Tag Archives: family support services

Relax, Recharge, Feel Refreshed

Thanks to Easter Seals Greater Houston and Hilton Hotel of America, Downtown Houston – my husband and I enjoyed the gift of time together and a break from home, where we could recharge ourselves. Living in a disabled family, although rewarding, is full of extreme ups and downs that can be excessively stressful at times. Around the clock duty as a care taker to our adult son with autism and co-occurring disabilities means that time away is a chance to unwind, have some much needed down time and also return ready to take on another day. We really appreciated that Easter Seals Greater Houston Respite Program gives us the chance to get away from home, but be close enough in case of emergencies. We enjoyed our trip to The Houston Galleria to prepare for the holidays and were spoiled with deliciously prepared breakfasts.

respitality-and-hilton-hotel

Easter Seals Greater Houston has been a constant support in our lives for our son. Not only with the Respite Program, but when he was younger and attended Family Day Out on Saturdays once a month and of course the much anticipated Camp Buckaroo in the summer. Before the location in The Woodlands started, we would drive over an hour each way into Houston for camp, it was worth the chance to have our son engaged and stimulated in a safe environment for a few days during the summer break.

Thank you for the opportunity to enjoy this time especially during the hectic holiday season. We were so happy and care free for a couple of days – and this opportunity could not have come at a more needed time.

We appreciate Easter Seals Greater Houston, love the Hilton of Americas and are thankful for all you do for the disabled community and care takers.

Thank you,

Nicole and Darrel, Respite Services clients, Easter Seals Greater Houston

2 Comments

Filed under Latest News

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

Leave a comment

Filed under Latest News

Your “Go To” for Child Development! #MakeTheFirstFiveCount

What are EIS and SST?

In the world of Early Childhood Intervention (ECI) we really like our acronyms. BDI, IFSP, OT, PT, EIS and SST are just a few of them that are common terms to  Infant program Jamie Hearly intervention providers in the field, but to parents these terms are often new and confusing.

Today we’ll be highlighting two important terms in Easter Seals Greater Houston’s ECI Infant Program, EIS and SST:

What is an EIS? Early Intervention Specialist (EIS) professionals are required to have at least a Bachelor’s degree with coursework related to early childhood intervention. EIS’s also must successfully complete specialized post-graduate training after being hired. They have expertise in infant and toddler development, both typical and atypical patterns. For example, cognitive skills and how infants and toddlers learn, and social interactions like behavior, biting, temper tantrums and picky eating.   EIS’s focus on how to embed the intervention into families’ daily activities so it will increase the opportunity for the child to practice new skills every day. Lauren Stroope, an EIS shares this:

martha and client“My name is Lauren Stroope. I received my Bachelor’s Degree in Human Development and Family Studies from Colorado State University. I have worked as an EIS for 3 years. As an EIS, I help babies across developmental domains. Some babies on my caseload are just learning to sit up on their own, crawl and walk. I work with the baby and give mom tips for helping them meet motor goals. I have several two-year olds on my caseload who have speech delays. I introduce simple signs to them so they can communicate their wants and needs better while decreasing their frustration. I help kids learn how to sit and attend, and follow directions. One of my favorite success stories is from a child that just graduated. He was in our program for a year. He started out unable to sit and play for more than a few seconds and had no words. By the time he graduated, he could sit and play for our whole session, had several words, and could follow directions and answer questions by pointing or signing.”

What is SST? Specialized Skills Training (SST) is a unique early intervention service only offered by an EIS. A child can receive SST and therapy services. SST shows parents how to help their children learn with a focus on thinking skills, behavior and social skills. These are all skills your child needs to be ready for school. SST shows you ways to help your child during your family’s everyday activities by using items in your home or childcare center, and teaches you about child development and what should be happening next with milestones.leanne and client

What happens in an SST Session? An EIS will schedule visits to join the family during activities they request help with, either at home or in the community. The skills families learn during SST sessions will help the child meet specific developmental goals. For example, if a parent wants their child to talk more, an EIS demonstrates and suggests how to set up their child’s play area to encourage use of more words and asking for favorites – maybe during snack time and using pictures of food to help the child make choices. Since services are also provided in community settings, some staff has even met families in a grocery store to offer suggestions on how to reduce temper tantrums during this routine for families.

