Tag Archives: independent living

Transition Success and Walmart Employee of the Month!

Our Easter Seals Greater Houston Transition team met Paul and his mother last June  as a Hogg Foundation for Mental Health Transition Age Youth Project of Easter Seals Greater Houston/DARS client.  Thanks to the Hogg Foundation, this project offers services and support for persons, ages 16 – 27, who have are on the spectrum and have a co-occurring mental illness and is designed to help youth become more independent and successful in their communities. The many facets of the program include social skills training, supported employment, summer internships, college classes at the Houston Community College VAST Academy, BCBA Services, peer supports, referral assistance, financial coaching, on-line driver’s Education and access to our mobile technology program.

Paul had just graduated from Sam Rayburn High School in Pasadena, Texas. His only work history was as a volunteer through a high school program with a couple of companies in the Pasadena area.  Paul and his parents wanted him to find a part-time job with a number of specific permanents such as close to home, after 4:00 pm and Monday thru Friday.  Together, Paul and his transition counselor, Robert Aranda, created a resume reflecting his volunteer experience and a reference list of his former supervisors.  They met to complete on-line applications, practiced mock interviews and reviewed social skills for interviewing techniques. Paul interviewed with companies through Summer and Fall.

In December, Wal-Mart called Paul in for an interview.  His Transition Counselor says he is a very likable and responsible individual and that he really wants to show his parents that he is able to expand his learning curve and become more independent.  Paul’s interview at Wal-Mart was a hit with the Human Resources Department and he was hired this past December as a Cart Attendant.  Wal-Mart was very accommodating with assisting Paul with the work schedule he needed.  Within two months, Paul’s supervisors noted his work great ethic, enthusiasm and customer service.  Paul was selected Employee of the Month for February!!

Robert Aranda, Transition Specialist, Easter Seals Greater Houston
RAranda@eastersealshouston.org

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High School High Tech Royalty and Celebrating Disability Employment Awareness Month!

Hear ye, hear ye! Easter Seals Greater Houston‘s High School High Tech is homecomingking4pleased to announce that we now have Royalty among us!  Montgomery ISD just crowned our very own HSHT student, Jahlil Howard, to be the 2016 Montgomery High School Homecoming King! Jahlil, a high school senior, is a second year participant in our High School High Tech and Ready to Achieve Mentoring program and has been a shining example of leadership to his peers.

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.

homecomingking2This outgoing Senior has been super active in our HSHT program and has participated in several career field trips including Montgomery County Mock Interview Day, tours of Olive Garden and Woodforest National Bank and even defied gravity at a HSHT indoor skydiving event at IFly Woodlands!  In addition to HSHT, Jahlil continues to break barriers as an avid runner and member of the MHS Varsity Cross Country Team and has been recognized with several awards for his Cross Country achievements, including District Champ, all the while maintaining his steady summer job. homecomingking1

Jahlil became involved with HSHT with the support and encouragement of his MISD Transition Specialist Lesa Bolling who proudly remarked, “Jahlil is an awesome young man with an outstanding personality! He makes everyone around him feel at ease. Jahlil’s faith is grounded and he speaks of it often.” Mrs. Bolling couldn’t have said it better!  Congratulations to our amazing young man, and Royal Highness, Jahlil Howard!

Carmen Phillips, Easter Seals Greater Houston
Montgomery County HSHT Program Coordinator

 

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Pardon the Pun…Rainy Day Investments with our Housing Initiative

Lately it feels like we’re in the middle of a monsoon season here in Houston. From the Tax Day floods to the cresting creeks and bayous, it may seem like we’ll neverBailey family 005 see the sun around here again. And don’t forget, hurricane season is just kicking off too! All of this water can really spell trouble for homeowners. And for potential homeowners, you may be wondering if now is really the time to buy? Even if homeownership isn’t on your radar, it’s hard not to argue that we all need to have a “rainy day” fund.

Our financial coaches and homeownership counselors in our Easter Seals Greater Houston Housing Initiative may not be able to predict the future (or the weather!) but there is a lot we CAN do for those of you who may have questions or need help reorganizing and reevaluating your financial goals:

  • Our Easter Seals Greater Houston Homebuyer’s Education Classes walk you through the process of purchasing a home, plus ways to protect your investment and what to do when the unexpected happens
  • Our Credit Boot Camps help you to understand the credit system and how it can impact you–not just when you want to purchase, but also if you need a loan to help repair your property in the face of events like floods
  • Our individual coaching sessions help you to refine and set financial goals and create an action plan to achieve them. The goals are up to you, and can be anything from managing your budget to save for a rainy day fund, to rebuilding credit, to purchasing a home!

hoyo and son with autism

Our coaches are here to help (rain or shine!) and we look forward to working with you. Additionally, as part of United Way Greater Houston’s THRIVE Network, we’re happy to help connect you to organizations and services to address your needs even when they’re not within the scope of our expertise.

To schedule a class or an individual appointment, or to get more information on how our program may be of use to you, please call (713) 838-9050 x320, or email HousingProgram@eastersealshouston.org.

Dana Adams, Housing, Easter Seals Greater Houston

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Ready to Achieve Mentoring Program with High School / High Tech and #STEM

January was National Mentoring Month, and so I want to take a minute to recognize one of our favorite volunteer mentors, Damon Dash, with our Easter Seals 2016 ramp mentorGreater Houston High School High Tech Program. Damon has been a mentor with our RAMP (Ready to Achieve Mentoring) program for four years, and is still going strong! The students that we work with come from all different backgrounds, and have all different types of abilities and challenges, but the one thing they all have in common (as they do with any high school student!) is that they can use advice from a mentor.

