Category Archives: Latest News

Free Classes Improving Credit, Savings, and Understanding of the Housing Market

Single parent client, Ms. Robinson, enrolled in Easter Seals Greater Houston’s financial coaching and housing coaching classes two years ago. Ms. Robinson’s goal was to improve her credit score and increase her savings to purchase her first home for her family. To help achieve her goals, Ms. Robinson attended Easter Seals Greater Houston’s Financial Education Classes and Homebuyers Education Classes. Since working with Ms. Robinson, she has begun managing her money, increased her savings, and improved her credit score. Achieving her goals has put Ms. Robinson on the path to homeownership. Currently, Ms. Robinson is searching for her dream home and has a goal to purchase her first home by next year!

Are you thinking of purchasing your first home? Do you have questions about whether this is the best time to purchase your first home? If so, you are not alone. In this post-COVID/competitive market, you may notice that the interest rates are steadily increasing and/or people are putting multiple offers on homes. During this time, purchasing your first home may be scary, but we have a great team here at Easter Seals Greater Houston who are ready to walk with you through this process. Many of our families, like Ms. Robinson, have overcome these challenges by attending our Homebuyer’s Education Classes, and receiving financial coaching and housing coaching. Our Homebuyer’s Education Classes give families an opportunity to learn more about the home buying process, down payment assistance programs, and other tips & tools on how to overcome the challenges that we are facing today!

Learn more about our free Financial Education and Homebuyer Education Services! Special thanks to our partners Capital One, Freddie Mac Foundation, Texas Financial Education Endowment, and United Way THRIVE for making these programs possible!

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Service, Time, Patience, Kindness…Everything

Last year, Easter Seals Greater Houston’s Early Childhood Intervention (ECI) team provided 44,360 hours of therapy, early intervention, nutrition, and case management services. Our incredible team of specialists provided these transformative services to 6,565 children ages 0-3 who have developmental delays, medical diagnoses, disabilities, or atypical behaviors. Below is the testimony from a mother of two ECI clients:

“First of all, I want to say thank you for everything you all have done for my family. Easter Seals Greater Houston’s Early Childhood Intervention Program has helped so much and I have learned so much with my kids. Aliza and Sara are the best, they helped me with my oldest son, Luis, who is now 5. Sara was his therapist and she was wonderful, always helpful, and she gave me the best tips to help Luis. Now they are helping me with my second son, Adrian, and let me tell you I’m grateful for Sara and Aliza. Adrian has had a big journey this year with the possibility of autism, sensory issues, and more. Both ECI team members help me know how to check on Adrian, how to work with him, and are helping me to understand the diagnoses. I am truly thankful for their help and advice because without it I would have gone crazy not knowing what to do. Adrian and I love the Zoom meetings we had we both learn a lot. Sara and Aliza also help me get Adrian therapy through the school district. Now Adrian is turning 3 in of couples days and is graduating from ECI. We sure will miss yall! Once again, thank you for everything your service, time, patience, kindness…everything. 

Sincerely,

Joana”

The time from birth to age three is critical in your child’s physical and cognitive development.  To help make sure your baby is reaching their developmental milestones, you can complete this free Ages & Stages Questionnaire or check with your pediatrician if you have concerns. Learn more about Easter Seals Greater Houston’s Early Childhood Intervention Program!

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Meet the 2022 Camp Interns!

The camps put on by Easter Seals Greater Houston impact hundreds of kids, teens, and young adults with disabilities every year. Each summer, interns join the Easter Seals Greater Houston Camp Program team and learn all the behind-the-scenes planning and coordination it takes to put on our fun and accessible camps. Our awesome interns play an important role in putting on Camp Buckaroo and Camp Smiles. This year one of our internships was made possible with the financial grant received from ExxonMobil Foundation Community Summer Jobs Program (CSJP). Thanks to the ExxonMobil Foundation CSJP for helping make our camps a place of inclusion, accessibility, and fun! Meet Easter Seals Greater Houston‘s 2022 Camp Interns!

