Tag Archives: Disability Together

School is in Session

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It’s been a great three weeks back in session at The Caroline School at Easter Seals for new and current students alike as well as teachers!

We have enjoyed getting back to our schedule and seeing old friends, like Mr. Bernie, the pet therapy dog, as well as meeting new friends and teachers. In Classroom One we welcomed Mrs. Tiana, Violet, and Paxton and in Classroom Two we added Clarke!

Our teachers were excited to use the new OATECA assessment and curriculum thanks to Anthony and Elizabeth DeLuca. This new curriculum measures goals and objectives that are created from the curriculum to foster each student’s learning experience.  tcs6

What better way to get to know each other than to ask questions and share experiences? Classroom Two did this by creating a collective Summer Adventures book. Students used communication devices, voices, and assistive technology to share pictures, text, and even color preferences.

All students at The Caroline School have access to utilize high tech assistive technology devices such as iPads and Apple TV’s to low tech devices like the Big Mac through Easter Seals BridgingApps, award winning smart technology lab and program. Teachers and staff implement assistive technology for communication, academic goals, and if necessary as a positive reinforcement on a daily basis and as appropriate for each child.

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We would love to add new friends to our book! To learn more visit CarolineSchool.org

Tabitha Hernandez, Caroline School Director, Easter Seals Greater Houston

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LEADing with the Dogs

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“Each Monday and Wednesday are a certain kind of special to me, as I get to hang out with our LEAD (Life Enrichment for Adults with Disabilities) Adult Programs at Easter Seals Greater Houston. We have two programs based on age: 18 – 30-year-olds and 30+-year-olds. In the morning, we have 20 young adults who get together to socialize, dance, craft, exercise, and sing. Is there a better way to start your morning? I am lucky enough to get to watch these newly graduated young adults find themselves in their community. We intentionally include outside Zumba and yoga teachers, so our adults have more opportunities to interact with new faces and make new friends. Once a month, we are beginning to include a therapy dog group called Believe in Dog Therapy. Boy oh boy, was I unprepared for the giggles, new conversations and bonding opportunities that these dogs gave to our young adults last month. These dogs provided chances for stress-free conversations, sensory time with their fur and licks, as well as practicing turn-taking and gentle touches, all of which our adults can struggle with on a daily basis. This past week, during dog therapy, we re-cycled old t-shirts and jeans to make dog toys for a local shelter called Houston Pets Alive. Again, how lucky am I? Houston Pets Alive is pretty excited too. Stay tuned for more pics of the group making the toys and donating them!

If you want to join in on the fun by volunteering with us, please contact me: Ashley Nichols – ANichols@eastersealshouston.org

Believe in Dog Therapy’s Website: https://believeindogtherapy.com/

Ashley Nichols, Program CoordinatorEaster Seals Greater Houston

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Super Stegemann Sister Volunteer for 17 years Together

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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.

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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.

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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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This summer, take the kids outside!

A few weeks ago, I was at a birthday party with my children.  During the party for kids 5-10 years old, a game of dodge ball was played.  As I watched the children play, I realized so many of these children were not able to throw and catch an average size ball.  When the ball was thrown, it was not near the target, and when the kids tried to catch it, most of the time they missed or were hit in the face.  As I observed this more, I realized these kids didn’t know how to move side to side, fell more than normally, and generally didn’t move well.  One parent told me her 10-year-old couldn’t ride a bike yet. 65212381_2522791257740396_8982192731078000640_n

Talking to the parents at the party, all of the parents were surprised that their typical developing children couldn’t do basic motor skills. Only 2 kids out of 35 could climb a rope, pull up on a gymnastics bar, and walk a balance beam.  And every single parent said “I need to take my child outside more.  We are putting up the screen.”

Now, I am not against screen time…within reason and of course, always for kids who use as communications devices. But, our kids need to move more.  Children – disabled or not – need to be playing outside, climbing trees, throwing balls, kicking balls, and playing with their friends.  This is how they develop strength and coordination.  Rolling down hills, climbing playground equipment, jumping, running, falling and getting back up, swimming, and riding bikes all develop core muscle control which is essential to coordination.  There have been many studies done on core control, coordination, and how children perform in school as well, and improving symptoms of ADHD.

So, this summer, take the kids outside. Ride a bike (wear a helmet), play catch, swim, climb a tree!  And the next time your child plays dodge ball, they might just be on the winning team!

 

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

Physical Therapist

Easter Seals Children’s Therapy Program

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Spring has Sprung

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It’s Spring – Let’s find flowers and bugs!

The Caroline School is studying flowers and insects. We love hands-on learning, going on bug hunts, learning about life cycles, and watching things grow.

Check us out Here!

 

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

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Lucky Strike!

I’m Emily Padora and I have been interning with Easter Seals Greater Houston for the past few months. I am supervised by Ashley Nichols, the Adult Program Director, which means I get the privilege of hanging out with these wonderful adults twice a week. Just last Saturday, I got to go bowling with a few of them! I expected it to be fun, as most things are with these guys, but it was more than just fun— it was heartwarming.IMG_1645.JPG

Each participant got their own lane, with accommodations based off their individual needs, to bowl for as long as their hearts desired until it was time to go. I loved seeing how happy just a simple game of bowling made the participants and enjoyed watching them make strikes, splits, or just celebrating hitting a pin. It was truly something else. I also got to speak with the mother and sister of two of our participants; they were sharing with me how much they appreciate what Easter Seals and the Adult Program has done for them and their family. The mother was almost in tears, expressing to me that most people outside of this organization and program don’t pay much attention to her boys. It makes me happy and proud to be working with an organization and program that promotes growth and encourages inclusion and individuality.

