Tag Archives: independent living

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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A Camp that Changed a Life

Hi All,

My name is Amanda Carter and I am a 2008 alumni of Easter Seals Greater Houston Camp Smiles Overnight Camp. I started attending Camp Smiles held at Camp For All in Brenham in the summer of 2001 after having attended Easter Seals Houston’s Camp Buckaroo day camp. After a little case of homesickness, I grew to love going to camp and the people I met while there. My favorite activity was the photography class I took every year it was offered where I became heavily involved in my current hobby of severe weather photography. I am still friends on Facebook with all of my camp “buddies,” without whom I could not have had nearly as much fun and laughed quite as hard. I also keep in touch with several of my fellow campers and they have become a great source of mentorship in regard to learning how to live independently.amanda

I landed in Lubbock with the help of my parents and full time staff of personal care attendants after earning my Psychology degree at University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio, Texas. Going to Texas Tech has always been a huge dream and having an opportunity to go there to get my law degree was practically nerdy nirvana. Going to law school requires a huge emotional support system; going to law school from a power wheelchair requires an army. There were many challenges, including hiring and firing many attendants, calling Mom and Dad to fill those attendants gaps, and calling friends and sorority sisters to cry about those dreaded classes, that were part of that journey. To my relief I made it to May of 2018 and became the fourth generation in my family to graduate as a Red Raider.

Since that time, I’ve landed at Matthew Harris Law in Lubbock after passing the July 2018 Bar Exam. I am currently practicing Family Law but I simultaneously maintain an interest in Special Needs Wills and Trusts and generally helping those like me find their path towards financial and physical independence. MHL has made a donation in my honor to Easter Seals of Greater Houston and that is so special! We collectively strive to present a model of employer-employee relations as it relates to working with community of people with disabilities. I have felt so welcomed in the firm where I started as an intern. Now as an attorney, I have learned so much about the law and myself through the accommodation and acceptance of my coworkers. Being successful starts with who you surround yourself with and, more importantly, how you define it. Only your definition matters. I am so excited to see where your definition takes you! Guns Up!

Sincerely,

Amanda E. Carter, Esq.

Attorney at Law

matthew law

www.MatthewHarrisLaw.com

 

          

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ULTRAFICO- A New Credit Scoring Model

Easter Seals Greater Houston is proud to offer our housing, financial literacy and down payment assistance programs. hoyo-staff-and-family-close-up                                                           The program has closed on over 120 houses in the past ten year with no defaults ever.  Our staff pride themselves on their knowledge, educational programs, THRIVE access, their ability to tap into city/county funds and resulting success rates. Information that affects your FICO score is always important and Katy Thorstenberg, Program Coordinator with the Easter Seals Greater Houston Financial Literacy and Housing Initiative,  gets the method behind the madness as she explains here.

Move over, old FICO – there is a new credit-scoring model in town. ULTRAFICO is being rolled out and will soon be an option for lenders to use in assessing credit risk of their would-be borrowers. After reading through the changes and trying to figure out the ‘this affects-me how’ piece, one revision pops out.  With the consumer’s consent, the ULTRAFICO model would allow the lender to actually take a one-time peak into the applicant’s bank accounts.  The lender would be able to see how you manage your cash flow; i.e., do you maintain a comfortable balance in your accounts, or do you show a periodic bouncing of checks or overdrafts?

If you have established a history of responsible cash management over time, you will benefit from higher scores.  If you don’t, you won’t.  You might ask if ULTRAFICO will be a game changer when it comes to world of credit/lending.  After all, the present FICO scores already reflect how you pay your bills – on time – late, or never – and are scored accordingly.  The answer is not a big boost to many of us who have been around awhile building a credit history through loans, credit cards and general living.  However, to those who have not yet enjoyed credit card spending and taking on an assortment of loans from personal to car to lines of credit, ULTRAFICO may add points to those individuals, dubbed “credit invisibles”, now another name for millennials. In a CBS news  report by David Shellenberger, senior director of credit scores and predictive analysis at FICO cited “40% of applicants would see an upward shift of 20 points or more in their credit score”.  Of course, scores might track downward as well.  Invisible or not, at the end of the day, you just cannot get away from the fact that DEBT and how you manage it matters.

