Tag Archives: preemie

Gaining Independence

The following was written by the mother of an Early Childhood Intervention Infant Program client.

IMG_0433I am happy to share our successful journey with Easter Seals Greater Houston’s Early Childhood Intervention Infant Program in Brazos Valley in hopes that it can inspire and encourage someone out there who is struggling like we did.

Sebastian is the most wonderful gift life has given us; he was born unexpectedly at 29 weeks weighing 3.4 lb and 14”.  A few days after his birth he suffered a ‘head bleed Level 2’ (Intraventricular hemorrhage) that ‘resolved’ but left some scarring in the brain. Some of the health issues related to a head bleed level 2 and the brain scarring include: seizures, motor skills delays and/or disabilities, cognitive disabilities, ADHD, developmental delays and physical disabilities.

IMG_0238Sebastian began seeing a Developmental specialist at four months old. After a few appointments it was clear he was falling behind in all different areas of development. He was not holding his head unattended at 5 months. He was not sitting unassisted at 8 months. He had a lot of trouble eating baby food when the time came to introduce it to him.  The developmental specialist suggested we get in touch with Easter Seals Greater Houston’s Early Childhood Intervention Infant Program right away. The ECI assessment confirmed that Sebastian was behind in several areas and needed help so they promptly began Physical and Speech therapy.

IMG_1241I can honestly say that the Easter Seals Greater Houston ECI Infant Program changed our lives in a positive, miraculous way. Both the speech and physical therapists helped Sebastian to be able to sit unattended, start crawling, stand and sit unattended, crab walk, use his upper lip and tongue in a correct manner to allow the food to pass, eat different textured food and different food choices as he moved from puréed food to regular food, eat independently without my assistance, drink from a sippy cup, and to use utensils and not just hands. Sebastian is currently learning to walk, to drink from a straw, and is learning words like mama, papa, and other names for objects and animals!

IMG_1423In addition to their hands on, patient and positive approach towards Sebastian, the ECI therapists have educated and reassured me as well. They have helped me gain confidence in myself as a parent and in my son and his incredible resilience. As a first time mother and the mother of a premature baby, I have had many moments of uncertainty and even despair, but the therapy sessions with Sebastian have proven that with the right help a kid can overcome any obstacle and thrive in life. He adores his therapists and their positive, fun and caring sessions.

Sebastian spent the first few months of his life struggling in some way or another, after their wonderful intervention, I can absolutely see the change in him. Sebastian is quickly catching up with all the other full term toddlers and I am confident that he will reach all of his milestones in time from now on.

Jannet Daniela Hernandez, Early Childhood Intervention Infant Program parent, Easter Seals Greater Houston

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

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Making The First Five Count Through Early Intervention Services

Ella:

Ella has been enrolled in the Easter Seals Greater Houston ECI/Infant Program for about 6 months. Per one of the therapists on her Infant Program team –  visits started with tantrums, then evolved into stoic silence. Mom swore she said about 10-15 words, but the team never heard them the first month or so. Now, this lovely chatter box has a vocabulary that is growing every day. Ella is combining words to make 2-4 word sentences on her own, and parrots everything she hears. She is able to sit and attend to learning and play activities for 30+ minutes without getting distracted, and has some of the most creative pretend play we have seen.

 Mica:

We have been utilizing the services of the ECI/Infant Program at Easter Seals of Greater Houston over the past year for our son Mica, who was diagnosed at birth with Trisomy 21.   Mica’s progress has been wonderful so far, thanks to the team of dedicated therapists at Easter Seals.  Mica’s physical therapist Charisse as well as his nutritionist Thein have been instrumental in his growth and development.  His occupational therapist Christy as well as speech his therapist Bridget are working on improving his skills. My wife and I are very pleased with the team’s dedicated and professional approach in dealing with Mica.  For anyone with a child with a disability in the Houston area, we highly recommend the ECI/Infant Program Easter Seals as they do a wonderful job.

 The Dawkins Family:

“Thanks to Easter Seals Greater Houston’s ECI Program and wonderful staff our son, Cavani, went from no communication at all, to using words and sign language to express his needs to us. Easter Seal’s knowledgeable therapists helped our child, and our family, transition from in home therapy to a public school that meet our child’s needs. We truly can not say enough good things about Easter Seals and their ECI/Infant Therapy Program.”
– The Dawkins Family

WHAT IS ECI – EARLY CHILDHOOD INTERVENTION AND WHY IS IT NECESSARY?

