Tag Archives: Case Management

A Village of Heroes

The following is a letter written from a parent of an Early Childhood Intervention client to the director of the Easter Seals Greater Houston program.

“Good afternoon Ms. Dena Day, 

Hope all is well. It’s been a while since I last emailed you about the phenomenal work this agency has continued to bring to our family. The Early Childhood Intervention Program (ECI) under Easter Seals Greater Houston has so many diamonds that need to be highlighted over and over. Roshanda, Melissa, Thein, Michelle, and Marlene have been consistent with their work which showed our family how dedicated they are to their families. Individually and as a team, we witness their extraordinary work ethic every day that Za’karri receives services. This group of therapists and a nutritionist has stood by the Easter Seals‘ mission which is to “provide exceptional services to ensure that all people with disabilities and their families have equal opportunities to live, learn, work and play in their communities” Thank you Easter Seals Greater Houston for lending our family these delightful caring professionals to represent your agency and to help Za’karri thrive for success. Many of the therapists and the nutritionist have been incorporated into our family life since Za’karri was 5-month-old. 

Za’karri will be turning 3 years old this month. Writing this letter has made me very emotional. Sadly, our family’s time with ECI is coming to a close. We as humans face many changes in life and they are not always bad, this end will help us embark with all of the tools the therapists provided to us throughout the years. Za’karri has been seeing 3 therapists every 2 to 3 weeks and 1 Nutritionist monthly since 2019. Countless sessions over the years. Seeing these professionals for so long must be called “Za’karri’s Village of Heroes” The knowledge we obtained will allow us to support our little one in his new journey without his village. We as a family will make sure we continue to help him strive for greatness. We will not allow his underlying challenges to control his way of living or his enjoyment of the years to come. 

Our family is so grateful to be able to have each of these therapists/nutritionists be a part of his journey. This unique individual is so blessed to have so many people cheer him on, words can’t even express it. It’s because of you all that Za’karri has SOARED for greatness. His family is able to provide continuous support by incorporating the knowledge and tools the ECI team provided in weekly sessions. 

Za’karri’s village of a team highlighted impact and moments: 

When Melissa first met Za’karri at 5 months he couldn’t hold his head straight due to torticollis. Za’karri couldn’t roll over, crawl, or walk. Melissa identified that Za’karri had some developmental delays that were shown on his initial assessment. Our family is so grateful for the ECI assessment tool which identified Za’karri’s developmental delays early on. Without this agency, I wouldn’t know what to look for in any development delays, head tilt, or sensory processing disorder. 

Melissa has been providing therapy to Za’karri the longest and has been a great observer and excellent Physical Therapist. Melissa suggested many things that she felt would help Za’karri such as sensory activities, compression clothes, a compression vest for tiptoeing, and Wilbarger Brushing for sensory which is helping with my son’s progress. She also suggested that Za’karri would benefit from Speech and Occupational Therapy. Physical therapy with Melissa has allowed Za’karri to climb up steps, jump, run, and he can now do a sideways front forward roll. With the physical therapist’s assistance, he can now do all this and more. 

Melissa, Physical Therapist assisting and supporting Za’karri during his climbing exercise

We are trying to help him with W-sitting which is a challenge but we are still working to address it. Melissa has sent a referral to see Orthotics to observe his lower extremity orthoses to address the excessive pronation bilaterally. 

Thein is an awesome Nutritionist and is one of a kind. If you want someone to make sure your child has the right nutrients and to stay on track with a healthy diet and weight gain then Thein is your person. We had many challenges working with Za’karri trying many foods and touching items due to his SPD. We were able to work through some things such as making sure we put small portions of food on his plate. 

We have started incorporating Za’karri to assist with meal prep which he loves. Za’karri is still a work in progress in this area. He is still drinking PediaSure to maintain weight and to get the protein nutrients his little body needs. He is still not eating a variety of vegetables or fruits, but we are still exposing him to these items. Having SPD is very challenging when it comes to the low motor tones in his mouth which are very sensitive to touch. We have come a long way and getting to a point to at least kiss some of the fruit to at least get him to taste a little rather than no interaction. Za’karri loves to incorporate activities into his sessions. 

