Tag Archives: Houston

Loving. Growing. Advocating.

Chelsea is a 22 month old Easter Seals Greater Houston client Chelsea L pic (5)who was born with a very rare gene disorder, GATAD2B syndrome, which results in the “loss of function”. There are approximately only 11 cases known worldwide.  Characteristics of this disorder affect all areas of development from cognitive delay, low muscle tone, speech and feeding delays to sensory processing delays.

Chelsea has been in the Easter Seals Greater Houston Early Childhood Intervention Infant Program  (ECI) for the past 14 months.  She receives physical and occupational therapy along with specialized skill training.  Chelsea lives at home with her Mom, Brittany, her Dad, Cody, and her 3 year old big brother, Bradley. With the help of ECI therapists and family support Chelsea has made huge strides over the past 14 months. Mom stated “When we first started ECI services Chelsea was 8 months old she could not even hold her head up.  I couldn’t carry her like a typical baby. ECI has helped Chelsea development in ways I never knew possible.”  Chelsea is currently able to roll, sit on her own for extended period of time, hold her own bottle, beginning to finger feed herself and is able to stand at her couch with supervision to interact with her big brother! Mom stated “I’m more confident now that ECI providers have taught me the skills to help Chelsea’s development.  With the help of ECI my daughter is coming along great!”

Chelsea Linn 2 (1)Chelsea’s Early Childhood Intervention therapist shares that Brittany has become a huge advocate for her daughter and others who have been diagnosed with GATAD2B syndrome. Brittany has even traveled to Austin to encourage funding for this extremely rare gene disorder. Brittany is a true example of the power of a parent who advocates for their child!

Kimberly Sporrer, Early Childhood Intervention Infant Program, Easter Seals Greater Houston

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Chaos and Trauma for a Family with a Child with Special Needs

reat_familykevinjohnson-4.jpgThe following story was written by BridgingApps’ Co-Founder, Cristen. Cristen and her son Vincent, who has special needs, were Easter Seals Greater Houston’s Walk With Me 2017 Ambassadors and have been dear friends of Easter Seals Greater Houston for years. Cristen graciously shared her story to show how having a loved one with a disability compounded the difficulty and stress faced during Hurricane Harvey.

 

Our house was built in 1955 and has never flooded. We typically have a modest hurricane and emergency kit prepared during Hurricane season. During Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Ike, I evacuated with both my sons, while my husband stayed to prepare and salvage the house.  As Harvey moved closer, we decided that this time we would not evacuate, but would shelter in place.

You see, my 14 year old son, Vincent, who has Down syndrome, a visualVincent-and-Cristen impairment and extreme sensory issues, generally is a good traveler, but sometimes he has difficulties with transitions. As he has gotten older, he has also gotten more opinionated, making an evacuation less desirable. This time, I made sure that we had enough medications, water and food.

However, we were not prepared for the amount of rain that kept coming and coming. We lost power in the middle of the night on Saturday. Our home is located 3 blocks from Brays Bayou, and we watched the water rise, then crest, then continue to rise on our street, and then in our yard. Most of the homes in our neighborhood are one story homes, and we could see our neighbors begin to flood. The water came into our garage, and we thought it was not long before it would come into our home. We decided to evacuate our home and go to a neighbor that was higher two blocks away.

In the span of about 30 minutes with zero planning, we threw important papers, picture albums and some clothing into our attic. We scrambled to get all of Vincent’s medications, shoes with orthotics, two pairs of different prescription glasses, incontinence supplies, and two days’ worth of clothing into backpacks and garbage bags. We attempted to save his $1500 adaptive stroller by throwing it on top of our car, because we knew it would take forever to get approval for another one.

My 17 year old son Martin volunteered to carry my 80 pound son Vincent to our neighbor’s house. My husband and I carried everything else. It was a challenge to explain to Vincent, who has a cognitive disability, that we needed to put on his raincoat and walk out in the pouring rain into water that was nearly waist deep on his brother’s back. My goal was to do it in a lighthearted way, but my voice broke, and it became impossible. Tears were streaming down my face, so I was glad for the rain to camouflage this awful fear in front of my children.

As we plunged into the cold water, it was amazing how small things like the sidewalk, bricks, tree roots, curbs and other small obstacles became huge obstacles, causing Martin to stumble, trip, and nearly drop Vincent multiple times. The truth is that if they fell and he went under water, the current was so strong, I am not sure that we would have found him.  It was hard for Vincent to see out of his glasses with the rain coming down, and it must have been terrifying for him. His preferred spot in life is on the floor, as it is predictable, steady and safe.