WHAT IS MAKE THE FIRST FIVE COUNT AND HOW CAN IT HELP YOUR CHILD?

WHAT IS THE ASQ (AGES AND STAGES QUESTIONNAIRE) AND HOW CAN IT HELP?

Want more info? Info@eastersealshouston.org

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25 Weeks To Perfection

Avery’s success story is actually his family’s celebration of how much Avery has blossomed this past year.  Born as a micro preemie at 25 weeks, Avery, known as “Baby Hulk” in the NICU, went home at 4 months old.  At about 6-8 months Nov 2015 Infant program blog pic2 by Sharon Mottold, his mom, Stephanie, noticed Avery was not meeting his developmental milestones, even for his adjusted age.  Inability to use his left hand and not tolerating being on the floor inhibited Avery from gaining any motor skills.  His mom brought her concerns to Avery’s doctor.  No referral was made, so Stephanie, following her instincts, made the call to Easter Seals Greater Houston’s Infant Program to request a developmental evaluation.  The evaluation showed Avery was severely delayed in all areas of development.  Last October, Avery started receiving both PT (physical therapy) and OT (occupational therapy) services.

Avery began to advance quickly in his skills, with his mom, his dad, Arick, and therapists working together.  At 17 months old, Avery was diagnosed with cerebral palsy and a right side brain malformation called polymicrogyria, which affects the left side of his body.  How amazing to see the progress Avery has made
in such a short time span.  His endearing smile and enthusiasm light up the Nov 2015 Infant program blog pic by Sharon Mottwhole room.  Avery is such a hard worker and his mom, dad, big sister, Abby, and stuffed toy, Elmo, are great motivators.

Through Easter Seals’ Infant Program, his mom was given information to access doctors who could provide additional medical care such as botox injections and orthotics.  His mom stated initial botox injections Avery received this summer made a difference in his ability to use his left arm and leg after just one week.  As he is now able to crawl, pull to stand, use a walker with assistance, and finger feed, Avery has a whole new world to explore.  These new skills have also enabled him to chase after his sister, who he absolutely adores.

Though Avery had vocal cord paralysis from the intubation in the NICU, he is now able to make sounds.  In the past 6 months, Avery has begun imitating sounds and says some single words such as “ball”, “bye-bye”, and “Elmo”.  His mom related what to her was a “light bulb moment”.  Avery picked up a hairbrush on his own and brushed his hair.  That one simple act brought his mom to tears as she realized Avery was able to understand the environment around him.  In all his accomplishments, his parents are there to cheer him on and clap for him.  Avery joins in also, clapping, smiling, and blowing kisses.

Nov 2015 Infant program blog pic3 by Sharon MottWhen asked about this past year, Avery’s mom replied, “If it wasn’t for Easter Seals, Avery would not be who he is today.  He wouldn’t be able to stand up or try to walk.”  She added, “And I don’t think he could have had two better people (Leanne Armel, PT and Jackie Wooten, COTA) to do his therapy!  I can tell they are as invested in him as we are.”

Sharon Mott, Infant Program, Easter Seals Greater Houston

 

To read more about Avery’s journey, visit:  25weekstoperfection.wordpress.com

To learn more about Easter Seals Greater Houston’s Children’s Services, click here.

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Surviving Triplets Plus One- Part IV

*If you haven’t read her blog before, Sonia is the mother of four – triplets and an older son all of whom received Early Childhood Intervention services from Easter Seals Greater Houston Infant Program when they were babies AND she is the Assistant Program Director of our Infant Program.  She she has truly experienced our mission from both sides of the fence. 2013 sonia blog photo

