s Children’s Therapy Program? We have incredible resources including speech, occupational and physical therapy. Learn more today.

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The Wonders of Early Childhood Intervention

To the Easter Seals ECI Infant Program – the Woodlands team. Way to go Jeannie, Lisa, and Nicola!

Our experience with Easter Seals Early Childhood Intervention Program was a very positive one. From the very beginning (our daycare suggested we reach out when my son was about 11 months old). little boyAustin’s initial evaluation was a lot to take in, but they explained everything they were doing (and more importantly, WHY), and what the process would look like to begin services and what we should expect (this all before we ever had a diagnosis too)… over the past two years, I have relied heavily on Jeannie and Lisa’s guidance on best practices for us to be using with Austin at home, helpful toys/exercises/etc., and celebrated almost every milestone with us along the way. Easter Seals ECI Staff have been more than flexible with my often hectic work schedule (even when I sometimes forget to call and let them know Austin wouldn’t be at daycare for whatever doc appointment/illness/trip 🤦🏻‍♀️), and I loved getting feedback/photos/progress updates from Lisa after Occupational Therapy sessions. I, of course, wish they could have worked with Austin even more than what was available, but ECI has provided an incredible foundation for Austin’s development and future success. Thank you doesn’t seem like enough in this case and I’m quite sad that it’s come to an end.

Austins Mom – Easter Seals ECI Client

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Connecting Campers

The following was written by Easter Seals Greater Houston Camp Program Director.

This July, we hosted two weeks of Virtual Camp! This program was open to all our returning and previously registered campers from both Camp Smiles and Camp Buckaroo. Campers were able to customize their “camp box,” meaning they got to pick out all the crafts, classes, and activities they wanted to participate in! For two weeks, we met every day over Zoom to complete the camp box activities we had delivered to their houses. We had so many smiles and laughs while completing new activities!

A lot of our campers’ favorite activity was the talent show! We had so many campers show off their unique talents and awesome skills. Our campers were incredibly supportive of each other, and cheered on their friends as they performed their act. Many of these campers had never met in person before this week; some were completely new to Easter Seals Great Houston’s camps, some had attended different weeks of Camp Buckaroo, and some had only previously attended Camp Smiles. It was heart-warming to see how friendly and supportive these campers were after just knowing each other for one week! I can’t wait for them to meet in-person next year.

Virtual Camp was very different from our usual summer camps. Moving things online limited our activity options and ways we could interact, but I truly feel that the atmosphere of camp was still there. For those two weeks, I was greeted with smiling faces and campers that were ready to start their day with energizers. Our days at camp were an opportunity for these campers to socialize with their camp friends and staff; they were able to feel included and encouraged by individuals sharing the same challenges as them. With the pandemic continuing to limit social interaction, it’s important for these kids to have a place to belong. Easter Seals will continue to provide programs like this to our campers throughout the fall!

Kenzie Richard
Camp Program Manager

Learn more about Easter Seals Greater Houston’s Camp Programs, hosted in-person and virtually.

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Coping Strategy to Passion

Lou is a Veteran who has been working on reducing chronic stress in his life with Easter Seals Greater Houston’s Service Member, Veteran and Military-Connected Families Program.  After making lots of progress in therapy, COVID-19 presented new challenges and removed some of his coping strategies.  He was no longer able to attend therapeutic horsemanship at Reigning Strength, or volunteer to keep himself meaningfully occupied.  Visits with neighbors and friends were suspended during the stay-at-home orders. 

During a telehealth session with his psychologist, Amy Harkins, Ph.D. from Easter Seals Greater Houston, Lou decided on a plan to stop worry by snapping a few photos with his old camera.  After one week, he reported that photography was as good for his state of mind as breathing exercises, but not as good as spending time with his favorite horse, Iceman.  With photography, he learned he can shut out other thoughts and he said “it calms me down.”  He found himself surprised that he could be so interested looking at a bug on a rose, something that he normally would not have noticed.  Photography reminds him that there are other things happening in the world besides his own concerns and some of those things are “pretty darn good.”  Lou is thinking about using photography as a bridge back to older hobbies of painting and drawing.  When asked what he sees when he looks out the window, he explained “I used to only see clouds.  Now I am seeing the sun poking through those clouds.”

Easter Seals Greater Houston proudly serves Veterans, Service Members and Military-Connected Families with a wide variety of programs and resources. Learn more.

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Growth During the Pandemic

Hello, my name is Teresa G. I attend Easter Seals Greater Houston’s LEAD Adult Program weekly throughout the year. Since COVID, we have been meeting online through Zoom. Here are a few reasons why I like to attend the virtual programs:  I like the LEAD virtual program for various reasons, but perhaps the most important reason is it allows me to share my life experience as a person living with a disability with other LEAD Adult Program participants.  The participants that attend the LEAD Adult Program are all at different stages in life.  As a long time member of the LEAD Adult Program I can share my ideas and wisdom with my LEAD community.