 

Thank you!

 

Emily Padora, Easter Seals Greater Houston Intern

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Celebrating World Down Syndrome Day

1 in 762 people are born with Down syndrome and there are approximately 6,000 people with Down syndrome in greater Houston. Children and adults alike with Down syndrome are benefiting from our ECI, Caroline School, playgroups, BridgingApps, Adult Program and more. Here is just an example of one of our many success stories!

Adri’s journey continued on a smooth path as she made steady progress, gaining independence in all areas of development. Adri 1 She was eating a larger variety of foods (also receiving additional nutrition through her G-button), began walking independently, and using more words and phrases to communicate.  At 3 years old, Adri graduated from the Easter Seals ECI (Early Childhood Intervention) program, and transitioned easily into the PPCD (Preschool Program for Children with Disabilities) class with her local school district.

As most journeys hit challenges along the way, Adri’s journey took a terrifying turn.  In January 2018, Adri became very ill.  Her parents made two trips to the hospital ER one weekend, where she was diagnosed with “just a stomach virus”.  Her health did not improve.  When at her pediatrician’s office on Monday, Adri’s left arm began jerking.  Suspecting she was having seizures, Adri was transported by ambulance, for her third trip to the ER.  After given numerous tests, and losing the ability to lift her left arm, Adri was taken, by ambulance, to UTMB.  The EEG and MRI indicated no seizures, but her fever continued, and her condition worsened.  Since no neurologist was on-site, Texas Children’s Hospital sent their ambulance to pick her up.  Adri was intubated before she left in that ambulance.  Once she arrived at Texas Children’s, Adri was taken straight to the ICU.

After multiple tests, on January 25th, the test results showed Adri had Adenol virus which “mimics” the flu.  Children with Down Syndrome may have weakened immune systems, and Adri became susceptible to the virus.  The Adenol virus triggered Moya Moya, a common, though not frequent, underlying condition sometimes present with Down Syndrome.Adri 3  Moya Moya caused progressing restricted blood flow to the brain, depriving certain areas of the brain of oxygen and glucose.  The MRA and MRB tests revealed Adri suffered a massive stroke to the right side of her brain.  Adri lost the use of her left side of her body – she was unable to use her left leg, left arm, and left hand.  Her speech was also affected.  Adri began rehab therapy, to regain strength, and use of the left side of her body.  During her month-long stay at Texas Children’s Hospital, Adri also had brain surgery on February 19th.  The neurosurgeon tried to create new blood vessels on the right side of her brain.  Her parents endured this traumatic time through their faith, and support from family and friends. As her mom stated, “We had a lot of people praying for her.”  Adri was discharged on March 8th.  In order to regain her strength, and focus on recovery from her stroke, Adri stayed home from school and began receiving out-patient therapy.  She had OT (Occupational Therapy) and Speech Therapy two times per week, and PT (Physical Therapy) one time per week.

Last August, with the start of a new school year, Adri began the next phase of her journey.  Today, she walks independently again (with a slight drag of her left foot), feeds herself a variety of food (still receiving additional nutrition from her G-button with 4 feedings a day),  uses 3-4 word sentences to communicate what she wants, uses her left hand as a “helper hand”, and knows her letters, most shapes and colors, and counts to 20.  Her dad commented Adri has had a strong will, even from birth, and is “feisty”, which helped her recover.  She has surprised her therapists with how well she is doing.  Adri attends PPCD Monday through Friday from 8:25-11:55 am, and receives out-patient therapy two times per week.  Mom reported Adri loves riding the bus home from school, and enjoys “tooting the horn” to let mom know she’s home.  Adri loves to sing, dance, and watch YouTube videos.  Her mom added she’s “very funny”.  Adri has fun with hats, dressing up, and looking in the mirror.  She comes up with new words and sentences every day.  Adri greets people, says what she wants, and still gives amazing hugs!  On her last brain angiogram in the Fall of 2018, the neurosurgeon stated the brain image now shows “no stroke”, and the medical team can’t explain it.

When requested to look back where their journey began, Adri’s dad reflected on their family’s time with the Easter Seals Infant / ECI program:

     To really come home with a child with Down syndrome….well, one of the most unexpected things in our lives.  We all cried.  To receive help from Easter Seals Infant Program was great!  Really was a tremendous help.  At first, we thought we were all alone with this.  The ECI staff became like family.  They didn’t just do their sessions.  They listened to what we needed.  Therapists recommended what Adri needed, then helped us resource it.  We really miss them.  They were a big time help with her progress and almost entirely the reason Adri was school-ready for PPCD. Adri 2

Adri’s dad said he wanted to offer this advice to parents of children with Down syndrome:  “Pack your patience.  Really take time to get to know your child.”  That is sound advice for parents of all children.  Adri’s parents’ high expectations for Adri have enabled her to progress in her development, recover from a massive stroke, and look forward to the next steps of her continuing journey.

Sharon Mott, EIS/Transition and Outreach Coordinator, Easter Seals Greater Houston

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