Spring is here again!  It’s our favorite time of year at our house!  It’s not too hot and we can spend hours playing outside!  Here’s a short update on how my triplets (my three-year old boy/girl boy trio) plus one (my seven-year old son) are doing!  Our trio is still in preschool.  They still love it and are learning so much!  We are also beginning to see their little personalities change.  People always ask us if our daughter is the leader because she’s the only girl.  The truth is that role changes from situation to situation.  She’s definitely the nurturer.  She loves taking care of her brothers and checks on them often when they are off doing their own thing.  She’s got the most wonderful laugh!  You can’t help but smile and laugh when you hear it!  Lukas, the oldest of the three, is the protector.  He hates for anyone to get after his brother and sister.  My husband was about to put one in timeout for biting Lukas and Lukas was saying “no Daddy, not my brother”.  I hope he’s always as forgiving!  Our littlest, Cruz, well, let’s just say we call him “the reporter”.   Definitely sounds better than “bossy”.  He thinks he’s seven like his big brother.  He loves to wear his clothes and copy him which drives big brother, Romy, CRAZY!!!  We know if something happens, Cruz will give us a play-by-play and who did what.  He’ll even try to discipline who was in the wrong!  But he’s so affectionate!  He’s the first to run up and give you a hug and a kiss.  He’ll also do that for no reason when you really need it.

Romy is in first grade and is really thriving.  He loves to read and has started another season of baseball!  He claims to have had the best week ever last week.  He hit his first home run, learned to ride a bike, and won an all school raffle!  We pointed out to him that it’s not just about luck (well maybe the raffle is) but more about PRACTICE!  He’d been struggling with his hitting and riding a bike.  After a few meltdowns, we tried to explain that “practice makes perfect”.  Thank goodness the payoff was quick!  Don’t you just love it when something you’ve been telling your kids just proves itself to be true so immediately!   He’s also just the best big brother ever.  I know I’m bragging but just bare with me because he deserves it!  He really is so loving and caring towards his brothers and sister.  When I’m having a hard time trying to get one of them to do something, and I’m on the verge, he will often come up and say “Mom, let me try”.  More times than not, he can coax them to do whatever it is we need them to do.  He really is an amazing kid!  I tell him that he helps me be a better mom and that is the truth!

2012_04_20_1352I wanted to share Easter Seals campaign “Make the First Five Count”.  It is a national campaign that wants to make sure that every parent knows what they need to know about their child’s development and track their child’s progress with a free, online screening tool called the Ages and Stages Questionnaire or ASQ.  The link to the website is www.MaketheFirstFiveCount.org/ASQ.

Here are five ways I’ve made and you can also Make the First Five Count:

Sign.  There is a petition at www.MaketheFirstFiveCount.org.  Let’s show congress how important and beneficial early intervention is.  We all know what a difference it made in all four of my children’s lives.

Share.  Let at least five your family members, friends, neighbors and co-workers know about the importance of early intervention.

Encourage.  Encourage all the parents you know to use the free online screening tool.  It’s quick and very easy!

Write.  Let the congressional leaders in your area know how important early intervention is and what it means to children and families!

Speak out.  Use Facebook and Twitter (EasterSealsHou) to let your connections know about the Make the First Five Count campaign.

I really cannot say enough about the early intervention services my children received in their first years!  They would not be where they are without the services they received.

One last, big thing before I go.  My family and I are participating in the Easter Seals Walk with Me 5k event on Saturday, April 20th at the Houston Zoo.  It’s a wonderful family event, but most importantly, 100% of the funds raised go towards client services thanks to John Eagle Honda, our Presenting Sponsor!!!  Because we were recipients of the Infant Program, my family has formed a team, the Salas Sluggers, and is raising money for the Infant Program!  If you would like to contribute to our efforts, please go to www.walkwithmehouston.org  and click on Salas Sluggers.  You can join the “Salas Sluggers” team and help us raise money or you can contribute to our team goal of raising $1,000.  Thanks again for letting me brag on my kiddos and for now, I’m still surviving triplets plus one!

Sonia Salas, Asst. Program Director, Easter Seals Greater Houston Infant Program

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Early Childhood Intervention Is Just That; It’s “Early Intervention”?

2013 bruceUnless Congress acts soon, the majority of federal programs will be cut by approximately 5% on March 1, limiting already strained programs for children and adults with disabilities and their families.

