Tag Archives: at risk students

The SMART Road To Assistive Tech for ALL

In 2010, I was working at an educational non-profit when I helped to start a support group of parents and therapists where we shared information on how smartphones and touch tablets could help children with disabilities improve developmental skills. I was interested in how technology could help my youngest son Vincent, who at the age of 6 had the fine motor skills of an 18 month old. I knew that he would never write with a pen and paper, but I also knew that technology could play a big role in his early education and throughout his life.

Vincent had tried joysticks and other technology prior to the tablet to write and communicate, but he needed hand over hand assistance to operate them. However, with the iPad he was able to navigate independently. What a boost to his confidence and an ease to his frustration!

Other parents and therapists had similar thoughts but, because this mobile technology was so new, we spent hours exploring possibilities of which apps were the most helpful for our kids. We were overwhelmed by the sheer number of apps available, so we set out to find a way to make searching easier for parents and professionals. That support group and quest for solutions turned into BridgingApps, a website and program of Easter Seals Greater Houston.

Becoming part of Easter Seals Greater Houston has been a blessing in the most profound way for this program and for our family. With the help of Easter Seals’ leadership and vision to help the program grow as quickly as possible, we have been able to make great strides in its’ development and reach. In 2014, BridgingApps won the Verizon Powerful Answers Award for Education that came with a $700,000 prize.  Our website is filled with resources for people of all ages and abilities – parents, caregivers, therapists, doctors and people with disabilities – looking for the right apps to fit their needs.

We now have three assistive technology labs (Thanks to The George Foundation and ATT&T) in the Houston area and satellite support groups in Austin, the Rio Grande Valley and Fort Worth, Texas.  In 2016, we gave more than 55 presentations and trainings in Houston and around the country. Our website enjoys 9,000 registered users from 187 countries, 7,000 monthly visitors, a podcast segment, an online course, a regular column in a digital magazine, and 3,500 apps in our database. We are excited to explore new ways in which mobile technology can assist young adults with special health care needs, older adults, and seniors through collaborative projects with Texas Children’s Hospital, TIRR Memorial Hermann, Amerigroup/Anthem, UnitedHealthcare, and others.

As a veteran of the US Army, I am thrilled and honored this year to be working on a project that provides services and mental health supports to veterans and their families by using technology. Through a generous grant from TV+FA, we are able to provide technology training in different formats to veterans and their family members.  This spring we have already provided 10 Veterans Access Cafes in locations around Houston to demonstrate how smartphones can be used as a mental health support with apps like Calm, Swirlicity, and Stay Quit Coach. We continue to add content each week to www.bridgingapps.org/veteransresource  to share information on apps and other technologies that benefit veterans and their families.

Cristen Reat, Easter Seals Greater Houston, BridgingApps Founder

 

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Latest News

High School High Tech Royalty and Celebrating Disability Employment Awareness Month!

Hear ye, hear ye! Easter Seals Greater Houston‘s High School High Tech is homecomingking4pleased to announce that we now have Royalty among us!  Montgomery ISD just crowned our very own HSHT student, Jahlil Howard, to be the 2016 Montgomery High School Homecoming King! Jahlil, a high school senior, is a second year participant in our High School High Tech and Ready to Achieve Mentoring program and has been a shining example of leadership to his peers.

High School/High Tech is a community-based partnership of parents, educators, rehabilitation professionals and business representatives working together to encourage students with disabilities to explore the fields of science, engineering and technology. Only 56% of students with disabilities graduate from high school. High School/High Tech was developed to address this situation. Most individuals with disabilities have not had the encouragement, role models, access and stimulation to pursue challenging technical careers or courses of study. Through High School/High Tech, students with disabilities are presented a mix of learning experiences that promote career exploration and broaden educational horizons.

homecomingking2This outgoing Senior has been super active in our HSHT program and has participated in several career field trips including Montgomery County Mock Interview Day, tours of Olive Garden and Woodforest National Bank and even defied gravity at a HSHT indoor skydiving event at IFly Woodlands!  In addition to HSHT, Jahlil continues to break barriers as an avid runner and member of the MHS Varsity Cross Country Team and has been recognized with several awards for his Cross Country achievements, including District Champ, all the while maintaining his steady summer job. homecomingking1

Jahlil became involved with HSHT with the support and encouragement of his MISD Transition Specialist Lesa Bolling who proudly remarked, “Jahlil is an awesome young man with an outstanding personality! He makes everyone around him feel at ease. Jahlil’s faith is grounded and he speaks of it often.” Mrs. Bolling couldn’t have said it better!  Congratulations to our amazing young man, and Royal Highness, Jahlil Howard!