My name is Alison von Haefen, I am 19 years old and a rising sophomore at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, NY. I am from Houston and attended Memorial Senior High School! At college, I am studying Communications with a double concentration in Public Relations and Advertising. I am involved in my college’s Best Buddies program which is sort of like Camp Buckaroo where we partner with a local organization that helps adults with intellectual disabilities and we do weekend activities on campus that are SUPER FUN! This will actually be my 3rd year with Easter Seals Greater Houston. In the past, I did multiple weeks of Buckaroo and one session of Camp MOST. I heard about Easter Seals Greater Houston and Camp Buckaroo through my amazing mom who previously worked for United Way of Greater Houston. I had worked in my high school’s special education classrooms and loved it, so she recommended that I use my summer free time wisely and volunteer for Easter Seals Greater Houston at Camp Buckaroo! I have thoroughly enjoyed my past years volunteering at camp and am so excited to work with Kenzie, Ross, and my fellow intern Jordan this summer!

My name is Jordan Mahoney, and I am one of the 2022 Camps Interns. I am 18 years old, from Houston, Texas, where I was born and raised. In the Fall of 2022, I will be attending Baylor University as a freshman studying Pre-Nursing.  I have previously been a volunteer for Camp Smiles for 2019 and 2021 (I wish for 2020, but y’all know, COVID). I have adored my time volunteering with Easter Seals Greater Houston, and I was so thrilled to be able to come back as a Camp Intern. When I found out about this opportunity, I had tears streaming down my face because I was so excited to come back! You can ask my friends and family; I am always talking about Easter Seals Greater Houston and Camp Smiles and all of the opportunities they provide for people with disabilities and volunteers. Having been a volunteer, I always tell others about how impactful volunteering with camp is! I am incredibly excited to meet all of the kids and volunteers and find ways I can be the most helpful to the camp experience. Watching the strength that all the campers have is so inspiring. It is incredible to watch them conquer obstacles in real time while gaining independence. I am looking forward to kicking off this summer with Kenzie, Alison, and Ross! 

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Our Special Education Moments

Easter Seals Greater Houston loves our wonderful Caroline School teaching team and enjoyed celebrating them during Teacher Appreciation Week. Check out their Special Education moments:

Ms. Sandra’s SpEd moment:
“The day I knew I made the right decision working in Special Education was when my student (who suffered from vision challenges, was unable to verbally communicate or use his body – and had every right to be frustrated and angry) rolled into my classroom, scanned the area, locked eyes with me and smiled. That half-smile and look in his eyes gave me all the communication I needed to know that he was happy to be with me and that my class brought him joy. I knew then that Special Education was where I wanted to be.”
Sandra Guerra joined The Caroline School in 2018 and has since brought The Caroline School students immense joy and specialized teaching every day.

Ms. Tiana’s SpEd moment:
“Stepping into the SpEd community coupled with the medical needs of our students was very scary at first, however, it did not take me long to realize this is exactly where I needed to be… I will never forget the moment I knew I could be the difference between the disability and the ability! I was working with one of the younger students (one that is chair bound, non-verbal, only has control of his eyes, and is absolutely dependent on my support). He was recently provided with an eye-gaze device for communication. I took the time to support him in his new device and he was able to start answering questions by simply using his eyes for responses!”
Tiana Hine joined The Caroline School in 2019 and has since brought The Caroline School students’ zest for communication!

Ms. Tabitha’s SpEd moment:
“I realized I wanted to work with the SpEd population when I was 19 years old. I was a college kid with a work-study job teaching at a preschool. I had never taught before but was paired with an ESL preschooler who never spoke. After many challenging afternoons, I finally asked my site coordinator why she would pair me with someone who I clearly didn’t know how to teach. She observed our interactions many times and assured me that we were the perfect fit. That she chose me to be her teacher because she knew I could reach her because of my sister with disabilities. A week later, we were sitting in Circle Time reviewing letters and my student sporadically yelled out, “T is for Tiffany!” We had been working on her name all semester and it was the first time she spoke in a group.” I changed my major the next day and never looked back.”
Tabitha Hernandez joined The Caroline School in 2016 as a teacher and program director. She has since brought TCS teachers and students, patience, and leadership every day.