I’m writing this letter because I’m concerned that Texas will decrease their funding for ECI services. Over the last year I have learned how important Early Childhood Intervention services are and I would like to share with you my story or rather my daughters’ stories. In March of 2012 Easter Seals Greater Houston evaluated my 2nd born daughter, K, who was a week away from turning two years old. We were concerned about “K”’s speech, which was delayed. Weeks prior to our evaluation “K” finally said mama, which was one of just a handful of words she could say. And when I say words, I mean “words” that only a mother could understand/figure out. After a thorough evaluation she was determined to be behind in Expressive Communication with no other delays, which wasn’t enough to qualify her for ECI services. I can’t tell you how upsetting it was to hear that my daughter ranked 2nd percentile in Expressive Communication, but that it was not enough to qualify her for the ECI speech therapy due to no other delays. In April 2012 “K” started Speech Therapy privately and after months of working with private insurance her therapy sessions were finally approved. “K” attended speech therapy for 6 months and in September 2012 she tested out of speech therapy. It’s still difficult to understand “K”, but she has come so far in such a short time. Speech Therapy did wonders for “K” and gave her the tools she needed to catch up to her peers in expressive language. Luckily for us we took the initiative to seek private speech therapy and our insurance approved it. Unfortunately, there are many children out there who don’t qualify through ECI speech or any other therapy, whose parents work but don’t have appropriate insurance or don’t have insurance at all and fall through the cracks. It makes me sad, because early intervention is so very important. And these same children will not be school ready when its time.

At the same time we were seeking services through ECI for “K” we had our 3rd child, “L”. “L” was born on March 1st, 2012 from an unremarkable pregnancy and delivery. At four months old “L” was a very fussy baby, still very newborn-like and not making eye-contact. In early July “L” was evaluated by a Pediatric Ophthalmologist and it was concluded that she was not seeing much of anything and was diagnosed with poor vision and possibly Delayed Visual Maturation. I spent the next few weeks (and months) researching everything I could on poor vision. I also contacted Easter Seals Greater Houston’s ECI, because I knew “L” was going to need a lot of help. I was very nervous about the evaluation, because I’d gone through this once before with “K” and was let down when she didn’t qualify. I was prepared to defend my daughters need for services, but it was apparent very early in the evaluation that “L” qualified for the services due to her poor vision and delayed motor skills. Over the following 7 months my beautiful “L” learned so much with the help of ECI services. Her services included (and continue to include) Physical Therapy 4 times a month, Occupational Therapy 3 times a month, Nutrition every 2 months and Vision services through HISD 3 times a month. “L”’s vision has improved greatly and her motor skills are almost on schedule for her age. She is now 11 months old and just started crawling. “L” has had to work so much harder to achieve her milestones and that is with the wonderful help of her therapists and teachers. I am so grateful for their help and I can’t imagine where we’d be today if it wasn’t for these services.

I was greatly worried after learning that ECI may receive decreased funding. I’m worried what decreases could do to the services our children receive. Is it going to be even harder for children to qualify? Will their delays have to be so much worse in order to qualify? Early intervention is supposed to prevent delays not wait for them to get worse. I believe Early Childhood Intervention is just that; it’s “Early Intervention”. I believe it makes a difference in children’s lives (my child’s life). It’s hard to understand how very important this service is unless you experience it for yourself with your own children. I truly feel ECI has changed my daughter’s life; that it has given her a chance to have a chance at a normal life. And I know my story is not the only one; I know there are numerous parents out there who feel the same as I do. Please continue to support our children in the program of Early Childhood Intervention. Our children deserve it!
Blessings,
Jennifer Bruce

Weigh in with your government now! https://easterseals.capwiz.com/easterseals//issues/alert/?alertID=62169961

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Give By Using Your Voice

It is easy to forget that politicians are public servants.  As we head into another state level legislative session where the future of children with disabilities will be determined, we need to remember to use our voices and our stories to remind national mtffc with sophiethe politicians who serve us how important our kids are.

I recently had a chance to meet with Texas Senator John Cornyn.  He had specifically asked to meet with people who work in the healthcare field and face the challenges every day of providing excellent services with limited resources.  As an , I was excited about the chance to share some of my thoughts with him.

Our meeting with him went very well. He heard our concerns and all the good work that we do at Easter Seals Greater Houston. I stressed the importance of the positive and sustained long-term outcomes of receiving early intervention services and the cost effectiveness based on long-term studies. In addition,  I had a chance to let him know that one of our biggest worries is that fewer children are eligible for life-changing services, especially children who are a little less involved/severe, but who could truly – measureably – benefit from services that are being left out.   I have seen first hand what early intervention does – for many children therapy before the age of three means they will be school ready when they head to kindergarten.  This is why one of Easter Seals main priorities nationally is Make The First Five Count.  Without early intervention, the costs of providing therapy, special education and other help during school years are higher and the long-term outcomes for the child are worse.

