Last year, Easter Seals Greater Houston’sEarly Childhood Intervention (ECI) team provided 44,360 hours of therapy, early intervention, nutrition, and case management services. Our incredible team of specialists provided these transformative services to 6,565 children ages 0-3 who have developmental delays, medical diagnoses, disabilities, or atypical behaviors. Below is the testimony from a mother of two ECI clients:
“First of all, I want to say thank you for everything you all have done for my family. Easter Seals Greater Houston’sEarly Childhood Intervention Program has helped so much and I have learned so much with my kids. Aliza and Sara are the best, they helped me with my oldest son, Luis, who is now 5. Sara was his therapist and she was wonderful, always helpful, and she gave me the best tips to help Luis. Now they are helping me with my second son, Adrian, and let me tell you I’m grateful for Sara and Aliza. Adrian has had a big journey this year with the possibility of autism, sensory issues, and more. Both ECI team members help me know how to check on Adrian, how to work with him, and are helping me to understand the diagnoses. I am truly thankful for their help and advice because without it I would have gone crazy not knowing what to do. Adrian and I love the Zoom meetings we had we both learn a lot. Sara and Aliza also help me get Adrian therapy through the school district. Now Adrian is turning 3 in of couples days and is graduating from ECI. We sure will miss yall! Once again, thank you for everything your service, time, patience, kindness…everything.
Hope all is well. It’s been a while since I last emailed you about the phenomenal work this agency has continued to bring to our family. The Early Childhood Intervention Program(ECI) under Easter Seals Greater Houston has so many diamonds that need to be highlighted over and over. Roshanda, Melissa, Thein, Michelle, and Marlene have been consistent with their work which showed our family how dedicated they are to their families. Individually and as a team, we witness their extraordinary work ethic every day that Za’karri receives services. This group of therapists and a nutritionist has stood by the Easter Seals‘ mission which is to “provide exceptional services to ensure that all people with disabilities and their families have equal opportunities to live, learn, work and play in their communities” Thank you Easter Seals Greater Houston for lending our family these delightful caring professionals to represent your agency and to help Za’karri thrive for success. Many of the therapists and the nutritionist have been incorporated into our family life since Za’karri was 5-month-old.
Za’karri will be turning 3 years old this month. Writing this letter has made me very emotional. Sadly, our family’s time with ECI is coming to a close. We as humans face many changes in life and they are not always bad, this end will help us embark with all of the tools the therapists provided to us throughout the years. Za’karri has been seeing 3 therapists every 2 to 3 weeks and 1 Nutritionist monthly since 2019. Countless sessions over the years. Seeing these professionals for so long must be called “Za’karri’s Village of Heroes” The knowledge we obtained will allow us to support our little one in his new journey without his village. We as a family will make sure we continue to help him strive for greatness. We will not allow his underlying challenges to control his way of living or his enjoyment of the years to come.
Our family is so grateful to be able to have each of these therapists/nutritionists be a part of his journey. This unique individual is so blessed to have so many people cheer him on, words can’t even express it. It’s because of you all that Za’karri has SOARED for greatness. His family is able to provide continuous support by incorporating the knowledge and tools the ECI team provided in weekly sessions.
Za’karri’s village of a team highlighted impact and moments:
When Melissa first met Za’karri at 5 months he couldn’t hold his head straight due to torticollis. Za’karri couldn’t roll over, crawl, or walk. Melissa identified that Za’karri had some developmental delays that were shown on his initial assessment. Our family is so grateful for the ECI assessment tool which identified Za’karri’s developmental delays early on. Without this agency, I wouldn’t know what to look for in any development delays, head tilt, or sensory processing disorder.
Melissa has been providing therapy to Za’karri the longest and has been a great observer and excellent Physical Therapist. Melissa suggested many things that she felt would help Za’karri such as sensory activities, compression clothes, a compression vest for tiptoeing, and Wilbarger Brushing for sensory which is helping with my son’s progress. She also suggested that Za’karri would benefit from Speech and Occupational Therapy. Physical therapy with Melissa has allowed Za’karri to climb up steps, jump, run, and he can now do a sideways front forward roll. With the physical therapist’s assistance, he can now do all this and more.
We are trying to help him with W-sitting which is a challenge but we are still working to address it. Melissa has sent a referral to see Orthotics to observe his lower extremity orthoses to address the excessive pronation bilaterally.
