Tag Archives: early childhood intervention

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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Robert’s Road Warriors

Join Easter Seals Greater Houston and Chairmen Katherine and Bob Dowdell on Saturday, April 9th for the 5th Annual Family Fun Walk, Walk With Me, at the Houston Zoo.  The Dowdell’s, alongside their team, Robert’s Road Warriors, are walking to support their 19 year old son Robert who struggles with cerebral palsy and epilepsy.

“Robert was first diagnosed with cataracts and then cerebral palsy at the age of 14 months.  Fortunately, he was able to participate in Early Childhood Intervention (ECI) – physical, occupational and speech therapyECI offers a jump start for children with delayed developmental issues like Robert. While many of those years were mixed with hardships and challenges, Easter Seals was a constant support throughout. Easter Seals was with our family every step of the way to make Robert’s “disability” seem more like a “different ABILITY”.

Robert attended his first Easter Seals Camp when he was seven years old.  smiles robert dowdellHe attended Camp Buckaroo, a summer day camp for kids with special needs, and Camp Smiles, a week long spend-the-night camp in Burton, Texas.  Robert had never spent the night away from home, but I packed up his walker, wheelchair and orthotics for his adventure.  At camp, Robert was encouraged to try new things he never dreamed he could do, as he needed assistance with many everyday tasks. He did all the normal camp things; horseback riding, zip line, fishing, shot archery, sang karaoke, and danced and – for the first time in his life, he like a “normal” kid. He was loved for who he was, just as he was.  At the end of each camp session, Robert would cry when he saw we were there to pick him up…he didn’t want to leave!

????????????????????????????????????At age 15, Robert attended Camp Most. Camp Most is focused less on activities and more on building socialization skills in teens.  Robert learned important things like how to start a conversation, how to tell people about his disability, and how to determine his strengths to build a resume.  Robert has learned how to set goals.  His goals for 2016 include: to do his BEST in everything that he CAN do, to be a better brother to his sister, Katie and to be independent.  Easter Seals Camps have proven to be some of the most transformative events in Robert’s life to date.

Community support of Walk With Me is a blessing to many families in the greater Houston area – one that the Dowdell Family can personally attest to. Easter Seals provides life-changing services to people of all ages with all types of disabilities.  Thanks to Easter Seals, Robert is strong, happy, perseverant and optimistic about his bright future, and we are confident that Easter Seals will continue to help him become more self-reliant and prepare him for his future. Please consider supporting Walk With Me to guarantee services for Robert and other Houstonians with disabilities to help them discover their potential and hope for limitless possibilities!”

-Katherine Taylor Dowdell
Walk With Me Chair, Proud mother of Katie (22) and Robert (19) and grateful beneficiary of Easter Seals Greater Houston programs

Katherine and Robert DowdellMore About Walk With Me: 
Walk With Me is a 5K or shorter Family Fun Walk that helps raise awareness and resources for programs of Easter Seals, which help children and adults living with all types of disabilities. For more information contact Madison Shofner at 713-838-9050×304 or mshofner@eastersealshouston.org or visit our event website, click here!

More About the Dowdell Family:
Robert lives in Briargrove Park with his family.  His father, Bob, is an executive with Prosperity Bank and his mother, Katherine, is a retired banker and fundraiser.  Katherine serves on the Board of Directors for Easter Seals and Bob was instrumental in gaining the support of Prosperity Bank, the Title Sponsor for this year’s Walk With Me event.  Robert’s big sister, Katie, is a senior at Louisiana State University.  Robert is a senior at Westside High School.  He is active in Best Buddies Texas, Capernaum-a Young Life group for special needs kids, and Easter Seals Camp Most.

