Tag Archives: BridgingApps

An Update from our CEO

We are Here (Virtually) For You

Therapist and her baby with headphones on

Learning Tele-Health!

Easter Seals of Greater Houston is here for you during this difficult time and because you are among our most valuable supporters, we want to assure you that we are here to help. With the Coronavirus (CoVid19) situation changing every day, our concerns are amplified with fears of how our community will be impacted. In all of our decades of serving military families, people with disabilities and vulnerable members of our community-we have become experts in what it takes to beat the odds. Over a month ago, we began adapting our services to keep our staff and clients safe while continuing to provide as many services as possible through tele-health and virtual meet-ups. Click here to see how we continue to support our clients and their families. We have compiled as many resources as possible on Covid19 and are keeping it as up to date as possible. Use BridgingApps.org, our award winning tech technology program, for an amazing amount of on-line resources and ways to stay connected and follow them on Facebook to see new ideas, and resources daily.

Like all families, businesses and charities, Easter Seals Greater Houston has already been hit really hard by the pandemic, by the government mandated benefits and even with huge aid being put in place by Congress, our agency is not eligible for many of the government supports. We expect even more health and financial damage before this is over. With that said, we are steadfast in our commitment to our clients, who need us now more than ever and we are committed to doing whatever we can to protect our employees, serve our clients and come out of this stronger than ever.   Our mission statement is, “Help. Hope. Answers.” The amazing, incomparable and unconquerable Easter Seals family will fulfill that mission of providing help, hope and answers to some of our most vulnerable neighbors during this difficult time and we are grateful to you for standing by us so that we have the resources to serve them.

Speaking of virtually.. We have also moved our Walk With Me Houston event scheduled for April 25th to #WWMVirtually as well. Please consider supporting us through the event. It will be a great way for you, your family, friends, co-workers and other social groups to interact, support the community, “do good” – great home school lesson, stay active safely and more! Follow our Facebook page for our Walk With Me Virtual Sign Up Happy Hour. Last but not least, we so appreciate our current sponsors and their continued effort and support!

If you don’t have the time to commit to walking virtually (and believe me we all understand) then please consider making a gift today to support Easter Seals Greater Houston and our programs, services, clients and their families. We depend on your stewardship and support.

Be well,

Elise Hough, CEO, Easter Seals of Greater Houston

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The Staff that Works Magic

Our Easter Seals staff is amazing! We are so proud of the work they do daily.  This is regarding a client in many of our programs that has Down syndrome, vision impairment and is on the autism spectrum. His mother also happens to be our BridgingApps Program Director.

“I have recently started working with Vincent on his knee,  He has had a subluxed patella four times, and the last one being the worst.  When I evaluated Vincent, he was very shy and didn’t want to participate or engage in physical therapy. CTP 1st Vincent pic 1 We did the evaluation in the hall outside of the PT gym, because that was as close as we could get him at the time.  I talked to him, reassured him, and made fun games out of the evaluation.  We finally got him in the gym to work on the mat.  Mom was concerned about him lying on the floor because this is not something he willingly does at home, but I was able to make a fun game out of it, and mom participated as well.  Now the whole family is doing Vincent’s home exercise program! I have only just begun working with Vincent, and we are going at his pace for therapy.  He now calls me Ms. Streisand, and I just roll with it because kids can call me anything they want to if it will get them to work, play, and have fun!”

Watch this super cute video of Vincent in therapy!

Missy Dafler, PT, DPT, C/NDT, CKTP

Physical Therapist, Easter Seals Children’s Therapy Program

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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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Have You Ever Heard of “Ear Reading”?

Last August, I was excited to become the Program Coordinator for BridgingApps, one of the many programs of Easter Seals Greater Houston.  Before joining the BridgingApps team, I worked as a special education teacher in a variety of classrooms including resource, co-teach, inclusion, and adaptive behavior settings.  As a former special education teacher, helping students with disabilities and their families remains close to my heart.  Being a part of the BridgingApps team has allowed me to find and share creative ways of using technology to improve all students’ learning opportunities with my fellow educators. AmyLou_Podcast_mode

As school starts up again, I wanted to share a bit about a term you may have heard lately- “Ear Reading”.

What in the world is “ear reading”?  You have probably done it, but did not realize or know how helpful it can be for people of all abilities.  Remember reading aloud as a child?  Ever listen to an audiobook?  Educators used to be taught that all children have to learn to “eye read” and maybe even inadvertently given the impression that students who were unable to do so weren’t as smart as their peers. boy with book

Dyslexia specialists and interventionists, however, have known otherwise for years!

