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A Village of Heroes

The following is a letter written from a parent of an Early Childhood Intervention client to the director of the Easter Seals Greater Houston program.

“Good afternoon Ms. Dena Day, 

Hope all is well. It’s been a while since I last emailed you about the phenomenal work this agency has continued to bring to our family. The Early Childhood Intervention Program (ECI) under Easter Seals Greater Houston has so many diamonds that need to be highlighted over and over. Roshanda, Melissa, Thein, Michelle, and Marlene have been consistent with their work which showed our family how dedicated they are to their families. Individually and as a team, we witness their extraordinary work ethic every day that Za’karri receives services. This group of therapists and a nutritionist has stood by the Easter Seals‘ mission which is to “provide exceptional services to ensure that all people with disabilities and their families have equal opportunities to live, learn, work and play in their communities” Thank you Easter Seals Greater Houston for lending our family these delightful caring professionals to represent your agency and to help Za’karri thrive for success. Many of the therapists and the nutritionist have been incorporated into our family life since Za’karri was 5-month-old. 

Za’karri will be turning 3 years old this month. Writing this letter has made me very emotional. Sadly, our family’s time with ECI is coming to a close. We as humans face many changes in life and they are not always bad, this end will help us embark with all of the tools the therapists provided to us throughout the years. Za’karri has been seeing 3 therapists every 2 to 3 weeks and 1 Nutritionist monthly since 2019. Countless sessions over the years. Seeing these professionals for so long must be called “Za’karri’s Village of Heroes” The knowledge we obtained will allow us to support our little one in his new journey without his village. We as a family will make sure we continue to help him strive for greatness. We will not allow his underlying challenges to control his way of living or his enjoyment of the years to come. 

Our family is so grateful to be able to have each of these therapists/nutritionists be a part of his journey. This unique individual is so blessed to have so many people cheer him on, words can’t even express it. It’s because of you all that Za’karri has SOARED for greatness. His family is able to provide continuous support by incorporating the knowledge and tools the ECI team provided in weekly sessions. 

Za’karri’s village of a team highlighted impact and moments: 

When Melissa first met Za’karri at 5 months he couldn’t hold his head straight due to torticollis. Za’karri couldn’t roll over, crawl, or walk. Melissa identified that Za’karri had some developmental delays that were shown on his initial assessment. Our family is so grateful for the ECI assessment tool which identified Za’karri’s developmental delays early on. Without this agency, I wouldn’t know what to look for in any development delays, head tilt, or sensory processing disorder. 

Melissa has been providing therapy to Za’karri the longest and has been a great observer and excellent Physical Therapist. Melissa suggested many things that she felt would help Za’karri such as sensory activities, compression clothes, a compression vest for tiptoeing, and Wilbarger Brushing for sensory which is helping with my son’s progress. She also suggested that Za’karri would benefit from Speech and Occupational Therapy. Physical therapy with Melissa has allowed Za’karri to climb up steps, jump, run, and he can now do a sideways front forward roll. With the physical therapist’s assistance, he can now do all this and more. 

Melissa, Physical Therapist assisting and supporting Za’karri during his climbing exercise

We are trying to help him with W-sitting which is a challenge but we are still working to address it. Melissa has sent a referral to see Orthotics to observe his lower extremity orthoses to address the excessive pronation bilaterally. 

Thein is an awesome Nutritionist and is one of a kind. If you want someone to make sure your child has the right nutrients and to stay on track with a healthy diet and weight gain then Thein is your person. We had many challenges working with Za’karri trying many foods and touching items due to his SPD. We were able to work through some things such as making sure we put small portions of food on his plate. 

We have started incorporating Za’karri to assist with meal prep which he loves. Za’karri is still a work in progress in this area. He is still drinking PediaSure to maintain weight and to get the protein nutrients his little body needs. He is still not eating a variety of vegetables or fruits, but we are still exposing him to these items. Having SPD is very challenging when it comes to the low motor tones in his mouth which are very sensitive to touch. We have come a long way and getting to a point to at least kiss some of the fruit to at least get him to taste a little rather than no interaction. Za’karri loves to incorporate activities into his sessions. 

Michelle came along later but just in time to help this little one to overcome his challenges. When Michelle started working with Za’karri on his speech he was 1.5 years old. Za’karri was using non-verbal cues to communicate in sessions with Michelle. He was almost 2 years old and saying very few words and echoing and repeating the same word over and over. Over the months Michelle suggested incorporating sensory bins to help with his progression in speech. Michelle stated that to be successful in his speech we need to address his sensory needs. Michelle has been an asset ever since Za’karri had his tongue tie clip which help Za’karri progress more in speech. Michelle incorporates a z- vibe to help with tongue movement to speak. I’m proud to say that when Za’karri turned two he was incorporating three-word sentences and not echoing word for word. Za’karri is doing great in saying the alphabet as well as numbers from 1 to 20. 

