Tag Archives: easterseals

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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Samantha’s Communication Device gets an Update!

Last Spring, Sam transitioned from using a limited auditory scanning device to a device with unlimited app-based software using auditory scanning to communicate!samantha 1

Many of the parents who have come to Easter Seals Greater Houstons’  The Caroline School have done so out of a desire to find a more individualized education for their child – a school that would focus on the whole child, their physical, social, and cognitive development.

That’s exactly what Samantha’s family found. Sam began at The Caroline School a year ago and since has embarked on many educational changes. She worked on her physical skills by using her stander in the classroom and engaging in yoga stretches with support. She focused on her social skills by using both non-verbal gestures (smiles and singing), as well as her new communication device to share love and joy with her friends and teachers. Working on the physical and social aspects of learning, perfectly positioned Sam to grow her cognitive skill set as well! She used her new communication device to engage in lessons and home-to-school connection questions and activities. For example, she completed an “All About Me” project to share with the class.

Sam’s collective team of teachers, parents, ESGH therapists and nurses are so proud of her hard work! We can’t wait to begin her Senior year here at The Caroline School! It will surely be the best year yet.samantha 2

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

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They Grow Up So Fast

“He is talking more and more every single day!  He’s gotten a lot of boo boos and I always kiss him where he got hurt and say “all better Jakey”.  He now kisses me and says, “all better mommy”.  He’s definitely growing up!  Andrea had a cap and gown for his ESGH  ECI graduation.  I just wanted to thank you again for all your help!!  Jacob and I truly appreciate it tremendously!!” Screenshot_20190618-124740_Messages

-Jacobs Mom

Easter Seals ECI Infant Development program is parent-driven and focuses on enhancing the development of children ages birth to 36 months with developmental delays or disabilities. It is our goal to give families the tools they need to make a significant impact on the development of their children.

We provide families with certified or licensed professionals who come into the child’s natural environment, as a part of the routine where the child learns, plays and lives, and use their skills to help in the progression of reaching the child’s developmental milestones. At the same time the therapists are modeling and teaching the parent/caregiver the skills needed to work by themselves with the child. We believe that parents/caregivers are the most important influences in a child’s life and should be an active player in their child’s development.

Every child who qualifies for the program will be assigned a service coordinator who will coordinate all the individualized services for the child in addition to being the main point of contact for the family. Other services provided may include physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, developmental services, nutrition services, respite services, and assistive technology assistance. If there is a concern about vision or hearing, we will make referrals to the appropriate location to see that your child’s needs are being met.

Sharon Mott, Easter Seals Greater Houston,  Transition and Outreach Coordinator, ECI Infant Program

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The Debt We Owe Our Heros

Veterans are not a monolith. They possess a variety of talents and skills and needs after the epic storm that crashed and stalled over Houston in Aug of 2017.  Hurricane Harvey was a call to action and many Veterans responded valiantly putting themselves in harm’s way once again to assist their own families, their neighbors, and the community-at-large. 

They borrowed John-boats and utilized high clearance vehicles, expertly jimmying equipment for high water rescue. They guided the confused and grief-stricken with clear and simple instructions to pack a survival bag and abandon things that could not be transported to higher ground. They stood up distribution warehouses and procured supplies from a generous nation and efficiency and effectively pushed water bottles, diapers, and sanitation supplies to where they were needed most in this flooded city.

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 They rendered physical and psychological first aid with compassionate and comforting expertise. They applied training, insisted on teamwork, established chains of command and networked with over-saturated emergency response systems. They warned us of the various toxic exposures in water-born illnesses, insect carried diseases and predicted the rapid growth of mold between brick and sheetrock. When they faced obstacles, they engaged in creative problem solving to invent new ways to overcome.

Technology-assisted them including Easter Seals Greater Houston’s BridgingApps program. Facebook and Instagram, walked talkie apps, even Pinterest crowdsourced ideas and speed help around a city that knew we had to help ourselves, just as we knew we depended upon each other for our literal survival. Websites were born that matched people who needed help mucking and gutting with volunteers ready to get to work clearing a path to recovery. As mountains of debris piled on curbsides, rotting in the blazing sun, the next phase of the disaster began. Once the urgency subsided, and the adrenaline supply was exhausted, aspects of community-wide post-traumatic stress became evident. 

And our Veterans suffered from familiar foes of fatigue and survivor’s guilt, hypervigilance and insomnia, nightmares and relationship turmoil, numbness and self-neglect. They were triggered by the ever-present helicopter traffic that reminded them of the sounds of war. They were triggered by cramped sleeping quarters in large rooms filled with cots and chaos.  As the immediate aftermath of the disaster waxed, Veterans of the Storm named Harvey eventually went home to their own personal disasters, that were very real whether or not their own houses were damaged by the slowly receding muddy waters that had engulfed the city. 

We owe a debt of thanks to the heroes that walk among us in civilian dress. Veterans hide in plain sight but still carry the weight of duty and profound responsibility to serve and protect this nation.  We owe them more than simple gratitude.  

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ESGH was and is proud to be at the forefront with them through Harvey and our Harvey Recovery work thanks to our community, Save The Children, The Mayor’s Fund, Americares, Freddie Mac, Simmons Foundation and so many more. (https://www.eastersealshouston.org/Programs/harvey-heroes.html) AND we are proud to be able to continue offering our veterans programs and services to our current and retired military – through our #TexasVeteransandFamilyAlliance, our #mentalhealth program and so much more as well as continuing in our efforts for Harvey Housing recovery.