Carmen Phillips, Easter Seals Greater Houston
Montgomery County HSHT Program Coordinator

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Latest News

The Legacy of The Caroline School

People with charisma often go into politics, the clergy or they run successful companies. They attract admirers and influence those around them. Caroline DeLuca was a child with charisma. While she did not speak with her voice, her charisma, smile and irrepressible charm spoke to people’s hearts-she attracted hundreds of admirers and influenced everyone around her.

heather jo and carolinePowerful people change the world. Caroline was, while living in a young but uncooperative body, a very powerful person. On a personal level, she changed the lives of everyone who knew her. On a community level, she inspired those around her to make the world better for children with disabilities. Her amazing parents, Anthony and Elizabeth, have worked and fought and given so much to ensure that children like Caroline and their families thrive and have the help they need to face the obstacles and prejudices that arise from disability. Her sisters, Allison, Virginia Claire and Lauren-who have very different personalities from each other-each share the common traits of grace, open hearts and strength. I know that along with the example of their parents, Caroline had a lot to do with why they are such extraordinary young women.598926_576373052382236_473731378_n

When they were unable to find a school that provided what Caroline needed, the DeLuca’s founded the Caroline School. Elizabeth said that the school is the place where children, no matter what their disability or medical condition, need and deserve a school where the curriculum is adjusted to their capabilities, where the teachers and aides care deeply about the children, where children feel safe and loved. The school at Easter Seals Greater Houston that Caroline inspired is just that place. Like most 18 year olds, Caroline loved music, swimming, fashion and friends. Unlike most 18 year olds, she had to fight really hard to be here with us-sharing her smile, her strong fighting spirit and her joy. While her physical presence is gone, her spirit lives on in the memories of her friends and family and in The Caroline School and Easter Seals Greater Houston, which will continue to provide a joyful and caring place for children with special health care needs.

Thank you Caroline, for the gifts you gave us all. We will miss you…I will miss you, but I am grateful for having known you and for the hearts you opened, the work you inspired, the joy you shared for the brief time you were here. I will work to do my small part in carrying on your powerful legacy.2013 Caroline and Jonathan

I hope you were as lucky as I am – to have known her, loved her and been inspired by her.   I have struggled for the past few days to write this – I just can not do Caroline justice.   So I will repeat her sister Lauren’s words, “Let Caroline’s courageous spirit inspire you in your daily life. Take the things that she taught all of us and carry them with you: Be the person who takes an extra minute to understand …someone. Treat people with patience and compassion. Ask questions. Never underestimate yourself or anyone else. Stay positive.”

Elise Hough, CEO, Easter Seals Greater Houston

If you would like to contribute in memory of Caroline DeLuca to help us fulfill her legacy –The Caroline School Operating Endowment Campaign

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Latest News

Ready to Achieve Mentoring Program with High School / High Tech and #STEM

January was National Mentoring Month, and so I want to take a minute to recognize one of our favorite volunteer mentors, Damon Dash, with our Easter Seals 2016 ramp mentorGreater Houston High School High Tech Program. Damon has been a mentor with our RAMP (Ready to Achieve Mentoring) program for four years, and is still going strong! The students that we work with come from all different backgrounds, and have all different types of abilities and challenges, but the one thing they all have in common (as they do with any high school student!) is that they can use advice from a mentor.

RAMPOver the years, Damon has been a mentor at three different schools, and is loved by his mentees. “S” was always so proud when Damon would come to cheer him on at his football games, and “E” was so happy to have someone help him fill out job applications (which led to him getting a job!). When “A” needed advice about school work, Damon was the first one he went to for help. The role of a mentor changes with each mentee they are paired with, and we love to see the impact that a wide variety of people have on our students. Damon loves to interact with our students, and as shown in this picture, they love learning from him, too!

From accountants to social work graduate students to Metro bus controllers to advisors from The University of Houston, we have had all sorts of volunteers come to help our students, and we are so grateful!

