Tag Archives: disability services

High School High Tech Spotlight on Cali

Today we want to spotlight Cali, a high school senior from Willis High School who is finishing her senior year online and working nearly full time at Tractor Supply Company. Cali also makes time to participate remotely in our Easter Seals Greater Houston High School High Tech Program weekly chats and lessons despite her busy schedule.  Cali,  joined HSHT as a sophomore and was extremely nervous about her first mock interview day.  She had never had a job before nor had she ever applied for or interviewed for one.  As part of our curriculum, we teach students how to properly complete a job application, how to dress, how to write a resume and how to successfully ace their job interviews. 

“The past two years in the program helped me a lot,” Cali said. She aced her first job interview and has been employed with Tractor Supply Company for the past 9 months and is working hard to become a Team Lead after graduation.   As a high school senior, Cali has also taken on a leadership role within her HSHT campus group, walking around the room assisting underclassmen complete their job applications, resumes and even research careers.   At last months meeting, she came running into the room proudly waving her senior pictures, shouting “Miss, Miss! I never thought I would ever see this day!   I never thought I would graduate high school! ”

We are so very proud of our Cali Girl for all her hard work and dedication to school, her employer and to her community.  Cali is also part of the Willis HS Marching Band, FFA and raises and shows heifers through 4H.

Carmen Phillips, Montgomery County Program Coordinator, High School High Tech, Easter Seals Greater Houston

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An Update from our CEO

We are Here (Virtually) For You

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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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Walk With Me…Virtually: Walk, Stroll or Roll the Block!

Out of an abundance of caution and care for our clients, teams, sponsors, friends and family walkers and rollers, we’ve made the decision to reroute Walk With Me 2020 to a virtual event. 

This year, we invite you to: Walk With Me…Virtually: Walk, Stroll or Roll the Block!

How it works: We encourage you to register (if you haven’t already) and walk, stroll or roll around your own block daily, weekly and/or on the event day between now and April 25th. Of course, your safety comes first, but we also know that taking in a little bit of sunshine can help all of us during this difficult time!

As you walk, stroll or roll your block, be sure to take photos or videos…or even live stream your experience and use the hashtag #WWMVirtually and tag @EasterSealsGreaterHouston then encourage your friends and family to do the same to help support your (or their own) fundraising efforts.

Last year, 4,000 Houstonians were in attendance. With our virtual walk, we KNOW you can help us beat that!

Every “virtual” step you take helps connect veterans, children and adults with all types of disabilities to the services they desperately need.

How to register to walk, stroll or roll around your block!
*If you have already registered as a walker, you are automatically considered a virtual walker (or stroller or roller!). As such, you do not need to re-register.
*All we need is your help with spreading the word about Walk With Me…Virtually!
*If you’re new to our Walk With Me community, register as a virtual walker here!

How to encourage your friends to continue to help you in your virtual fundraising efforts:

  • As you walk, stroll or roll your block, be sure to take photos or videos…or even live stream your experience and use the hashtag #WWMVirtually and tag @EasterSealsGreaterHouston to encourage your friends and family to do the same to help support your fundraising efforts. You can even create a Facebook fundraiser to make it that much easier!
  • Ask friends and family to join your virtual team, create their own teams and challenge their peer networks (Scout troops, Mother’s Day Out, faith communities, volunteer groups and more) to do the same!
  • Click here for an updated email you can send to your friends and family to encourage continued donations to your virtual walker page!

Donate NOW to help us continue our life-changing work!

COVID-19 has hit Easter Seals and its clients, employees and fundraising efforts hard so we need your support in helping us reach our $1 million goal NOW MORE THAN EVER BEFORE. Your commitment will help ensure that Easter Seals can continue its mission of providing services for thousands of Houstonians living with all types of disabilities each year.

Donate to a walker to support Easter Seals Greater Houston today!

We look forward to virtually walking, strolling or rolling the block with you!

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MOST of All!

Teamwork makes the dream work!  Teens with cerebral palsy and volunteers (many of them long-time volunteers – thanks, friends!) had a great time last month at Easter Seals Camp MOST Weekend Camp – riding horses, doing archery, and challenging themselves at the tower – and learning about self-awareness, advocacy, and teamwork during the jam sessions. Camp Most pic 1 This past weekend the crew worked together to line up PVC pipe and get a marble from one end to the other.  Kudos to teen, Sebastian, for stepping up and leading the teens and getting everyone started on a plan.  The teens got the ball rolling and had a resounding success!

Kenzie Richard, Easter Seals Greater Houston, Program Coordinator

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ESGH Group Activities Statement (COVID-19)

2020 CoVid Cancellation

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March 3, 2020 · 8:20 am

Together We Did It!