Michelle, Speech Therapist, incorporating a food play activity along with speech interaction 

Marlene is the Occupational Therapist that has been working with Za’karri for the last couple of months. Marlene has been a delight to work with in addressing Za’karri’s sensory needs. Marlene has included food play activities with fun animal activities that he enjoys. This area of expertise has been a challenge for Za’karri he had a couple of therapists in OT. This one was different we had only Zoom visits which at the time was the only available option. I agreed with this option I felt he could still benefit from this service. Za’karri still have issues with wet textures, variety of foods he still doesn’t eat, along with sensory seeking behaviors in different environments. We still have concerns but will continue to focus more attention to address them in the future. 

Za’karri Favorite food play activity with Zoom call with Marlene, Occupational Therapist. 

Roshanda is a vital part of this team as the case manager. By providing supervision, guidance and leadership Roshanda allows this village to soar high for my family and others. Roshanda provided support when I was not satisfied with a certain situation it was resolved quickly and with integrity so Za’karri could still receive his services without any interruption. Roshanda has also stepped in supporting and functioning as a case manager and providing assistance with available resources and helpful information. 

While working with this village of heroes, I have learned how all the milestones overlap/connect and how all the therapist roles are very important and different but are all needed. Learning from a team of professionals allowed our family to be able to help Za’karri to the fullest. 

Their knowledge of food selection, hands-on activities techniques, and being flexible with my work schedule does not go unnoticed. They all love their work, care about the children they serve and are very compassionate to parents’ concerns and feelings. When times were overwhelming for me and my family the ladies provided a listening ear while staying professional and never crossing boundaries. It felt good as a parent to have this village of professionals who have always been kind and respectful. Having these types of diamonds around will surely have a successful impact on your organization for years to come. 

Za’karri experienced some regression but with the help of all the team working together and keeping each other in the loop, Za’karri has improved and accomplished many of his goals. Without these ladies and the Early Childhood Intervention Program, I’m not sure where my son would be today. The ladies have provided me and my family with the knowledge of how all the components connect on helping Za’karri succeed through any challenging times he may face. They have helped our family to communicate with our daycare provider so they can incorporate some of the work we are doing with Za’karri. 

Dena, the last six months have been a journey of success. I just wanted to let you know how awesome your Early Childhood Intervention team has been to Za’karri. 

Thank you, I know behind a good team there is always an amazing leader. A team cannot function without the guidance and support that you have been providing for your staff. On behalf of me and my family, thank you. 

With the help of the village of heroes’ tools and support, Za’karri will learn to function with his sensory processing disorder and will continue to adapt to his environment for many years to come. 

Thank you, 

Za’karri and family” 

Are you concerned about your baby’s development? Easter Seals Greater Houston’s Early Childhood Intervention services are available for children birth to 36 months who show a developmental delay, who are at risk for a delay, have a disability or atypical behaviors. Learn more.

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Tools for the Journey Through Life

The following was shared by a parent of a client in Easter Seals Greater Houston’s Early Childhood Intervention Infant Program.

“Once my daughter, Harper, was diagnosed with Autism I knew we needed help! When we first met with Easter Seals Greater Houston’s Early Childhood Intervention Infant Program my child could not communicate. Harper would scream, throw fits, and have meltdowns as she could not tell us what her wants or needs were. She could not and would not point or show us what she wanted. She was also an extremely picky eater, refusing to try any new foods. Experiencing anything new was overwhelming for Harper. She was withdrawn and preferred to play on her own than with the family. I never heard her say mama or experienced those awesome baby/toddler kisses and reading books together.

After Ashley and Jessica from Easter Seals ECI Program started working with her I began to see positive changes in Harper. She started signing which resulted in less meltdowns and fits in our house. As time went on, she started to allow her siblings to play with her and she would laugh with them instead of screaming and taking off. She started tolerating new textures and touching things and exploring in her environment. Though she remained cautious this was a huge accomplishment!

This amazing little girl has continued to improve. Even though she still is not talking verbally she can communicate what she wants to us by pointing and taking us to where she wants to be (often to the freezer for her popsicles and to turn on her favorite toy). She plays with her siblings (they are ages 16, 14 and 9) and we even hear belly laughs now and again, something I previously took for granted. I got my first kiss from her at 2 1/2. She is happy to see me when I come home. I now know without a doubt she knows I am her momma and I know that sounds crazy, but I was unsure as she didn’t react me.

This is just a summary of how far she has come. Everyday is a new day with a child with Autism and not always sunshine and rainbows. She will always have her harder days, but the tools and help we received as a family has really improved our ability to better support Harper. I honestly would never be able to put in words how happy I am with Jessica, Ashley and the entire Easter Seals ECI crew. They set Harper up with a great foundation for her to continue to grow and prosper in her new chapters on this journey through life.” -Harper’s Mom

Are you concerned about your baby’s development? Easter Seals Greater Houston’s Early Childhood Intervention services are available for children birth to 36 months who show a developmental delay, who are at risk for a delay, have a disability or atypical behaviors. Learn more.

