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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Thriving for a Better Life After an Unexpected Storm.

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Claudia and her family were heavily impacted by Hurricane Harvey, and then to make matters worse, her husband unexpectedly left the family after the hurricane.  Due to these catastrophic events, Claudia fell behind on bills, and her family’s mental health started taking a steep decline.  She learned about Easter SealsHarvey Program from a neighbor, and she contacted our case managers for rental assistance.  Claudia received direct client assistance funding to cover rent, utilities, and basic needs- but moreover, she received support, kindness, and help with finding resources from her case manager.  Claudia got enrolled in the Food Scholarship Program and is receiving ongoing one-on-one financial coaching.  These are supports that have helped Claudia and her family get back on their feet, and to a place where they are feeling a little more in control again.  As of her most recent financial coaching session, Claudia reported that things are better- she is currently working full time, receiving healthy food twice a month, and she is seeing a positive change in children’s behavior.  She says her children are smiling more and able to focus on the things they need to focus on, for example- getting ready for school- and not worrying about what food they are going to eat that night.  Claudia is thankful for Easter Seals Greater Houston and eager to learn more from financial coaching.

 

Jenny Martinez, Easter Seals Greater Houston, Housing and Thrive Connection Houston

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Super Stegemann Sister Volunteer for 17 years Together

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Shelby
Hello! My name is Shelby and I am a graduate student in a physical therapy program at the University of New England. I have been volunteering at ESGH  Camp Smiles for seven wonderful years. I love camp because it is truly a place that looks past disability and provides an awesome experience for some really cool kids. One of my favorite memories was with my camper Claire, who has a beloved stuffed Olaf (the snowman from Frozen). The whole week we were together, we brainstormed ways to include Olaf in all the activities, from dressing him up for the dance to having him shoot an arrow in archery! Every summer at camp is a great experience and I am so grateful for the wonderful friends and awesome memories I’ve made along the way.

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Sierra
Hello! My name is Sierra Stegemann. I am a masters student at the University of Texas at San Antonio studying to become a Board Certified Behavior Analyst. I have been volunteering with Camp Smiles for six wonderful years. I have gotten to be a cabin leader, work as the Easter Seals intern, and have an amazing opportunity to be the counselor to my camper, Jackson, for the past three years. Camp is something that I look forward to all year long! My favorite part of camp has been getting to see my Jackson grow and building an awesome friendship with him. This past summer was especially important to me. Jackson is nonverbal and many people can be intimidated by him and are not sure how to interact with us, especially since we are always on the go! This summer our cabin really came together and learned different ways to communicate with him and created an inclusive environment that we hadn’t always had in years past. My favorite memory is everyone in the cabin learning his song that always made him smile and having a group jam session. Memories like that keep me returning to camp! It is always a nice break from the hustle and bustle of the “real world” and it will forever be my happy place.

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Abby
Hello all! My name is Shay. For the last 3 years, Camp Smiles has been the highlight of my summer. I was first introduced to this amazing camp by my 2 older sisters, Shelby and Sierra. My first year, I was asked to come to camp the day before it was going to start. I was nervous about the last-minute request, but I agreed to join my sisters for what they promised would be a life-changing week. And they were right! Every year at Smiles is special. This summer was special to me because I had the pleasure of being the counselor to my pal, Nathan, who I have known for 3 years. It was wonderful to be a part of his first camp adventure- from seeing him go canoeing and fishing for the first time, to being covered in face paint laughing and cheering at the pep rally. My favorite thing about Camp Smiles is the community. I always say that I wish the real world were more like camp- inclusive, judgment-free, and full of smiles!

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Emma
My name is Emma and I have volunteered at Camp Smiles for two years. My sisters have been volunteering at camp for some time now and I am so happy that I get to experience it with them. My favorite thing about camp is the atmosphere. Everyone is always so happy to be there and everyone is there for the same purpose: to have a great time. Camp is the one place I can be myself and know that nobody will judge me, and I know the campers feel the same way. I have been a counselor to Zoë for the past two summers and it has been awesome to witness her growth from the first summer I was her counselor to this summer. She went from barely speaking to me to speaking loud and clear, and it was amazing to see that transition in her. One of my favorite camp memories was after this year’s graduation ceremony. Zoë and I were both very emotional because she was graduating, but after I gave my speech, Zoë said my name for the first time and told me that I was her best friend. I feel so blessed to have had the opportunity to be at camp for 2 years, and I can’t wait for the many years to come.

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Abby, Emma, Sierra, and Shelby: Easter Seals Greater Houston, Camp Smiles Volunteers

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Have You Ever Heard of “Ear Reading”?

Last August, I was excited to become the Program Coordinator for BridgingApps, one of the many programs of Easter Seals Greater Houston.  Before joining the BridgingApps team, I worked as a special education teacher in a variety of classrooms including resource, co-teach, inclusion, and adaptive behavior settings.  As a former special education teacher, helping students with disabilities and their families remains close to my heart.  Being a part of the BridgingApps team has allowed me to find and share creative ways of using technology to improve all students’ learning opportunities with my fellow educators. AmyLou_Podcast_mode

As school starts up again, I wanted to share a bit about a term you may have heard lately- “Ear Reading”.

What in the world is “ear reading”?  You have probably done it, but did not realize or know how helpful it can be for people of all abilities.  Remember reading aloud as a child?  Ever listen to an audiobook?  Educators used to be taught that all children have to learn to “eye read” and maybe even inadvertently given the impression that students who were unable to do so weren’t as smart as their peers. boy with book

Dyslexia specialists and interventionists, however, have known otherwise for years!

According to their website, the International Dyslexia Association defines ear reading as a process where “rather than the written words being taken in through the eyes and processed in the brain, the verbal words are heard through the ears and then processed in the brain.”

So, how can this help in the classroom and what does it have to do with technology?  I have seen first-hand the positive effects that read-alouds have on comprehension, predicting, and many other necessary reading skills.  Technology has allowed us to have the power to essentially provide an appropriate level read-aloud for every child in the class (or at least for the number of electronic devices- tablets, laptops, etc. available in the classroom).  It also allows those students who may not have been able to fully participate in a group discussion of a book due to their lower reading level to listen to that book and have meaningful discussions about it.

Listen to the Podcast here!

Hoopla Podcast Feature

Below are a few of the apps for ear reading that you can find in our app search tool at https://search.bridgingapps.org/dashboard:

Audiobooks.com (free app for iOs and Android, free trial period and then $14.95 per month- 1 book per month)
Kids A to Z – free to download, but requires a subscription to use
Audible – free to download, but requires a subscription to listen to books

Sign in using library card:
Hoopla
Overdrive
Libby, by Overdrive

Services that your students might be eligible dependent on their diagnosis:
BARD Mobile (eligible patrons of the NLS- National Library Service, can borrow audio and braille books to use along with a braille reader on an iPad)
Bookshare:  Web-based service that is free for US students with qualifying diagnoses and offered as a subscription for others.
Voice Dream Reader app can be used to access Bookshare service

The apps below allow users to take pictures of books, documents, etc. using their device and then have it read to them:
Avaz Reader – currently $29.99 to download the app
Speechify – free

Ear Reading

Amy Fuchs, Easter Seals Greater HoustonBridgingApps Program Coordinator

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