Tag Archives: Disability Together

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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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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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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The Strength for Surgery

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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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