RAMPOver the years, Damon has been a mentor at three different schools, and is loved by his mentees. “S” was always so proud when Damon would come to cheer him on at his football games, and “E” was so happy to have someone help him fill out job applications (which led to him getting a job!). When “A” needed advice about school work, Damon was the first one he went to for help. The role of a mentor changes with each mentee they are paired with, and we love to see the impact that a wide variety of people have on our students. Damon loves to interact with our students, and as shown in this picture, they love learning from him, too!

From accountants to social work graduate students to Metro bus controllers to advisors from The University of Houston, we have had all sorts of volunteers come to help our students, and we are so grateful!

High School High Tech is always looking for new mentors, tour sites, volunteers for mock interview day, and summer internships hosts! Great way to get your company involved with STEM!!!

Erin Johnson, Easter Seals Greater Houston, High School High Tech Program Director

 

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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.

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Time for a Financial Wellness Checkup?

Ahhhh – yes, it must be summer.  Rodeo crews have hitched up their trailers and gone home, art festivals and crawdad 2014 home ownerfeasts spill outside, , allergies and….TAX Returns.    As we mull over our 1040s and contemplate how best to make some positive changes, a number of remedies come to mind.

For the mosquitoes and allergy thing, there is the convenient corner drugstore, but for that IRS love-letter called our tax returns which clearly shows how much we spend and how little we save, there is no such easy solution; however, it can be a not-so-subtle wake-up call to ask ourselves what kind of money management plan we follow.

That old baseball sage, Yogi Berra, famously said, “When you get to a fork in the road, take it”.  When it comes to a social media, free-spirit quality kind of thing, that philosophy works rather well.   However, the ‘fork’ plan, which is actually the NO PLAN path, or what I call the bumper-car strategy to life, is probably not going to help you build those financial resources so important in creating a firewall between you and that ugly ‘D’ word – DEBT.  Did you know that you should not be spending more than 30% of your monthly income on your housing expense?  Did you know that at any one time, your family should have at least 3 – 6 months of funds set-aside to help you survive those unexpected, unpleasant, and really unfortunate events that happen all too frequently? You might ask….how much exactly is 3- 6 months reserves in $$$$$$?  A very good question which leads to the next best question, do we even know how much we spend on a monthly basis, or, bottom-line, do we have a household budget?  By that I mean a real budget based on real income, not future hoped-for windfalls, AND including fixed debt, variable debt, and monthly savings towards our dream goals – a house, a not-pre-owned car, or the inevitable retirement.

If you would like to  take a financial wellness check-up, the Easter Seals Greater Houston’s Housing Initiative staff is here to help.  Financial coaches work with families to reduce debt and build credit and resources. HUD-certified Homebuyer Education is provided, and down payment assistance for first-time homebuyers is available for Montgomery County.  For whatever your income and whatever your goals may be, a sound financial plan is your first step.  So when you get to that fork in the road, ask yourself… Does this fork take me where I want to go?

Katy Thorstenberg, LMSW, Easter Seals Greater Houston

Many thanks to United Way Greater Houston, United Way Montgomery County, & Woodforest Bank and the many other collaborators we work with, to make this possible!

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Autism Awareness Month & “The Road Traveled”

As we enter in April and Autism Awareness Month, I stop and reflect on where life has IMG_6632taken me.

Sometimes in life, you set out on a path and stumble into a dream you never knew you had.  Social Motion Skills started as a thought and a necessity in Wendy Dawson’s life for her family. Social Motion Skills became a part of my life in 2010 and I soon found myself helping to breathe life into a dream we wanted to make a reality.

I was an assistant principal in the public schools and sitting in ARDS daily hearing parents express the desire for their kids to have social skills training. The school schedules just did not allow enough time in the day to help our kids interact with their peers and practice the skills that many of us take for granted and are needed to be successful throughout our lives. I met Wendy and our worlds merged into a forever partnership.

5342570901105Fast forward 5 years and here we are having touched hundreds of families, offer programs starting at age 2 and go up to our mature adults and have been a program of Easter Seals Greater Houston since 2012.  Social Motion Skills is a passion of our heart. Our paychecks are often watching a client succeed in a job, gain a friend or get their driver’s license. Our kids are growing up. Our program is growing. More families are finding a need for services.

We started offering after school social skills classes where students interact with their peers in a group setting. From there, we knew that our kids could learn to drive, but not in a typical setting. We partnered with SafeWay Driving and created Drivers Ed at Your Speed. This is an 8-12 week online course guided by one of our Social Motion Skills teachers. They take their time and really do learn at their speed. We offer a Young Adult group that meets and does activities in the community.  We partnered with Urban Chef and have a Cooking Club. We work with clients on job training and coaching as well as life coaching and behavioral therapy. This spring, we were able to bring the PEERS Program to Houston and are working to help today’s teens and their parents navigate and become their childs’ social coach. The sky is really the limit as we have entered into this path and see many needs that need to be met.

Donating to Easter Seals Greater Houston allows us to continue offering this IMG_5090exceptional program. If things don’t change now, then when? If it’s not us working to make a change, then who? Every life matters and we believe everyone needs a friend. Our clients, families, supporters & volunteers all believe in our program – and our clients and their families are all “going down their own road”, &  finding the right path or even paths.  I have been truly blessed by this dream I never knew I had. My career has gone down an amazing road….nothing I ever expected and more than I could ever dream possible. We can make a difference one life at a time….

Join our Walk With Me Houston team and come see what it’s all about!

Lauren Whidden  Social Motion Skills, Easter Seals Greater Houston

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