Tag Archives: disability services

The Strength for Surgery

Jack group

The goals of our adapted karate program (as are all our free playgroups that are open to children in The Caroline School, Children’s Therapy, Infant Program etc) are physical, cognitive, and social-emotional. In addition to the strength, balance, and coordination that are necessary to complete the movements in adapted karate, children develop friendships, work on following directions, participate in and work as a group, understand others’ differences, and build self-confidence. The culmination of all the students’ hard work is the belt test ceremony. Students who are prepared are invited to show off their skills for their families and a panel of black belts from the community.

Jackson is a star pupil, and has consistently attended our classes for the past several years. He has a diagnosis of cerebral palsy, but not even the braces on his legs can slow him down. While preparing for the upcoming belt test, we learned that Jackson would be unable to attend because he would be undergoing major surgery. Instead of waiting for months of recovery and rehabilitation, the black belt panel agreed to host a special belt test for Jackson before his surgery. Our Sensei, Master Luis Garcia, has always told our clients that if you could earn a belt, you could do anything; that in comparison to the discipline, hard work, and commitment it takes to earn a belt, everything else is easy. Jack beltJackson had shown us already that he had earned his belt, and we wanted him to take that belt, and the strength it represents, with him as he went in for this surgery.

When we asked his mother, she was so excited. She told us that Jackson loves karate and even has his older earned belt and certificate up in his room.

Jackson had his entire support squad with him on the day of his test! His parents, grandparents, friends, therapists, and aunt all came to support this very special young man on his big day. He showed off his improved flexibility and balance with his kicks. He impressed us all with his fast reflexes and good control during blocks and partner self-defense. The highlight of the night, everyone’s favorite part: board breaking. Jackson completed an advanced board break—on a real board, he would tell you—as if it were nothing. He did so well, and he knew it! Jackson was so proud of himself. His family was elated, beaming with pride.

Jack breakIt is through community support that we are able to offer our playgroups which also include dance, music, yoga, art and teen night for free so that all children with disabilities can attend, learn  to socialize, improve the skills they are already working on in therapy and build their self-confidence.   What a gift.

Daryn Ofczarak, M.A., CCC-SLP, Easter Seals Greater Houston, Speech Language Pathologist

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Celebrating National Disability Employment Awareness Month

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Abner Medrano was referred to Commissioner Adrian Garcia’s 2019 Summer Internship Program in June. Abner interviewed with Ms. Yhari Jones, the Coordinator for the internship program, and other staff from Commissioner Garcia’s office. Abner and nine other interns were chosen for the program. They visited a Commissioner’s Court session and met all of the County Commissioners and the County Judge.

He completed the onboarding process and began working in the Human Resources Department on Wallisville Road on June 25th. Abner has a Certificate in Office Administration from Houston Community College and was placed in a job processing mileage checks, filing copies of documents in staff personnel files, updating personnel spread sheets, and checking and verifying online materials that were then added to staff files. Abner’s work schedule was 8:30am to 4:00pm, Monday to Friday.IMG_1435

With the end of the internship in mid-August, Abner now has an addition to his resume and several nice letters of reference from his supervisor and co-workers. Thank you to Commissioner Garcia and his staff for making this opportunity available to Abner and the other interns. This great annual program offers young persons the chance to experience real paid work and to add something to their resume that will make a difference in their future job search.

Again, thank you to Commissioner Garcia and Precinct 2 staff. Abner came to Easter Seals via Texas Workforce Solutions (DARS) in 2018.

Abner and our Transition Program staff have complete a number of online applications, which have resulted in six face to face interviews.  While none of the interviews have resulted in permanent employment, Abner has worked with the Houston Livestock and Rodeo Security Division for the past two years.  This new opportunity to work and gain further hands on experience with the Summer Internship for Harris County Precinct 2 was a great opportunity to demonstrate Abner’s office skills.  This will be added to his resume for further enhancement.

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Easter Seals Greater Houston provides transition services for youth ages 16-27 with autism and mental health conditions. Services include transition evaluation and planning, social skills training, family and community resources and goals which reflect the youth’s realizable aspirations in areas of education or work, peer supports, job placement, job coaching and supported employment. Learn more.