High School High Tech is always looking for new mentors, tour sites, volunteers for mock interview day, and summer internships hosts! Great way to get your company involved with STEM!!!

Erin Johnson, Easter Seals Greater Houston, High School High Tech Program Director

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Latest News

Keeping It In Perspective

March 2016 Transition blog by Jacquie

I stumbled across a short poem online the other day.

Cause I ain’t got a pencil
By Joshua T. Dickerson

I woke myself up
Because we ain’t got an alarm clock
Dug in the dirty clothes basket,
Cause ain’t nobody washed my uniform
Brushed my hair and teeth in the dark,
Cause the lights ain’t on
Even got my baby sister ready
Cause my mama wasn’t home.
Got us both to school on time,
To eat us a good breakfast.
Then when I got to class the teacher fussed
Cause I ain’t got a pencil.

Despite my making a conscious effort everyday to remember that not everyone’s circumstances are the same, I still need reminding sometimes. I still need to remember some of my students will come to class without something they need simply because they just don’t have it. It isn’t always forgetfulness. It isn’t always laziness. It isn’t always defiance of the rules. Some of the time, maybe even a lot of the time, they just don’t have it. It isn’t because they don’t want to listen and it isn’t because they don’t care.

During my first year with Easter Seals Greater Houston‘s High School/High Tech Program, a student asked what the house I grew up in looked like. I told everyone it was small but my parents took great care of it and made sure it always looked nice. They still do. They have lived in that house for 35 years. The student then said,

So, how big was the downstairs of your house?

I didn’t know and I hadn’t ever really thought about it.

Well, the downstairs is maybe a few feet bigger than this classroom.

My student, who is one of the funniest people I have ever known, laughed and said,

Miss. Do you know how big my whole house is? My ENTIRE house? It’s the size of this corner!

He walked over and held his arms out in a big bear hug stance and stood in the corner showing everyone that his house was as small as that space.

When we eat dinner, all our elbows touch. Me, my mama, my step dad, and my sister. Our elbows touch like this…

and he forced his elbows together in front of himself.  I will miss this kid next year. He is graduating. I am so proud of him but sad for myself.

Everyone laughed watching his theatrics including me, probably more than anyone else. But, it made me think. I’ve always thought of my house as small, but to someone who didn’t have that much, that house was pretty impressive. I’ve always been proud of it because my parents spent so many hours keeping it up and making sure it was the nicest house on our street; and it was and it still is.

I didn’t really realize that I was so fortunate to have things that other people with less might really admire. I had a picture of my parents’ house on my phone. I took it before I moved to Houston three years ago so that I could look at it whenever I got homesick. I showed my students and they all replied with “whoa!” and “that’s a nice house, miss” and “look at your street! It’s like a movie street!” They were right and I hadn’t realized until they said it.

I gain little bits of perspective slowly over time. My students teach it to me; these kids with challenges I have never had to face. What I always thought was average was actually really beautiful to some of them. What I always thought was an unspoken rule – bringing a pen or pencil to all my classes – was easy for me because I had all the things I needed for school. Money was set aside for school supplies and new school clothes every year without thought and without question. Not everyone has that. Some of my students don’t have that. I hope to change it somehow.

I bring spare pens to class now.

-Jacquie Miller, Transition, Easter Seals Greater Houston

To read more posts by Jacquie Miller, visit J-Vibe

Leave a comment

Filed under Latest News

GROWing Together!

facebook cover photo 1Our Infant Program of Easter Seals Greater Houston has experienced some tremendous growth in the past few years.  It first started in 2012 when the area in Liberty County was acquired from another local Early Childhood Intervention (ECI) program which added 12 new zip codes to our existing 24. Next, came the Southern portion of Montgomery County which included the Woodlands and 12 more zip codes. Then, the Northern portion of Montgomery County, which included Conroe and 12 more zips. Our newest addition kicking off 2015 was North Harris county territory, which added the final 11 zip codes bringing the grand total to 70 zip codes that span over 4 counties!

