Tag Archives: autism

Relax, Recharge, Feel Refreshed

Thanks to Easter Seals Greater Houston and Hilton Hotel of America, Downtown Houston – my husband and I enjoyed the gift of time together and a break from home, where we could recharge ourselves. Living in a disabled family, although rewarding, is full of extreme ups and downs that can be excessively stressful at times. Around the clock duty as a care taker to our adult son with autism and co-occurring disabilities means that time away is a chance to unwind, have some much needed down time and also return ready to take on another day. We really appreciated that Easter Seals Greater Houston Respite Program gives us the chance to get away from home, but be close enough in case of emergencies. We enjoyed our trip to The Houston Galleria to prepare for the holidays and were spoiled with deliciously prepared breakfasts.

respitality-and-hilton-hotel

Easter Seals Greater Houston has been a constant support in our lives for our son. Not only with the Respite Program, but when he was younger and attended Family Day Out on Saturdays once a month and of course the much anticipated Camp Buckaroo in the summer. Before the location in The Woodlands started, we would drive over an hour each way into Houston for camp, it was worth the chance to have our son engaged and stimulated in a safe environment for a few days during the summer break.

Thank you for the opportunity to enjoy this time especially during the hectic holiday season. We were so happy and care free for a couple of days – and this opportunity could not have come at a more needed time.

We appreciate Easter Seals Greater Houston, love the Hilton of Americas and are thankful for all you do for the disabled community and care takers.

Thank you,

Nicole and Darrel, Respite Services clients, Easter Seals Greater Houston

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Adult Program Gives Participant Sense of Pride

Meet one of Easter Seals Greater Houston’s awesome young adult clients. Every week she participates in our Life Enrichment for Adults with Disabilities (LEAD) Young Adult Day Program. During the LEAD Young Adult Day Program this non-verbal woman with autism, along with other participants blog2ages 18 to 30, partakes in activities focused on enriching life skills and social skills as well as fun recreational activities. During LEAD, we incorporate her communication device as much as possible; while the rest of the time, we speak to each other through eye contact and gestures. Her mom continually says that this is the only place where she feels comfortable enough to leave her daughter.

We love to see how being in the LEAD program has enriched our participants’blog1 lives. For example, this young woman loves to have things in their place, such as, crayons cannot have wrappers on them, water cannot sit in a cup for too long, and shoes come off as soon as it is allowed. One day during Easter Seals Greater Houston’s LEAD at Memorial Drive Presbyterian Church, we made hats (seen in picture) and instead of ripping off the decorations as soon as she got home, she put it on her head and paraded it around. We provided her the opportunity to create something (with a hot glue gun, I might add) that gave her a sense of pride and independence. This hat was made last year and I am told it sits on her dresser, with every ball, flower, and sequence still intact.

We are proud of all of the growth that our Adults experience by attending Easter Seals Greater Houston’s Life Enrichment for Adults with Disabilities Day Program. We have two Adult Day Program groups, ages 18-30 and another ages 30 and up. We also serve our clients through a variety of other services. Please reach out to Lindsey Holton at LHolton@eastersealshouston.org for more information on how you and your loved ones can get involved!

Easter Seals Greater Houston, Adult Programs

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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

 

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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

 

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Autism Awareness Month & “The Road Traveled”

As we enter in April and Autism Awareness Month, I stop and reflect on where life has IMG_6632taken me.

Sometimes in life, you set out on a path and stumble into a dream you never knew you had.  Social Motion Skills started as a thought and a necessity in Wendy Dawson’s life for her family. Social Motion Skills became a part of my life in 2010 and I soon found myself helping to breathe life into a dream we wanted to make a reality.

I was an assistant principal in the public schools and sitting in ARDS daily hearing parents express the desire for their kids to have social skills training. The school schedules just did not allow enough time in the day to help our kids interact with their peers and practice the skills that many of us take for granted and are needed to be successful throughout our lives. I met Wendy and our worlds merged into a forever partnership.

5342570901105Fast forward 5 years and here we are having touched hundreds of families, offer programs starting at age 2 and go up to our mature adults and have been a program of Easter Seals Greater Houston since 2012.  Social Motion Skills is a passion of our heart. Our paychecks are often watching a client succeed in a job, gain a friend or get their driver’s license. Our kids are growing up. Our program is growing. More families are finding a need for services.

