Tag Archives: easter seals

Exceptional Kids Deserve an Exceptional Education

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Check out two of The Caroline School‘s awesome students, Jack and Crystal, playing tag around the table!

Both students are working on the physical, social, and cognitive skills of learning at The Caroline School. Jack is out of his wheelchair and working to move his body with primarily his arms. He is playing with Crystal by visually referencing her trying to get him and sharing joy when she does. Cognitively, he is working to coordinate his eye gaze, plan and organize his path away from her, and communicate his happiness in playing. Crystal is working on the physical skills of learning by using the body scooter. She is using her arms to pull and steer her body and her neck and back muscles to keep her head up and track Jack. She is socially sharing joy and anticipation with Jack as she tries to catch him. Lastly, Crystal cognitively decides when to speed up, slow down, or change directions. Moments like these share how learning at The Caroline School is both fun and individualized!

The Caroline School at Easter Seals Greater Houston provides unique educational services to meet the physical, social and cognitive needs of individuals ages 0-21 with multiple disabilities, including those who have additional medical needs.

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With an average class size of eight students and a staff to student ratio of 1:4, The Caroline School teachers are able to meet every student at their particular level. The student’s abilities, rather than disabilities, dictate the pace and path that we follow step by step. Time and attention is invested for every student to feel safe, secure, and cared for no matter their challenges. We feel that this promotes an environment conducive to happy and healthy lifelong learners.

To get an application or schedule a tour please contact our Educational Director, Tabitha Hernandez, at thernandez@eastersealshouston.org.

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The SMART Road To Assistive Tech for ALL

In 2010, I was working at an educational non-profit when I helped to start a support group of parents and therapists where we shared information on how smartphones and touch tablets could help children with disabilities improve developmental skills. I was interested in how technology could help my youngest son Vincent, who at the age of 6 had the fine motor skills of an 18 month old. I knew that he would never write with a pen and paper, but I also knew that technology could play a big role in his early education and throughout his life.

Vincent had tried joysticks and other technology prior to the tablet to write and communicate, but he needed hand over hand assistance to operate them. However, with the iPad he was able to navigate independently. What a boost to his confidence and an ease to his frustration!

Other parents and therapists had similar thoughts but, because this mobile technology was so new, we spent hours exploring possibilities of which apps were the most helpful for our kids. We were overwhelmed by the sheer number of apps available, so we set out to find a way to make searching easier for parents and professionals. That support group and quest for solutions turned into BridgingApps, a website and program of Easter Seals Greater Houston.

Becoming part of Easter Seals Greater Houston has been a blessing in the most profound way for this program and for our family. With the help of Easter Seals’ leadership and vision to help the program grow as quickly as possible, we have been able to make great strides in its’ development and reach. In 2014, BridgingApps won the Verizon Powerful Answers Award for Education that came with a $700,000 prize.  Our website is filled with resources for people of all ages and abilities – parents, caregivers, therapists, doctors and people with disabilities – looking for the right apps to fit their needs.

We now have three assistive technology labs (Thanks to The George Foundation and ATT&T) in the Houston area and satellite support groups in Austin, the Rio Grande Valley and Fort Worth, Texas.  In 2016, we gave more than 55 presentations and trainings in Houston and around the country. Our website enjoys 9,000 registered users from 187 countries, 7,000 monthly visitors, a podcast segment, an online course, a regular column in a digital magazine, and 3,500 apps in our database. We are excited to explore new ways in which mobile technology can assist young adults with special health care needs, older adults, and seniors through collaborative projects with Texas Children’s Hospital, TIRR Memorial Hermann, Amerigroup/Anthem, UnitedHealthcare, and others.

As a veteran of the US Army, I am thrilled and honored this year to be working on a project that provides services and mental health supports to veterans and their families by using technology. Through a generous grant from TV+FA, we are able to provide technology training in different formats to veterans and their family members.  This spring we have already provided 10 Veterans Access Cafes in locations around Houston to demonstrate how smartphones can be used as a mental health support with apps like Calm, Swirlicity, and Stay Quit Coach. We continue to add content each week to www.bridgingapps.org/veteransresource  to share information on apps and other technologies that benefit veterans and their families.

