Tag Archives: family support

Success and Virtual Services – Stories from our Staff and Clients

Adult Services/LEAD
With the current Coronavirus pandemic, causing shutdowns of businesses, limited access to resources, and just overall stress for every single person in the United States, the Easter Seals Greater Houston L.E.A.D. program is fighting back the stress with creativity in technology! By utilizing webcam access, we have still been able to meet with our adult program daily and covered many new ways to communicate. First step was showing all the tips and tricks with Facebook and how to create video conversations with their friends; allowing our clients to still stay as close as ever even during this time of social distancing. As we move forward, our next step has been creating a new activity calendar FULL of fun creative ways to stay busy, from virtual tours online to chair yoga YouTube videos. We have definitely been challenged by this pandemic, but it is not stopping us whatsoever. Having to think outside of the box has been the L.E.A.D.’s group specialty, and with everyone in this social crew working together, we are still making it the best part of our week. By using these amazing resources of technology, we are still able to function together as a team and continue to socialize just like before, just this time with a little distance.  Check out what we’ve produce here on our BridgingApps YouTube Channel!  From Rebecca, Adult Services LEAD Program

Camp, School, Therapy and More!
I was on the phone with a Buckaroo mom about the COVID-19 emergency funding; she was super appreciative. We started talking about her son, Bryson, who has come to Buckaroo– but it has always been a struggle for him to do a whole day of camp. Bryson has non-verbal autism and he does what HE wants to do (i.e. not a fan of buckaroo group activities, or listening), so he mostly came to Buckaroo for a couple hours each day to watch camp from the side. Mom said that for the first week of quarantine, Bryson stood at the door with his backpack every morning for 45 minutes because he wanted to go to school so badly. Nevertheless, she said that homeschooling has actually been amazing for them! He has been getting speech therapy over the phone, with mom consistently implementing the therapy because they are together all day. She said he has learned a few ASL signs and he is SO excited that he is able to communicate! It was a huge breakthrough for both of them; he realized that instead of just DOING what he wants, he gets what he wants easily if he does a sign for it! It warmed my heart that she would share that with me, and I am so glad that there is some positives coming out of quarantine, and we can’t wait to see him at Camp Buckaroo!  From Kenzie Richard, Camps, Easter Seals Greater Houston

Creativity and Patience – Children’s Therapy Program
“We wanted to have a family meal where everyone was sharing a nice homemade meal. Sounds pretty easy, but it wasn’t. We sought out a food therapy program to help with Edgar’s limited diet, his overeating tendencies, and his textural sensibilities. When Easter Seals started offering food therapy, we quickly signed Edgar up for it because there would be no force feeding involved, a big plus for my sweet sensitive child!

I have noticed that after starting the food therapy program with Alysia, Edgar has gone from eating a handful of foods to at least trying out different foods I never thought would be possible. I never expected results in such a short amount of time. Lettuce, strawberries, and even hamburger meat? Those foods seemed like a long shot…a goal for the long run. Yet here we are, months into the food therapy program and my child is opening up! Suddenly, sharing the same nice homemade meal with the family doesn’t seem as far-fetched as I had imagined last year!

I can honestly say that the food therapy in combination with other therapies including his occupational therapy with Alysia, Speech with Miaya, Ingrid with Music, his kindergarten teacher, his school assigned case worker, and even his school principal have all helped propel my son forward. Alysia, I can’t thank you enough! Your creativity and your patience with Edgar has shown in many areas and now with Food therapy, you have given us a gift our family will always cherish. Food is family and love! ” – -Doris, Parent, Client, Easter Seals Greater Houston, Children’s Therapy Program

 

 

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Pilot Program for Service Dogs… gone virtual..not to the dogs

My name is Bryan Cream and I am an Army Veteran who served eight years as a Chaplain Assistant. During my time, I served in many great units but I was lucky enough to serve my two tours in Afghanistan with the 101st Airborne Division. During Deployment, I do not recall any one specific event that caused damage to me physically. Overtime, my body deteriorated due to nothing more than I can explain as wear and tear. After eight years of climbing the ranks to E-6 or Staff Sergeant, I was Medically Discharged because my body had failed me. The next five years were very tough for me to accept my new life in the Civilian world.