We started offering after school social skills classes where students interact with their peers in a group setting. From there, we knew that our kids could learn to drive, but not in a typical setting. We partnered with SafeWay Driving and created Drivers Ed at Your Speed. This is an 8-12 week online course guided by one of our Social Motion Skills teachers. They take their time and really do learn at their speed. We offer a Young Adult group that meets and does activities in the community.  We partnered with Urban Chef and have a Cooking Club. We work with clients on job training and coaching as well as life coaching and behavioral therapy. This spring, we were able to bring the PEERS Program to Houston and are working to help today’s teens and their parents navigate and become their childs’ social coach. The sky is really the limit as we have entered into this path and see many needs that need to be met.

Donating to Easter Seals Greater Houston allows us to continue offering this IMG_5090exceptional program. If things don’t change now, then when? If it’s not us working to make a change, then who? Every life matters and we believe everyone needs a friend. Our clients, families, supporters & volunteers all believe in our program – and our clients and their families are all “going down their own road”, &  finding the right path or even paths.  I have been truly blessed by this dream I never knew I had. My career has gone down an amazing road….nothing I ever expected and more than I could ever dream possible. We can make a difference one life at a time….

Join our Walk With Me Houston team and come see what it’s all about!

Lauren Whidden  Social Motion Skills, Easter Seals Greater Houston

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Electronics Recycling Company Partners with Non-Profit Organization to Create Jobs for People with Disabilities

CompuCycle and Easter Seals Greater Houston Join Together for Sustainability Initiative

HOUSTON, TX – (January 29, 2015) – CompuCycle, Houston’s premier electronics recycling company and Easter Seals Greater Houston, the local non-profit organization benefitting individuals in the Greater Houston area living with disabilities, have partnered to provide sustainable employment opportunities and computer proficiency training to citizens with disabilities. jonathan's 2nd paycheck 2

Since this initiative started, CompuCycle has been collecting, auditing and processing all donated products in order to fund a long-term employment program. Through a generous grant from the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health, Easter Seals Greater Houston has been able to take their partnership with CompuCycle to the next level with a full-time employee and job coach on site. With less than four months of training through Easter Seals Transition Services, CompuCycle made a full-time hire of Jonathan.

Jonathan started receiving Transition Services at Easter Seals in June of 2014 after graduating from Westside High School. Shortly after joining the transition program, he was offered an internship at CompuCycle, which turned into a full-time job. Jonathan now works as a wire cutter. He cuts wires from computer power supply cords, computer batteries, cell phone batteries, network connection cords, coaxial cables and phone jacks. He then sorts the components cut from the cables into specified bins. Jonathan also performs other duties like disassembling computer fans and removing scrap metal from cell phone and laptop circuits.

Easter Seals Greater Houston CEO, Elise Hough, was thrilled to find a partner in CompuCycle. “Our clients have a difficult time finding employment, and often, an even harder time maintaining these jobs. What’s most exciting for us is that through comprehensive training, our clients will have job skills that aren’t only applicable to their work at CompuCycle, but for the rest of their lives.”

“CompuCycle greatly enjoys working with Easter Seals; the program is truly a win-win for everyone,” said Kelly Hess, President of CompuCycle.  “Corporations can responsibly dispose of equipment that they no longer need, or don’t know what to do with, using CompuCycle, a certified company, to safely refurbish the equipment. Through dropping off these goods with us, these businesses are also simultaneously donating to a terrific initiative, and helping to create jobs for people with disabilities.”

CompuCycle is a R2:2013, OSHAS 18001 and ISO 14001:2004 certified, responsible electronics recycling company providing safe, secure and certified recycling and data destruction to Houstonians.  Easter Seals Greater Houston offers a range of services to infants, adults, and families with disabilities, including employment preparedness and training. For a list of accepted products, please visit the CompuCycle website.

For more information about Easter Seals Greater Houston and its Transition Services, please visit www.eastersealshouston.org or contact Robert Williams at 832-834-4170 or rwilliams@eastersealshouston.org.

