Tag Archives: ECI

Family and Therapists Team Up

The following post was written by the parent of an Early Childhood Intervention Infant Program client who receives services in the Brazos Valley.

DSC_0023We’d like to explain what Easter Seals Greater Houston’s Brazos Valley Early Childhood Intervention Infant Program has meant to us, our lives, and more than anything, our daughter. Easter Seals Greater Houston’s Early Childhood Intervention Infant Program has transformed the behavior of our daughter in a positive manner through the weekly therapy sessions. Easter Seals Greater Houston’s ECI Infant Program came into our lives to help us and have been the perfect tool to help our daughter with speech/language & behavior therapy.

When our daughter turned 2 years of age, her pediatrician led us to Easter Seals Greater Houston because there was a delay in in her speech. Easter Seals’ ECI Infant Program staff members came and ran a full evaluation and afterwards we started the therapy sessions with no clue how incredibly helpful they would be to our child. As the months passed on we noticed great changes in our daughter’s speech/language and in her behavior. Before the therapy sessions she hardly paid attention, but by making this a key area of focus we have seen great, positive improvements in this area and others. We started to work hand in hand with the therapists in our parental role. All the dedicated time was well worth all the positive changes we see in our daughter today. The Brazos Valley ECI Infant Program therapists have not only helped us with the problem areas, but understand why and how they came to be, all the while treating us with respect. We are appreciative as parents for not only the treatments, but the care and effort to reach all goals with her. As of today, our daughter’s vocabulary has increased substantially, she makes basic sentences, pays (more) attention, has calmed down overall, and our entire family has noticed the progress that our daughter has made since she began working with our therapists.

We appreciate Easter Seals Greater Houston from the bottom of our heart, the beautiful work and care for all the families with whom you work with, starting with ours. The Brazos Valley ECI Infant Program staff have gone above and beyond for the well-being of our daughter. Thanks to Easter Seals our lives have changed for the better.

Sincerely,

Marquez Nevarez Family, Brazos Valley Early Childhood Intervention Infant Program family, Easter Seals Greater Houston

Easter Seals Greater Houston’s Early Childhood Intervention Infant Program has expanded and is now available in 12 counties. If you have concerns or questions about your child’s development, please call 713.838.9050, ext. 385 and request a free developmental assessment.

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Gaining Independence

The following was written by the mother of an Early Childhood Intervention Infant Program client.

IMG_0433I am happy to share our successful journey with Easter Seals Greater Houston’s Early Childhood Intervention Infant Program in Brazos Valley in hopes that it can inspire and encourage someone out there who is struggling like we did.

Sebastian is the most wonderful gift life has given us; he was born unexpectedly at 29 weeks weighing 3.4 lb and 14”.  A few days after his birth he suffered a ‘head bleed Level 2’ (Intraventricular hemorrhage) that ‘resolved’ but left some scarring in the brain. Some of the health issues related to a head bleed level 2 and the brain scarring include: seizures, motor skills delays and/or disabilities, cognitive disabilities, ADHD, developmental delays and physical disabilities.

IMG_0238Sebastian began seeing a Developmental specialist at four months old. After a few appointments it was clear he was falling behind in all different areas of development. He was not holding his head unattended at 5 months. He was not sitting unassisted at 8 months. He had a lot of trouble eating baby food when the time came to introduce it to him.  The developmental specialist suggested we get in touch with Easter Seals Greater Houston’s Early Childhood Intervention Infant Program right away. The ECI assessment confirmed that Sebastian was behind in several areas and needed help so they promptly began Physical and Speech therapy.

IMG_1241I can honestly say that the Easter Seals Greater Houston ECI Infant Program changed our lives in a positive, miraculous way. Both the speech and physical therapists helped Sebastian to be able to sit unattended, start crawling, stand and sit unattended, crab walk, use his upper lip and tongue in a correct manner to allow the food to pass, eat different textured food and different food choices as he moved from puréed food to regular food, eat independently without my assistance, drink from a sippy cup, and to use utensils and not just hands. Sebastian is currently learning to walk, to drink from a straw, and is learning words like mama, papa, and other names for objects and animals!

IMG_1423In addition to their hands on, patient and positive approach towards Sebastian, the ECI therapists have educated and reassured me as well. They have helped me gain confidence in myself as a parent and in my son and his incredible resilience. As a first time mother and the mother of a premature baby, I have had many moments of uncertainty and even despair, but the therapy sessions with Sebastian have proven that with the right help a kid can overcome any obstacle and thrive in life. He adores his therapists and their positive, fun and caring sessions.

