Tag Archives: chilldren at risk

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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Celebrating Better Hearing and Speech Month

Celebrate May as Better Hearing and Speech Month. Concerned? Wondering if your baby is meeting her milestones?

Our Children’s Therapy Program is here to help.  You can also check out our Ages & Stages Questionnaire on a regular basis!

 

 

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May 11, 2017 · 8:52 am

Little Steps Big Success with Easter Seals Houston Early Childhood Intervention Program

chelsea linn pic 2Written by a client’s adoptive mother.

‘It was Thanksgiving eve 2014 that I received a call from my husband wanting to know if I was still interested in adopting a baby, my heart sank. My husband and I only had one daughter and she was now 19.  We had always said one day we would try to adopt but had not pursued it, so I was very much surprised by the phone call.

My husband went on to explain that a very distant relative of his had reached out to him to see if maybe we could take a family member’s newborn, if not they were taking her to the local fire station.  We had until midnight to get there (Dallas), and well my response was an immediate YES!!!!  I left work, went straight home and we had a family meeting to ensure our 19-year-old was on board, AND her response was “what are you waiting on… GO”!penguin playing pic

We brought Jordan home that night she was 6 weeks old.  We immediately noticed that she wasn’t crying very much and that she was moving her head and arms very little. I took her to the doctor and they told me she wasn’t moving or crying because she had been left in a car seat or swing for long periods of time and had very little interactions with her parents. The doctor told me babies cry because they need something, but if no one responds eventually they stop crying. It really hit me hard now how much she had been neglected. I contacted the CPS agent in Dallas and she explained what all had happened, she told me that Jordan had been born with 4 drugs in her system and that was why they had an open case, I had a home interview and the file was closed with CPS.

monkey communication pocI had heard about #MakeTheFirstFiveCount and their on-line Ages and Stages Questionnaire.  I filled out an Easter Seals referral form and Jordan was evaluated by Easter Seals Greater Houston‘s Early Childhood Intervention Program (ECI) and on January 28, 2015 she was diagnosed with a NON-categorical four-month delay and she started Physical Therapy & Occupational Therapy with the Liberty County Easter Seals staff.cheetah moving pic

Ms. Leanne Armel, an amazing therapist that has been with Easter Seals Greater Houston for over fifteen years, started working with Jordan intensely, and she told me this wasn’t going to be easy and for me to stay strong…This was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do, as her mom my first instinct is to protect her from hurting (she had been through so much already). Every time Ms. Leanne saw me she would always reassure me this was for the best and always gave me early intervention caregiver’s techniques to do at home & in the classroom as well while not doing therapy.

Nov 2015 Infant program blog pic3 by Sharon MottA few months into it Ms. Leanne told me not to give up but to be thinking about talking her to the doctor to see if she would benefit from surgery. I was so scared and unsure as to what to do?? Ms. Leanne was so comforting and really listened to me without judging, she understood how hard it was to see Jordan crying during the sessions, but I prayed every day for God to lead guide and direct all decisions.  January we had our second IFSP (Individual Family Service Plan) meeting and Jordan graduated out of the program and was ahead of schedule in most milestones!! Can you believe we were discussing surgery one year ago!!  Now she will be school ready! and we are equipped with more knowledge and resources moving forward!

Sears Family,  Easter Seals Greater Houston Early Childhood Intervention Program Clients

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Your “Go To” for Child Development! #MakeTheFirstFiveCount

What are EIS and SST?

In the world of Early Childhood Intervention (ECI) we really like our acronyms. BDI, IFSP, OT, PT, EIS and SST are just a few of them that are common terms to  Infant program Jamie Hearly intervention providers in the field, but to parents these terms are often new and confusing.

Today we’ll be highlighting two important terms in Easter Seals Greater Houston’s ECI Infant Program, EIS and SST:

What is an EIS? Early Intervention Specialist (EIS) professionals are required to have at least a Bachelor’s degree with coursework related to early childhood intervention. EIS’s also must successfully complete specialized post-graduate training after being hired. They have expertise in infant and toddler development, both typical and atypical patterns. For example, cognitive skills and how infants and toddlers learn, and social interactions like behavior, biting, temper tantrums and picky eating.   EIS’s focus on how to embed the intervention into families’ daily activities so it will increase the opportunity for the child to practice new skills every day. Lauren Stroope, an EIS shares this:

martha and client“My name is Lauren Stroope. I received my Bachelor’s Degree in Human Development and Family Studies from Colorado State University. I have worked as an EIS for 3 years. As an EIS, I help babies across developmental domains. Some babies on my caseload are just learning to sit up on their own, crawl and walk. I work with the baby and give mom tips for helping them meet motor goals. I have several two-year olds on my caseload who have speech delays. I introduce simple signs to them so they can communicate their wants and needs better while decreasing their frustration. I help kids learn how to sit and attend, and follow directions. One of my favorite success stories is from a child that just graduated. He was in our program for a year. He started out unable to sit and play for more than a few seconds and had no words. By the time he graduated, he could sit and play for our whole session, had several words, and could follow directions and answer questions by pointing or signing.”

What is SST? Specialized Skills Training (SST) is a unique early intervention service only offered by an EIS. A child can receive SST and therapy services. SST shows parents how to help their children learn with a focus on thinking skills, behavior and social skills. These are all skills your child needs to be ready for school. SST shows you ways to help your child during your family’s everyday activities by using items in your home or childcare center, and teaches you about child development and what should be happening next with milestones.leanne and client

What happens in an SST Session? An EIS will schedule visits to join the family during activities they request help with, either at home or in the community. The skills families learn during SST sessions will help the child meet specific developmental goals. For example, if a parent wants their child to talk more, an EIS demonstrates and suggests how to set up their child’s play area to encourage use of more words and asking for favorites – maybe during snack time and using pictures of food to help the child make choices. Since services are also provided in community settings, some staff has even met families in a grocery store to offer suggestions on how to reduce temper tantrums during this routine for families.

ECI Infant Program of Easter Seals Greater Houston believes that working in partnership with families and their young children is the key. An investment in babies today for a better Texas tomorrow! We are specialists in your child’s development. Check out Make The First Five Count http://www.easterseals.com/mtffc/ and make sure your child is reaching their milestones!

Lauren Stroope, EIS, Easter Seals Greater Houston Infant Program / (Early Childhood Education)

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Celebrating Better Hearing and Speech Month…not to mention National Mobility Awareness Month

Easter Seals Greater Houston’s Children’s Therapy Outpatient Rehabilitation Facility!

We are continuing to strive to improve and grow to be the best therapy practice we can be. With that mission in 2015 Children’s Therapy received Outpatient ctp mountainRehabilitation Facility status from Medicare and Medicaid of Texas with accreditation through the American Association for Accreditation of Ambulatory Surgery Facilities, Inc. We successfully underwent review of our standards of practice to maintain our accreditation. Advancement to facility status allows us to expand our client base to rehabilitation as well as habilitation therapy and to demonstrate to our stakeholders, community and physicians that we are functioning at the highest degree of standards of practice.

The goal of our practice is always to foster improvements in the lives of the children we serve and their families. Here is Michael’s story.

“Michael has been receiving services at Easter Seals Greater Houston’s Children’s Therapy for three years now.   When Michael started in the program, he could hardly speak more than a handful of words, was not able to walk up and down stairs & was unable to perform daily living activities such as bathing, dressing, etc. In just a three year time period all of that has dramatically changed.

Michael speaks in three and four word sentences now. This has been such a blessing to our family as it has greatly reduced his frustration from being unable to communicate. Whereas before, we had to guess what he might want for a snack and present different options until he said the word yes, he can now tell us. Michael has had wonderful speech therapists while at Easter Seals & his success is greatly attributable to their hard work & perseverance.

ctp cutie pieMichael was born with Hypertonia which means it is harder for him to do physical activities for a long period of time; his body gets tired more quickly.   When Michael first started physical therapy at Easter Seals he couldn’t take a step up onto a curb without holding on to someone’s hand. He now climbs up stairs on his own.   He is also able to participate in activities which involve a greater level of endurance. This has improved his ability to socialize and his overall quality of life.

Michael never received occupational therapy prior to starting therapy at Easter Seals Children’s Therapy. Things such as getting your own glass of water, bathing yourself & getting dressed independently are skills which as adults we take for granted. These however, have taken Michael significant effort to master & thanks to his occupational therapist he continues to become more independent and able to care for his basic daily needs.”

This is what we do at Easter Seals Greater Houston’s Children’s Outpatient Rehabilitation Facility.

Mary Dawson, Easter Seals Greater Houston, Program Director, Children’s Therapy

 

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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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