As a Chaplain Assistant, I was responsible for ensuring the Soldiers and their families spiritual needs were met and that they maintained a level of mental strength and preparedness. Now, I am perceived as a Disabled Veteran and not able help myself. Through time and a lot of effort, I was able to accept and handle the mental impact of it all but now I am left with physical limitations that will certainly get worse with time.

Over the years, I dreamed of having a service dog to help me navigate life with the challenges that I am facing, but I never wanted to take a place from a Veteran that had Combat related injuries. Shortly after buying our first home, we found a beautiful Black Lab who we fell in love with and named her Lucie. We had her for about two months before I saw an ad from Easter Seals advertising their great program that offered a path to a Service Dog for Disabled Veterans. Not only did it offer training for Lucie but for myself as well.

The Easter Seals Pilot Service Dog Training Program has obviously gone virtual given the pandemic we are experiencing.  I am only halfway through this 10-week course; I am already seeing drastic changes and impressive results. Lucie has gone from a hyperactive puppy with a few basic commands to a 5-month-old puppy who I am able to trust in public.

The commands she is able to recognize and execute are sit, laydown, stay, wait, left, right, up, down and off. She is able to walk alongside a shopping cart in a public store without any issues. She is able to stay in the down position while I am twenty feet away for an extended period with multiple distractions.

Beyond the commands, I have learned to notice the small details and to listen to my dog. Building a bond with Lucie to make sure she knows where my next step or turn is. Allie (Easter Seals’ Trainer via My Service Dog) has been by Lucie, and my side throughout this course. Helping me see the small successes with Lucie and myself. She has taught me how to be patient with Lucie and most importantly, patient with myself through this training opportunity. Although, she is not quite a full-time service dog, I have faith that she will be there before too long. I look forward to working with Lucie some more and have her fully trained to be my companion in my any challenges I have to face.

Retired Staff Sergeant, Bryan Cream, Easter Seals Greater Houston Client

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Connecting within the Veteran & Senior Communities During CoVid, Part 2 Therapist Focus/Mental Health

We interviewed our Easter Seals Greater Houston Veterans Services clinical therapy team, Dr. Cristy Gamez, Dr. Amy Harkins, Susana Lewandowski LMFT, and Erica Toskovich LMFT, to learn about the challenges COVID-19 has brought to clients, particularly Veterans and seniors, seeking mental health supports.

 What are the challenges of COVID-19 on Veterans and seniors? 

Isolation is a key symptom of PTSD.  Approaching, rather than avoiding people and crowds and shopping centers is one of the main interventions used in therapy to reduce isolation in Veterans with PTSD.  Right now, we can’t use this validated behavioral approach.  We are actually telling people who isolate to stay at home, trust less, and be afraid of invisible “wee-beasties”.  Adapting therapy approaches to the current reality is a challenge.

Veteran clients who have struggled to keep themselves and their families safe during normal times are stretched to be even more hyper-vigilant, alert, on guard.  They are alert to the illness as well as to social implications of the illness – they know what desperate people will do to survive.  It’s normal for Veterans to “turn worry into action” – but that action can be positive or negative.

For some seniors, it feels too late/too hard to move to telehealth. Many have tech but don’t know how to use it. It’s hard to coach when you can’t see what they see. Saying “just click on the link I sent you” doesn’t work when someone has a visual impairment, and when a person with a hearing impairment can’t read my lips or see my visual cues, therapy doesn’t work.

For both populations, issues with using telehealth include lack of privacy, problems with connection like feedback or delays, increased demands because of work or kids at home, and newfound financial anxieties.

How do we know telehealth is good?

Technology in general has so many positives.  Phones and computers allow people to talk and see others, and to utilize apps that help get basic needs met, help calm, and facilitate sleep.  Mental health apps like Calm are very useful.  Clients often share screen shots of step trackers – to show how they are moving more.  Some clients like to use a mood tracker – to gauge patterns and trends in their mood.  Sleep stories are a great resource to help client fall asleep.  Some wearable technologies can track sleep.  I had a client put the Crisis Response Plan for suicide prevention as his screensaver – that’s a great idea.

We have data showing that telehealth is good.  Just this week we saw 25% more people than we saw last week.  We had our lowest ever percent of no-shows (7%), which is very low.  Oftentimes telehealth, which allows clients to be in a space they are already comfortable in, also allows for “the work” to get started quicker during a session.  We have seen that telehealth clients are more proactive, compliant, and responsible.

What more could technology do? 