Senator Cornyn 032Senator Cornyn agreed that we need to re-prioritize and I was glad to have the chance to share my thoughts with him.  Our politicians-local, state and federal – are torn by so many demands on their time, on money available and on what is a priority.  I think we need to let them know how important the families we serve are and we need to share that a little help today saves money and improves lives.  I hope that you will join me in using your gift in the new year – the gift of your voice, the gift of your story and the gift of caring for some of our most vulnerable neighbors. Let them hear you  – Its Time to Make The First Five Count!

Esther Puig, Occupational Therapist, Easter Seals Greater Houston

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Surviving Triplets Plus One Part III: What we did this summer and back to school!

Here we are again, a new school year and already facing Halloween!  My oldest son and I were talking about the new school year and he asked me, “Mom, what did you used to do when you started school?”  It got me thinking about the old essay topic “What did you do this summer?”  So, I thought I would honor that back to school tradition, and share with y’all what we did this summer!

My husband Cesar helped coach Romy’s t-ball team and they made it all the way to the championship game!  They didn’t win but it didn’t matter…  The kids were just so excited to be getting a trophy!  I wish it would always stay that way.  I was so proud of my son.  He really surprised me with his sportsmanship.  After most games, if we happened to walk by a player from the opposing team, he would say “good game Pirates” or “good game Cubs”.  I asked him why he did that and he said, “Because Mom, if we lost, that’s what I would want someone to tell me.”  I tear up even now thinking about it.  It’s these little things that your kids do that validate that they are listening to you!  Now don’t get me wrong, he’s not perfect and he still cried if a play got him out, but, he’s starting to understand “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”  It’s something that will always apply to all areas of his life.

We started taking everyone to the pool this summer.  It has been so much fun teaching the babies to blow bubbles in the water, kick their feet, and paddle their hands.  I have to say their favorite part is jumping to mom and dad!  After we swim we always play on the playground before heading home.  Everyone has mastered the “BIG” slide this year!  I can’t believe two years ago, we were still getting intensive therapy from the Infant Program so that they could learn to crawl, walk and even eat different textures…all their milestones.  It amazes me every time I think about all the progress they’ve made.  Early intervention works!!!  I see it’s effects on a daily basis!  Now if only those pesky legislatures could see my babies going down that slide, maybe they would think twice about cutting the early intervention funding!!!

We took our first family vacation this summer!  It was a lot of work for my husband and I but it was also a lot of fun!  We made lots of memories!   We had to get creative with our hotel room.  Most hotel rooms are not equipped for 6 people.  So, we took a really nice air mattress for the kids.  They loved it of course.   Our hotel made it really special for the kids.  On the first night they brought them milk and cookies.  The next day, they brought them each a backpack with fun activities and games.   The triplets went to the beach for the first time!  They loved the water and they loved playing in the sand but they hated that the sand stuck to their hands and feet!  I have to say, I don’t like that either!  We also visited the Texas State Aquarium.  I loved to see the amazement in the kid’s faces when they saw the giant turtles, sharks, jelly fish, and fish!

So, here we are, back to school.  My six-year-old is now in first grade.  He loves his new teacher and his new class.  The triplet’s school sent me a letter saying that it was time, the babies will be moved up to a PRE-SCHOOL class.  I know this sounds ridiculous, but it took my breath away!  They would be going to the bathroom by themselves, no more diapers/pull-ups, and they would be serving themselves during their family style lunch…WOW.  I really wanted to cry when I read about their new routine.  So, if that NICU doctor had told me when my babies were in little incubators learning how to suck and swallow with tubes and machines hooked up to all of them that in two and a half years these little guys and girl will be swimming in a big pool, going down a big slide, potty trained, talking up a storm and going into a preschool classroom, I would have never believed it!  Maybe you’re a parent of a premature infant or have a toddler with developmental delays, please consider having your child evaluated by an early intervention program.  The sooner the better because it does work!!!

Sonia Salas, Asst. Director, Easter Seals Greater Houston Infant Program

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