First, as a family we’d like to say a big thank you to the Easter Seals Early Childhood Intervention program team that has been part of the process over the almost 3 years working with our twins, Noah and Roman. Together WE DID IT! WE are doing it! They are achieving so much and catching up to developmental milestones. It’s been wonderful to see them thriving and meeting goals.ECI blog for february pic 3

Noah and Roman were born at 30 weeks unexpectedly. As a parent that can be a scary thing not knowing the outcome of your babies. I did not have the opportunity to see, nor hold my babies once they were both delivered and they stayed in the NICU for about 2 months and received therapy services thru the hospital. Luckily, we were referred to Easter Seals ECI for the opportunity to have continued care for our little guys. Thru ECI we have been given more of the tools necessary to help our boys develop and grow.

Our service coordinator, Roshanda, has been very helpful in educating us about options we have for different services thru Easter Seals and ECI and making sure needs have been met. She always has open communication with me and answers questions or concerns we may have. Roshanda is very pleasant to work with and I feel like she genuinely cares.

The twins both started physical therapy with Melissa. It was a bittersweet moment being discharged from Easter Seals Houston’s PT services BUT it was a blessing they reached all their goals and physical developmental milestones! Thank you Melissa!

The boys have been receiving Easter Seals Houston’s occupational therapy services with Gumaro. We thank you Gumaro for getting the boys on track.  Always having patience with them during the good days and the bad days.

Speech Therapy through Easter Seals is so much fun for Noah and Roman most of the time(if they’re in a good mood) the vocabulary has gone from grunts and crying to pointing, using single words, 2 and even some 3 word phrases. They definitely like to show off that they can communicate with mom and the family now. Thank you Tate! Also thank you to Michelle during SLP sessions with Noah when he had a tongue tie. You were so helpful to us. You introduced him with his 1st favorite book “Never Touch a Dragon” which he still loves.

The twins also receive SST (Specialized Skills Training) with Lakeisha. They have so much fun with all the therapists, but they really enjoy Lakeisha. They don’t even realize she’s working with them and think it is play time the whole session! ECI blog for february pic 2

You all have watched our little guys have their best days and worst days. Thank you to the team of everyone who has helped us, help them, along the way thus far! These little guys have come a long way and the support and services thru Easter Seals ECI I truly feel like has gotten them on track to where they are now!

Thank you so much!

-Noah, Roman and Family

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There Will Never Be Enough ” Thank You’s”

Our baby, Nicolas was born with Arthrogryposis, this condition causes many joints to be stiff and crooked at birth. This was a surprise since the doctor didn’t catch this in the ultrasounds.  It was a pill hard to swallow as every parent expects their baby to be healthy. Nicolas was a tight little ball who could not stretch out. The Arthrogryposis on Nicolas affected him in his elbows, wrists, 10 fingers, knees, and complex clubfeet. The doctors weren’t sure if he was going to be able to walk. He was in need of a lot of medical care including surgeries, cast, and therapy.

We heard about Easter Seals Greater Houston and their program called Early Childhood Intervention that could help us give therapy to Nicolas from home. We called and after a few weeks, they were at home making the first evaluation. After this evaluation, they told us Nicolas qualified and they would start coming to our home for PT, OT, and ST.

Every single lady from this program has changed our lives in so many ways. They have shown this love for Nico since the day they met him. They were at my house every week since my son was 2 months old until 3 years old.

1The OT therapy started with DeeDee, she is a very sweet lady who won’t stop smiling. Nico was so happy to see her. She helped Nico with his hands, shoulders, elbows, and wrists doing stretching. She taught Nico to use his fingers to grab toys, small balls, push bottoms, and play with his cars. She also did stretching on a big ball. She became a friend of our family. She brought us hope.

The PT started with Melanie. She helped Nico with stretching his lower body. She helped us when we were having problems with Nico’s braces. She helped Nico sit and start bearing weight, she even put Nico in his first gait trainer.

After that, we had to move to Houston. The ECI program rescheduled and reassigned within Easter Seals and did everything for us and after a couple of weeks, they started coming to our new apartment.

The PT continued with Cristy. My family will never forget this lady. When Nico was born the doctors weren’t sure if he was going to walk. She helped Nico in so many ways. She made him stronger. She was always very energetic and happy. She helped Nico walk his first steps on his walker. And then the unimaginable happened. She said Nico was ready to walk by himself. So Nico took his first steps with her at 20 months old. I have that memory in my mind like it was yesterday. Everybody was so happy and in tears. It was the best moment in our lives. We are so thankful for her. After that she taught Nico to go up and down small steps. She taught Nico to kick a ball. She taught Nico to go from a sitting position to standing. She will be always a special person in our lives.

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The OT continued with Sherry. She helped Nico with fine motor skills. Nico got better grabbing things. Sherry also taught Nico colors, numbers, and animal names. She was always bringing new toys to keep Nico learning new things every therapy session.