Martin had to rest, so we got to the front porch of a house at the intersection of our street. As we rested there, we saw people chest high in water carrying their dog. We had no idea where they were trying to go, and I am not sure they did either. At that moment, we saw a kayak two houses away. My husband got their attention, and it turns out they a couple in their 70s and offered to take us one by one to our friend on the next block who was on higher ground.  It was a given that Vincent would go first, so I had to explain to him that he needed to get into a “special boat” with complete strangers to get to our friend Carolyn’s house. As we maneuvered him into the unsteady kayak, he slowly sat on the lap of a woman named Diane. I kissed him and told him that I would see him in a few minutes. I simply could not believe how strong the current was, swiftly rushing towards Brays Bayou, as the kayak had to navigate across the intersection with my most vulnerable child.  I watched helplessly and had to trust that he would be ok.

It was at that moment that I broke down and had what I imagine was a FULL ON panic attack. I was unable to breathe and nearly fell down. My sweet husband Daniel, thought I was having an asthma attack and asked where my inhaler was.  In the pouring rain, in the middle of a swift river of water I wanted to smack him for not realizing that I was having a PANIC attack, not an asthma attack.

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It seemed like FOREVER when the kayak returned reporting that they had safely deposited Vincent at our friend Carolyn’s house.  One by one the rest of us were ferried to her house, where we waited out the rest of the day and night of continuous rain and no power.

On Monday, when the water had receded enough, we returned to our house and watched the news that the forecast showed nothing but rain. Though Brays Bayou had gone down its banks a bit, with the power back on in our house, the weather reports were nothing but rain and prediction that Brays was going to crest again.  We immediately decided to evacuate a second time to another friend’s house about 2 miles north of our home. This decision was based completely on the best place for Vincent. We determined where we would go based on which friends of ours had not flooded yet, did not have a cat (allergies), and had enough room where Vincent could have his own space because of his sensory issues.

We returned to our house on Wednesday to begin the clean-up and on Saturday had to be evacuated AGAIN because of a bad gas leak in our yard.  We hadn’t even unpacked from the 2nd evacuation, so it seemed to be easier than the other two, but we as a family were nearly at a breaking point emotionally.  Vincent’s daily schedule is predictable, planned out and communicated to him to reduce his anxiety. The previous 7 days had been everything but predictable. It was emotional, stressful, unpredictable, and frustrating.  For most families dealing with this hurricane was horrific, but for our family with a child who has cognitive and sensory issues, it was tremendously difficult.  Luckily our house sustained only minor damage, but the toll it has taken on our whole family will take weeks to recover.  It has changed the way I will prepare for disasters, and it will change forever the way that we discuss it with our children.

Cristen Reat, Parent and BridgingApps Co-Founder, Easter Seals Greater Houston

As of today, thousands have been begun to receive direct client services as well as clothing, medical equipment, and assistance from Easter Seals Greater Houston. These families have been through a major trauma; please donate to help us meet their needs.If you or someone you know needs assistance, please contact us at Harvey@eastersealshouston.org. If you or your company would like to partner with Easter Seals, please contact us at Info@eastersealshouston.org.

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Countless Success and Growing

Easter Seals Greater Houston’s Early Childhood Intervention Program (ECI) is for children from birth to 36 months and includes a comprehensive range of services including developmental services, speech, physical and occupational therapy, nutrition, vision, hearing and case management services which are all provided in the family’s home or daycare.  All of the children eligible for early intervention have a serious delay in at least one area of development or a diagnosed medical condition that places them at high risk.  Effective September 1, Easter Seals Greater Houston’s ECI program will expand to serve Brazos, Burleson, Grimes, Leon, Madison, Robertson, Walker and Washington Counties. The Infant Development/ECI team will serve 1,400 children each month with countless success stories like Ja’Shawn.

Ja’Shawn is a handsome 34 month old littleJeShawn Blocks 1 boy that has been in ECI since the age of 12 months. He failed his newborn hearing screening at the hospital and was born with asymmetric and abnormal pinnae, which has resulted in a severe to profound hearing loss.  Since that time, he’s received Easter Seals Greater Houston’s Early Childhood Intervention services such as Occupational, Physical & Speech Therapy, Specialized Skills Training, and Case management during his enrollment. With his diagnosis, he also benefits from Auditory Impairment or AI services though the public school system. During the visit-the AI teacher, Ms. Peggy was providing therapy to him.  The uniqueness of ECI’s visit shined though during their interaction. Ms. Peggy and Ja’Shawn were baking cupcakes and frosting them. Ms. Peggy explained they counted the cupcakes, labeled during the mixing, and also washed the dishes when done. These routines based interventions help Ja’Shawn learn to sign each of the tasks. For example, he signed “cookies, please”, “thank-you”, “help, please” He is able to follow 2 step directions and signs up to 3 words together.  Ja’Shawn’s mom, Sabrina, also says he reads lips when other adults are not able to sign with him.