Michelle came along later but just in time to help this little one to overcome his challenges. When Michelle started working with Za’karri on his speech he was 1.5 years old. Za’karri was using non-verbal cues to communicate in sessions with Michelle. He was almost 2 years old and saying very few words and echoing and repeating the same word over and over. Over the months Michelle suggested incorporating sensory bins to help with his progression in speech. Michelle stated that to be successful in his speech we need to address his sensory needs. Michelle has been an asset ever since Za’karri had his tongue tie clip which help Za’karri progress more in speech. Michelle incorporates a z- vibe to help with tongue movement to speak. I’m proud to say that when Za’karri turned two he was incorporating three-word sentences and not echoing word for word. Za’karri is doing great in saying the alphabet as well as numbers from 1 to 20. 

Michelle, Speech Therapist, incorporating a food play activity along with speech interaction 

Marlene is the Occupational Therapist that has been working with Za’karri for the last couple of months. Marlene has been a delight to work with in addressing Za’karri’s sensory needs. Marlene has included food play activities with fun animal activities that he enjoys. This area of expertise has been a challenge for Za’karri he had a couple of therapists in OT. This one was different we had only Zoom visits which at the time was the only available option. I agreed with this option I felt he could still benefit from this service. Za’karri still have issues with wet textures, variety of foods he still doesn’t eat, along with sensory seeking behaviors in different environments. We still have concerns but will continue to focus more attention to address them in the future. 

Za’karri Favorite food play activity with Zoom call with Marlene, Occupational Therapist. 

Roshanda is a vital part of this team as the case manager. By providing supervision, guidance and leadership Roshanda allows this village to soar high for my family and others. Roshanda provided support when I was not satisfied with a certain situation it was resolved quickly and with integrity so Za’karri could still receive his services without any interruption. Roshanda has also stepped in supporting and functioning as a case manager and providing assistance with available resources and helpful information. 

While working with this village of heroes, I have learned how all the milestones overlap/connect and how all the therapist roles are very important and different but are all needed. Learning from a team of professionals allowed our family to be able to help Za’karri to the fullest. 

Their knowledge of food selection, hands-on activities techniques, and being flexible with my work schedule does not go unnoticed. They all love their work, care about the children they serve and are very compassionate to parents’ concerns and feelings. When times were overwhelming for me and my family the ladies provided a listening ear while staying professional and never crossing boundaries. It felt good as a parent to have this village of professionals who have always been kind and respectful. Having these types of diamonds around will surely have a successful impact on your organization for years to come. 

Za’karri experienced some regression but with the help of all the team working together and keeping each other in the loop, Za’karri has improved and accomplished many of his goals. Without these ladies and the Early Childhood Intervention Program, I’m not sure where my son would be today. The ladies have provided me and my family with the knowledge of how all the components connect on helping Za’karri succeed through any challenging times he may face. They have helped our family to communicate with our daycare provider so they can incorporate some of the work we are doing with Za’karri. 

Dena, the last six months have been a journey of success. I just wanted to let you know how awesome your Early Childhood Intervention team has been to Za’karri. 

Thank you, I know behind a good team there is always an amazing leader. A team cannot function without the guidance and support that you have been providing for your staff. On behalf of me and my family, thank you. 

With the help of the village of heroes’ tools and support, Za’karri will learn to function with his sensory processing disorder and will continue to adapt to his environment for many years to come. 

Thank you, 

Za’karri and family” 

Are you concerned about your baby’s development? Easter Seals Greater Houston’s Early Childhood Intervention services are available for children birth to 36 months who show a developmental delay, who are at risk for a delay, have a disability or atypical behaviors. Learn more.

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Running Past the Limits

My name is Jennifer Wright, PsyD and I am so happy to be part of the Easter Seals Greater Houston team. I started as a Harvey Case Manager over three years ago and will surely retire at ESGH! I now have the honor of working with clients through the Service Members, Veterans and Military-Connected Families Programs.