Written by Kathy Thorstenberg, Program Coordinator of Easter Seals Greater Houston Financial Literacy and Housing Initiative

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Every Journey Begins with a First Step

Getting their first job is one of the biggest steps young persons make in their journey to adulthood. Recently, four young persons with disabilities made this step with the assistance of the Transition and Employment program at Easter Seals Greater Houston. Jason, Christopher, George, and Helmer came to Easter Seals Greater Houston by different paths, but they were all looking for the same thing, help with that big step toward employment and independence. HSHT MID 2017-05

Their paths to employment were different; George found a job two days after our Transition Program staff met him, the others took several weeks to several months to find the right fit in a job. Along the way they all found out what they are capable of doing and how hard they are willing to work to be successful. Their employers – Kroger, What-a-Burger, Dollar Tree and Food Town all report that they are very happy with their new employees. George even has customers asking for him when they shop at his store. Helmer’s employer is asking us if we have more people like him for them to hire.

All of us have had our first job. Some of those jobs we remember fondly, others not so fondly. But, we all learned valuable lessons that we carried with us to our next jobs. These four are learning those lessons now and will use that knowledge to continue to grow as they move forward in their careers.

Every journey begins with a first step. The Easter Seals Transition and Employment program can help make those steps lead to meaningful growth and a bright future.

Robert Williams, Director, Transition Program, Easter Seals Greater Houston

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Celebrating NDEAM – National Disability Employment Awareness Month

David Wright is a recent graduate of Stephen F. Austin High School in Sugar Land where he was in our Easter Seals Houston High School High Tech / RAMP (Ready to Achieve Mentoring) program since his freshman year. David has been interested in becoming a herpetologist for a long time and knows A LOT about it. Freshman year it was hard for our staff to keep him on track because he always wanted to talk about lizards, snakes, and reptiles. We literally couldn’t get him to talk about anything else! Through the years David got better about this, was more open to participating in what the class was doing and it was obvious he was starting to pick up on the importance of our mentoring and lessons about social cues and soft skills and more. Jacquelyn Privatera Miller went with him to his interview for the internship at the Houston Museum of Natural Science at Sugar Land and he was SO professional, acted like a well prepared young adult and dressed himself so well for the interview. Everyone was really impressed. David is thriving in this environment and has opened up more and can have great conversations with people including his new co-workers. He even hugs Jacquie now when he sees her, which he would never ever have done before. So really he has just grown and matured so much in the last few years and is doing a really impressive job at his internship!  Help us congratulate David  as he is enjoying his 20 hours/week internship AND is also enrolled at Wharton Community College! Huge thanks to the museum and the museum staff for making it a life changing experience for David!

High School/High Tech is a community-based partnership of parents, educators, rehabilitation professionals and business representatives working together to encourage students with disabilities to explore the fields of science, engineering and technology. Only 56% of students with disabilities graduate from high school. High School/High Tech was developed to address this situation. Most individuals with disabilities have not had the encouragement, role models, access and stimulation to pursue challenging technical careers or courses of study. Through High School/High Tech, students with disabilities are presented a mix of learning experiences that promote career exploration and broaden educational horizons. High School/High Tech also offers a mentoring program called RAMP – Ready to Achieve Mentor Program. Learn more about High School/High Tech.

Jacquelyn Miller, Easter Seals Greater Houston, High School High Tech / RAMP

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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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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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What the Snap?

Ethan, one of our Easter Seals Houston 2018 Summer Camp Interns, has been Denium’s counselor for the past two years. Before that, they had been in the same cabin. Over the three years, they built an amazing bond that helped both of them grow in a way that will forever be remembered. Sadly, camp does not last forever. At Camp Smiles, campers graduate when they are 14 years old. The graduation ceremony is always a very emotional time, as counselors who have been with their campers for years, give a speech to say farewell to some of the most impactful people in their lives. There is rarely a dry eye in the audience. Here is the speech Ethan gave to Denium as he was graduating:

You have been a part of my life I will never forget. From the countless catch phrases such as “ooooooh you got a girlfrieeeend” to nicknaming Pablo as Pappadeux, your humor is a gift that will be remembered by all.

