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A Camp that Changed a Life

Hi All,

My name is Amanda Carter and I am a 2008 alumni of Easter Seals Greater Houston Camp Smiles Overnight Camp. I started attending Camp Smiles held at Camp For All in Brenham in the summer of 2001 after having attended Easter Seals Houston’s Camp Buckaroo day camp. After a little case of homesickness, I grew to love going to camp and the people I met while there. My favorite activity was the photography class I took every year it was offered where I became heavily involved in my current hobby of severe weather photography. I am still friends on Facebook with all of my camp “buddies,” without whom I could not have had nearly as much fun and laughed quite as hard. I also keep in touch with several of my fellow campers and they have become a great source of mentorship in regard to learning how to live independently.amanda

I landed in Lubbock with the help of my parents and full time staff of personal care attendants after earning my Psychology degree at University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio, Texas. Going to Texas Tech has always been a huge dream and having an opportunity to go there to get my law degree was practically nerdy nirvana. Going to law school requires a huge emotional support system; going to law school from a power wheelchair requires an army. There were many challenges, including hiring and firing many attendants, calling Mom and Dad to fill those attendants gaps, and calling friends and sorority sisters to cry about those dreaded classes, that were part of that journey. To my relief I made it to May of 2018 and became the fourth generation in my family to graduate as a Red Raider.

Since that time, I’ve landed at Matthew Harris Law in Lubbock after passing the July 2018 Bar Exam. I am currently practicing Family Law but I simultaneously maintain an interest in Special Needs Wills and Trusts and generally helping those like me find their path towards financial and physical independence. MHL has made a donation in my honor to Easter Seals of Greater Houston and that is so special! We collectively strive to present a model of employer-employee relations as it relates to working with community of people with disabilities. I have felt so welcomed in the firm where I started as an intern. Now as an attorney, I have learned so much about the law and myself through the accommodation and acceptance of my coworkers. Being successful starts with who you surround yourself with and, more importantly, how you define it. Only your definition matters. I am so excited to see where your definition takes you! Guns Up!

Sincerely,

Amanda E. Carter, Esq.

Attorney at Law

matthew law

www.MatthewHarrisLaw.com

 

          

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Finding the Perfect Fit

Four years of college flew by before I even knew what hit me. There I was, a month or two away from graduating and still had no idea where I wanted to go, what I wanted to do or where I would fit in as a Recreational Therapist. Coming from a small border town, I knew that there was so much to explore in life and the options were endless but I had no idea where to start. I frantically looked for jobs close to home but every lead I found seemed to discourage me more and more each time. Finally, I threw in the towel and asked my academic supervisor to point me in the right direction. With a list of names and interview times in hand, I headed six hours away to Houston.

After a few interviews and internship position offers, I had twice as much confusion and disappointment because I knew that I had not found where I was supposed to be just yet. young adlut intern blogI showed up to my last interview with Easter Seals Greater Houston expecting to have the same experience, but had no idea what truly was in store for me. After sitting in an interview with my current supervisor, Ashley Nichols, for around two hours, I had finally found the perfect internship experience and wholeheartedly knew that I had found my place with the Easter Seals Greater Houston Adult Services Program.

The options for personal and professional growth that were placed in front of me here at Easter Seals is exactly what I had given up hope in looking for at other agencies. Being able to shadow Ashley, who is a master networking guru, has been a priceless experience in itself because I had the opportunity be connected with various people in the community. She taught me how to build professional relationships and to seize opportunities when you have them. Aside from that, Ashley provided outstanding guidance that has helped me grow tremendously as an individual and a professional. Through Adult Programming, I had the perfect experience in regards to recreational therapy in the aspect that I was able to work within multiple populations, which is almost unheard of as an intern. In the office, I was constantly surrounded by support, opportunities and some of the most invaluable people I have ever met. I had moved six hours away and was a little scared, yet I was never alone. I always had someone who made sure that I was adjusting okay to such a large change in life. To work in an environment where everyone is so warm and supportive of each other’s ideas and individual growth is sadly unusual in a workplace and in my opinion, is what makes the Easter Seals Greater Houston special to so many people. I know that no matter where I go or what I do in the years to come, the memories and people I have met through the Easter Seals has shaped who I am and will never fade out.

Morgan Stidham, Easter Seals Greater Houston, Adult Services

For more information on our Adult Services Program – Click Here

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No More Waiting for Help

The following post was written by the parent of an Early Childhood Intervention Infant Program client.