Cristen Reat, Easter Seals Greater Houston, BridgingApps Founder

 

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“Ideas Worth Spreading” …Corporations & Communities Supporting Veterans

If you’ve watched one of the viral TED talk videos on YouTube, you know their tag line is “Ideas Worth Spreading.” At Easter Seals of Greater Houston, we also think we have ideas worth spreading and ours are focused on collaboration. Being the recipient of a 2016 Texas Veteran + Family Alliance (TV + FA) grant, our goal is to improve the quality of life for Texas Veterans and their families. By working hand in hand with proven Veteran Service Organizations, we are able to have an exponential impact on the community.

We decided to have two large Convenings that would allow us to improve the communication and collaboration of mental health and supportive service in the greater Houston area. Our first convening included Veteran Service Organizations, Mental Health professionals, Veterans and Corporate Partners. This diverse group was chosen so we could demonstrate to all the groups how each one was a vital part of the solution. The event featured an amazing singer for the anthem, Game Show style vignettes to introduce language and culture, break-out sessions that included using technology and apps, features for our partners, nationally recognized speaker COL (ret) David Sutherland of The Dixon Center and a catered lunch.

The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive and there have only been two looming questions for Easter Seals of Greater Houston: When is the next one and can we make the event longer? It seems we have found some great ideas worth sharing and we are truly changing the way that everyone views mental health and veterans services. Our next Convening will be June 13th at Combined Arms.  We invite all greater Houston corporations and businesses interested in supporting veterans to join us at the Convening and learn how hiring Veterans could be amazing for your business!  Please contact Tim Stroud at TStroud@eastersealshouston.org or 713-838-9050 for more information.

Tim Stroud, Easter Seals Greater Houston, Veteran Initiative Coordinator

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High School High Tech Royalty and Celebrating Disability Employment Awareness Month!

Hear ye, hear ye! Easter Seals Greater Houston‘s High School High Tech is homecomingking4pleased to announce that we now have Royalty among us!  Montgomery ISD just crowned our very own HSHT student, Jahlil Howard, to be the 2016 Montgomery High School Homecoming King! Jahlil, a high school senior, is a second year participant in our High School High Tech and Ready to Achieve Mentoring program and has been a shining example of leadership to his peers.

High School/High Tech is a community-based partnership of parents, educators, rehabilitation professionals and business representatives working together to encourage students with disabilities to explore the fields of science, engineering and technology. Only 56% of students with disabilities graduate from high school. High School/High Tech was developed to address this situation. Most individuals with disabilities have not had the encouragement, role models, access and stimulation to pursue challenging technical careers or courses of study. Through High School/High Tech, students with disabilities are presented a mix of learning experiences that promote career exploration and broaden educational horizons.

homecomingking2This outgoing Senior has been super active in our HSHT program and has participated in several career field trips including Montgomery County Mock Interview Day, tours of Olive Garden and Woodforest National Bank and even defied gravity at a HSHT indoor skydiving event at IFly Woodlands!  In addition to HSHT, Jahlil continues to break barriers as an avid runner and member of the MHS Varsity Cross Country Team and has been recognized with several awards for his Cross Country achievements, including District Champ, all the while maintaining his steady summer job. homecomingking1

Jahlil became involved with HSHT with the support and encouragement of his MISD Transition Specialist Lesa Bolling who proudly remarked, “Jahlil is an awesome young man with an outstanding personality! He makes everyone around him feel at ease. Jahlil’s faith is grounded and he speaks of it often.” Mrs. Bolling couldn’t have said it better!  Congratulations to our amazing young man, and Royal Highness, Jahlil Howard!

Carmen Phillips, Easter Seals Greater Houston
Montgomery County HSHT Program Coordinator

 

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The Caroline School is looking for a Teacher!

If 2013-pj-dayyou are seeking a job that gives you the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of children and their families and be an important part of a team of caring professionals, look no further than The Caroline School! Join Easter Seals Greater Houston in our mission to provide services that meet the physical, cognitive and social needs of children with development delays and their families.

We would love to work with someone who is:

  • Experienced in the field (preferably of Education, however other fields will be considered based on particular involvement with children/students)
  • Certified to teach (SpEd specialization recommended, but not required)
  • Passionate about their work
  • Able to be part of a team
  • A creative and flexible thinker regarding educational approaches
  • Available as soon as possible

We are an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission company and offer:image5

  • A super supportive team and working environment
  • On-going training
  • Benefits
  • Optional full or partial Summers
  • An HISD calendar year
  • 5 days of additional Paid days off

If you have the qualities listed above, please send your resume and quick blurb about yourself to the Educational Director of The Caroline School, Tabitha Hernandez, at THernandez@eastersealshouston.org