It wasn’t until I was diagnosed with West Nile Virus Encephalitis at age 40 that I wanted to run. The neurologist told me he wasn’t sure if I would ever roller blade or run again. I didn’t have my impulse control back yet…I told him, “Forget it! You don’t know who you are talking to. I am going to roller blade and run some day! Ridiculous!” I stormed out of the doctor’s office, wanting to prove him wrong. In that second, I made the decision to dedicate my daily life to helping people find hope.

Being sick kept me from being able to sit up and caused me to fall over in the shower. Though I had never been a runner before, these new obstacles made me want to run more than ever. I also began working at Easter Seals Greater Houston, loving that the organization brought individuals hope from every interaction. The agency exemplifies this in every interaction with clients, from our initial conversation at intake to follow through several months later.

I was inspired to run the Woodlands Marathon because there are families who no longer have loved ones that can run (death, injury, suicide etc…) or there are families whose kids need 24 hour care. At mile 18 and 22, I was so nauseous from the pain. I felt the tears down on my face- I kept telling myself…”your veterans and families with disabilities push through difficult moments every single day. They embrace this because their struggle never goes away. You breathe through it, in the same way they do. They can do it…you can do it- just like them!” I made it to the finish line thanks to the families who share their stories with me at Easter Seals Greater Houston.

Watch the incredible Jennifer Wright finish her race here! Learn more about Easter Seals Greater Houston’s programs that serve veterans, service members, children and adults with disabilities and their families.

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Santa and Veterans Team Deliver for Christmas

Thanks to Dr. Jennifer Wright and Tim Stroud from Easter Seals Greater Houston Veteran, Service Member, Military-Connected Family Program as well as a host of donors, one Houston Veteran slept in a REAL bed for the holidays. After connecting to the homeless Veteran, Dr. Wright reached out to others for help. As a frontline worker, Dr. Wright’s first action was to ensure the Veteran was in a safe place and had the right mental attitude. In the military, safe is an objective term. He was living in his car with his two dogs and since they are his emotional support animals, he would not go live in a shelter without them. 

This was all the information that Dr. Wright needed to know. She sprang into action and contacted her internal team and then the resources in their network. Since Easter Seals Greater Houston is funded under the Texas Veterans + Family Alliance Grant program from the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, they work with over 250 local and regional Veteran Service Organizations. 

Within a few days, the Veteran was living in a home, had food, furniture, clothes, dishes and all the comforts of home. The Veteran now works at a “no kill” animal shelter and is very thankful for the case management and care from our TVFA Network. When the supplies were delivered, the Veteran remarked through teary eyes that this was the nicest bed he has ever slept in. Rest well warrior. 

The Veteran, Tim, smiling with his own room with his two dogs

It is our honor to support a Veteran and to foster just a little bit more of hope. The Veteran, Tim Bergdoll, gave us permission to share his story and indicated that this was the best Christmas ever!

“Being out of my car, sleeping in a warm bed, and watching Pico and Buddy enjoy their warm shower truly was a blessing.” Thank you, for your swift action! Thank you, TVFA for making this a happy-ending!

“On Christmas Eve, I was at peace knowing that this little crew was taken care of” says Tim.

Did you know that Easter Seals Greater Houston offers a wide range of programs and resources for Veterans, Service Members and Military-Connected Families? Learn more.

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A Team Your Child Can Trust and Love

As my son Shazil J. turns 3 years old and transitions out of Easter Seals Greater Houston’s Early Childhood Intervention (ECI) services for his special needs and into the school system, a few thoughts come to mind. Thank you is not enough as we prepare to say goodbye.

I would highly recommend ECI with Easter Seals Greater Houston. They have been there from bottle feedings to spoon feedings, from barely rolling to walking, and from sign language to spoken “I love yous.” ECI services are a gift you never knew you needed but are so grateful to have worked with. 

My special thanks goes out to Aliza Rodriquez for being the best and efficient case manager for my child’s therapy program. Aliza’s sole focus has been ensuring that we have an adaptable and personalized treatment plan that ensures my son’s success in school and in life. She has listened to my concerns and fears about transitioning to school.