During this COVID experience, the LEAD virtual program has provided members with a sense of normalcy and continuity which is very much needed during this uncertain time.  An added blessing to having the LEAD Adult Program go online is that the shy quiet members of the LEAD Adult Program have discovered they have a voice.  They have been working extremely hard to overcome their shyness and speech difficulties to be heard over Zoom.  The improved communication and social skills among all the LEAD members has been a beautiful thing to witness.

I have also noticed LEAD members becoming more comfortable with using technology across other forums such as Facebook and Messenger.  Easter Seals Greater Houston is important because it has programs that are unique for adults with disabilities.  The LEAD Adult Program is unique because it encourages peer groups to come up with creative solutions to life problems.  The facilitators and volunteers at Easter Seals Greater Houston work extremely hard to foster a sense of independence among its members. They provide LEAD members with tools and supplies such as event planners, access to information, computer apps, and ways to handle emergency procedures when we socialize as individuals or in groups independently outside of Easter Seals.  Programs such as LEAD and BridgingApps are unique to Easter Seals Greater Houston and that is why I think Easter Seals Greater Houston is an important part of the larger community.

Signed,
Teresa G.
Easter Seals Greater Houston LEAD Participant

Learn more about our LEAD Adult Program and other services for adults with disabilities.

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Supporting Our Troops Here at Home

My name is Bryan Cream and I am a 100% Disabled Veteran of the U.S Army. I wanted to write and thank Easter Seals Greater Houston and all of their donors that help people like me. I know it’s cliché, but just saying thank you is not even close to being adequate. 

During the last 6 months my family has experienced several high stress situations: My father had a heart attack that they described as a “widow maker”; my mother hasn’t been able to walk for 6 months and through several doctors and tests it was discovered she had a mass on her spine and brain; my brother was diagnosed with Coronavirus and was in the hospital for over a week; my wife (who was told she was not going to be able to have children) found out she was pregnant (currently 17 weeks) and that is a huge blessing but also comes with many stresses; and my wife has lost many hours of work as well as being out of work for two weeks waiting for COVID-19 results.

I say all of this because I want to point out what Easter Seals Greater Houston and donors like you have helped me through. The financial assistance has allowed us to pay our mortgage and feel secure, even with everything happening around us. For a long time I have only seen the present and my circumstances for what they are. I still am reminded of the stress every day, but Easter Seals and donors like you have given me and my family a glimpse to a bright future. 

On top of everything else, I have been lucky enough to be able to receive training to train my dog Lucie to be a Service Dog. The training and support from Jennifer Wright has been nothing less than a blessing to my family and me. I have never seen anyone or any organization go to the lengths of helping someone the way Easter Seals and Dr. Wright have. I hope everyone that donates to Easter Seals realizes the impact they are having on individuals’ lives. It’s still an ongoing battle, but with all the support I know I will be able to get through it and one day be able to give back the way you do.

Thank you!

Bryan Cream

Easter Seals Greater Houston is proud to provide Service Members, Veterans and Military-Veterans with a wide variety of services including mental health, service dogs, financial coaching and more. Click here to support these crucial services.

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The Power of a Sticky Note

Sitting here the day before my 25th anniversary of working for Easter Seals Greater Houston and I am both amazed and bewildered at the same time.

…Amazed. Amazed because of our community of volunteers, donors, staff, foundations, corporate sponsors and partners and the amazing feat we just accomplished in the midst of a pandemic with our Walk With Me Event.

Bewildered…because of #StayAtHome, the Economy and oil and gas, hurricane season, protests, diversity, questions of inclusion, and yes even the murder hornets!

I think the two go hand in hand…at least in my world.  I think I am a sticky note! I have “stuck with” Easter Seals Greater Houston through thick and thin. I started when we had 30 employees, 3 maybe 4 programs, several small but meaningful events and a 1MM dollar budget.  We have evolved over the years into a 25MM dollar budget, more than 240 employees, 12 plus programs and 1 historic fundraiser called Walk With Me that just grossed over $776,000. You would think we are breathing a sigh of relief.  No, we will always be holding our breath.

In my 25 years, I truly thought that I had seen it all.  The fall of Enron (a lesson for all nonprofit organizations in Houston), Tropical Storm Alison, some great booms, a lot of busts, Katrina, Rita, Ike, Memorial Day Flood and every one thereafter, Harvey, Imelda, government budget cuts (over and over again to early intervention, Medicaid), all of which have had us on a steady learning curve.  We served the forgotten and the UN-able when it originally came to evacuation. We have a handle on that and we definitely have it down when it comes to emergency assistance.  Thankfully, we have developed some incredible partnerships and collaborations.  They are sticky notes too.  We have learned how to best serve the most vulnerable since we began our work in 1947…whew…then, COVID19, a completely new historic learning curve.