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Thankful

guppy pic 3I had some time to think last night at the hotel, and these are my thoughts of Thankfulness for Easter Seals Greater Houston– having given my husband and I a “respitality” voucher (a donated nights stay at a hotel) thanks to the generosity of Marriott at George Bush Intercontinental.  I’m not sure how we were chosen, but I am so very thankful we were. We’ve had that respite voucher for quite a number of months… I’ve known it was sitting in my planner for a most desperate time when the stars would align for us to have childcare and be able to use it. My first thoughts about it, is that so often when I’m at the end of my rope, when I think I can’t face another seizure, another moment, I would think of that as my sort of lifeline. “Well, if I can just get through until relatives come to visit, we can use that “golden ticket” to get away. We planned to use it when Team Guppy 1.0 came. But then the other side of that “respite break” is that because we are so isolated, when they were here, we had such a good time getting to actually enjoy them and their company and their help – and because they were here we got to do little Kayak trips daily and get away — we were so enjoying that, which we have been craving just as much as respite, that I forgot all about that “golden ticket” in my planner. I was cleaning out my planner the other day and saw that respite voucher at the hotel and saw that it expired this weekend so I had to use it. We didn’t have anyone here to stay the night with Brandon, and Todd is going to see Matt for Thanksgiving in a couple weeks, so I booked the room as a chance to stock up on some sleep! 🙂guppy pic 1 It was wonderful — I did sleep. I planned to do so much reading and Bible study, and did some, but mostly, just slept. Most mornings I wake up tired because I’m always getting up for something — letting the dog out, checking Brandon, etc. But with nothing there to do, I could actually sleep, and I woke up early enough, and refreshed enough to have my free breakfast that came with the room, and to come back home and go to church with Todd and Brandon. It was just amazing what uninterrupted sleep can do. And I think what was part of the refreshing part — is that while at home, it’s not that the work is “hard” in the sense that it’s physically draining (well, aside from seizures) it’s that it is constant. It is a constant state of interruption. A constant state of having to do multiple things at once, while being constantly interrupted in all of them. In cooking, I’m not only cooking our food, but Brandon’s ketogenic diet food. While cooking two meals, it’s redirecting Brandon to not use hands in eating his snacks. It’s cooking, redirecting, and then stopping to clean spilled whatever. Stopping all that for the potty schedule routine. Then it’s the coming back and trying to pick up where you left off. In our eating, it’s constantly checking Brandon, if he wandered off, or if he’s in the tub to make sure no seizure, no drowning. It’s just the “constant” of having a severely affected highly energetic and mobile child who needs constant guppy pic 2supervision/redirection. I thought about whether I had “fun” getting away and it wasn’t really about that. Fun, to me, would have been going Kayaking with Todd. Hiking with him. Sitting on the beach with him. Yeah, the romantic part of having a hotel room with my hubby would have been fun — but what our “Life with Autism” steals the most, is that ability to go places and do things together. When we have an opportunity to have help with Brandon, we want to run 1,000 miles an hour with our hair on fire. Respite to us, is to have a place for Brandon to go, so that for a day we can do those things. Brandon needs a place to go, things to do, just as much as we do. But our life with autism and how he is affected by it makes that have to be two separate things for us. No way we would want to be in the middle of Offat’s Bayou with Brandon in a kayak having a seizure, or deciding he wants to get up, or OUT. LOL This respite opportunity was what my body needed – and I’m so thankful to Easter Seals and Marriott for giving that to me. It didn’t work out for both of us to benefit, but I am very thankful I could! Family members and friends of those living “Life with Autism” — consider giving them a voucher for hotel stay for a night. Just the chance for them to go sleep! If there is no childcare for both parents to attend, at least like us, one of us could! Offer to stay the night for them, or if that is too uncomfortable for the parents, offer to stay during the day so they can do do something together. It’s just such a great need. Churches, like the YMCA’s and other places do, if you know of those in your congregation that have a child with autism, allow use of your building for respite so the child can go somewhere and the parents can enjoy their house distraction and interruption free! Like this was for us, it’s not always going to be the perfect scenario – but we must do something – and I am so thankful that Easter Seals had that voucher for families to use. I am so thankful for Church of Champions having respite days at their church so we can have somewhere for Brandon to go while we do errands together or just enjoy our house in peace. I am so thankful for Graceview Baptist Church and other churches who offer such programs as well as Easter Seals Houston’s Family Day Out and Parent Night Out. Our kids need fun as much as parents need sleep! I know so many parents who would covet such a “Golden Ticket” to know they have when they feel they can’t go any longer without a break. Please, give to Easter Seals Greater Houston for the purpose of respite vouchers at hotels. These churches I mentioned, and others, donate to them specifically for their respite programs — to pay staff if they need to hire help, or to pay expenses or supplies. Or kids need places other than home or school to go to just as much as parents need a quiet room and a good nights sleep. These are the gifts that are needed for families this Christmas. And all year-long.

MG, Parent

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