JeShawn 1Ja’Shawn turns three soon and has been evaluated for the PPCD, preschool program for children with disabilities program with his local ISD.  Sabrina is hoping he’s accepted to a special school in the district that has a signing program and ECI will help her advocate for that to ensure smooth transition of services!

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

Early Childhood Intervention, Easter Seals Greater Houston

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Miraculous Little Melody

The following was written by an Easter Seals Greater Houston client parent whose adorable little girl is participating in the Early Childhood Intervention Program.

Meet Melody! She is the baby of her family and the youngest of three girls. And she has each of us wrapped around each one of her precious, short, little fingers.

Melody has been a surprise from day one. It was a surprise to find out that we were expecting again at that time and even more of a surprise when we received a prenatal Down Syndrome diagnosis at 10 weeks of pregnancy. Again and again, during her development in the womb we came close to losing her, but each time she pulled through. God protected her. Knowing she would be born with multiple heart issues, we carefully planned her birth at a trusted hospital where her care team, whom we worked with during pregnancy, was ready and waiting for the big day. I was not expected to go past 36 baby Melody eci 2017 pic 2weeks of pregnancy but again Melody surprised us and waited until just two hours past her due date to make a shockingly fast and extremely dramatic appearance in her Mama’s bathtub at two in the morning with only her mommy and Daddy present. No time to get to the hospital and we barely had 911 on the phone when she decided to join us in great haste. There she was, our beautiful little baby with tons of curly dark brown hair and gorgeous brown eyes. It was a terrifying experience but thrilling to finally meet her! Talk about surprising!! By our God’s grace she was born safely and pinked up and started breathing on her own right away. It took 45 minutes for an ambulance to reach us and in that time we just held her wrapped up in a towel, cried and prayed.

We had had lots of time to prepare since we had an early prenatal diagnosis and so while she was still in the NICU we made contact with Easter Seals Greater Houston’s Early Childhood Intervention and requested an evaluation for as soon as possible once she was discharged. Those days were so very exhausting with all of the feeding difficulties she had so I cannot remember the exact age that she was evaluated by these caring people with Easter Seals’ ECI program but I do know that it was swift and we started both physical and occupational therapy right away. Melody has been such a little warrior princess all along and it has been thrilling to watch her meet milestone after milestone, while we have faithfully worked​alongside our therapists. Even though for the first six baby Melody eci 2017 pic 1months she had two holes in her heart (as well as two other heart issues) multiple illnesses, both a lip and tongue tie (which were both revised at around eight months old) and serious feeding struggles, Melody continues to surprise and wow us; like when she suddenly decided to start breastfeeding at eight and a half months old when her mama had given up the dream of getting to share that bond with her. She nursed for six weeks and then she was done but those were priceless times.

She is truly such an incredible gift from God! One we never even thought to ask for ourselves, but He graciously gave anyway, knowing that we needed her in our lives. She (and her doting big sisters) fills our every day with so much joy! Melody is currently just past fourteen months old and is sitting up beautifully, crawling as fast as lighting, pulling up on everything and showing some real interest in walking! She gives enormous hugs and kisses all day long, waves hello and goodbye, drinks through a straw like a champ, has learned how to fake laugh, blows the sweetest kisses, claps her darling, square shaped, little hands and says “Yay!”. She also says “Dada” all the time much to her father’s delight. She loves everyone and literally draws crowds wherever we go. Grocery shopping with her is a nightmare. Ha! Our family is so very thankful for the Easter Seals’ ECI program and look forward to each session we have with our wonderful therapist. Melody is going to do great things with her life and Easter Seals is making for some fantastic stepping stones.

Mrs. Davis, Early Childhood Intervention client parent, Easter Seals Greater Houston

 

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Free Summertime Fun!

Are you looking for ways to get your children involved this Summer? Come and join one of our fun Play Groups! Our Play Groups are free and offered on Tuesday evenings (with the exception of Play-A-Palooza) at our Easter Seals main office.

Karate– Through participation in this class, IMG_3928your child will learn balance and self-control through various drills and independent lessons. These practices include training in martial arts etiquette, respect for authority and self-esteem. Using a goal setting martial arts curriculum, participants gain confidence through repetition, guidance, and praise. Karate is open to ages 6 to 18 years old. Karate is on the 2nd and 4th Tuesdays of the month from 6:00pm to 6:45pm.

 

Yoga– Yoga emphasizes stretching and breathing techniques designed to enhance development. Teachers reinforce memory, independence, and group focus! Yoga is open to ages 4 to 18 years old. Yoga is on the 2nd and 4th Tuesdays of the month from 6:50pm to 7:35pm.