Ms. Beatris’ SpEd moment:
“My most impactful SpEd moment was the first time I successfully taught a lesson to a student with a full visual impairment. At first, I was hesitant and didn’t know how to teach him, but after some training, practice, and relationship development, I could see a difference! He smiled when we worked together and started showing me that he was able to learn different materials based on touch. This amazed me and brought such joy!”
Beatris Zubieta joined The Caroline School in 2020 and has since brought The Caroline School teachers and students, smiles and support every day. 

Thank you, Ms. Sandra, Ms. Tiana, Ms. Tabitha, and Ms. Beatris– We love you! The Caroline School provides unique educational services to meet the physical, social and cognitive needs of individuals ages 0-21 with multiple disabilities, including those who have additional medical needs. Learn more about Easter Seals Greater Houston’s The Caroline School at CarolineSchool.org!

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A Village of Heroes

The following is a letter written from a parent of an Early Childhood Intervention client to the director of the Easter Seals Greater Houston program.

“Good afternoon Ms. Dena Day, 

Hope all is well. It’s been a while since I last emailed you about the phenomenal work this agency has continued to bring to our family. The Early Childhood Intervention Program (ECI) under Easter Seals Greater Houston has so many diamonds that need to be highlighted over and over. Roshanda, Melissa, Thein, Michelle, and Marlene have been consistent with their work which showed our family how dedicated they are to their families. Individually and as a team, we witness their extraordinary work ethic every day that Za’karri receives services. This group of therapists and a nutritionist has stood by the Easter Seals‘ mission which is to “provide exceptional services to ensure that all people with disabilities and their families have equal opportunities to live, learn, work and play in their communities” Thank you Easter Seals Greater Houston for lending our family these delightful caring professionals to represent your agency and to help Za’karri thrive for success. Many of the therapists and the nutritionist have been incorporated into our family life since Za’karri was 5-month-old. 

Za’karri will be turning 3 years old this month. Writing this letter has made me very emotional. Sadly, our family’s time with ECI is coming to a close. We as humans face many changes in life and they are not always bad, this end will help us embark with all of the tools the therapists provided to us throughout the years. Za’karri has been seeing 3 therapists every 2 to 3 weeks and 1 Nutritionist monthly since 2019. Countless sessions over the years. Seeing these professionals for so long must be called “Za’karri’s Village of Heroes” The knowledge we obtained will allow us to support our little one in his new journey without his village. We as a family will make sure we continue to help him strive for greatness. We will not allow his underlying challenges to control his way of living or his enjoyment of the years to come. 

Our family is so grateful to be able to have each of these therapists/nutritionists be a part of his journey. This unique individual is so blessed to have so many people cheer him on, words can’t even express it. It’s because of you all that Za’karri has SOARED for greatness. His family is able to provide continuous support by incorporating the knowledge and tools the ECI team provided in weekly sessions. 

Za’karri’s village of a team highlighted impact and moments: 

When Melissa first met Za’karri at 5 months he couldn’t hold his head straight due to torticollis. Za’karri couldn’t roll over, crawl, or walk. Melissa identified that Za’karri had some developmental delays that were shown on his initial assessment. Our family is so grateful for the ECI assessment tool which identified Za’karri’s developmental delays early on. Without this agency, I wouldn’t know what to look for in any development delays, head tilt, or sensory processing disorder. 

Melissa has been providing therapy to Za’karri the longest and has been a great observer and excellent Physical Therapist. Melissa suggested many things that she felt would help Za’karri such as sensory activities, compression clothes, a compression vest for tiptoeing, and Wilbarger Brushing for sensory which is helping with my son’s progress. She also suggested that Za’karri would benefit from Speech and Occupational Therapy. Physical therapy with Melissa has allowed Za’karri to climb up steps, jump, run, and he can now do a sideways front forward roll. With the physical therapist’s assistance, he can now do all this and more. 