Shazil’s therapists Lisa Rand And Cindy Tullier worked with him tirelessly and he achieved so much, reached milestones we didn’t know he could reach. They came to my house and provided him Occupational, Speech and Behavior Therapies. Thank you for pushing my son to be the best he could be and not giving up through the screaming and hitting. Also for giving me strategies to get my son to eat and helping me handle sensory issues. I am thankful for them for coming to my house and not judging me if it wasn’t spotless or tidy & being someone my son can trust and love.

Words cannot describe how grateful I am to have encountered you all. Thank you for your patience and your hard work and thank you for creating such a wonderful place that changes the lives of so many children. I will be forever grateful.

Sincerely,

Rumeza J.

Your baby’s health and development won’t wait for the COVID19 pandemic to end. The time from birth to age three is critical in your child’s physical and cognitive development.  To help make sure your baby is reaching their developmental milestones, you can complete this free Ages & Stages Questionnaire or check with your pediatrician if you have concerns.  Easter Seals Greater Houston’s Early Childhood Intervention is accepting referrals and offers tele-health as well as in-home services. Learn more!

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A Call That Changed Everything

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Jessika,

Thank you for everything! When we first spoke I was so stressed and desperate for help. Angeline had gone through surgery and Kayla was taken via ambulance to the Texas children’s hospital for emergency care. It was chaotic and I was being evicted from my home. I had so much going on and I sent an email to Easter Seals. All my local shelters were full and funds were exhausted. I didn’t know I would receive your call that day. It changed everything. Although I didn’t know it at the moment, you were coming to help me and my family. I was relieved to have someone who understood my struggles as a special needs parent. Many things I couldn’t speak about with even my own family. Your kind words assured me I was not alone. You told me about the organization Easter Seals Greater Houston, its’ programs and how it would help me. My family had gone through some situations and to be honest, I was overwhelmed. I was touched that Easter Seals was going to not only help me with my rent (that was more than enough) but had made sure I received gift cards (so I could provide for my young daughters.) This was a glorious day for me. I cried,  I was so happy that there are still people like you and organizations like Easter Seals that care. I was no longer worried where they would sleep that night. The uncertainty of not knowing if you would be able to provide for your family is devastating. All that was before,  now it is a different story. My girls both made a full recovery. Thanks to you and Easter Seals we have shelter, food and the necessities. You probably hear this so many times, but you made an impact on my family and in my life. If it weren’t for you reaching out and being compassionate I wouldn’t be here now. This is a gift that keeps giving. Thank you again Jessika!  I called the food scholarship today and I will be receiving food this Saturday. I’m so happy I get to provide healthy food for my girls. I am grateful for the gift cards, they were much needed. I was able to buy diapers, bottles, baby shampoo, baby wipes, toothpaste and so many baby essentials. I would’ve not had the funds to even cover the basic necessities this month had it not been for you and Easter Seals swift action. I am actively working on providing better for my girls and I look forward to all the upcoming events too. Kayla loved the little white bear you gave her.

I just wanted to reach out and give you a little update. Angeline is in speech therapy and has improved so much. She is talking more each day. Easter seals has been a life saver for me and my family. I truly hope that others can see that there is still hope and it’s people like you and organizations like this that make it better.

Sincerely,

Karen Angeline’s Mom

Jessika Gaehring is a Case Manager at Easter Seals Greater Houston and at the time was serving families with disabilities also affected by Imelda.

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Incredible Eira

Eira BandaEira is a beautiful little girl that has been in Easter Seals Greater Houston’s Early Childhood Intervention (ECI) Infant Program since the age of 4 months. She was born with Down Syndrome and was hospitalized in the NICU for the first 3 months of her life. After being discharged, the hospital immediately referred her to Easter Seals’ ECI Program. Since that time, she’s received every ECI service from Occupational, Physical & Speech Therapy, Specialized Skills Training, Nutrition and Case management during her enrollment.