This is a testimonial on behalf of my son, who has been working with Tina, our ECI speech language pathologist at Easter Seals Greater Houston.               playtimeI cannot recommend her enough! My son was on the cusp of turning 2 years old and had only two words his vocabulary. I work in the field of special education as an assessment professional (however not in speech) and knew he was delayed. I was frustrated and distraught as a parent knowing that he needed help and not being able to get it for him. We went through surgery to put tubes in, and were put off by doctors for what seemed like forever waiting for the surgery, waiting to see if that corrected the problem, waiting on audiology appointments, etc. before I was finally able to get the referral to Easter Seals Greater Houston’s Early Childhood Intervention (ECI) Infant Development program.

Once Lawson was evaluated, Tina made sure to expedite his first session so she could see what “we were up against.” She has worked diligently to ensure we were able to get all of our sessions, and has been an incredible team player going to daycare and in our home so that we could ensure Lawson was generalizing his skills across all settings. In a manner of 2 months, Lawson is already trying to link together 2-3 words into phrases, is trying to communicate more, and is becoming less frustrated. While we have a lot of work left to go (as he still cannot say a lot and is far from intelligible), we would not even be where we are without Tina.

In addition, I work full time and cannot always be there for his speech sessions, Tina is an amazing teammate in that she will text me or call me after sessions to update me on his progress. While I may work, I care dearly about my son and want to know everything going on, she takes all the time I need to be involved and know what skills to work on during the interim periods between sessions. I could not sing her praises enough!

 

Lawson’s mom, Client Family, ESGH Infant Program/Liberty County

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Harvey Recovery Thank Yous!

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What is Prolonged Exposure (PE) Therapy? #MentalHealth #PTSD #Assistance

What is Prolonged Exposure (PE) Therapy?  PE is designed to target key symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD during individual talk-therapy with a trained mental health professional.  When a person is exposed to trauma or a situation where his or her life is in grave danger, part of the brain goes quiet and survival instincts take over.  Not everyone develops PTSD after a trauma, but those who do often try to avoid the memories and reminders of the very worst day of their life, but even as they actively avoid those memories, they are haunted by re-experiencing symptoms where images and emotions appear in nightmares or when sounds or smells trigger memories of that dangerous time and it feels very much as if the dangers of the past are real right now.  PE uses two main techniques to combat PTSD, in vivo and imaginal exposures.  In vivo exposure allows the client to perform progressively and increasingly challenging tasks in homework assignments to build confidence and success in the real world.  Imaginal exposure gives the client the opportunity to explore the feelings and beliefs that surrounded the trauma experience in a safe and structured session with a trusted therapist.  PE is both a highly structured therapy, based upon empirically validated research findings, and flexible enough to be tailored to individual needs of specific clients.  I, along with several of my colleagues on the mental health team with Easter Seals Greater Houston, have completed PE training with STRONG STAR, The South Texas Research Organizational Network Guiding Studies on Trauma and Resilience.

Prior to training with STRONG STAR, I was often unsure what I needed to do for my clients to help them recover from the lingering negative impact of the very worst day of their lives.  I also believed that empirically validated treatments would be too rigid and not allow me to bring my own style and experience to my clients.  While I do still fumble with the papers needed to measure symptoms, I find that collecting data each session has had the impact of de-mystifying PTSD and allows us (my client and myself) to keep a laser sharp focus on it, and in about 10 weeks were we are able to lessen the grip PTSD once had upon their lives.  I am also impressed with how well PE was able to help my clients reduce PTSD symptoms and heal a deep hurt that occurred during military service to our country.  Thankfully, I continue to have weekly consultation with world-class professional trainers of PE with STRONG STAR, so that I can ask questions and learn more about the versatility and power of this therapeutic protocol.  Absolutely, PE is hard work for both the client and the therapist, but with the structure and research support to guide us, it can be profoundly helpful in restoring well-being and wellness.