All of these new areas have meant a growing in number of referred children, from approximately 100 referrals per month to over 300. Our number of enrolled families has now reached over 1,000. To serve the families, we’ve added more staff to our family and growing from 50 to now over 100 which includes Early Intervention Specialists, Speech Therapists, Occupational Therapist and Physical Therapists

To ensure our community partners know about the changes, Sharon Mott, outreach coordinator for the new regions has been visiting area pediatrician offices.  She has been overwhelmed by the positive name that Easter Seals has in the community. liberty county

“What a great opportunity I have to go into the community and share information about the ECI Infant Program of Easter Seals Greater Houston!  Since the middle of April, I visited 23 pediatrician offices/clinics in the northern areas we now serve.  The staff I meet express gratitude for someone from the Infant Program/ECI to come to their offices in person.  We had conversations about how babies/toddlers qualify for ECI, services we provide, and how to make referrals.  At each visit, I leave a Physician Notebook filled with information about ECI, sample brochures, referral forms, and physical exam forms.  Most of the offices did not have any ECI brochures, so I gave them the “How’s Your Baby” brochures, in English and Spanish, along with the Easter Seals “Make the First Five Count” postcards.  Last week I left phone messages with various pediatrician offices in the Humble/Kingwood/Atascocita areas.  Recently I received a voice mail from the Referral Coordinator at Texas Children’s Pediatrics Atascocita office.  She stated it would be “wonderful” for me to bring her information the staff can give to parents about ECI.  She added they have had “excellent response with ECI through Easter Seals Greater Houston since you all have taken over.  Thank you from the bottom of my heart for helping these patients.”

infant program staffEaster Seals Greater Houston has already had a positive impact on the reputation of the Infant / ECI program now serving that area.  In April the program was able to celebrate and refresh, by hosting the annual Down Days trainings. Trainings were offered by national speakers on typical childhood development, infant and child massage for children with special needs, and how play based early intervention works.  Our amazing staff are always educating themselves on the best therapies to ensure your family and kiddos are going to #makethefirstfivecount” and achieve their best!  After their extensive trainings, our Infant Program staff put the “play based” into action with a group outing to The Main Event – thanks for everything you do staff!”, said Dena Day, Infant Program Director.

Did you know that every year, more than one million young children with unidentified disabilities enter school with issues that put them far behind their peers and have a lasting, negative effect on their ability to meet their full potential. When children get the right treatment and therapy they need before the age of five, they are ready to learn alongside their peers, build lifelong skills, and achieve their dreams. Want to check your baby’s development?

Visit www. MaketheFirstFiveCounty.org to take a free Ages and States Questionnaire to see if your child is reaching his or her developmental milestones.

Kim Sporrer, Outreach & Education Coordinator, ESGH

Leave a comment

Filed under Latest News

Celebrating Milestones with the Caroline School at Easter Seals

students 1The Caroline School is in its fourth year at Easter Seals Greater Houston!  We are continuing to grow and expand our thank youprograms and opportunities for our students to show how fabulous they are!  This coming May, The Caroline School students will perform their first ever music and dance recital.  Thanks to the generous time and dedication from Sarah of Shine Dance and Kalenn of Rhythm of Life Music Therapy our students will be moving and shaking showing off their amazing abilities through dance and music therapy.  I am so proud of all the students!  They have practiced and worked hard to meet the fine motor, gross motor and attention to task challenge set before them.

As the school year is coming to an end I would like to thank all The Caroline School staff for their hard work and students 4dedication to the students this school year.  We are able to provide a quality education in a loving and safe environment and build our students up to meet the expectations set academically.  I could not do this alone and I am blessed and thankful for each of our teachers!

students 2The mother of one of our students, a young boy who went from verbal to a non-verbal state in public schools wrote this after five months at the Caroline School, “I wanted to send all of you a note to thank you for everything you have done for Michael this past year.  Today he had his appointment at the Meyer Center with his developmental pediatrician and for the first time in the seven years I have taken him, Michael progressed a full developmental year within a chronological year in all areas (expressive and receptive language, gross motor, visual perception etc). Mark and I are so proud of him and so grateful for everything you are doing each day to make this possible.”

Melissa Hueske (Larson), The Caroline School, Easter Seals Greater Houston

students 5Want to support the school and scholarships for children with disabilities who would not be able to access services without your support? Check out our upcoming Coach Gene Stallings event benefiting the Operating Endowment Campaign!

Leave a comment

Filed under Latest News