Thein is an awesome Nutritionist and is one of a kind. If you want someone to make sure your child has the right nutrients and to stay on track with a healthy diet and weight gain then Thein is your person. We had many challenges working with Za’karri trying many foods and touching items due to his SPD. We were able to work through some things such as making sure we put small portions of food on his plate.
We have started incorporating Za’karri to assist with meal prep which he loves. Za’karri is still a work in progress in this area. He is still drinking PediaSure to maintain weight and to get the protein nutrients his little body needs. He is still not eating a variety of vegetables or fruits, but we are still exposing him to these items. Having SPD is very challenging when it comes to the low motor tones in his mouth which are very sensitive to touch. We have come a long way and getting to a point to at least kiss some of the fruit to at least get him to taste a little rather than no interaction. Za’karri loves to incorporate activities into his sessions.
Michelle came along later but just in time to help this little one to overcome his challenges. When Michelle started working with Za’karri on his speech he was 1.5 years old. Za’karri was using non-verbal cues to communicate in sessions with Michelle. He was almost 2 years old and saying very few words and echoing and repeating the same word over and over. Over the months Michelle suggested incorporating sensory bins to help with his progression in speech. Michelle stated that to be successful in his speech we need to address his sensory needs. Michelle has been an asset ever since Za’karri had his tongue tie clip which help Za’karri progress more in speech. Michelle incorporates a z- vibe to help with tongue movement to speak. I’m proud to say that when Za’karri turned two he was incorporating three-word sentences and not echoing word for word. Za’karri is doing great in saying the alphabet as well as numbers from 1 to 20.
Marlene is the Occupational Therapist that has been working with Za’karri for the last couple of months. Marlene has been a delight to work with in addressing Za’karri’s sensory needs. Marlene has included food play activities with fun animal activities that he enjoys. This area of expertise has been a challenge for Za’karri he had a couple of therapists in OT. This one was different we had only Zoom visits which at the time was the only available option. I agreed with this option I felt he could still benefit from this service. Za’karri still have issues with wet textures, variety of foods he still doesn’t eat, along with sensory seeking behaviors in different environments. We still have concerns but will continue to focus more attention to address them in the future.
Roshanda is a vital part of this team as the case manager. By providing supervision, guidance and leadership Roshanda allows this village to soar high for my family and others. Roshanda provided support when I was not satisfied with a certain situation it was resolved quickly and with integrity so Za’karri could still receive his services without any interruption. Roshanda has also stepped in supporting and functioning as a case manager and providing assistance with available resources and helpful information.
While working with this village of heroes, I have learned how all the milestones overlap/connect and how all the therapist roles are very important and different but are all needed. Learning from a team of professionals allowed our family to be able to help Za’karri to the fullest.
Their knowledge of food selection, hands-on activities techniques, and being flexible with my work schedule does not go unnoticed. They all love their work, care about the children they serve and are very compassionate to parents’ concerns and feelings. When times were overwhelming for me and my family the ladies provided a listening ear while staying professional and never crossing boundaries. It felt good as a parent to have this village of professionals who have always been kind and respectful. Having these types of diamonds around will surely have a successful impact on your organization for years to come.
Za’karri experienced some regression but with the help of all the team working together and keeping each other in the loop, Za’karri has improved and accomplished many of his goals. Without these ladies and the Early Childhood Intervention Program, I’m not sure where my son would be today. The ladies have provided me and my family with the knowledge of how all the components connect on helping Za’karri succeed through any challenging times he may face. They have helped our family to communicate with our daycare provider so they can incorporate some of the work we are doing with Za’karri.
Dena, the last six months have been a journey of success. I just wanted to let you know how awesome your Early Childhood Intervention team has been to Za’karri.
Thank you, I know behind a good team there is always an amazing leader. A team cannot function without the guidance and support that you have been providing for your staff. On behalf of me and my family, thank you.
With the help of the village of heroes’ tools and support, Za’karri will learn to function with his sensory processing disorder and will continue to adapt to his environment for many years to come.
“Once my daughter, Harper, was diagnosed with Autism I knew we needed help! When we first met with Easter Seals Greater Houston’sEarly Childhood Intervention Infant Program my child could not communicate. Harper would scream, throw fits, and have meltdowns as she could not tell us what her wants or needs were. She could not and would not point or show us what she wanted. She was also an extremely picky eater, refusing to try any new foods. Experiencing anything new was overwhelming for Harper. She was withdrawn and preferred to play on her own than with the family. I never heard her say mama or experienced those awesome baby/toddler kisses and reading books together.