Robert Williams, Easter Seals Greater Houston, Transition Director 

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Parent Night Out

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After years of holding Respite Services’ Parent Night Out event at Gethsemane United Methodist Church in Bellaire (and inheriting the beloved Houston Area Respite Center or HARC), Easter Seals Houston needed to make a change due to upcoming renovations at the facility.  We made the move this past Friday night to our very own Easter Seals Greater Houston location at 4888 Loop Central Drive.  The exact location is inside our beloved Caroline School.  We will be holding the PNO program on Friday evenings from 6:30 P.M. to 10:30 P.M. unless otherwise noted (weather/holidays etc.). PNO

Our first night in the new location – we had an amazing time with our clients, the volunteers and staff and we all agree that it was a great success!

Parents Night Out is intended to provide Respite services for our caregivers, those who love and care for our clients’ day in and day out. It gives parents and guardians a small break from their normal duties to relax and have some down time.  This is also a treat for our clients, who look forward to having fun, interacting with new friends and getting out of their daily routines.  We are planning theme nights and a variety of activities make PNO even more fun and engaging!

As the Respite Family Coordinator & the Parents Night out Program Coordinator, I am beyond excited to see what our future nights hold. At Easter Seals we understand the necessary support you need as a caregiver and if this is what we can offer then I can only strive to make it the best.

PNO.jpgIf you or anyone you know who is active, has a positive attitude, a big heart and would like to volunteer, please reach out to me at arico@eastersealshouston.org for more information on our program. Please reach out if you are interested in enrolling as well.

“The functions of intellect are insufficient without courage, love, friendship, compassion and empathy.” -Dean Koontz

Adriana Rico, Easter Seals Greater Houston, Respite Family Coordinator

*PNO is a Friday night out-of-home Respite program currently held in two locations around the Houston area.  Children, teens, and young adults with disabilities are welcome to come and have an out-of-home opportunity to socialize in a safe and fun environment.  Depending on age and activity level, one of the two locations can be recommended for appropriate care. Application and reservations must be submitted prior to attendance.

 

 

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Super Stegemann Sister Volunteer for 17 years Together

Camp sisters blog

Shelby
Hello! My name is Shelby and I am a graduate student in a physical therapy program at the University of New England. I have been volunteering at ESGH  Camp Smiles for seven wonderful years. I love camp because it is truly a place that looks past disability and provides an awesome experience for some really cool kids. One of my favorite memories was with my camper Claire, who has a beloved stuffed Olaf (the snowman from Frozen). The whole week we were together, we brainstormed ways to include Olaf in all the activities, from dressing him up for the dance to having him shoot an arrow in archery! Every summer at camp is a great experience and I am so grateful for the wonderful friends and awesome memories I’ve made along the way.

shelby

Sierra
Hello! My name is Sierra Stegemann. I am a masters student at the University of Texas at San Antonio studying to become a Board Certified Behavior Analyst. I have been volunteering with Camp Smiles for six wonderful years. I have gotten to be a cabin leader, work as the Easter Seals intern, and have an amazing opportunity to be the counselor to my camper, Jackson, for the past three years. Camp is something that I look forward to all year long! My favorite part of camp has been getting to see my Jackson grow and building an awesome friendship with him. This past summer was especially important to me. Jackson is nonverbal and many people can be intimidated by him and are not sure how to interact with us, especially since we are always on the go! This summer our cabin really came together and learned different ways to communicate with him and created an inclusive environment that we hadn’t always had in years past. My favorite memory is everyone in the cabin learning his song that always made him smile and having a group jam session. Memories like that keep me returning to camp! It is always a nice break from the hustle and bustle of the “real world” and it will forever be my happy place.

seirra
Abby
Hello all! My name is Shay. For the last 3 years, Camp Smiles has been the highlight of my summer. I was first introduced to this amazing camp by my 2 older sisters, Shelby and Sierra. My first year, I was asked to come to camp the day before it was going to start. I was nervous about the last-minute request, but I agreed to join my sisters for what they promised would be a life-changing week. And they were right! Every year at Smiles is special. This summer was special to me because I had the pleasure of being the counselor to my pal, Nathan, who I have known for 3 years. It was wonderful to be a part of his first camp adventure- from seeing him go canoeing and fishing for the first time, to being covered in face paint laughing and cheering at the pep rally. My favorite thing about Camp Smiles is the community. I always say that I wish the real world were more like camp- inclusive, judgment-free, and full of smiles!

