Tag Archives: Adults with Disabilities

I am More than my Disability

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We are working with Comcast Cable on their new eye gaze remote control for the TV which Time magazine says is one of the best inventions of 2019! Comcast Xfinity X1 Eye Control is one of TIME’s Best Inventions of 2019 We are very excited that our Easter Seals Greater Houston client, Alexis, was able to join us to help with the demo. Alexis’ unique way of communicating enables her to use her eyes as her mouse to navigate her on-screen keyboard and other pages of information on her tablet. AND makes her the perfect person to demonstrate the new EYE CONTROL remote for TV from Comcast! For more information on the Eye C9ontrol remote please contact Comcast! Read more about Alexis and her story below!

Alexis is a twenty-three-year-old young adult that has a physical disability known as Cerebral Palsy or (CP) which affects her muscle control of her upper and lower body extremities. She uses a wheelchair for mobility and is non-verbal. Her mother states that ” Alexis has a very sharp mind” and often described by others as a very talented young lady with such an awesome personality, a great sense of humor and is known for her beautiful contagious smile that will light up an entire room.

Alexis currently utilizes a Microsoft Pro Surface Tablet which is a Windows Base computer with the capability of eye-tracking technology to meet her communication needs. The eye-tracking technology also has a camera built-in with infrared lighting that tracks and follows the use of the retinas of her eyes as she navigates her computer (tablet) and her on-screen keyboard.  Alexis’ unique way of communicating enables her to use her eyes as her mouse to navigate her on-screen keyboard and other pages of information on her tablet. QUY_6916.JPG

To help get a better understanding of what it means to Alexis to have access to this type of advanced technology it has not only given her independence and ”  a voice” to independently communicate her own thoughts, feelings, wants, needs,  likes and dislikes, but it has also given her the ability to carry on an efficient conversation with family, friends, and individuals as she looks /dwells on a specific letter, word or phrase by just the use of eye gaze. The computer then immediately makes the information readily available to be typed and seen on her screen and has the capability to put her tablet into a voice output mode similar to (text to speech) to generate a voice to speak/ read aloud Alexis’ word , sentence, and/ or any other information that she has composed. This advanced type of assistive technology also continues to help support Alexis with the necessary tools she needs to continue to strengthen her self -advocacy skills. She is also able to text, email and access the internet. She is known by her family as the ” Queen of Amazon ” as she browses and makes purchases independently and always seems to have something saved in ” her cart”.

Alexis enjoys her leisurely time attending and participating in a wide variety of community events with her family and friends. She loves going on road trips, to parks,  The Rodeo, movies, the Mall, watching Netflix, Hulu, is always up for a good read and spending time with her yellow lab “Jasmine” at various dog events and visiting various dog parks.

Alexis wants to reach out to the community with a friendly reminder that her disability doesn’t define who she is … she doesn’t want people to identify her as ” the young lady with a disability “, ” the girl with Cerebral Palsy ” or ” the girl in the wheelchair”. She would like to be known by everyone as Alexis first and foremost. Alexis really appreciates when individuals see past her wheelchair and her disability and recognize her for her unique abilities instead of focusing on her disability.

Despite the daily challenges and barriers that Alexis faces she has many similar goals, dreams, and aspirations as her able-bodied peers. Alexis was educated alongside her able-bodied peers while attending public school from elementary thru her high school years. As her High School peers were doing the ” volunteer thing” she was given those same opportunities, she volunteered in the summer and really enjoyed giving back to her community. Alexis was able to develop new friendships and enlarge her friendship circle as well as gain new work-related skills while volunteering, which she hopes to be able to reach.  Her current goal is working really hard on things that will enable her to carry over those work-related skills along with her technology skills to possibly gain employment soon with a local business in her community.  She really feels that when given the proper training and supports and implementing her unique technology skills that she can be an asset to local business ‘.

Alexis wants to send a ” shout out” to everyone out in the community and if you happen to see Alexis when your “out and about ”  please take a moment to stop by and introduce yourself! She is really looking forward to meeting you and would love to chat!

Alexis Mendoza, Easter Seals Greater Houston, Client and Alexis’ Mom

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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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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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Samantha’s Communication Device gets an Update!

Last Spring, Sam transitioned from using a limited auditory scanning device to a device with unlimited app-based software using auditory scanning to communicate!samantha 1

Many of the parents who have come to Easter Seals Greater Houstons’  The Caroline School have done so out of a desire to find a more individualized education for their child – a school that would focus on the whole child, their physical, social, and cognitive development.

That’s exactly what Samantha’s family found. Sam began at The Caroline School a year ago and since has embarked on many educational changes. She worked on her physical skills by using her stander in the classroom and engaging in yoga stretches with support. She focused on her social skills by using both non-verbal gestures (smiles and singing), as well as her new communication device to share love and joy with her friends and teachers. Working on the physical and social aspects of learning, perfectly positioned Sam to grow her cognitive skill set as well! She used her new communication device to engage in lessons and home-to-school connection questions and activities. For example, she completed an “All About Me” project to share with the class.

Sam’s collective team of teachers, parents, ESGH therapists and nurses are so proud of her hard work! We can’t wait to begin her Senior year here at The Caroline School! It will surely be the best year yet.samantha 2

Tabitha Hernandez, Easter Seals Greater Houston, The Caroline School Director

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Lucky Strike!

I’m Emily Padora and I have been interning with Easter Seals Greater Houston for the past few months. I am supervised by Ashley Nichols, the Adult Program Director, which means I get the privilege of hanging out with these wonderful adults twice a week. Just last Saturday, I got to go bowling with a few of them! I expected it to be fun, as most things are with these guys, but it was more than just fun— it was heartwarming.IMG_1645.JPG

Each participant got their own lane, with accommodations based off their individual needs, to bowl for as long as their hearts desired until it was time to go. I loved seeing how happy just a simple game of bowling made the participants and enjoyed watching them make strikes, splits, or just celebrating hitting a pin. It was truly something else. I also got to speak with the mother and sister of two of our participants; they were sharing with me how much they appreciate what Easter Seals and the Adult Program has done for them and their family. The mother was almost in tears, expressing to me that most people outside of this organization and program don’t pay much attention to her boys. It makes me happy and proud to be working with an organization and program that promotes growth and encourages inclusion and individuality.

 

Thank you!

 

Emily Padora, Easter Seals Greater Houston Intern

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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

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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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