Sebastian spent the first few months of his life struggling in some way or another, after their wonderful intervention, I can absolutely see the change in him. Sebastian is quickly catching up with all the other full term toddlers and I am confident that he will reach all of his milestones in time from now on.

Jannet Daniela Hernandez, Early Childhood Intervention Infant Program parent, Easter Seals Greater Houston

If you have concerns or questions about your child’s development, please call 713.838.9050, ext. 385 and request a free developmental assessment.

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Making The First Five Count Through Early Intervention Services

Ella:

Ella has been enrolled in the Easter Seals Greater Houston ECI/Infant Program for about 6 months. Per one of the therapists on her Infant Program team –  visits started with tantrums, then evolved into stoic silence. Mom swore she said about 10-15 words, but the team never heard them the first month or so. Now, this lovely chatter box has a vocabulary that is growing every day. Ella is combining words to make 2-4 word sentences on her own, and parrots everything she hears. She is able to sit and attend to learning and play activities for 30+ minutes without getting distracted, and has some of the most creative pretend play we have seen.

 Mica:

We have been utilizing the services of the ECI/Infant Program at Easter Seals of Greater Houston over the past year for our son Mica, who was diagnosed at birth with Trisomy 21.   Mica’s progress has been wonderful so far, thanks to the team of dedicated therapists at Easter Seals.  Mica’s physical therapist Charisse as well as his nutritionist Thein have been instrumental in his growth and development.  His occupational therapist Christy as well as speech his therapist Bridget are working on improving his skills. My wife and I are very pleased with the team’s dedicated and professional approach in dealing with Mica.  For anyone with a child with a disability in the Houston area, we highly recommend the ECI/Infant Program Easter Seals as they do a wonderful job.

 The Dawkins Family:

“Thanks to Easter Seals Greater Houston’s ECI Program and wonderful staff our son, Cavani, went from no communication at all, to using words and sign language to express his needs to us. Easter Seal’s knowledgeable therapists helped our child, and our family, transition from in home therapy to a public school that meet our child’s needs. We truly can not say enough good things about Easter Seals and their ECI/Infant Therapy Program.”
– The Dawkins Family

WHAT IS ECI – EARLY CHILDHOOD INTERVENTION AND WHY IS IT NECESSARY?

WHAT IS MAKE THE FIRST FIVE COUNT AND HOW CAN IT HELP YOUR CHILD?

WHAT IS THE ASQ (AGES AND STAGES QUESTIONNAIRE) AND HOW CAN IT HELP?

Want more info? Info@eastersealshouston.org

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At a Loss After #Harvey

This is the first time in many of years that “Ericka” just didn’t know what to do…

Being a single mother of three girls; a 23-year-old, recent college graduate, and two nine month old babies, I started to feel hopeless. After all that has happened to me, how was I going to get back up and make life normal for us again?

Things happened to me beyond my control, things I never thought would happen to me over a two-year period of time. After finding out I was pregnant with twins (2016), 3 days later I was laid off of my job as a Certified Fourth Grade Math and Science Teacher. Then the babies were born prematurely and they were hospitalized for a couple of months. Twin A had a little more problems than Twin B in regards to her growth and other challenges, something I was far from being prepared to handle. What else could possibly happen were the thoughts that were running through my head. I shouldn’t have ever thought that, because Hurricane Harvey hit and it only got worse.

Hurricane Harvey left me in the state of devastation incurring damages to my home, as well as not being able to successfully move forward with the daycare that I had found, after being laid off as a teacher and during a new job search.

Easter Seals Greater Houston and it’s Harvey Recovery Program gave me hope not only by helping me monetarily, but also with counseling and encouragement. I reached out to them this year when the twins were hospitalized for two weeks. After FEMA denied me  and my homeowner’s insurance only covered things that were damaged by the wind, I felt like giving up. But Krystle, a case manager/counselor with the Easter Seals Harvey Recovery Program, was like an angel sent by God while in the hospital with my twins. She really encouraged me, gave me hope and made me see clear that things will get better.

With the help of Easter Seals, I was able to catch up on bills that have fallen behind due to the hurricane as well as get counseling services for myself due to the events that have taken place over a course of time. Coming from being a teenage single mother and being self-sufficient, it took a great deal for me to reach out to even ask for help for my situation. However, Krystle made me feel comfortable and Easter Seals has helped me so that I may pick my life back up and move forward in a new direction.