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Fabulous Fátima

The following is a testimony shared by a parent whose daughter, Fátima, is a client of Easter Seals Greater Houston’s Early Childhood Intervention Infant Program.

“Fátima es una niña con espina bífida, aún recuerdo cuando los doctores me daban un diagnóstico muy desalentador, pero gracias a Dios conocí el programa de Easter Seals Greater Houston ECI. Ellos llegaron para ayudar a Fátima con las terapias.  Ahora ella a logrado muchos obstáculos que le han puesto.  No encuentro palabras para agradecer  mi satisfacción a Sarah y Ashlea por la ayuda que me han brindado. Ahora Fátima es una niña muy feliz a su corta edad y espero que sus terapias le ayuden en un futuro a caminar por si sola.”

“Fátima is a girl with Spina Bifida. I still remember when the doctors gave me a very discouraging diagnosis, but thank God I learned about the Easter Seals Greater Houston ECI program. They came to help Fátima with the therapies. Now she has overcome many obstacles that have been placed on her. I can’t find the words to thank Sarah and Ashlea for the help they have given me. Now Fátima is a very happy girl at her young age and I hope that her therapies will help her to walk on her own in the future.”

The time from birth to age three is critical in your child’s physical and cognitive development.  To help make sure your baby is reaching their developmental milestones, you can complete this free Ages & Stages Questionnaire or check with your pediatrician if you have concerns. Learn more about Easter Seals Greater Houston’s Early Childhood Intervention Program!

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“I Love You” – Music to Mom’s Ears

The following success stories were shared by parents of our Early Childhood Intervention Infant Development Program.

Thanks to Easter Seals Greater Houston’s Early Childhood Intervention Program (ECI), my son, Josue, recently started saying his first words and that means so much to our family! Thanks to the wonderful therapists for helping parents to understand our children’s needs and showing us the ways that we can help even outside of therapy sessions.  My son now tells me he loves me and those words are everything to me.   – Josue’s Mom


Benjamin and Ciara are a true success story with an early start of life. Coming into the world on 4/17/2018 at 27 weeks, Ciara weighing 1.7 pounds. and Benjamin, 1.3 pounds. They had their challenges while in the hospital, but were finally released 7 months later. The family would need a team of specialists to assist them with the care of the twins and so they began ECI services with Easter Seals Greater Houston in April of 2019. A team made up of Physical, Occupational, Nutrition, Specialist Skills, Speech therapy, Nursing staff, and lots of family came together to be their network of support. The twins are now walking and have successfully graduated from Physical therapy services. The twins are still being fed by G-Tube and working towards learning how to orally fed. The team is still working together on their current goals to get them on their developmental level. The family is optimistic about what the future holds for their babies!

Use slider below to see how Benjamin and Ciara have grown!

It has now been four months of #StayAtHome.  That is around the same amount of time your baby/toddler reaches new milestones. Are you keeping a checklist? Are you watching for the next great milestone reached?  Your baby, who might have been five months at the start of #StayAtHome, now at nine months should be standing while holding on, can get into sitting position, sits without support, pulls to stand and crawls.  

Learn more about our Make The First Five Count Campaign and how to ensure your child is meeting their milestones.

Easter Seals Greater Houston’s ECI Program is still providing all services via tele-therapy including evaluations. Call Alicia at 713.838.9050 ext. 385 to schedule a free evaluation and to check on your child’s milestones.

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Celebrating Warrior Princess Ava

Ava spent the first 63 days of her life in the NICU, as a little heart warrior, fighting for her life. Today, Ava is an adorable little princess, delighting everyone with her sweet smile. This story is a celebration of her victory over those first battles, and the battles she continues to face.

At five months pregnant, Ava’s mom, Mikki, learned Ava had a congenital heart defect (CHD).  Two weeks later, Mikki found that the heart condition was much more severe than initially thought.  When taking a class about her daughter’s upcoming stay in the NICU, Mikki’s water broke.  She spent the next 32 days in the hospital, on bedrest, until Ava was born at 33 weeks.  The cause of her heart defect was determined at about one week old. Ava was diagnosed with 22.q.11 chromosome deletion (DiGeorge Syndrome), “the most common, uncommon syndrome”.  Ava struggled with feeding and sleeping issues, as she fought to gain enough weight to have her first heart surgery at one month old.  Ava continued to deal with feeding and sleeping concerns, trying to gain weight, for another month after her surgery.  At 2 months old, Ava was discharged to go home.  Staff from the hospital gave her mom a pamphlet about ECI (Early Childhood Intervention), which Mikki dismissed at first.