Melissa, Physical Therapist assisting and supporting Za’karri during his climbing exercise

We are trying to help him with W-sitting which is a challenge but we are still working to address it. Melissa has sent a referral to see Orthotics to observe his lower extremity orthoses to address the excessive pronation bilaterally. 

Thein is an awesome Nutritionist and is one of a kind. If you want someone to make sure your child has the right nutrients and to stay on track with a healthy diet and weight gain then Thein is your person. We had many challenges working with Za’karri trying many foods and touching items due to his SPD. We were able to work through some things such as making sure we put small portions of food on his plate. 

We have started incorporating Za’karri to assist with meal prep which he loves. Za’karri is still a work in progress in this area. He is still drinking PediaSure to maintain weight and to get the protein nutrients his little body needs. He is still not eating a variety of vegetables or fruits, but we are still exposing him to these items. Having SPD is very challenging when it comes to the low motor tones in his mouth which are very sensitive to touch. We have come a long way and getting to a point to at least kiss some of the fruit to at least get him to taste a little rather than no interaction. Za’karri loves to incorporate activities into his sessions. 

Michelle came along later but just in time to help this little one to overcome his challenges. When Michelle started working with Za’karri on his speech he was 1.5 years old. Za’karri was using non-verbal cues to communicate in sessions with Michelle. He was almost 2 years old and saying very few words and echoing and repeating the same word over and over. Over the months Michelle suggested incorporating sensory bins to help with his progression in speech. Michelle stated that to be successful in his speech we need to address his sensory needs. Michelle has been an asset ever since Za’karri had his tongue tie clip which help Za’karri progress more in speech. Michelle incorporates a z- vibe to help with tongue movement to speak. I’m proud to say that when Za’karri turned two he was incorporating three-word sentences and not echoing word for word. Za’karri is doing great in saying the alphabet as well as numbers from 1 to 20. 

Michelle, Speech Therapist, incorporating a food play activity along with speech interaction 

Marlene is the Occupational Therapist that has been working with Za’karri for the last couple of months. Marlene has been a delight to work with in addressing Za’karri’s sensory needs. Marlene has included food play activities with fun animal activities that he enjoys. This area of expertise has been a challenge for Za’karri he had a couple of therapists in OT. This one was different we had only Zoom visits which at the time was the only available option. I agreed with this option I felt he could still benefit from this service. Za’karri still have issues with wet textures, variety of foods he still doesn’t eat, along with sensory seeking behaviors in different environments. We still have concerns but will continue to focus more attention to address them in the future. 

Za’karri Favorite food play activity with Zoom call with Marlene, Occupational Therapist. 

Roshanda is a vital part of this team as the case manager. By providing supervision, guidance and leadership Roshanda allows this village to soar high for my family and others. Roshanda provided support when I was not satisfied with a certain situation it was resolved quickly and with integrity so Za’karri could still receive his services without any interruption. Roshanda has also stepped in supporting and functioning as a case manager and providing assistance with available resources and helpful information. 

While working with this village of heroes, I have learned how all the milestones overlap/connect and how all the therapist roles are very important and different but are all needed. Learning from a team of professionals allowed our family to be able to help Za’karri to the fullest. 

Their knowledge of food selection, hands-on activities techniques, and being flexible with my work schedule does not go unnoticed. They all love their work, care about the children they serve and are very compassionate to parents’ concerns and feelings. When times were overwhelming for me and my family the ladies provided a listening ear while staying professional and never crossing boundaries. It felt good as a parent to have this village of professionals who have always been kind and respectful. Having these types of diamonds around will surely have a successful impact on your organization for years to come. 

Za’karri experienced some regression but with the help of all the team working together and keeping each other in the loop, Za’karri has improved and accomplished many of his goals. Without these ladies and the Early Childhood Intervention Program, I’m not sure where my son would be today. The ladies have provided me and my family with the knowledge of how all the components connect on helping Za’karri succeed through any challenging times he may face. They have helped our family to communicate with our daycare provider so they can incorporate some of the work we are doing with Za’karri. 