I am extremely grateful for this organization and the mission it has set in place to help people like me.

For more information on our #Harvey Recovery Program – http://eastersealshouston.org/Programs/emergency-harvey-assistance.html

We couldn’t have done it without the help of so many! Check out our #HarveyHeroes

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Therapists: True Friends and Advocates

The following blog was written by the father of Anna, an Early Childhood Intervention graduate. Mr. Joshua David English eloquently shares the deep impact that ECI has had on his daughter, himself, and his entire family.

In late summer 2014, my youngest daughter, Anna T. English, was prenatally diagnosed with Down Syndrome.  Down Syndrome is a genetic disorder caused by the presence of a third copy of chromosome 21.   It is typically associated with physical growth delays, characteristic facial features, and mild to moderate intellectual disability.  It affects all ethnicities, genders, and economic classes.

Anna English ECI GraduateAs my wife and I educated ourselves on our child’s diagnosis we quickly learned that while the syndrome has a wide range of symptoms, the key factor in mitigating most, if not all, is early intervention.  Within weeks of Anna’s birth our pediatrician encouraged us to contact the local Early Childhood Intervention program office (Easter Seals Greater Houston) to request services.  In Texas, the ECI program falls within the Texas Health and Human Services Commission and is available to children from birth to three years of age.  Texas’ ECI program receives funding from several sources, including funds appropriated to the Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (DARS) and the Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC), and funding outside of the General Appropriations Act (GAA).  Without programs such as ECI, millions of disabled children in America would go without the necessary treatments.

Soon after contacting Easter Seals Greater Houston we were assigned an intervention specialist and over the course of my daughter’s first three years of life we have been privileged to receive services from dedicated and professional therapists.  We were continually impressed with each therapist that worked with Anna, and with Anna’s progress.  She quickly broke typical notions of what a child with her diagnosis was capable of and continually made progress that shocked even her mother and I.   Without programs like ECI and the steadfast dedication of these professionals, my daughter would not be as high functioning as she is today.  While there have been many therapists assigned to our case, we wish to highlight the below individuals.

Ms. Britni Smith, Early Intervention Specialist – Ms. Smith was the first to visit our home and helped establish goals for our barely one month old daughter to achieve.  She was extremely professional, well versed in the types of services our daughter needed and has been with us throughout our eligibility in the program, ensuring the right services are provided at the right time.  My wife and I cannot speak highly enough of Ms. Smith and are so thankful a person of her talents chose to serve children with disabilities.

Ms. Jeanie Martinez, DPT –  Ms. Martinez is warm, passionate, and has aggressively pursued every goal we set for Anna.  She pushed Anna hard when it comes to her physical therapy and that’s what I wanted.  She has been a true partner in Anna’s development and will always be remembered for not only educating Anna, but my wife and I as well.

Ms. Elizabeth Clark, SLP – Ms. Clark came to us late but made a marked improvement in Anna’s development.  She helped my wife and I locate a local mother’s day out program that has begun accepting children with special needs.  Her dedication to Anna’s well being, development, and as a friend will always be remembered.

Ms. Morgan Cooke, SLP – Ms. Cooke came to us even later then Ms. Clark, but has already made a marked improvement in Anna’s speech development.  She often provides us easy to use tips and tricks to help Anna between therapy sessions.  This approach provides us the tools we need as parents to help Anna grow. 

Lisa Rand, COTA –Ms. Rand has been a partner from the beginning. She always has Anna’s best interests at heart and brings thoughtful, and creative ideas to further Anna’s development.  Ms. Rand is warm, genuinely caring and personable and we value her.

Anna greets each therapist with a smile and a wave and intently plays with each.  They serve as more than medical service provider, they have become true friends and members of our extended family.  As we age out of ECI and enter a new program I would be remiss if I did not attempt to impress upon you the importance of these type of programs.  Other affected citizens, my extended family, and I strongly encourage you to continue funding programs like Early Childhood Intervention and to support legislation like the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act, and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Part C to ensure those with disabilities in our country have the voice they so deserve.

Enclosed you will find a picture of Anna on her first day of pre-school this year.  So proud of herself for carrying her water bottle and too proud to let go of the art project she completed and would later give to her grandmother.  I cannot thank the overall ECI program, Easter Seals Greater Houston, or the individual therapists enough for what they have done for my daughter, my family, and I.