Ava’s first few months at home were a difficult physical and mental adjustment for her whole family.  An autoimmune condition was revealed, which meant Ava was not strong enough to receive immunizations, and needed to be separated from her 3-year-old sister. Her pediatrician also followed up on the hospital’s suggestion, and recommended ECI. At six months old, Easter Seals Greater Houston started providing ECI services.  Ava received PT (Physical Therapy), OT (Occupational Therapy), SST (Specialized Skills Training), and Case Management. Nutrition was added for two months due to Ava needing to gain weight for a second surgery, which Ava was able to have at 8 months old.  Even though the surgery was considered “a full repair”, she will need more surgeries when she’s older, as her heart grows, for maintenance and additional repairs.  According to her mom, after the second surgery, “we came home with a new baby”. Ava had more energy, and overcame her eating and sleeping struggles. With her new-found energy and ECI’s therapy sessions, “everything fell into place”.

Ava started to crawl at one year old and mom states, “she was the fastest crawling baby I ever saw in my life”. She walked at 25 months old and developed her hand (fine motor) skills. Aided by SMOs (Supra-malleolar orthosis), which give her stability needed as a late walker, Ava now runs!  Ava communicates by pointing, showing what she wants, and using about 30 signs. “Ava has no problem getting her needs known. She’s following her own road, doing milestones in the right progression.” In the fall, Ava will attend the PPCD class with Montgomery ISD, and continue to receive PT and OT services, as well as adding Speech Therapy services from Easter Seals ECI Program.

When asked about how Easter Seals Early Childhood Intervention helped, Mikki reported: “I didn’t know what to do before ECI.  They guided me through her condition and what needed to be done first.  Every therapy was building on what needed to happen next.  ECI also encouraged her big sister to participate.  The therapists gave ideas on how to incorporate the two girls to do daily activities together, and how to make one-on-one time with her big sister.  I couldn’t have done it without them.”

Her mom added: “Thinking that Ava would need therapy was hard for me to accept, but God gave me this child, and it was my job to give her what she needed to be successful.  Ava’s an amazing, sweet little girl, who has taught me so much.  They call heart babies ‘heart warriors’ because they fight battles they don’t even know they have to fight.”  Ava truly is, the perfect combination of warrior and princess.

It has now been four months of #StayAtHome.  That is around the same amount of time your baby/toddler reaches new milestones. Are you keeping a checklist? Are you watching for the next great milestone reached?  Your baby, who might have been five months at the start of #StayAtHome, now at nine months should be standing while holding on, can get into sitting position, sits without support, pulls to stand and crawls.  

Learn more about our Make The First Five Count Campaign and how to ensure your child is meeting their milestones.

Easter Seals Greater Houston’s ECI Program is still providing all services via tele-therapy including evaluations. Call Alicia at 713.838.9050 ext. 385 to schedule a free evaluation and to check on your child’s milestones.

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Celebrating Better Hearing and Speech Month and Make the First Five Count!

May Is Better Hearing and Speech Month and here are a few tips from the therapists at Easter Seals Greater Houston’s monkey communication pocChildren’s Therapy Program, obtained from the urbanchildinstitute.org to utilize when interacting with children to build language development.

Common play for babies includes peek-a-boo, singing and dancing, playing with different colored balls, and pushing buttons to make toys work. Through their play, they can develop language comprehension, communication skills, and eye-hand coordination. When parents respond and participate, children also gain a sense of their own self-worth from the pleasure they give their parents.

elephant exploring picToddlers take giant leaps in playing and learning. They learn to stand and walk, run and jump, play with more complex toys, and create worlds of make-believe. They learn numbers, shapes, and colors. Sharing books and games with parents builds close relationships as they discover the world together.  Toddlers begin to play together rather than just watching each other play. Through playing with others, they learn to share and to take turns. These are the years when their imaginations go wild. Toy brooms become horses, they pretend to be kings or queens, and they engage in pretend play with others. Play promotes creativity, language ability, self-control, and problem-solving skills.

cheetah moving picAt Easter Seals Children’s Therapy Program we use play as one of our many techniques to enhance the children’s language acquisition.  Parents are encouraged to participate and learn with their child as we “play” our way to improved language skills.

But, regardless of how old your child is, there is one fact that should never be forgotten: the most important thing about play is you, and nothing is more important to children than their parents’ undivided attention and spontaneous fun.

penguin playing picTo learn about the key growth areas most important in your child’s development, check out Easter Seals Make the First Five CountDefine Five and to check to help guide and keep track of your child’s growth and development during these first five years, take advantage of Easter Seals free, comprehensive and confidential online screening tool at Make The First Five Count.

Miaya Allen  M.A. CCC-SLP│Speech Language Pathologist
Easter Seals Greater Houston Children’s Therapy Program

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