Tabitha Hernandez, The Caroline School, Easter Seals Greater Houston

 

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Miraculous Megan: Longtime Client and Friend

Megan Fry is an amazing 17 year old girl. She has been part of the Easter Seals Greater Houston family for over 10 years. She has the mind and the personality of a typical developing teenage girl. She loves art and has her own website, Just My Eye, that meg-w-dvox-300x225showcases her creations. One of Megan’s many unique qualities is that she was born with cerebral palsy, with an end result of being nonverbal and using a wheelchair to maneuver around. You need to be careful because she drives her chair around very fast! She communicates and shows off her big personality by using a Tobii. The Tobii is a device that allows Megan to use her eyes to pick out her words which are then shared through the speaker.

Over the years, Megan has attended our summer camps, participated in Family Day Out, received In-Home Respite, and participated in our BridgingApps program. Her family has participated in our Lil’ Rustler Rodeo night with the Houston Livestocgroupk Show and Rodeo, used a Respitality weekend, participated in our Walk With Me at the Houston Zoo event and our Hats Off to Mother’s Luncheon. We were fortunate to have Megan as our summer intern this past year. She created and distributed our Easter Seals Montgomery County newsletter. Megan is currently participating in our Family Day Out program as a Junior Director. She is amazing with our clients and our families.

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Megan is a true success story and ambassador for Easter Seals Greater Houston. Megan and her mom even went on speaking engagements last year to represent Easter Seals during the United Way campaign. She has received services and continues to give back to our community. We can’t wait to see what the future holds for Megan because we know there is nothing she can’t accomplish!

Kristie Carlisle, Respite Program, Easter Seals Greater Houston

Check out Megan’s dad’s post about how assistive technology helped him connect with his daughter here!

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Mama Bear Advocates for Her Baby Cub

Joshua, lovingly known as “Bear”, has made rapid progress since he began receiving services through Early Childhood Intervention from Easter Seals Greater Houston.  Delighted by his newly acquired skills, his mom, Stephani, wanted to share his success story:Bear

Born full term and healthy, with no apparent issues, Bear’s mom began to notice he was taking longer to reach his developmental milestones.  During checkups with the pediatricians, she voiced her concerns.  After moving to this area, Stephani followed up with new doctors.  At his two-year old well check-up, his mom reported Bear was not saying any words.  When told about the possible language delay, his doctor recommended ECI (Early Childhood Intervention) from Easter Seals Greater Houston.

The evaluation with ECI occurred in mid-March.  Bear qualified for ECI due to global delays.  One of the items on the evaluation was the string drop test.  Bear was unable to see the string as it fell, prompting the assessment team to discuss a possible problem with his vision, and encouraged Stephani to have his vision tested.

His mom was quick to follow-though with the team’s suggestion and immediately scheduled an eye exam for the next week.   At the eye appointment, Bear was diagnosed as legally blind, with significant vision loss in both eyes. He was fitted for glasses.  At first, Bear grabbed the glasses off his face.  But then, with the second try, he looked through the lenses, his face lit up, and he gave that “half-smile smirk”, truly seeing people for the first time!  Now, with his glasses, Bear is able to see the world around him, his reach and grasp have improved tremendously, and he loves watching and imitating his big brother.

From the initial evaluation, a PT (Physical Therapy, part of Easter Seals Greater Houston’s Children’s Therapy Program) consult was also written.  When the PT completed her evaluation, she recommended SMOs (Supra Malleolar Orthosis, which are prescribed to help stabilize ankles/feet to improve balance and walking).  Again, his mom followed-through, promptly getting the prescription and an appointment with a orthotics clinic.  Two weeks after being fitted, Bear received his SMOs.  Even though he has only been wearing the orthotics a few days, dramatic improvement has already been shown in his balance.

Not only has Bear improved in his vision and walking skills, his language skills have also increased.  He’s now imitating and using some signs and single words.  Instead of crying as he had done before, he now uBear 2ses the sign “more” to communicate what he wants.

Much of Bear’s progress was due to his mom’s response, and getting him the help he needed.  When asked about her experience with ECI of Easter Seals Greater Houston, Stephani replied:  “I didn’t know what to do until someone told me what to do.  I saw how much the suggestions helped him, and I was excited to do more.  I didn’t know where to start and they showed me.”  She has certainly embraced the team approach as the family, ECI staff, and medical professionals all work together to encourage Bear’s next new skill.

Stephani Robison, Early Childhood Intervention Program Client, Easter Seals Greater Houston

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