ECI Infant Program of Easter Seals Greater Houston believes that working in partnership with families and their young children is the key. An investment in babies today for a better Texas tomorrow! We are specialists in your child’s development. Check out Make The First Five Count http://www.easterseals.com/mtffc/ and make sure your child is reaching their milestones!

Lauren Stroope, EIS, Easter Seals Greater Houston Infant Program / (Early Childhood Education)

Leave a comment

Filed under Latest News

From Fear to Confidence: Rudy’s Unexpected Journey with Technology

I met Rudy and his wife Andrea in April 2015, when BridgingApps, a program of Easter Seals Greater Houston, presented at the St. Luke’s Stroke Support Group on using apps and mobile devices. Like many who were recovering from a stroke, Rudy was interested in how technology could help him, but also overwhelmed by the idea.

“I was resistant because I thought it was too hard,” Rudy confides. “After my stroke, I thought learning was over. I really did.”  When asked what was difficult for him, he gave the example of reading. Rudy loves to read, but post-stroke the task of reading was not pleasurable as it had been before, just extremely difficult.  He would read something, lose his place often and not understand what he just read. It was frustrating and demoralizing.

Wanting to learn more and despite feeling overwhelmed, Rudy and Andrea attended a BridgingApps open house event in the spring, took a tour of the AT&T Assistive Technology lab and asked many questions about how mobile devices stroke_support_st._lukes-300x225might be used. “It would take me a hundred years to learn everything,” Rudy declared. I offered to lend Rudy an iPad to try it out for a month at home to see what he thought of it. Rudy was appreciative, but noncommittal and politely declined. I then suggested another option that might less stressful and invited Rudy and his wife to attend BridgingApps monthly collaborative training at the Apple Store Highland Village. These meetings take place in a distraction-free, low stress accessible room with compassionate, knowledgeable staff.

Rudy and Andrea attended the monthly classes facilitated by BridgingApps at the Apple Store. Though neither of them owned a mobile device, they came eager to learn each month and borrowed different sized devices for the hands-on trainings, including an iPhone, iPod Touch and full sized iPad. We covered everything from the accessibility features of iBooks, to speak screen, using Siri for shortcuts, calendar and notes apps and how to navigate the basics of the device. Rudy diligently took notes at each class, and Andrea was excited about his interest. Andrea said that she enjoyed the slow pace of the class and the fact that the instructor repeats instructions and simplifies them for participants.

One month in the fall, Rudy’s daughter Teresa and her husband attended the BridgingApps training together with Rudy and Andrea to see what her parents were up to. They shared a device, asked questions and practiced the various tasks. Throughout this process, Rudy began to relax and said “the whole experience has made me more aware of what my capabilities are. When I experienced the features of iBooks that allows the words to be read aloud to me, sped up or slowed down and highlighted as I go along, that was amazing to me! It really helped a lot, and if I don’t understand something or lose my place, with the touch of the screen I can hear it again and again.  I feel more confident.”

Fast forward to our monthly training in January 2016, where Rudy proudly whips out an iPhone 6 Plus and places it on the table next to his notebook ready to learn. Andrea giggles and puts her brand new device on the table. After class when I asked when they bought their devices, they answered “In December, Teresa said ‘enough’ and bought them for us!”  I asked how Rudy felt about having a smartphone and what he has been doing with it, he positively glows. “I love it. I read the news, I check the weather, I look at maps, and I FaceTime with my grandson who lives in Brownsville.”

Feb 2016 BA blog picAndrea chimes in “The other day I heard piano music, and there he was playing the piano using Garage Band.” Rudy laughs and adds “I love music and majored in it in school, so I discovered this app. It is fantastic.”

Next steps for Rudy and Andrea? “We love the classes and will continue to come. We are grateful for all that we have learned.”

Having watched this journey unfold and observing Rudy’s initial excitement, fear, hesitation, followed by determination and courage, it has been a privilege to get to know Rudy and his family. Andrea mentions that BridgingApps and this technology has opened up new horizons for Rudy that have surprised and delighted her.

“I really can learn again,” says Rudy with tears in his eyes.