We will need ways to alert people in case of an emergency built into the devices/platforms we use.  We need HIPAA compliant virtual group meeting platforms, ways to interact with kids virtually that allows for play, and therapeutic virtual games for all ages for single and multiplayer.  We need secure platforms that are HIPAA complaint, can maintain EHR, have tele-health capabilities, are cost effective, easily customizable, and that allow for intra- and inter-agency communication.

And, pie in the sky, we need all of the above in a format that doesn’t overwhelm our clients.  There is a steep learning curve.  The more simple and intuitive the interface the better.

We also wonder how technology could… help with hygiene promotion… improve trust and confidence with the health care system… increase access to accurate information and education about all sudden crises.  Technology is and can change the face of how we provide all services, including mental health.

Overall we are incredibly proud of our mental health team and the word they have done and continue to during the CoVid19 Pandemic. We are equally as proud of our clients!
Christine Ellery, Program Director, Veterans Services, Texas Veterans + Family Alliance, Easter Seals Greater Houston

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Days Of Caring

On Friday September 28th, ExxonMobil and Easter Seals Greater Houston Adult Services Program went on field trip to the Houston Zoo together as part of the United Way Greater Houston Day of Caring. We really couldn’t have asked for a better day as the weather was perfect, the animals were active and the friendships were forming. About twenty-five ExxonMobil employees volunteered as buddies to walk through the zoo with adults with disabilities from the Adult Services Program. Split up into groups of 5 participants with 5 ExxonMobil volunteers, they were off to explore. Following the one-mile trail, noted on the zoo map, the groups stopped to see all the animals that the Houston Zoo has to offer. Many of our adults said while they loved watching the elephants play and dunk each other in the water during bath time, they were also excited about meeting new people.  We were so delighted that ExxonMobil asked to attend the zoo outing with us. This outing would not have been successful without their planning and organizing help, as well as their hands-on participation.

The main focus of the program is to provide adults with disabilities with a safe environment to socialize, participate in activities and explore life-long personal growth. Community outings with organizations like ExxonMobil are important contributors to improving quality of life, social skills, fitness and so much more for our clients. If your organization is interested in planning an outing with our program, please contact Ashley Nichols at anichols@eastersealshouston.org. And like XOM – if you have matching funds for your staff volunteers hours it is 2 times the support! And 2 times the fun!

Thanks again ExxonMobil and United Way!

Ashley Nichols, Easter Seals Greater Houston, Adult Services

 

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Partnership, Encouragement, Progress

ECI mont co blog pic 1The following post was written by the parent of an Early Childhood Intervention Infant Program client.

After receiving the news from Matthew’s pediatrician to seek services with Early Childhood Intervention I was heartbroken. This was a second opinion and I felt like I failed. The first time we did not qualify, but luckily the second time he did. We began receiving services and were paired up with Ms. Perla, one of Easter Seals Greater Houston’s wonderful Early Intervention Specialists. Matthew began improving slowly. Speech was getting better and better. Matthew was learning new signs and ways to express his needs. As time went on I also began to learn more. I was able to give more insight to Ms. Perla and we considered him on target and exceeding his vocabulary goals. However, during this time we began to notice he was having sensory problems. With the help of Easter Seals Greater Houston’s ECI team we were able to make new goals for Matthew at our re-evaluation and began working towards them.

These new and emerging issues at hand were stressful. I have had days where I was a complete mess, unsure if I could follow through and handle this new test. Ms. Perla would send me comforting messages and encourage me as a parent with ZERO JUDGEMENT! So many “give up” or “give in” but she still supported me. I work hard every day. I take notes so I can focus on what’s the best for my son. Thanks to ECI I have been able to be a better parent and help my son learn and develop. I have learned more ways to work through certain situations, different ideas to try, what triggers something, how to react, what am I doing that may be making it worse, what to look for before it happens with someone else, and so much more!!!

ECI mont co blog pic 2If it wasn’t for Easter Seals Greater Houston ECI Infant Program we would be way further behind than we are now. In the beginning I was upset, scared, unsure, and in denial. Now, I am so happy to have Easter Seals helping my son and myself. Many people deserve to have access to and assistance from this amazing program. I know as we continue down the road my son will have a much more successful life due to them. Many thanks to the Easter Seals Greater Houston ECI Infant Program team, especially Ms. Perla who my son and I love so very much!!!

I am forever grateful!