Amy Harkins, Easter Seals Greater Houston, Veterans Program and Harvey Recovery, Psychologist

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There’s No Place Like Home

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Over 3 years ago, Heather  packed up her 2 young daughters Zoe then 6 weeks old and Riley 2, left an abusive relationship and everything that didn’t fit in her car and began a search for a home to raise her family.  After living in a succession of marginal rental situations – at one point living out of her car, Heather and her two young daughters moved in to their 3-bedroom home, close to family and work, and in the preferred school district.

It had not been easy, but Heather was determined and was quick to point out that it could not have been possible without the support of a team of housing professionals.

In January, she submitted an application to a housing counselor with Easter Seals Greater Houston for $14,500 of down payment assistance through the Montgomery County HOME Fund program and was approved.

With the down payment assured, she began working with Terry with Storehouse Mortgage to qualify for the mortgage loan.  Their budget was tight as she began paying down debt and building assets, but as Heather remarked, both Riley and Zoe understood that finding a permanent home was important and they all came together as a family to make it happen.

Heather began working with her realtor, Mike with Realty Solutions to find a property suitable for her family, proving to be a challenge.  Homes in her price range of $135,000 – 185,000   are the fastest to sell, and home-buyers like Heather even with committed financing must compete with cash buyers purchasing properties within the same day of listing.  Over the next several months, Mike presented multiple offers on homes with no success.  Finally in March Heather’s contract on a home was accepted, beating out eight other offers made the same day of listing. She would move from a ‘trailer’ home in an unsafe neighborhood for a home in a beautiful family-friendly neighborhood, with a mortgage payment $200+ less than her rent payment.  She pointed out that even her utility bills in the new home have been $200+ less.

The transition from renter to homeowner for families like Heather’s could not be possible without the support of  Easter Seals Greater Houston and their Financial Literacy, Home Buyers Education, FinTech and Case Management programming.

Moore 1On the local level, housing professionals such as lenders and realtors like Terry and Mike, and the Easter Seals HUD-certified housing counselors work to ensure that families like Heather’s secure sustainable mortgage products with all the financial support available. County agencies such as Montgomery County Community Development provide a number of programs such as the down payment assistance to help home-buyers purchase their first home.

On the community level,  non-profit coalitions such as United Way Greater Houston THRIVE continue to support housing counseling programs such as Easter Seals Greater Houston’s Housing Initiative.

On the macro level, NSEs such as our partner, Freddie Mac  help people in the military, veteran and care-giving communities, as well as those with disabilities, obtain affordable housing through renting or buying a home. They also constantly search for innovative ways to support affordable housing opportunities, such as their webinar series and other online resources.

It has been quite a journey for Heather and her daughters, but as she looks around her home, you can see the pride in her eyes at what they have accomplished. Now she would be proud for her children to invite friends over for sleepovers, and they can walk safely to the neighborhood park for birthday parties.

As Heather looked around her home filled with toys and the backyard filled with swings and wading pool, she remarked, “This feels like home.”

 

Katy Thorstenberg, Easter Seals Greater Houston, Housing Coordinator

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Embracing the New

“I did it.  I found his grave.  I talked with him for a long time.  There was no rush.  I gave him a cigarette right there on his headstone and we smoked and talked.  I got to say things that I have been waiting thirty years to say. It’s been thirty years almost to the day since I saw him. I told him that I am sorry I wasn’t there for him that night.  I told him that I know now it was not my fault that he died. 20190519 R.L. headstone image I have been carrying that around for a long time.  I realize that I can finally let that go.  I got the sense that he was there with me and I heard him say, “Just remember me.”  I know that he wants me to remember how he was a good friend and remember the good times that we had together.  It took a lot for me to touch his gravestone. I felt a wave of anxiety come over me.  And I stayed there until that feeling was gone.  At the end, I stood at attention and gave a salute to him.  I understand better now that I need to get out more, stop isolating.  I can open up and be myself.  I am able to say to myself, I want a life and I gotta step out and do that.  And I know that therapy has helped me.  It has helped to know that my ESGH therapist is rooting for me.  She helped me face my past.  At this point in my life, I am ready to embrace the new.”

Robert L.

Easter Seals Greater Houston, Veterans Mental Health Program

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Technology Bears No Age

Audra Success Story | Older Adult & Stroke Survivor Using Mobile Technology

Ms. Audra Evert is an amazing artist, and her home is covered with her colorful abstract paintings. She suffered a stroke some years ago, and she needed help using a desktop windows computer and a flip phone for her technology needs. Her interests include internet searches, emails, saving and sharing photos, creating word documents, and excel spreadsheets. A nephew of hers recently asked for her knowledge about the family. She developed a goal to create a family tree.

 ESGH BridgingApps digital trainer, Jana Rodriguez helped Audra research a few options to create a family tree and offered the free website service FamilyEcho.com. Together Jana helped Ms. Evert create her family tree, as seen in her printed copy. A copy was also sent via PDF to her nephew. She hopes to expand the details with more research on other family members. At the beginning of this journey she dreaded the thought of how difficult this task would be. She was so pleased with the ease and design which she described as “perfect”!

Audra owns a flip phone and has been frustrated with not knowing how to take photos and then share them with others. Jana of ESGH BridgingAPPS  program has been working on basic phone skills with Audra, who has been practicing manipulating photos on her phone.  She is learning how to take photos, rotate and crop them, and send them to friends and family via email.  She has been thrilled with her progress!

By: The BridgingApps Team, Easter Seals Greater Houston

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