After Ashley and Jessica from Easter SealsECI Program started working with her I began to see positive changes in Harper. She started signing which resulted in less meltdowns and fits in our house. As time went on, she started to allow her siblings to play with her and she would laugh with them instead of screaming and taking off. She started tolerating new textures and touching things and exploring in her environment. Though she remained cautious this was a huge accomplishment!
This amazing little girl has continued to improve. Even though she still is not talking verbally she can communicate what she wants to us by pointing and taking us to where she wants to be (often to the freezer for her popsicles and to turn on her favorite toy). She plays with her siblings (they are ages 16, 14 and 9) and we even hear belly laughs now and again, something I previously took for granted. I got my first kiss from her at 2 1/2. She is happy to see me when I come home. I now know without a doubt she knows I am her momma and I know that sounds crazy, but I was unsure as she didn’t react me.
This is just a summary of how far she has come. Everyday is a new day with a child with Autism and not always sunshine and rainbows. She will always have her harder days, but the tools and help we received as a family has really improved our ability to better support Harper. I honestly would never be able to put in words how happy I am with Jessica, Ashley and the entire Easter SealsECI crew. They set Harper up with a great foundation for her to continue to grow and prosper in her new chapters on this journey through life.” -Harper’s Mom
“Fátima es una niña con espina bífida, aún recuerdo cuando los doctores me daban un diagnóstico muy desalentador, pero gracias a Dios conocí el programa de Easter Seals Greater HoustonECI. Ellos llegaron para ayudar a Fátima con las terapias. Ahora ella a logrado muchos obstáculos que le han puesto. No encuentro palabras para agradecer mi satisfacción a Sarah y Ashlea por la ayuda que me han brindado. Ahora Fátima es una niña muy feliz a su corta edad y espero que sus terapias le ayuden en un futuro a caminar por si sola.”
“Fátima is a girl with Spina Bifida. I still remember when the doctors gave me a very discouraging diagnosis, but thank God I learned about the Easter Seals Greater HoustonECI program. They came to help Fátima with the therapies. Now she has overcome many obstacles that have been placed on her. I can’t find the words to thank Sarah and Ashlea for the help they have given me. Now Fátima is a very happy girl at her young age and I hope that her therapies will help her to walk on her own in the future.”
“When Luke was asked to be one of the ambassadors for Easter Seals Greater Houston’sWalk With Me 2021, I originally felt like being asked was such an honor for both him and our family. However, those feelings quickly shifted as we realized the real honor was the opportunity to give back to this wonderful organization.
Without a doubt, Easter Seals Greater Houston has completely changed the trajectory of my sons life. Like for so many other childhood disorders, early childhood intervention is absolutely critical for kids like Luke who have Cerebral Palsy. Luke’s therapists have worked incredibly hard to create new neural pathways in his brain, and have succeeded tremendously! It felt like we would never meet certain milestones, and now he is beginning to reach so many with ease! Each day we get a little more excited and optimistic about his future – and that is thanks to all of the early childhood intervention he has received from Easter Seals.
The Bailey family will be at Walk With Me 2022, Walk With Me 2071, and every walk in between. This wonderful organization has completely changed our lives for the better, and we promise to continue to fundraise and share our gratitude for as long as we possibly can!” -Samantha Bailey, Luke’s Mom
“I’m going to admit, I wasn’t fully locked in to the idea of getting speech therapy for my son Pierre. I am so glad that my husband and I made the decision to go ahead and try it out. Our son had normal development but at 15 months when his little sister was born, he slowed up progression in speech. I figured it would just pass but he started to regress more and more. Thanks to Easter Seals Greater Houston’sEarly Childhood Intervention Program, he is now speaking in 3-4 word sentences, expressing his wants, and even saying thank you after getting what he wants! It has only been 2.5 months and I can’t believe his quick turnaround. My husband and I are forever grateful for Mrs. Tiller from the ECI Program for being so patient and diligent in her efforts.