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25 Weeks To Perfection

Avery’s success story is actually his family’s celebration of how much Avery has blossomed this past year.  Born as a micro preemie at 25 weeks, Avery, known as “Baby Hulk” in the NICU, went home at 4 months old.  At about 6-8 months Nov 2015 Infant program blog pic2 by Sharon Mottold, his mom, Stephanie, noticed Avery was not meeting his developmental milestones, even for his adjusted age.  Inability to use his left hand and not tolerating being on the floor inhibited Avery from gaining any motor skills.  His mom brought her concerns to Avery’s doctor.  No referral was made, so Stephanie, following her instincts, made the call to Easter Seals Greater Houston’s Infant Program to request a developmental evaluation.  The evaluation showed Avery was severely delayed in all areas of development.  Last October, Avery started receiving both PT (physical therapy) and OT (occupational therapy) services.

Avery began to advance quickly in his skills, with his mom, his dad, Arick, and therapists working together.  At 17 months old, Avery was diagnosed with cerebral palsy and a right side brain malformation called polymicrogyria, which affects the left side of his body.  How amazing to see the progress Avery has made
in such a short time span.  His endearing smile and enthusiasm light up the Nov 2015 Infant program blog pic by Sharon Mottwhole room.  Avery is such a hard worker and his mom, dad, big sister, Abby, and stuffed toy, Elmo, are great motivators.

Through Easter Seals’ Infant Program, his mom was given information to access doctors who could provide additional medical care such as botox injections and orthotics.  His mom stated initial botox injections Avery received this summer made a difference in his ability to use his left arm and leg after just one week.  As he is now able to crawl, pull to stand, use a walker with assistance, and finger feed, Avery has a whole new world to explore.  These new skills have also enabled him to chase after his sister, who he absolutely adores.

Though Avery had vocal cord paralysis from the intubation in the NICU, he is now able to make sounds.  In the past 6 months, Avery has begun imitating sounds and says some single words such as “ball”, “bye-bye”, and “Elmo”.  His mom related what to her was a “light bulb moment”.  Avery picked up a hairbrush on his own and brushed his hair.  That one simple act brought his mom to tears as she realized Avery was able to understand the environment around him.  In all his accomplishments, his parents are there to cheer him on and clap for him.  Avery joins in also, clapping, smiling, and blowing kisses.

Nov 2015 Infant program blog pic3 by Sharon MottWhen asked about this past year, Avery’s mom replied, “If it wasn’t for Easter Seals, Avery would not be who he is today.  He wouldn’t be able to stand up or try to walk.”  She added, “And I don’t think he could have had two better people (Leanne Armel, PT and Jackie Wooten, COTA) to do his therapy!  I can tell they are as invested in him as we are.”

Sharon Mott, Infant Program, Easter Seals Greater Houston

 

To read more about Avery’s journey, visit:  25weekstoperfection.wordpress.com

To learn more about Easter Seals Greater Houston’s Children’s Services, click here.

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From Bloom Where You’re Planted – “Life and Times of the Kikuchi Girls”

Easter Seals Greater Houston‘s Camp BuckarooThat week has been the highlight of the summer for Keags and Rys! kikuchi 3They were lucky enough to spend the last 5 days having non-stop fun at Camp Buckaroo put on by Easter Seals. It was such an incredible camp, run by incredible people for kids with special needs and their siblings. 

Everyday from 10-3 the girls were doted on and entertained with exciting stuff at the gorgeous and ginormous Woodlands United Methodist Church. Everyday they had story time, song and dance time, games, lunch, a craft and special guests. They also played on the awesome playground, did a scavenger hunt and built a giant fort. The special guests were a music therapist with tons of instruments, a dancer, the snake man with 8 snakes, Crocodile encounter with small alligators and crocodiles, Nature Discovery Center with turtles, lizards and exotic plants, fireman with their truck, a policeman with his car, and a clown!kikuchi 2They each had a college age buddy to help them throughout the week. Riley’s was Brooklyn and Keagan’s was Hallie. They were both so sweet and so helpful! There were also about 12 other cute kids there and a bunch of awesome volunteers, interns and Easter Seals employees. And I mean it when I say they were awesome! On day 1 I didn’t pack an extra set of clothes for Riley and her diaper leaked. Well they are so amazing that they ran to Target to buy her shorts because they didn’t want to bother me!!After the first day we got in the car and Keagan said “mommy I didn’t like it. I LOVED it!” She also told me all about her friend Noah and this silly momma asked her “is Noah special needs or a sibling?” Well shame on me for asking and thank heavens I have a smart daughter that set me straight! Keagan responded “mommy I don’t know! And I don’t care!” Out of the mouths of babes!