Eira’s Mom, Angelica said “Eira has learned so much from ECI. She’s received so many therapy services over the years. Walking was hard for her because she had such low tone and her legs bowed out. The physical therapist helped us with exercises”. The case manager, Christina Weiblen, said “Mom would always ask us when she was going to walk, would she walk?” Now Angelica says “I’m waiting for her to sit still! She’s climbing up and down on the table and moves around so fast!” The proud mom also shares that “She absorbs everything she sees and learns that way. She loves my phone and has learned how to open and close apps.  She’s a whiz!”

Eira Banda 2Eira turns three soon and has been evaluated for the PPCD, preschool program for children with disabilities program with her local independent school district. The case manager is also helping Angelica explore private therapy options and other play groups.  Through case management she is also on several wait lists such as HCS, MDCP and CLASS to ensure future support and services for Eira.

Easter Seals Greater Houston’s ECI Program helps children ages birth to 36 months with disabilities and developmental delays achieve their goals in cognitive, social/emotional, communicative, adaptive and physical development. Learn more here.

Early Childhood Intervention Infant Program Team, Easter Seals Greater Houston

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Resilient

Gaby1We are a small, young family working and playing hard in Kingwood, Texas. My name is Chris and I’m the dashing and brilliant stay-at-home Dad. My wife is Elisa, the exotic and  mysterious bread winner of the family, and together we have two daughters – Hannah, a five-year-old Wonder Woman and two-year-old Gabriella (Gaby), the thrill-seeking comic of the family.

Gaby was born on November 10, 2015, shortly after we moved to the suburbs of Kingwood from the city of Houston. We felt confident about the delivery since this was Elisa’s second time, and I had plans to take a short break from my career to help get us all settled and then find a new job a few months later. Those expectations changed when the delivery did not go as planned, and Gaby was immediately put on a ventilator as soon as she arrived. I remember she was blue and not breathing. Come to find out she had swallowed muconium on her way out and the fluid was stuck in her lungs. Eventually she started to breathe and move around, but spent the better part of a week in the NICU as a result.

During her time in the NICU the doctors discovered Gaby4a small heart defect. Gaby has a few valves that are thickened and while the thick valves are not causing her any immediate problems, over many months they did lead the doctors down a path to a genetic diagnosis of Kabuki Syndrome.

Turns out, the reason Gaby swallowed meconium is that she has hypertonia. Her muscles, while they can develop and get stronger like any of ours, are naturally weak and hyper flexible. Gaby did not have the muscular control of her mouth or throat to prevent herself from swallowing fluid during delivery. Over time the hypertonia has lead to delays in walking, eating, and for a while, even having a bowel movement on her own. As an infant she needed assistance in every little area of life that we take for granted, because she wasn’t strong enough to do these things on her own. Gaby also had severe reflux, and not only was she not strong enough to swallow, but what formula did go down came right back up in a very violent, retching episode. Eventually she was given a G tube, which allowed us to use a pump to slowly drip formula directly into her stomach, bypassing her mouth and throat completely. Even after the G tube surgery and with the pump, Gaby threw up, screaming and crying, 5-6 times a day for nine months. She didn’t sleep. We didn’t sleep. We just held her and rocked her as she screamed in pain.

As the weeks went on, colobomas were found in both of her eyes resulting in low vision and an immediate diagnosis of legal blindness. Knowing Kabuki can produce hearing loss as well, we tested her ears and found that she has mild to moderate loss in both ears, requiring hearing aids. The combination of vision and hearing loss lead to sensory issues, such as getting overwhelmed in loud, new spaces or feeling uncomfortable touching certain textures.

For months it seemed we found a new challenge to face each week. We lived in the hospital and at doctor appointments. We were scared. We were exhausted. We were not prepared for this.

On top of helping Gaby, we were all of a sudden forced into a situation where we had to take a hard look at our insurance, the surrounding school system, any and every option available to us through the city, state, non-profits, family, friends and whatever else. Through this process – what I call the “business side” of all this – we discovered Easter Seals Greater Houston‘s Early Childhood Intervention (ECI) Program and requested an evaluation.