With hope for the future of disabled children in America,

Very Respectfully,

Mr. Joshua David English and Ms. Alice Kim Dang

Parents of Early Childhood Intervention Graduate, Easter Seals Greater Houston

Easter Seals Greater Houston’s ECI Program helps children ages birth to 36 months with disabilities and developmental delays achieve their goals in cognitive, social/emotional, communicative, adaptive and physical development. Learn more here.

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Incredible Eira

Eira BandaEira is a beautiful little girl that has been in Easter Seals Greater Houston’s Early Childhood Intervention (ECI) Infant Program since the age of 4 months. She was born with Down Syndrome and was hospitalized in the NICU for the first 3 months of her life. After being discharged, the hospital immediately referred her to Easter Seals’ ECI Program. Since that time, she’s received every ECI service from Occupational, Physical & Speech Therapy, Specialized Skills Training, Nutrition and Case management during her enrollment.

Eira’s Mom, Angelica said “Eira has learned so much from ECI. She’s received so many therapy services over the years. Walking was hard for her because she had such low tone and her legs bowed out. The physical therapist helped us with exercises”. The case manager, Christina Weiblen, said “Mom would always ask us when she was going to walk, would she walk?” Now Angelica says “I’m waiting for her to sit still! She’s climbing up and down on the table and moves around so fast!” The proud mom also shares that “She absorbs everything she sees and learns that way. She loves my phone and has learned how to open and close apps.  She’s a whiz!”

Eira Banda 2Eira turns three soon and has been evaluated for the PPCD, preschool program for children with disabilities program with her local independent school district. The case manager is also helping Angelica explore private therapy options and other play groups.  Through case management she is also on several wait lists such as HCS, MDCP and CLASS to ensure future support and services for Eira.

Easter Seals Greater Houston’s ECI Program helps children ages birth to 36 months with disabilities and developmental delays achieve their goals in cognitive, social/emotional, communicative, adaptive and physical development. Learn more here.

Early Childhood Intervention Infant Program Team, Easter Seals Greater Houston

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Resilient

Gaby1We are a small, young family working and playing hard in Kingwood, Texas. My name is Chris and I’m the dashing and brilliant stay-at-home Dad. My wife is Elisa, the exotic and  mysterious bread winner of the family, and together we have two daughters – Hannah, a five-year-old Wonder Woman and two-year-old Gabriella (Gaby), the thrill-seeking comic of the family.

Gaby was born on November 10, 2015, shortly after we moved to the suburbs of Kingwood from the city of Houston. We felt confident about the delivery since this was Elisa’s second time, and I had plans to take a short break from my career to help get us all settled and then find a new job a few months later. Those expectations changed when the delivery did not go as planned, and Gaby was immediately put on a ventilator as soon as she arrived. I remember she was blue and not breathing. Come to find out she had swallowed muconium on her way out and the fluid was stuck in her lungs. Eventually she started to breathe and move around, but spent the better part of a week in the NICU as a result.

During her time in the NICU the doctors discovered Gaby4a small heart defect. Gaby has a few valves that are thickened and while the thick valves are not causing her any immediate problems, over many months they did lead the doctors down a path to a genetic diagnosis of Kabuki Syndrome.

Turns out, the reason Gaby swallowed meconium is that she has hypertonia. Her muscles, while they can develop and get stronger like any of ours, are naturally weak and hyper flexible. Gaby did not have the muscular control of her mouth or throat to prevent herself from swallowing fluid during delivery. Over time the hypertonia has lead to delays in walking, eating, and for a while, even having a bowel movement on her own. As an infant she needed assistance in every little area of life that we take for granted, because she wasn’t strong enough to do these things on her own. Gaby also had severe reflux, and not only was she not strong enough to swallow, but what formula did go down came right back up in a very violent, retching episode. Eventually she was given a G tube, which allowed us to use a pump to slowly drip formula directly into her stomach, bypassing her mouth and throat completely. Even after the G tube surgery and with the pump, Gaby threw up, screaming and crying, 5-6 times a day for nine months. She didn’t sleep. We didn’t sleep. We just held her and rocked her as she screamed in pain.

As the weeks went on, colobomas were found in both of her eyes resulting in low vision and an immediate diagnosis of legal blindness. Knowing Kabuki can produce hearing loss as well, we tested her ears and found that she has mild to moderate loss in both ears, requiring hearing aids. The combination of vision and hearing loss lead to sensory issues, such as getting overwhelmed in loud, new spaces or feeling uncomfortable touching certain textures.

For months it seemed we found a new challenge to face each week. We lived in the hospital and at doctor appointments. We were scared. We were exhausted. We were not prepared for this.