The Mental Health Team with Easter Seals Greater Houston would like to offer Prolonged Exposure to more clients who experience PTSD, whether it be from sexual trauma, combat trauma, or natural disaster such as may occur in a portion of the population after Hurricane Harvey.  713.838-9050 x397 Harvey@eastersealshouston.org, Veterans 713.838.9050 x371

Amy Harkins, Ph.D.│Licensed Psychologist, Mental Health Program
Easter Seals Greater Houston, AHarkin@eastersealshouston.org

http://eastersealshouston.org/Programs/care-giving-services.html

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The Gift of Time

A BIG SHOUT OUT to ALL the VOLUNTEERS that have helped the hundreds of families in the Easter Seals Greater Houston Respite Program.

fili4What better way to help your own community than at the core root FAMILY! Easter Seals Greater Houston relies on hundreds of volunteers a year to help support our families.  And the volunteers often say they get more gratification, and have more fun, than the kiddos do.  “My heart is full when I come play with the kids”, says volunteer, Lauren Fry. “It makes me feel good knowing I am giving the gift of time to parents with kids with disabilities. But honestly, I do it more cuz its just a really fun time.”

Many organizations have a goals of helping within their own community, and we are so es-pno_-57lucky that have have chosen Easter Seals Greater Houston Respite Program to accomplish that goal.  Organizations like The Montgomery Chapter of National Charity League, Lonestar College, Sam Houston State University, The Houston Chapter of Young Filipino Professionals, Conroe ISD Mentoring Program, Conroe High School Student Council and Volleyball Club, Members of TWUMC. Without these volunteers, our Respite Program would be NON EXISTENT!  And, of course, what a travesty that would be.

Having a child with a disability, whether its physical or cognitive, is extremely emotionally and physically draining on parents, caregivers, and everyone in the household, including other siblings.  Divorce rate for couples with these extra challenges is historically over 70%.  Having time away from stress of that environment is critical for the health of the family unit. The old saying is still true, if you can’t care for yourself, you can’t care for your child.

FAMIJency at campLY DAY OUT is a program of Easter Seals Greater Houston that offers a day of Respite, once a month, for local families who have children with disabilities.  This is a FUN FILLED day for children (ages 6-14) with a disability and their siblings. It’s a time to play and have a day of fun while parents and caregivers take a much needed “break” and take some “time out”!

If you have are a part of an organization that would love to an EASY and FUN way to GIVE BACK we would love for you to COME PLAY WITH US!!! To get involved please contact Christine Ellery at cellery@eastersealshouston.org.

Megan Fry, Easter Seals Greater Houston client and friend

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Financial Literacy Pays Off

It is Saturday, not yet 9—an early morning in The Woodlands with the promise of heat and humidity as people begin to arrive for the monthly Easter Seals Greater Houston‘s Homebuyer and Financial Literacy class/Down Payment assistance workshop. Zip codes filling up the sign-in sheets speak of distance traveled that morning:  Harris, Ft. Bend, Brazoria, Waller, Walker Galveston, and  Chambers.  They come from neighborhoods from rural to urban, big city and small town, over a multi-county stretch.  They represent many different income, cultural, and ethnic backgrounds, but all with the same purpose – qualifying for the down payment assistance program that will allow them to purchase a home.

Over coffee and doughnuts, the individual hoyo1stories take shape.  A widowed grandmother talks about the apartment complex where she has lived comfortably for the last 15 years but has struggled to pay the rapidly increasing rent over the last few years.  Living on a fixed income with little assets, meeting her monthly rent payments had become unsustainable, and homeownership seemed to be a pipe dream without some kind of assistance.

A young couple with 2 young children spoke of their need for space, a backyard, and safe sidewalks where their kids could bike to neighbors or area parks.

One single Mom of 2 children, who had survived on rental assistance through the county, proudly talked of her now stable job with the expectation of finally owning her own home close to her children’s school.  Without down payment assistance that dream of homeownership would remain just that – a dream, as even with good credit and little debt, qualifying for a home she could afford on her income would be impossible without some down payment assistance.

hoyo-staff-and-family-close-upOver the course of the morning, all the local, state and federal down payment assistance programs were reviewed.  Mortgage guidelines were discussed and the steps towards homeownership were outlined.  Each of these families left class that day with a plan before them, and some months later, all are now proud property owners of a home of their choice.

Homeownership is not for everyone, nor is it something that happens over night; however, with the help of the Easter Seals Greater Houston housing team, commitment to your financial goals, and perseverance, it is attainable.

Whether this is your first home or a move back into homeownership after years of renting, the homebuyer class/ Down Payment assistance workshop is a great first step towards one of the most important purchases of your life.

For more information on Easter Seals Greater Houston’s Homebuyer/Down Payment Assistance workshops or #BankOn, email: kthorstenberg@eastersealshouston.org.

Katy Thorstenberg, Housing Initiative, Easter Seals Greater Houston

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