Cristen Reat, BridgingApps Founder, Easter Seals Greater Houston

For more information on our BridgingApps program, click here.
To hear more about Rudy’s amazing story, click here.

Leave a comment

Filed under Latest News

Mapping White Noise

With one keystroke, we can now connect with seemingly unlimited information sources through our apps, but parsing through those sites and separating real knowledge from the distraction of background static of white noise is not easy.

With over 1.6 million downloadable apps from the Apple store alone, it is safe to say that there is an app designed to fill in every corner of your life.

Do you want to measure the exact chemical breakdown of your perspiration on any given day? Got it.

Do you want to track your pulse rate and calorie expended during your last aerobic workout?  No problem.  In fact, one fitness app tells you when to drink water AND when to invest in newer foot gear.

There is even an app that randomly pulls frames from your posts through multiple social media sites and flashes on your screen to remind you how happy you were in times past.  Disclaimer here – you must have actually lived the experiences and posted the snapshot to your friends in order to be able to relive such happy moments.  Unfortunately, the algorithm to turn a sad post into a happy one does not exist yet.

In the financial space, you will find an even more intimidating range of apps that promise to track spending, create budgets, design investment plans, trace every dollar on its way in and out of multiple accounts in real time, and ply us with superior money management tips to keep us out of harm’s way.

With so much information at our fingertips, why is it still so difficult to make good financial decisions?  Perhaps, sheer weight of information has become the problem.

Bank On Montgomery County (BOMC) brings together non-profit organizations and financial institutions with knowledgeable staff that will connect you with those banking products and financial education classes tailored to your family needs.  Do you need to open a bank account or start a savings plan?  Are you dealing with student debt or a disappearing retirement account?  Are you looking for an affordable mortgage and perhaps are eligible for one of the many down payment assistance programs to finance your first home?   Our BOMC partners across the county are here to provide you the map and tools to reach your financial goals.

Easter Seals Greater Houston is so excited to be the lead agency working with the Bank On initiative through Mont County United Way and others. For more information about Bank On, click here.

www.eastersealshouston.org
www.bankonmc.org

Katy Thorstenberg, Home of Your Own Program, Easter Seals Greater Houston

Leave a comment

Filed under Latest News

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.

1 Comment

Filed under Latest News

PNO = R&R

My husband, Doug, and I welcomed our wonderful son, Duncan, after our 39th birthdays. Having met at 21, we’d spent the better part of two decades dining at the best “cheap eats” in Houston, taking weekend jaunts in Texas, exercising daily, and enjoying the occasional happy hour. Quite simply, we appreciated the benefits of living as DINKS (double-income, no kids).

Dec 2015 Respite blog PNO 1So along came our beautiful baby. Overnight, our lives transformed in rewarding and challenging ways I never could have imagined. Of course, this is true for any new parent, but there exists an additional anxiety, concern and effort when you care for a child with special needs. Doctors’ appointments, therapy, testing, tutoring, special-ed meetings, financial challenges, and countless hours of online research: It’s just plain exhausting.

So, when we heard about the Easter Seals Greater Houston Respite Program, Parents’ Night Out, we were cautiously optimistic.  We were happily surprised at its affordability: $10 for four hours of babysitting by Easter Seals’ skilled volunteers and staff.  But, we know our son. He is fearful of new situations, despite having attended summer camps with Easter Seals Greater Houston. Bless his heart, he is visually impaired, has epilepsy and CP, so who could blame him?Dec 2015 Respite blog PNO 2

Our concerns were unfounded and he made fast friends at Parents’ Night Out. The volunteers exemplify patience and understanding, each offering a weekend night to care for our son, later telling us how much they enjoy Duncan!  Six months later, he asks to attend the “babysitting place” nearly every Friday night.  Doug and I have actually seen three movies and been out to dinner twice during the last six weeks! That reconnection is critical with the added stress of our days.

From respite for caregivers to summer camps and fun activities for children, Easter Seals is a blessing for thousands of people in the Greater Houston area. And the Graham family is proof of that.

-Catherine Graham, Respite Program client parent

For more about Easter Seals‘ Care Giving Services, click here.
For more about Easter Seals’ Camps and Recreation, click here.

Leave a comment

Filed under Latest News