Tag Archives: premature

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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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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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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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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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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That Time of Year

It’s that time of year…..school clothes, school supplies, homework, drama practice, football games and more!!! Yes, we’ve survived back to school and it is so hard to believe that I have a Junior and a 7th grader this year!!

The first week of school my 7th grader brought home an English assignment titled “By looking at me, you would never know…..”   He chose to say “By looking at me, you would never know that I have had SIX surgeries”.  As we listed the six surgeries (kidney surgery, tubes twice, adenoids removed, hernia surgery and tonsil surgery), I was filled with so many memories of each one.  His very first surgery was at 4 months of age to remove a blockage at his ureter and bladder.  The blockage was causing complications with his right kidney.   The OB/GYN found the blockage when I was 32 weeks pregnant when the ultrasound showed that his right kidney was shaped more like a baseball than a kidney bean!  After researching I found the best doctor to do the surgery on our tiny little baby boy.  As confident as we felt in our doctor, it was very painful to turn my little baby over to the team to be put under anesthesia and operated on.  The surgery was successful and after he healed, we found that he had a lot of tummy weakness from his incision.  They cut him across the front of his stomach in order to reach his bladder (like a c-section scar).  We immediately enrolled him in the Easter Seals Infant Program because he needed physical therapy to strengthen his stomach muscles so that he could crawl.  Once he started crawling, he has never slowed down since!!

We continued on with the other surgeries with the last one being in 5th grade.  Due to the numerous surgeries and doctor’s appointments, he developed extreme anxiety.  We had to work with a therapist for several years to help him overcome the fears that he felt.

My heart smiled as I read how he ended his paper for school.   “All of my surgeries have taught me how to face life’s challenges.  Enjoy every day as you never know what life will bring you.”   What an inspirational and strong young man he has become!

Dena Day, Infant Program Director

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Surviving Triplets..Plus One!

First, let me start off by saying, my husband and I are blessed beyond words!  We have absolutely nothing to complain about.  We both have good jobs, a house (even though we are busting out of the seams), reliable cars, our health, and loving friends and family.  We celebrate our 10 year wedding anniversary this July and have been talking and reminiscing about the past and what our life was like before we had our children.  We chuckle now at the things we worried about then and what we thought our lives with two children would be like…we had no idea what was in store for us!!!

One of the first questions we are most often asked about is “what did you think when you found out you were going to have triplets?”  Honestly, we were devastated.  I know now how selfish and horrible that may sound but we knew how hard it is to take care of one infant at a time that we couldn’t wrap our minds around taking care of three infants at one time let alone the expense of formula, diapers and wipes times 3.  We cried for days and waited several weeks to share the news with friends and even family.
It’s one of the things I feel most guilty about. One of the things I would totally change about my pregnancy would have been to actually enjoy it instead of worrying so much about how are we going to do this, how are we going to afford it, did I ruin my oldest son’s life? But in the end, everything turned out just as it should.  After two months of bed rest, our boy girl boy triplets were born at 34 weeks gestation.  The first few months are now a blur, but we are so grateful that we all SURVIVED!!!

All of our children including, our oldest son, have received early intervention services through Easter Seals.  Our 5-year-old was born with torticollis which is a shortening or tightening of the muscles in his neck.  His head was constantly tilted to the side which looked cute in pictures but I knew if it wasn’t corrected, he may end up having to wear a shaping helmet for his head.  He received physical therapy and we noticed results within days of starting intervention.  Our triplets were all developmentally delayed in various areas due to their prematurity but again, because of early intervention, they were all on track by their first birthday.  My children are living proof that early intervention works!!!  We are so grateful to Easter Seals for helping to make our kids first five years count!!!  I’m so passionate about this that I wrote to my state representatives to urge them to please vote against budget cuts for early intervention services.  I hope that if you feel the same that you will write them too!  Not sure who your representatives are? Look them up at www.fyi.legis.state.tx.us or call 1-888-633-3650.    I hope you will join us, and Easter Seals’ national movement to get the word out to families and decision-makers about how critical these services are by going to www.makethefirstfivecount.org.