Dena, the last six months have been a journey of success. I just wanted to let you know how awesome your Early Childhood Intervention team has been to Za’karri. 

Thank you, I know behind a good team there is always an amazing leader. A team cannot function without the guidance and support that you have been providing for your staff. On behalf of me and my family, thank you. 

With the help of the village of heroes’ tools and support, Za’karri will learn to function with his sensory processing disorder and will continue to adapt to his environment for many years to come. 

Thank you, 

Za’karri and family” 

Are you concerned about your baby’s development? Easter Seals Greater Houston’s Early Childhood Intervention services are available for children birth to 36 months who show a developmental delay, who are at risk for a delay, have a disability or atypical behaviors. Learn more.

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Celebrating Success in the Week of the Young Child

I first learned of Easter Seals from my child’s daycare teacher Ms. Shelia. She was knew I was looking for therapy for my son and she assisted me with getting the proper information that was needed, and that is how we landed on Easter Seals Greater Houston and their Early Childhood Intervention Program.

My experience from the beginning started with our Intake Coordinator, Chloe. We scheduled my appointment for Chase’s evaluation and being that I was very emotional, she was very comforting. Being that she has never met me and only interacted with me by phone, she assured me that everything would work out. My appointment was set for 03.24.2022, and I am writing an actual review about my entire experience within the last 2 weeks as of today.

Chloe contacted me  to fill the spot for an earlier cancellation that allowed me to get in and be evaluated before our original appointment. I can’t stress enough how kind and supportive everyone has been to my child and I. My heart is beyond grateful.

Jamie & Roshanda, therapists on the Easter Seals ECI Southeast Team, were the first staff we met and did Chase’s evaluation. Even though I was discouraged in many areas; they encouraged me and made me feel okay about every step that I was making for my son.

Next step, putting Chase’s team of early intervention experts together.  We were very excited for the team that would be working with Chase. From Sarah, to Kimberly, to Gretchen and Charisse, every single therapist and specialist in this process has encouraged me, and poured energy into me as a mother.

I am forever grateful for this experience thus far. My prayer is that they continue to reach and meet families wherever they are. With a grateful heart, thank you for everything you are doing and have done for Chase and I. Excited to know how many other programs there are for after her graduates at 3 – including the Children’s Therapy Clinic and the Caroline School!

Truly Grateful, Shun & Chase
Parent, Easter Seals Greater Houston, ECI Program

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Celebrate and Wear Purple on the 15th! – Month of the Military Child

Did you know there are about 1.6 million military children globally? Of those 1.6 million children, most move every 2 to 3 years. That means changing schools, doctors, support networks, and FRIENDS! All of these statistics stacked on top of military children’s’ parents or caregivers being away for training, on deployment, or injured- those are some pretty grown up things for a child to handle. So, The Department of Defense celebrates military children during the month of April to remind us all of military children’s sacrifice and celebrate their resiliency. How can you show your support? On April 15, join us in wearing purple for military kids.

Easter Seals Houston staff honor our military children every month. Our Recreational Therapy Team offers Play Groups (dance, yoga, karate, sensory/technology), camps, and other activities to support military children and their families.

Most recently, we held Veterans Family Camp. One of our family’s military parent had just returned from 8 months of deployment. Families worked via our counselors and staff on activities designed for reintegration for the family as a whole; and all had a blast – even after the special weekend was over!

  • Using your gift to help people feel better. Can you think of anyone who could use some cheering up today? Maybe a sibling, a friend, or another military family? Think of something you can do to help them feel better today—you might draw a picture for them, talk to them on the phone, or give them a hug. (The family replied, “Chalk the driveway; make neighbors smile”)
  • Serving your family by something you love to do. One family replied cooking dinner together!