Dance– Our dancers dance, prance, and play group blog photo 3imagine what to do with a scarf – all the while not realizing that they are focusing, following directions, and using their imaginations. Dance is on the 3rd Tuesday of the month from 6:30pm to 7:15pm

 

Teen Night –Teen Night is open to teens ages 14 and up with a primary diagnosis of cerebral palsy or a similar neurological disorder with a developmental age of at least a 12-year-old. They must understand topics discussed relevant to the 12-18 year old age group. Our Teens will have an opportunity to socialize, play games, and attend a Jam Session! Teen Night is held the 1st Tuesday of every month from 6:00pm to 7:30pm.

Pet Therapy –Clients will get the opportunity to playplay group blog photo 2 with our pet therapy dogs, see tricks, and enjoy their furry company! All ages are welcome. Pet Therapy will be on the 3rd Tuesday of every month from 5:30pm to 6:30pm.

Play-A-Palooza – Our adapted Play-A-Palooza play group incorporates play and music to build cognitive and physical skills (for ages 0-5 years old). Play-A-Palooza in Stafford is held on the 1st and 3rd Thursdays of the month from 10:30am to 11:20am. The Stafford location is 12300 Parc Crest Dr. Stafford, TX 77477.

To be added to our Easter Seals Greater Houston Play Group Database to receive weekly updates, please contact Lindsey Holton at 713-838-9050 x 309 or at lholton@eastersealshouston.org

For more information on our Play Groups please visit us at www.eastersealshouston.org

Lindsey Holton, Easter Seals Greater Houston, Program Director

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Angels on Earth

The following letter was written by a parent of an Early Childhood Intervention Program client. 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.

Good morning,

My name is Camille and my son Justus was a client of the ECI program of Easter Seals Greater Houston.

The team of Ms. Phyllis, Ms. Frances, Ms. Nicole,Justus ECI Blog Photo Ms. Atra, Mr. Jesus, Ms. Jennifer, Ms. Christy, Mr. Ben. Ms. Thien and Ms. Chelsea went above and beyond. The impact that their professionalism and care of my son while he was in the program cannot adequately be expressed in words. Justus’ ability to walk, to speak, to feed himself, to comprehend simple commands, even to socialize with others is a direct reflection of the efforts of the team assigned to him and I could not have been more blessed to have interacted with them – a blessing truly.

Justus is now going through the process of getting screened by Lamar  Consolidated ISD. The persons conducting the evaluation are very pleased by what he demonstrates and they attribute his increased abilities to the great care provided by the Easter Seals Greater Houston Early Childhood Intervention team in which he was under.

Please pass this thank you on to them and let them know how much they mean to the clients they serve. I do not have any resources to adequately thank them for all that they did for Justus and myself. If there is an award or a recognition, please put each of them in for it – they all truly deserve it for they are God’s angels serving on earth today.

Thank you and have a great day!

Camille, Early Childhood Intervention Program client parent, Easter Seals Greater Houston

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Make Our Veterans Program Part of Your Unit

Usually I write about a person who was helped by the services I provide through Easter Seals Greater Houston’s Veterans Program. This time I’m going to do that with a twist, so let me tell you the story. Years ago I met a Marine and after this initial meeting our paths diverged for a long time. About a year ago, our paths crossed again at a Marine Corps birthday celebration in Houston and I learned he was a County Veterans Service Officer. After catching up we discovered that we both worked in the Veteran community to reduce the stigma around mental health, providing services to Veterans and their family members. Though our services are different, they both aim to end the suffering in silence of so many Veterans. Over this year, we have discussed all these things and one thing was clear-we have the same mission. A partnership was born that extends to the many Veterans we meet each week.

You might think this is just a story about two people in the community working together to help Veterans, but it isn’t. Yes, we benefit from the collaboration because of the confidence and trust that is shared between us. I know he will work hard and go the extra mile to help those I refer to him. He knows this of me too. Yet, the most important part of our meeting is how our complimentary services have benefited those that have served and their families. He most often refers individuals who have suffered in silence for years due to experiences from their service. Most often it is combat related. veteran-blogHe tells them how things can get better and how they can feel better. He offers hope from someone who has been there. He helps connect them to the services they need. And they get better. When they come to our Veterans Program I give them information about what they are dealing with, the sense of isolation reduces, they feel the support, more things seem possible, and more gets done. I tell them, “You didn’t get here by yourself, so build a unit that will help you get out of this.” Easter Seals Greater Houston’s Veterans Program can be part of that unit. A County Veterans Service Officer is part of my unit. And we press forward . . . offering hope and services to those who want them and who no longer want to suffer alone.

Dr. Cristy Gamez-Galka, Mental Health Lead for Fort Bend Veterans Case Management Program, Easter Seals Greater Houston

Easter Seals Greater Houston is proud to offer a variety of services that Veterans and their families can benefit from including Fort Bend Veterans Case Management Program, Fort Bend Veterans Companion Dog Program, Bank On Montgomery County as well as the collaborative efforts of the Texas Veterans + Family Alliance.

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