On top of helping Gaby, we were all of a sudden forced into a situation where we had to take a hard look at our insurance, the surrounding school system, any and every option available to us through the city, state, non-profits, family, friends and whatever else. Through this process – what I call the “business side” of all this – we discovered Easter Seals Greater Houston‘s Early Childhood Intervention (ECI) Program and requested an evaluation.

None of us are prepared for the feelings that come with Gaby3a scenario like this. Just a few months before Gaby was born I had bought a drum kit and was hoping to open my own retail store. Now, overnight, I was having to second guess and completely reevaluate emotions, thoughts, plans and habits that were second nature to me over the previous 35 years. The most difficult obstacle to overcome was accepting what Gaby had and what she was facing enough to do the things that I knew she needed. One of those things was an Early Childhood Intervention evaluation –  probably the first time I had to accept she needed long term help. It was honestly scary.

As nervous and vulnerable as I felt we were at the time, our evaluation was the best thing that could have happened to us. Both Easter Seals therapists were so knowledgeable and understanding of our situation. Even though Kabuki Syndrome is a specific challenge to deal with, these therapists knew so much about the bigger picture – the anger, the sadness, the confusion and, at times, hopelessness. These are experiences that every parent of a child with special needs goes through no matter the diagnosis.

Given Gaby’s situation at the time we were quickly scooped up into the ECI Program and recommended a handful of therapies to begin with, including Physical (Leanne Armel), Occupational (Jessica Valdez/Jackie Wooten), and Speech (Ashly Wiebelt). Eventually we would add an Early Intervention Specialist (Ysabel Luna) when Gaby was a little older. We were also provided an incredible Case Manager (Melodie McDonald) that helped us complete any forms or paperwork, recommended assistance programs that could be available to us at the city and state level, and was also a wealth of knowledge for resources in our immediate community.

Gaby thrived with the support and expertise of the Easter Seals team. The therapists came to our house. We did not have to sit in a small room waiting for them like we did with the doctors. The therapists were flexible and understanding with our schedule, they were prepared for each appointment and most importantly, each and every one of them genuinely cared about all four of us. Honestly, in the beginning, sometimes I just used them as a shoulder to cry on.

The first thing that the Easter Seals specialists told us was that they were not there to do the therapy for us, but to teach Elisa and I how to do it. I appreciated that so much, because the ECI team understood that there is no doctor in our house when Gaby’s G-button falls out. There is no nutritionist in Gaby’s room at 3:00 a.m. when she’s just thrown up all of her food, and there is no physical therapist on standby next door to come teach Gaby how to sit up by herself everyday. That was our job now. Like it or not, as hard as life had been recently, we had to become Gaby’s nurse, doctor and therapist. That was our job as her parents. We had to get with it, and we had to start right away.

Based on our physical therapist’s advice and teaching, we worked every day with Gaby on simple exercises that began with the goal of having her roll over. Eventually she sat up on her own and today, at two years old, she walks. Our speech therapist taught us about strengthening Gaby’s mouth so she could begin to form words and eat food. She introduced Gaby to specific sounds and words to help her communicate. Today Gaby can speak 6-8 words clearly and is picking up sign language very quickly. Our occupational therapist worked for months on tasks as simple as pointing a finger, and today Gaby can sit in a chair, flip through a book and remove pieces of a puzzle. Every baby needs teaching and nurturing to grow, but for a baby with special needs that is naturally going to be delayed they need specific attention given to the little things.

Gaby2Lastly, Easter Seals Greater Houston’s Early Childhood Intervention Program helped us learn how to communicate. We had to develop a way to communicate with Gaby despite delays or physical setbacks. We had to learn how to explain Gaby’s life to her sister Hannah in a way that Hannah felt included and encouraged. We had to learn how to talk to other parents, teachers and even strangers about Gaby in a healthy way, to let them know Gaby is just as strong, smart, and resilient as any other two-year-old. Recently we attended the 4th Annual Kabuki Gathering in San Antonio and met families from our area and their children with Kabuki Syndrome. Without the confidence that ECI has given us to take this new life head on, I do not know if I would have gone. However, it turned out to be one of the best weekends of my life, not mention for Gaby and the rest of our family. Rare conditions like Gaby’s and special needs of all types are so difficult to manage in the beginning, and borderline impossible to do alone. Thanks to Easter Seals’ ECI we never had to be alone and Gaby’s life has been changed forever.

Chris, Early Childhood Intervention Program Parent, Easter Seals Greater Houston

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