Kim Hartgraves, MS, LRT, CTRS, Easter Seals Greater Houston
Adult Program Coordinator│Veterans Recreation Therapy Coordinator

Contact Kim at khartgraves@eastersealshouston.org for more info.

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Celebrating OT Month and Week of the Young Child!

For the #WeekOfTheYoungChild & in celebration of #OccupationalTherapyMonth, the Children’s Therapy Clinic is celebrating the success of Jonathan M. and his Occupational Therapist, Alysia Cummings. Jonathan is 8 years old and has been with the Clinic since age three after graduating from the ECI program. He currently receives OT and speech therapy 1x/week and attends public school. Mom shared his therapy has helped him participate at school and be successful in Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) at home. His OT, Alysia, shared Jonathan has taken really well to visual aids and written schedules. He is working on tying shoes, bathing independently, brushing his teeth, toileting hygiene, buttoning, and handwriting. At home, he uses visual aids for his morning routine, bathing and tooth brushing. Mom said he is able to follow the schedules very well; and has increased his independence. To increase his participation in the Clinic session, Alysia writes a schedule on the board, which encourages him to participate much more easily than he used to. Mom shared it is the everyday progress that has made such a big difference for Jonathan.  Check out more info on our Children’s Therapy Clinic at Easter Seals Greater Houston

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Celebrating Our Caroline School Students During The Week of the Young Child

To Celebrate the Month of the Young Child, The Caroline School would like to introduce you to Azeneth and Alexa!

These two young learners have shown a tremendous amount of growth in their social and academic abilities throughout the school year.

Azeneth enjoys exploring a sensory box for more than her set goal time and Alexa enjoys helping her friend, by picking things up that are falling from her desk and putting them back (without teacher prompting). We here at The Caroline School at Easter Seals Greater Houston applaud both young learners for how hard they work and how amazing they are.

 

Check out all our Caroline School offers to our students and parents!

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ExxonMobil Summer Job Internship Program

ExxonMobil Foundation Community Summer Jobs Program at Easter Seals Greater Houston

Mission

Easter Seals of Greater Houston’s mission is to provide exceptional services to ensure all people with disabilities or special needs and their families have equal opportunities to live, learn, work and play in their communities.

Job Description – Position Type

Full time (40 hrs) internship, primarily in-person including 4 weeks M-F day camp and 1 week M-F overnight camp, including some evening and weekend work

Internship Overview

Easter Seals of Greater Houston will host 5 weeks of summer camp for children with disabilities in the summer of 2022. Four of the weeks will serve children with various disabilities and their siblings in special supported environments throughout the greater Houston area, and one week will serve children with a primary diagnosis of Cerebral Palsy at a fully accessible overnight camp facility. If selected as a partnering agency, the Easter Seals Summer Camp Intern would be present during every week of camp along with three-four weeks of office work and hold a main leadership role during the entire summer. 

The Easter Seals Summer Camp Internship will provide a comprehensive look into the responsibilities of a non-profit Program Coordinator by providing hands on experience in the coordination, facilitation, and management of programs while gaining direct experience working with clientele, community donors, volunteers, and family members.

Job Dimensions/Other Requirements

  • The internship duration will be ten (10) consecutive weeks from May 31st through August 5th  (start and end dates are flexible)
  • The intern will work 40 hours a week, Monday-Friday (hours vary during overnight camp)
  • Must be currently enrolled as a full-time undergraduate student who has completed at least one year of college and has not graduated
  • Must have 30 hours of college credit
  • Must be organized, self-motivated, compassionate, and professional
  • An interest in working with children with disabilities and non-profit is highly desired
  • Computer and internet skills will be required
  • Relatives of ExxonMobil employees are ineligible to be hired
  • Must have reliable transportation

How to Apply

E-mail your resume to Kenzie Richard, Camps Coordinator, at mrichard@eastersealshouston.org and request an application for the summer camps internship.

Additional counselor positions – https://bit.ly/3IQsTbs

For questions or to request more information, please contact Kenzie Richard, Camps Coordinator, at mrichard@eastersealshouston.org or 713-208-0543.

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