kikuchi 1On the last day of camp there was an awards ceremony. Keagan was presented with the “Most Couragous Dancing Queen” award for doing the Whip in front of the whole camp! And Riley received the “Star Performer” award for dancing, smiling and being happy all week. They also received their T-shirts and cute scrapbooks that they made with all their pictures. Some of which I had to take a picture of here to include on the blog.

Camp Buckaroo will definitely be our yearly summer tradition now! All three of us will count down til next year!

About us: I’m the divorced single mom of my darling twin girls Keagan and Riley. Keagan is a spunky, smart and fun girl who keeps life exciting. And Riley is Special Needs with an emphasis on special! She has many medical challenges, 19 diagnoses’s in fact, including Cerebral Palsy, Dilated Cardiomyopathy, Polymicrogyria, Epilepsy and Asthma. But she is one incredible girl-they both are! I think I’m the luckiest mom in the world! Follow me here – http://bloomwhere.blogspot.com/

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GROWing Together!

facebook cover photo 1Our Infant Program of Easter Seals Greater Houston has experienced some tremendous growth in the past few years.  It first started in 2012 when the area in Liberty County was acquired from another local Early Childhood Intervention (ECI) program which added 12 new zip codes to our existing 24. Next, came the Southern portion of Montgomery County which included the Woodlands and 12 more zip codes. Then, the Northern portion of Montgomery County, which included Conroe and 12 more zips. Our newest addition kicking off 2015 was North Harris county territory, which added the final 11 zip codes bringing the grand total to 70 zip codes that span over 4 counties!

All of these new areas have meant a growing in number of referred children, from approximately 100 referrals per month to over 300. Our number of enrolled families has now reached over 1,000. To serve the families, we’ve added more staff to our family and growing from 50 to now over 100 which includes Early Intervention Specialists, Speech Therapists, Occupational Therapist and Physical Therapists

To ensure our community partners know about the changes, Sharon Mott, outreach coordinator for the new regions has been visiting area pediatrician offices.  She has been overwhelmed by the positive name that Easter Seals has in the community. liberty county

“What a great opportunity I have to go into the community and share information about the ECI Infant Program of Easter Seals Greater Houston!  Since the middle of April, I visited 23 pediatrician offices/clinics in the northern areas we now serve.  The staff I meet express gratitude for someone from the Infant Program/ECI to come to their offices in person.  We had conversations about how babies/toddlers qualify for ECI, services we provide, and how to make referrals.  At each visit, I leave a Physician Notebook filled with information about ECI, sample brochures, referral forms, and physical exam forms.  Most of the offices did not have any ECI brochures, so I gave them the “How’s Your Baby” brochures, in English and Spanish, along with the Easter Seals “Make the First Five Count” postcards.  Last week I left phone messages with various pediatrician offices in the Humble/Kingwood/Atascocita areas.  Recently I received a voice mail from the Referral Coordinator at Texas Children’s Pediatrics Atascocita office.  She stated it would be “wonderful” for me to bring her information the staff can give to parents about ECI.  She added they have had “excellent response with ECI through Easter Seals Greater Houston since you all have taken over.  Thank you from the bottom of my heart for helping these patients.”

infant program staffEaster Seals Greater Houston has already had a positive impact on the reputation of the Infant / ECI program now serving that area.  In April the program was able to celebrate and refresh, by hosting the annual Down Days trainings. Trainings were offered by national speakers on typical childhood development, infant and child massage for children with special needs, and how play based early intervention works.  Our amazing staff are always educating themselves on the best therapies to ensure your family and kiddos are going to #makethefirstfivecount” and achieve their best!  After their extensive trainings, our Infant Program staff put the “play based” into action with a group outing to The Main Event – thanks for everything you do staff!”, said Dena Day, Infant Program Director.