For ST, both speech pathologists were great teaching Nico how to blow bubbles and saying new words like pop, mom and daddy.  They read books to Nico and played with him to teach him even more new words.

We moved again into a new house and with the move, we again got new therapists within Easter Seals.

Lisa started with Nico for OT. She always said Nico was super smart. She encouraged Nico’s Spanish. She was very funny and always made us laugh. She taught Nico to draw lines, circles, play with play-doh and so much more. She was always a spark of joy for us.

3Britney started with Speech. She taught Nico so many new words. Nico’s first sentence was thanks to Britney. She was always finding funny ways to made Nico speak. She helped me a lot too. She was the one who made the transition of Nico to the School District.

Nico also started speech group therapy. He loved this therapy. He was so happy to go and see the other kids. This therapy was really fun. Nico learned how to interact with other kids, and how to follow instructions. He learned a lot of new words and how to answer questions. He learned to interact with his teachers.

I can’t say thank you enough to Easter Seals and this ECI program and all people working in it. They changed our lives in so many ways. They went beyond just being therapists. They made us feel like family. They were there in one of the sad moments of our lives and they brought us hope.  Nicolas is doing so well thanks to all these ladies. We love you and will never forget you. Thank you very much!

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By: Nicolas’s Mom

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Coming Full Circle – Volunteer to Staff Member

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Katherine von Haefen is a long-time United Way Greater Houston staff person.  She was at United Way when I was in high school, and she was in charge of the Kids Way Program then.  Kids Way was most definitely the thing that taught me to love volunteering in high school, and really instilled in me the idea of lifelong volunteerism.  Fast forward to today, and Katherine’s high school aged daughter, Alison, volunteered for Camp Buckaroo for the first time this summer.  Alison had a wonderful time and is now thinking about making working with people with disabilities her career, as many of our amazing teen volunteers do.  She’s already reached back out to Kenzie Richard, Easter Seals Camp Program Coordinator, to ask about volunteering during the school year!  It’s neat to think that Katherine was around when I discovered my love for volunteering, and now I’m around when her daughter’s making the same discovery – totally coming full circle.

Christine Ellery, Program Director Easter Seals Greater Houston.

*Easter Seals Greater Houston is proud to have been a partner of United Way GH since the days of it being called The Community Chest… a very long time! UWGH has enabled ESGH to serve so many more clients – thousands and thousands – through their and their donors support allowing us to ensure family stability, create growth, independence, and more.

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Our BHP Community Quarterback Finalist

Congratulations Christian! You are a RockStar! So proud that you were chosen as a BHP Community Quarterback finalist! All finalists were recognized Sunday, December 8th at the Houston Texans game and ESGH will receive a $5000 donation as a result of Christian’s long-standing work with our Camp Program.

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Christian has been volunteering with Easter Seals Greater Houston’s camp programs for over a decade. Starting when he was 17 years old, Christian started as a volunteer at Camp Smiles, a week-long overnight camp that serves children with cerebral palsy. For years, Christian served as the one on one counselor for Kamal, a non-verbal camper who adored the support and friendship Christian gave him. Over the years, Kamal and Christian became life-long friends, and they still make time to celebrate graduations and big birthdays together. In recent years, Christian has taken on the role of head counselor, meaning he is in charge of an entire cabin of campers and volunteers for the week of camp. Christian is an incredible leader, both in the most serious and silliest aspects of ensuring a safe and enriching camp experience.

Christian is an integral part of the Camp Smiles community. Campers and volunteers alike adore him, and he is a trusted and remembered part of everyone’s camp experience. Not only has he impacted the lives of hundreds of campers, Christian, now a teacher, has also started recruiting his students to volunteer for camp. Christian is the perfect role model for the new volunteers’ first year at camp. The energy and light-hearted spirit Christian brings to camp is infectious; his desire to bond with each camper and counselor radiates, setting a standard of friendship within the cabin. They all became like brothers, creating a group bond that wouldn’t be possible without Christian. One of his students even earned the award of “best new counselor” at the end of camp, for his concerted effort to bond with his camper and make his week unforgettable. This success was the most certainly a result of Christian’s decade-long dedication to building stronger communities.

The most admirable aspect of Christian’s volunteerism is how effortless his hard work comes across, though his success as a camp leader comes from years of experience and dedication. From jokes, to encouragement, to tears at the end of camp, Christian is intentional about supporting each camper and volunteer in his cabin. Christian’s ability to see each camper as just another kid, despite any disability, allows him to build a community of inclusion around him. In the truest version of leading by example, the volunteers Christians brought to Camp Smiles caught onto this environment of inclusion starting on day one.  Not only did he teach this new generation of young men the basics of caregiving, Christian undoubtedly instilled in them the privilege and honor of serving others.

Christine Ellery, Easter Seals Greater Houston, Program Director

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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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