Here is my chuckle for the week.  I was home taking care of my triplets, two of which were sick with a stomach bug.  After two days of sick stomachs and clingy kids, I decided that we all needed to get out of the house for some fresh air.  I loaded them up in our choo-choo wagon, each in their own car and we were off!  It was a beautiful warm afternoon around the time the school bus is bringing kids in our neighborhood back home from school.  The babies love watching the kids get off the bus and see them running
home.  So as we were doing this on our walk, one kid asked me out of the bus window, “do you get paid to do that?”  I chuckled and said “no” but what I was really thinking was “this experience, these babies, this life is absolutely priceless!”  I honestly would not change it for the world!
Sonia Salas, Asst. Director, Infant Program, Easter Seals Greater Houston

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From NICU to Late Nights

My husband and I have a two month old son who is a night owl. Baby books tell us it’s because he has his days and nights mixed up. We tend to think he just likes to party. And he’s got good reason to celebrate. A month ago, he was in the NICU.

Our son entered the NICU as a two-week old, full term newborn. However, the main reason for NICU admissions are premature births, which represent 12 percent of the annual four million births in the S. The NICU typically takes care of babies with very specific high risk conditions, such as very low birth weight, respiratory distress syndrome, congenital heart disease and a myriad of other life-threatening problems.

Proposed budget changes for the state of Texas include budget cuts to NICU admissions. Many neonatologists say that this will have a ripple effect. Not paying for life-saving NICU admissions will lead to an increase in the cost of paying for chronic debilitating illnesses that could ave been avoided.

These budget cuts would most certainly affect the family,now our friends, who shared our “pod” while in the NICU. Our sons share the ame birthday, but their son’s arrival was 12 weeks early. At only two weeks od, our young friend had already experienced a breathing tube, a ventilator nd severe jaundice. And while his parents are hopeful for his future, they are also preparing themselves for a future that could include physical and cognitive  delays, or even a long-term disability.

The NICU was the best possible place for our son o heal, and it is the best possible place for premature babies to thrive. Since e’ve been home, I think often of our new young friend and pray that he will et to go home soon. He needs a chance to be a night owl and keep his parents p til 2am. And when that time comes, we hope he parties hard.

by Christine Reyes Ellery, Easter Seals Director – Camps,  Counseling & Case management

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In A Premie’s Shoes, Part 2

After having a baby in NICU for 54 days, I wanted to share some helpful hints to get you through the long hospital stays!   First, everyone offers to help – take them up on it!!  Let them help you run errands, mow your grass, cook a meal for you……..whatever you need help with!  This was hard for me – but I know I would do the same for them so….let them help!  Friends and family care and want to do what they can – they also want updates on how your baby is doing.  We would leave messages on our voicemail just saying “thanks for calling and checking on us – today’s update is that he is now drinking 5 oz and weighs 4 pounds! “   There are also websites like Caringbridge and Careflash that will allow you to give updates electronically!   This will save you so much time on returning calls – because now you don’t have to!   You will most likely be eating on the run A LOT – so when friends and family ask what you need – ask for gift cards to fast food restaurants!!  You will also be doing a lot of sitting – so be prepared with books, magazines, electronics, a journal (great way to document your journey through NICU)!  Hope these few hints are helpful for you!

Dena Day, Program Director, Infant Program, Easter Seals

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In A Premature Baby’s Shoes

Every expectant mother dreams of the day that she will deliver her new little baby!  It will be perfect, everyone will be there and everyone will be happy!   Boy were those dreams shattered when my first-born decided to enter the world at 30 weeks, 10 weeks early!  The doctors told us “IF he makes it through the night, he will have cerebral palsy.”  As soon as he was born, they took him quickly away to NICU and we barely got to see his tiny little face.   We were all sad, scared, shocked and so unprepared.  After I left recovery, they wheeled me by his bed so that I could see his tiny little 3 pound body hooked up to so many tubes, machines and iv’s!   I was scared to even talk to him – what if he did not make it through the night – this tiny little boy that I already loved so much! 

 That day began our long, 54 day journey  in NICU.  He made progress every day…….sometimes he would take 1 step forward then 2 steps back but eventually we were able to hold him, feed him, change his diaper…..do all of the things that “normal” parents got to do at home.  The doctors and nurses became like family to us as we spent all day and night with them………..almost 15 years later, we still speak to 3 of his nurses.    Our story ended successfully, he came home, spent several years getting caught up in therapy and today is a healthy strong, wonderful, straight A, guitar and drum-playing teenager!  For those other parents of premature babies out there – you have sadly joined a new club – but you will survive!  You will never forget the heartache – but you will survive and be stronger for it! 

Dena Day, Program Director, Infant Program, Easter Seals Greater Houston

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