“Both of my daughters were referred to Easter Seals Greater Houston’sEarly Childhood Intervention Infant Program for physical therapy from their Orthopedic surgeon following surgeries, casting, and bracing for both girls to correct bilateral club foot. “A” and “E” have made tremendous progress reaching their developmental milestones with the help of their ECI therapists and service coordinator over the last year. The physical therapist has helped to show me activities to strengthen their ankles and feet and both “A” and “E” are so motivated during sessions. At 14 months age adjusted, “A” started taking her first independent steps this month and now she’s walking everywhere! “E” is very close to walking on her own, she is walking with little help and her push toy, and she is so motivated to stand and look at her favorite books. I am so proud of how strong both girls are and am excited to see how they continue to grow and learn with the help of Easter Seals Greater HoustonECI.”
The following was shared by Jamie Hodges, DPT in response to Greta Cherry, an incredible friend and fellow physical therapist, retiring. Cheers to the amazing and unstoppable Greta Cherry who retired from our Infant Program after nearly 50 years of service to the babies in our community. Greta has left her mark on countless children and their families, black women following in her profession, and most definitely on all of us who worked with her at Easter Seals Greater Houston.
“When I graduated from PT school, our class had more African American students than any other class. All of the classes prior to us had 1 maybe 2 black students …..for many years until our class which had 5. We were excited and proud that we had made it into the program especially when we all graduated.
In all my training as a physical therapy technician, student and even when I stepped into my career to encounter another black physical therapist, was rare and then to meet one that was older than me was even more rare. To be honest, I had never met another black physical therapist who was older than me until I met Mrs. Greta and Mrs. Priscilla. When I met her and shadowed her to determine if I wanted to work for Easter Seals Greater Houston’s Early Childhood Intervention Program, I was in awe. I listened to everything she said and I took every word in!
I don’t know why I wanted to share this with you…I guess because her impact goes beyond Easter Seals Greater Houston… I am grateful for her journey into this profession. She paved the way for women like me.” -Jamie Hodges, DPT
Read Mrs. Greta’s heartfelt thank you note reflecting on her time as a physical therapist with Easter Seals GreaterHouston and how her legacy will live on.
“I know I should have sent this thank you sooner, but having to write and send it seems so final. I found myself delaying ‘thank you’ to everyone at Easter Seals this time because it makes me so sad, it seems like the end of such an important part of my life. I had to come to the realization, I will no longer be a physical therapist and no longer work for Easter Seals. Change is hard and a final change is harder.
I want to say first, I am very thankful to have been able to work and be a part of Easter Seals for 48 years. I can look back for the rest of my life and have no regrets about my career choice. I was blessed to get my first job to be able to work with children and fulfill my dream to come true.
During all these years, I was given so much support that helped me grow to increase my knowledge and develop my skills. I was given the opportunity to serve as Supervisor of Physical Therapy for many years.
I have made so many wonderful friends, had the chance to work with some of their children. I consider all to be my family.
It has not all been work, I have had so much fun attending lots of fabulous parties, fundraisers, traveling and even getting to meet lots of famous people like [Congresswoman] Barbara Jordan. I celebrated my “30th”, “40th”, “50th”, “60th” and “70th” birthdays at Easter Seals.
I want to thank everyone for contributing to my retirement tribute. It was beautiful. I get teary-eyed every time I watch it.
Thank you so much for all the gifts and financial support. The crown is sooo beautiful. I placed it so it can be the center of attention in my home. As a matter of fact my living room is covered with beautiful gifts I have received over the years. The icing on my cake (my career) was the “Greta Cherry Award.” It was so unexpected and I feel so honored. I truly thank all those who initiated the thought of honoring me in such a special way.
It is an achievement given to me that I can celebrate knowing that I will be remembered for a long time even after I am gone. I could not ask for more. This honor came while I am living to see it. Thank you! Thank you!
May God continue to bless Easter Seals with success and growth as it serves so many people and provides for their needs.
I was around to see so many changes. Believing in what you are doing and working hard is what Easter Seals is all about.
Now Mason is very engaged with his parents and his sister. He will come to them and pull them over to join him in play. He enjoys pretending with his toy animals and he will copy many different actions and sounds with them . He also enjoys stacking blocks and counting them and having races with his sister where he will say “ready set go” for them to start. He has a vocabulary of over 30 words and is starting to put words together and he is beginning to use words more consistently to get his needs met. His parents are very happy and excited about his progress and feel that he is now prepared to start school when he turns 3.
“I want to thank the ECI Program and Heather Zamora (his Early Intervention Specialist). Thanks to their services, today I can say that Mason is reaching the goal. Every day I can see his improvement. I feel satisfied with the program’s services.” -Mason’s Mom