None of us are prepared for the feelings that come with Gaby3a scenario like this. Just a few months before Gaby was born I had bought a drum kit and was hoping to open my own retail store. Now, overnight, I was having to second guess and completely reevaluate emotions, thoughts, plans and habits that were second nature to me over the previous 35 years. The most difficult obstacle to overcome was accepting what Gaby had and what she was facing enough to do the things that I knew she needed. One of those things was an Early Childhood Intervention evaluation –  probably the first time I had to accept she needed long term help. It was honestly scary.

As nervous and vulnerable as I felt we were at the time, our evaluation was the best thing that could have happened to us. Both Easter Seals therapists were so knowledgeable and understanding of our situation. Even though Kabuki Syndrome is a specific challenge to deal with, these therapists knew so much about the bigger picture – the anger, the sadness, the confusion and, at times, hopelessness. These are experiences that every parent of a child with special needs goes through no matter the diagnosis.

Given Gaby’s situation at the time we were quickly scooped up into the ECI Program and recommended a handful of therapies to begin with, including Physical (Leanne Armel), Occupational (Jessica Valdez/Jackie Wooten), and Speech (Ashly Wiebelt). Eventually we would add an Early Intervention Specialist (Ysabel Luna) when Gaby was a little older. We were also provided an incredible Case Manager (Melodie McDonald) that helped us complete any forms or paperwork, recommended assistance programs that could be available to us at the city and state level, and was also a wealth of knowledge for resources in our immediate community.

Gaby thrived with the support and expertise of the Easter Seals team. The therapists came to our house. We did not have to sit in a small room waiting for them like we did with the doctors. The therapists were flexible and understanding with our schedule, they were prepared for each appointment and most importantly, each and every one of them genuinely cared about all four of us. Honestly, in the beginning, sometimes I just used them as a shoulder to cry on.

The first thing that the Easter Seals specialists told us was that they were not there to do the therapy for us, but to teach Elisa and I how to do it. I appreciated that so much, because the ECI team understood that there is no doctor in our house when Gaby’s G-button falls out. There is no nutritionist in Gaby’s room at 3:00 a.m. when she’s just thrown up all of her food, and there is no physical therapist on standby next door to come teach Gaby how to sit up by herself everyday. That was our job now. Like it or not, as hard as life had been recently, we had to become Gaby’s nurse, doctor and therapist. That was our job as her parents. We had to get with it, and we had to start right away.

Based on our physical therapist’s advice and teaching, we worked every day with Gaby on simple exercises that began with the goal of having her roll over. Eventually she sat up on her own and today, at two years old, she walks. Our speech therapist taught us about strengthening Gaby’s mouth so she could begin to form words and eat food. She introduced Gaby to specific sounds and words to help her communicate. Today Gaby can speak 6-8 words clearly and is picking up sign language very quickly. Our occupational therapist worked for months on tasks as simple as pointing a finger, and today Gaby can sit in a chair, flip through a book and remove pieces of a puzzle. Every baby needs teaching and nurturing to grow, but for a baby with special needs that is naturally going to be delayed they need specific attention given to the little things.

Gaby2Lastly, Easter Seals Greater Houston’s Early Childhood Intervention Program helped us learn how to communicate. We had to develop a way to communicate with Gaby despite delays or physical setbacks. We had to learn how to explain Gaby’s life to her sister Hannah in a way that Hannah felt included and encouraged. We had to learn how to talk to other parents, teachers and even strangers about Gaby in a healthy way, to let them know Gaby is just as strong, smart, and resilient as any other two-year-old. Recently we attended the 4th Annual Kabuki Gathering in San Antonio and met families from our area and their children with Kabuki Syndrome. Without the confidence that ECI has given us to take this new life head on, I do not know if I would have gone. However, it turned out to be one of the best weekends of my life, not mention for Gaby and the rest of our family. Rare conditions like Gaby’s and special needs of all types are so difficult to manage in the beginning, and borderline impossible to do alone. Thanks to Easter Seals’ ECI we never had to be alone and Gaby’s life has been changed forever.

Chris, Early Childhood Intervention Program Parent, Easter Seals Greater Houston

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