Danielle, Early Childhood Intervention Infant Program parent, 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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Making a Difference One Dollar at a Time

For the past seven years, Entergy Texas customer Melissa Delgado of Conroe has participated in Entergy’s Super Tax Day events to get her taxes done for free. It is one of many events held as part of the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program – a program sponsored in part by Entergy.

At roughly $300 per year, Delgado has saved more than $2,100 – money she would have had to pay to a tax preparation company. That savings, along with what she gets back on her taxes through the Earned Income Tax Credit, really adds up for her family.

“We found out about this program from a couple at our church seven years ago, and we’ve been coming ever since,” she said. “We were paying so much money. It was such a blessing and still is.”

Delgado and her family plan to use their tax refund to pay for health insurance.

Meanwhile, a young woman named Ashley returned to get her taxes done for a second year – a year after tax volunteer Carmen Phillips with Easter Seals Houston‘s Housing and Financial Literacy Program gave her a packet of financial education materials that taught her how to create a budget and track her expenses.

“After last year’s event we spoke a couple times via phone, but I did not hear from her again until she walked up to my table,” explained Phillips, who works for Easter Seals of Greater Houston. “She immediately recognized me and told us that because of that packet and our discussions in 2017, she worked hard all year sticking to her budget worksheets and tracking her spending – so much so that she was able to purchase her first home!

“I have to say I was both speechless and blown away by her sincerity and candor,” she said. “I was so pleased to learn that the brief education and information received through a Super Tax Day event could have such a profound effect on a client!”

Since 2011, Entergy has been sponsoring VITA sites in all five of its operating companies – Entergy Texas, Entergy Louisiana, Entergy New Orleans, Entergy Arkansas and Entergy Mississippi. Of more than 111,125 tax returns filed, customers have gotten back near $200 million in refunds.

In Texas alone, more than 8,200 tax returns have been filed, with customers getting back more than $11.5 million in refunds.

Pictured above: Entergy Texas President and CEO Sallie Rainer (left) visits with Senior Customer Service Specialist Paula Odom of Entergy Texas Public Affairs and Entergy customer Melissa Delgado.

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Happy Birthday! via Facebook!

$3,762…. That’s a nice chunk of change…For Easter Seals Greater Houston that means a child with a neurological disorder and a volunteer get to go to Camp Smiles, our overnight camp, on scholarship. It might be that child has never been to camp, and their parents couldn’t afford it. It might be that child has gotten to go before, but this year because of Harvey, money was just too tight. Whatever the case made be…  that gift means they do get to go; and I can guarantee that child’s and their buddy/volunteer’s lives will be forever changed for the better.

Or a child with a disability that needs therapy…insurance doesn’t cover it all or tough times have happened and a family has lost their insurance… you wouldn’t want to have to ever say…we can’t afford PT or speech for our child….we don’t have the money right now… That same chunk of change at Easter Seals…means they do receive therapy.

And we could list so many other life changing programs and services that thousands are able to take advantage of through Easter Seals because we have sponsors, donors, volunteers, staff, parents, clients, friends, friends’ of friends and more – who give back and allow us to continue in our mission.

So who donated the $3,762…. So many people we don’t even know and that have never met Easter Seals or our programs before, or who have watched from afar a friend’s child and some people who have benefited from our services or their child did.

How is that possible?….it’s birthday money from Facebook!.    You know the tune…”They say it’s your birthday…it’s my birthday to yeah!”  With the Facebook App…It really can be your birthday and our birthday too…YEAH!

And we think it’s amazing! When it first launched, we had people use it; and, yes they raised funds. This year, it has taken-off.   The $3762 is from 2018 – only 5 months and 10 birthdays.  So the next time you think, I really want to support “ABC” Charity (hopefully it’s Easter Seals Houston – wink) but I can’t because I don’t really have funds to donate and neither does anyone else I know.

Remember this, …WRONG. You can – and whether its’ your birthday or a drive or an event like our Walk With Me, you can do it. One dollar, five dollars, ten dollars at a time and it adds up to something life changing just like the $3762.   So give it a try on your next birthday and watch what happens!

We will give you an update in another 6 months to see what our birthdays have accomplished together!  Instructions – Login to your page on FB, click the fundraisers button on the left side of your page, click on the green button that says “raise money” for FB’s step by step instructions – its easy…try it!

Kelly Klein
Development Director
Easter Seals Greater Houston

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Harvey Recovery Thank Yous!

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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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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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