Did you know that every year, more than one million young children with unidentified disabilities enter school with issues that put them far behind their peers and have a lasting, negative effect on their ability to meet their full potential. When children get the right treatment and therapy they need before the age of five, they are ready to learn alongside their peers, build lifelong skills, and achieve their dreams. Want to check your baby’s development?

Visit www. MaketheFirstFiveCounty.org to take a free Ages and States Questionnaire to see if your child is reaching his or her developmental milestones.

Kim Sporrer, Outreach & Education Coordinator, ESGH

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Play Time…Not Just for Fun…It’s How We Learn

mc playgroups smallMontgomery County, it’s time to play!  Thanks to the generosity of Montgomery County United Way, Easter Seals Greater Houston has begun hosting play groups in Montgomery County for children with disabilities ages 6 months to 4 years and their siblings.

mc play group 3It’s well known that children learn best by playing, so Easter Seals’ play group leaders incorporate music and games to improve the children’s gross and fine motor skills and comfort levels in social settings.  The children work on taking turns, following directions, transitioning, and playing well with others.  The children are heaped in positive reinforcement, and achievements both big and small are celebrated.

MC play group 1The inaugural Montgomery County play group took place on Friday, June 19 at the Montgomery County United Way in The Woodlands.  A second one is planned for this Friday, June 26 from 10-10:45 am at Conroe Library, 104 I-45 N, Conroe, TX 77301 -with more to come!

Please call Andi Fry to learn more about these new play groups and other amazing opportunities at the Easter Seals in Montgomery County.  713-838-9050 ext. 313 or afry@eastersealshouston.org.

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Celebrating Better Hearing and Speech Month and Make the First Five Count!

May Is Better Hearing and Speech Month and here are a few tips from the therapists at Easter Seals Greater Houston’s monkey communication pocChildren’s Therapy Program, obtained from the urbanchildinstitute.org to utilize when interacting with children to build language development.

Common play for babies includes peek-a-boo, singing and dancing, playing with different colored balls, and pushing buttons to make toys work. Through their play, they can develop language comprehension, communication skills, and eye-hand coordination. When parents respond and participate, children also gain a sense of their own self-worth from the pleasure they give their parents.

elephant exploring picToddlers take giant leaps in playing and learning. They learn to stand and walk, run and jump, play with more complex toys, and create worlds of make-believe. They learn numbers, shapes, and colors. Sharing books and games with parents builds close relationships as they discover the world together.  Toddlers begin to play together rather than just watching each other play. Through playing with others, they learn to share and to take turns. These are the years when their imaginations go wild. Toy brooms become horses, they pretend to be kings or queens, and they engage in pretend play with others. Play promotes creativity, language ability, self-control, and problem-solving skills.

cheetah moving picAt Easter Seals Children’s Therapy Program we use play as one of our many techniques to enhance the children’s language acquisition.  Parents are encouraged to participate and learn with their child as we “play” our way to improved language skills.

But, regardless of how old your child is, there is one fact that should never be forgotten: the most important thing about play is you, and nothing is more important to children than their parents’ undivided attention and spontaneous fun.

penguin playing picTo learn about the key growth areas most important in your child’s development, check out Easter Seals Make the First Five CountDefine Five and to check to help guide and keep track of your child’s growth and development during these first five years, take advantage of Easter Seals free, comprehensive and confidential online screening tool at Make The First Five Count.

Miaya Allen  M.A. CCC-SLP│Speech Language Pathologist
Easter Seals Greater Houston Children’s Therapy Program

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