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Emma
My name is Emma and I have volunteered at Camp Smiles for two years. My sisters have been volunteering at camp for some time now and I am so happy that I get to experience it with them. My favorite thing about camp is the atmosphere. Everyone is always so happy to be there and everyone is there for the same purpose: to have a great time. Camp is the one place I can be myself and know that nobody will judge me, and I know the campers feel the same way. I have been a counselor to Zoë for the past two summers and it has been awesome to witness her growth from the first summer I was her counselor to this summer. She went from barely speaking to me to speaking loud and clear, and it was amazing to see that transition in her. One of my favorite camp memories was after this year’s graduation ceremony. Zoë and I were both very emotional because she was graduating, but after I gave my speech, Zoë said my name for the first time and told me that I was her best friend. I feel so blessed to have had the opportunity to be at camp for 2 years, and I can’t wait for the many years to come.

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Abby, Emma, Sierra, and Shelby: Easter Seals Greater Houston, Camp Smiles Volunteers

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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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Samantha’s Communication Device gets an Update!

Last Spring, Sam transitioned from using a limited auditory scanning device to a device with unlimited app-based software using auditory scanning to communicate!samantha 1

Many of the parents who have come to Easter Seals Greater Houstons’  The Caroline School have done so out of a desire to find a more individualized education for their child – a school that would focus on the whole child, their physical, social, and cognitive development.

That’s exactly what Samantha’s family found. Sam began at The Caroline School a year ago and since has embarked on many educational changes. She worked on her physical skills by using her stander in the classroom and engaging in yoga stretches with support. She focused on her social skills by using both non-verbal gestures (smiles and singing), as well as her new communication device to share love and joy with her friends and teachers. Working on the physical and social aspects of learning, perfectly positioned Sam to grow her cognitive skill set as well! She used her new communication device to engage in lessons and home-to-school connection questions and activities. For example, she completed an “All About Me” project to share with the class.

Sam’s collective team of teachers, parents, ESGH therapists and nurses are so proud of her hard work! We can’t wait to begin her Senior year here at The Caroline School! It will surely be the best year yet.samantha 2

Tabitha Hernandez, Easter Seals Greater Houston, The Caroline School Director

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They Grow Up So Fast

“He is talking more and more every single day!  He’s gotten a lot of boo boos and I always kiss him where he got hurt and say “all better Jakey”.  He now kisses me and says, “all better mommy”.  He’s definitely growing up!  Andrea had a cap and gown for his ESGH  ECI graduation.  I just wanted to thank you again for all your help!!  Jacob and I truly appreciate it tremendously!!” Screenshot_20190618-124740_Messages

-Jacobs Mom

Easter Seals ECI Infant Development program is parent-driven and focuses on enhancing the development of children ages birth to 36 months with developmental delays or disabilities. It is our goal to give families the tools they need to make a significant impact on the development of their children.

We provide families with certified or licensed professionals who come into the child’s natural environment, as a part of the routine where the child learns, plays and lives, and use their skills to help in the progression of reaching the child’s developmental milestones. At the same time the therapists are modeling and teaching the parent/caregiver the skills needed to work by themselves with the child. We believe that parents/caregivers are the most important influences in a child’s life and should be an active player in their child’s development.

Every child who qualifies for the program will be assigned a service coordinator who will coordinate all the individualized services for the child in addition to being the main point of contact for the family. Other services provided may include physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, developmental services, nutrition services, respite services, and assistive technology assistance. If there is a concern about vision or hearing, we will make referrals to the appropriate location to see that your child’s needs are being met.

Sharon Mott, Easter Seals Greater Houston,  Transition and Outreach Coordinator, ECI Infant Program

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