Thankfully, technology has evolved to the point where we can continue to do our work and our mission…virtual or not. Our staff and clients have always been aware of the ways in which technology can assist our clients. Which leads me to reflect on diversity, inclusion, and disability. I have read two extremely pertinent quotes in the last few days. The first – “Work from home was never a privilege for people with disabilities.” Think about that one for a hot minute. And, the second – “We all have a part in creating a more equal and just world.” 

When I started the percentage of donations supporting disability and mental health probably wasn’t even calculated because it really didn’t figure into the equation. Now we know, TODAY less than 5% of charitable giving is directed to disability.  Awareness of disabilities today is vast compared to 1995 in large part due to the increased understanding of the autism spectrum and because of social media.  We have always been proud of those that “stuck with us” and those numbers are thankfully much larger now. More sticky notes. Children I have watched grow up volunteering who are now going into disability law, therapeutic and social work. Even more of them, regardless of where they go, carry us in their hearts.  Carrying the message of diversity (and yes, disability fits in there) and inclusion wherever they go, which of course, brings us to today. AND, the companies – our sponsors and partners – that know that disability is a part of the diversity and inclusion conversation.  Employee Resource Groups, Corporate Social Responsibility – used to only be words – now they are actions.  TODAY I truly believe they will be even stronger actions.  Actions by all of us–individuals, parents, families, companies, volunteer groups, and schools.  

There you go. All in all a pad of sticky notes.  Some can lose their stickiness but we keep them maybe use a little tape to rearrange, some fall off to never be applied again, some stay on our desks forever and we don’t even see them, some have water stains, some are wrinkled or torn, and they are a beautiful variety of colors and sizes. Regardless of where you fall as a sticky note – thank you for being one of ours.  The list is long of thanks to our staff, volunteers, donors, corporations, walkers, caregivers, clients, collaborative partners, foundations. I hope in reading this you recognize yourself. 

The picture here is of Robert Ryan, one of our Ambassadors of Walk With Me…Virtually. He just graduated on to public school from the Caroline School! I think this picture says it all. You don’t have to stick with us, but we are so grateful that you do.  For that right now in this community in an extraordinary time, we cannot thank you enough. 

Huge thanks to our incredible Walk With Me Virtually Sponsors and PartnersProsperity Bank and their staff, WithMerci Foundation, Alvarez and Marsal, Robert & Janice McNair Foundation, TEAM Inc., Texas Children’s Hospital, and more for sticking right there with us!

Kelly Klein
Development Director
Easter Seals Greater Houston

Click here to learn how YOU can be a sticky note for Easter Seals Greater Houston.

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“I Love You” – Music to Mom’s Ears

The following success stories were shared by parents of our Early Childhood Intervention Infant Development Program.

Thanks to Easter Seals Greater Houston’s Early Childhood Intervention Program (ECI), my son, Josue, recently started saying his first words and that means so much to our family! Thanks to the wonderful therapists for helping parents to understand our children’s needs and showing us the ways that we can help even outside of therapy sessions.  My son now tells me he loves me and those words are everything to me.   – Josue’s Mom


Benjamin and Ciara are a true success story with an early start of life. Coming into the world on 4/17/2018 at 27 weeks, Ciara weighing 1.7 pounds. and Benjamin, 1.3 pounds. They had their challenges while in the hospital, but were finally released 7 months later. The family would need a team of specialists to assist them with the care of the twins and so they began ECI services with Easter Seals Greater Houston in April of 2019. A team made up of Physical, Occupational, Nutrition, Specialist Skills, Speech therapy, Nursing staff, and lots of family came together to be their network of support. The twins are now walking and have successfully graduated from Physical therapy services. The twins are still being fed by G-Tube and working towards learning how to orally fed. The team is still working together on their current goals to get them on their developmental level. The family is optimistic about what the future holds for their babies!

Use slider below to see how Benjamin and Ciara have grown!

It has now been four months of #StayAtHome.  That is around the same amount of time your baby/toddler reaches new milestones. Are you keeping a checklist? Are you watching for the next great milestone reached?  Your baby, who might have been five months at the start of #StayAtHome, now at nine months should be standing while holding on, can get into sitting position, sits without support, pulls to stand and crawls.  

Learn more about our Make The First Five Count Campaign and how to ensure your child is meeting their milestones.

Easter Seals Greater Houston’s ECI Program is still providing all services via tele-therapy including evaluations. Call Alicia at 713.838.9050 ext. 385 to schedule a free evaluation and to check on your child’s milestones.

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