According to their website, the International Dyslexia Association defines ear reading as a process where “rather than the written words being taken in through the eyes and processed in the brain, the verbal words are heard through the ears and then processed in the brain.”

So, how can this help in the classroom and what does it have to do with technology?  I have seen first-hand the positive effects that read-alouds have on comprehension, predicting, and many other necessary reading skills.  Technology has allowed us to have the power to essentially provide an appropriate level read-aloud for every child in the class (or at least for the number of electronic devices- tablets, laptops, etc. available in the classroom).  It also allows those students who may not have been able to fully participate in a group discussion of a book due to their lower reading level to listen to that book and have meaningful discussions about it.

Listen to the Podcast here!

Hoopla Podcast Feature

Below are a few of the apps for ear reading that you can find in our app search tool at https://search.bridgingapps.org/dashboard:

Audiobooks.com (free app for iOs and Android, free trial period and then $14.95 per month- 1 book per month)
Kids A to Z – free to download, but requires a subscription to use
Audible – free to download, but requires a subscription to listen to books

Sign in using library card:
Hoopla
Overdrive
Libby, by Overdrive

Services that your students might be eligible dependent on their diagnosis:
BARD Mobile (eligible patrons of the NLS- National Library Service, can borrow audio and braille books to use along with a braille reader on an iPad)
Bookshare:  Web-based service that is free for US students with qualifying diagnoses and offered as a subscription for others.
Voice Dream Reader app can be used to access Bookshare service

The apps below allow users to take pictures of books, documents, etc. using their device and then have it read to them:
Avaz Reader – currently $29.99 to download the app
Speechify – free

Ear Reading

Amy Fuchs, Easter Seals Greater HoustonBridgingApps Program Coordinator

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Technology Bears No Age

Audra Success Story | Older Adult & Stroke Survivor Using Mobile Technology

Ms. Audra Evert is an amazing artist, and her home is covered with her colorful abstract paintings. She suffered a stroke some years ago, and she needed help using a desktop windows computer and a flip phone for her technology needs. Her interests include internet searches, emails, saving and sharing photos, creating word documents, and excel spreadsheets. A nephew of hers recently asked for her knowledge about the family. She developed a goal to create a family tree.

 ESGH BridgingApps digital trainer, Jana Rodriguez helped Audra research a few options to create a family tree and offered the free website service FamilyEcho.com. Together Jana helped Ms. Evert create her family tree, as seen in her printed copy. A copy was also sent via PDF to her nephew. She hopes to expand the details with more research on other family members. At the beginning of this journey she dreaded the thought of how difficult this task would be. She was so pleased with the ease and design which she described as “perfect”!

Audra owns a flip phone and has been frustrated with not knowing how to take photos and then share them with others. Jana of ESGH BridgingAPPS  program has been working on basic phone skills with Audra, who has been practicing manipulating photos on her phone.  She is learning how to take photos, rotate and crop them, and send them to friends and family via email.  She has been thrilled with her progress!

By: The BridgingApps Team, Easter Seals Greater Houston

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Transition and Technology

Chris is a young man in his 20’s who came to Easter Seals Greater Houston‘s BridgingApps program because of his interest in technology. He and his mother wanted to understand how he could use his mobile device to help him be more productive and organized as he began to search for a job.  He owned a smart phone, but his phone was quite old and he didn’t use it for more than the basics, mostly entertainment. Part of the barrier to using his smart phone effectively was that he experienced anxiety about draining the battery, so he preferred to have it plugged into the wall, limiting his mobility.Transition1

Through a generous grant from the Hogg Foundation, BridgingApps provided Chris with a new smart phone and “one on one” trainings with Digital Learning Specialist, Tara Rocha.  During one of these sessions, Tara introduced the concept of a using portable rechargeable battery pack to Chris. Because it is small and rechargeable, Chris learned to plug his smart phone into this device that eased his anxiety about draining his battery, allowing him to be more mobile immediately.  He learned how to create calendar appointments, add items to task lists, back up his data, use contacts, and much more. Following each session, Chris has practiced the tasks at home with an at-home assignment.

Transition2When Tara demonstrated several app options for filling out forms using his smart phone, Chris became so excited that he could complete this task digitally! He found it difficult and laborious to fill out forms required for job searches and other kinds of forms as he moves into adulthood. Writing has been a challenge for him, but he is much more eager to use his phone for this task. We wish Chris the best of luck as he continues his job search, and we will continue to keep in touch as he makes progress towards his goals.

Cristen Reat, BridgingApps
Easter Seals Greater Houston
https://www.bridgingapps.org/2018/05/chriss-success-story-using-iphone-transition/

 

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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

 

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