This is our second year together. Imagining a camp experience without you is just strange to me. While your presence overall is unforgettable, there are some specific instances that are especially amazing. Two years ago, we had a very emotional day together. We were outside of the art barn, and I decided to sneak up on you and pop a wheelie as a joke. Little did I know, you were already in an irritable mood because of something that had just happened. As soon as I did that, you reached back and swatted at me. My popping a wheelie with you was the tip of your iceberg. You were very upset. We got back to the cabin and the other counselors and I insist that you apologize. After a while, our friend, Lee, took you to the bathroom so y’all could have a talk about it and calm down. What happened next is something that will never fail to make my heart melt. I remember you coming in, looking very sad. You came up to me and said something very softly, too softly to hear. I ask what you said. You took a moment to collect yourself. Then, you pulled me in as tight as you could and profusely apologized to me and told me how sad you were. Never in my life have I experienced such raw sincerity. While you were crying and apologizing, I began to cry as well as I realized how sincere and caring of a person you truly are.

After a couple of years with you, I’ve noticed some changes in your personality. For one, during your first year, you were completely repulsed by the idea of interacting with the icky icky girls. Now this year, you can’t stay away from them. You went from poking fun at Lee for having a girlfriend by saying “oooooh, you got a girlfriend” every time Sophie walked by. Now, you proudly announce to your whole cabin that you indeed do “have a girlfriend”.

On a more serious note, the change that I have been most proud to witness is how much more open you’ve been with your caring personality. Spending time with you has given me the unique opportunity to experience not only the hilariously wild side of you that I call “what the snap Denium” but also the sweet and tender side of you. The side of you that holds Jacoby with care. The side that is well beyond content while tickling and smiling at Niko. It has been very impactful on me and has made me so happy. I’m so proud that I got to see you interact with the little ones so well.  The way you interact with the little ones has made everyone who has been around you smile. The way you interact with Niko and Jacoby shows a new side of you that makes me so so proud. You are truly beyond your years with the way you patiently interact with these kids.

Camp has been a huge part of my life. I tell everyone I meet that there is nothing more I look forward to than this particular week. Every time I envision future camp experiences, I still picture you being a part of them. You’re an important part of this community we have and will be missed dearly.

I know that as you move on in life, you will continue to make others happy. Whether it be through your humor, or your humongous caring heart, you will make the lives of so many people much brighter. I hope that we keep in touch so that when I have kids one day, you can make them smile.

Ethan, Summer Camp Intern, Easter Seals Greater Houston

 

 

 

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Transition and Technology

Chris is a young man in his 20’s who came to Easter Seals Greater Houston‘s BridgingApps program because of his interest in technology. He and his mother wanted to understand how he could use his mobile device to help him be more productive and organized as he began to search for a job.  He owned a smart phone, but his phone was quite old and he didn’t use it for more than the basics, mostly entertainment. Part of the barrier to using his smart phone effectively was that he experienced anxiety about draining the battery, so he preferred to have it plugged into the wall, limiting his mobility.Transition1

Through a generous grant from the Hogg Foundation, BridgingApps provided Chris with a new smart phone and “one on one” trainings with Digital Learning Specialist, Tara Rocha.  During one of these sessions, Tara introduced the concept of a using portable rechargeable battery pack to Chris. Because it is small and rechargeable, Chris learned to plug his smart phone into this device that eased his anxiety about draining his battery, allowing him to be more mobile immediately.  He learned how to create calendar appointments, add items to task lists, back up his data, use contacts, and much more. Following each session, Chris has practiced the tasks at home with an at-home assignment.

Transition2When Tara demonstrated several app options for filling out forms using his smart phone, Chris became so excited that he could complete this task digitally! He found it difficult and laborious to fill out forms required for job searches and other kinds of forms as he moves into adulthood. Writing has been a challenge for him, but he is much more eager to use his phone for this task. We wish Chris the best of luck as he continues his job search, and we will continue to keep in touch as he makes progress towards his goals.

Cristen Reat, BridgingApps
Easter Seals Greater Houston
https://www.bridgingapps.org/2018/05/chriss-success-story-using-iphone-transition/

 

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