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Our Newest Avril “Rock Stars”!

This past weekend, Easter Seals Grater Houston held its third installment of our teen camp, CamDSCF4708p MOST (Miles of Smiles for Teens) with the help of Randalls Food Market, The Avril Lavigne Foundation and United Way of Greater Houston. It has been such an incredible experience to be a part of the birth of this new opportunity for teenagers. Some of the campers who have attended one of the weekend retreats had been removed from the camp scene for a few years since their graduation from Camp Smiles (our week-long overnight camp) at age 14, so they have loved getting back to camp, seeing old friends and enjoying some teen time.

Camp MOST along with our program, Social Motion Skills, is all about encouraging the teens along in their transition from childhood to adulthood and supporting them through this challenging time of life. High school is tough enough for any teenager, and when you bring a disability into the mix, it adds a whole other dimension to the puzzle. At Camp MOST, the teens find a support group among each other and are able to talk about what it’s like to be a teenager with a disability, how they navigate their high school, and share advice about how to teach and interact with their peers about disabilities in a positive way. In the future, DSCF4551we hope to add an element to camp that touches on transition from high school to post secondary life like our High School High Tech Program – meaning college, employment, vocational school, etc. We want to encourage the teens to become self advocates and learn how to get the most out of their life! We hope to accomplish this by stressing the development of relationships, natural supports, personal expectations, community involvement, social skills and self-determination – all key components of Social Motion Skills.

It’s amazing to watch these campers who once were young nervous little kids, arrive at camp and check themselves in, turn in all of their medication and explain what each of them is for, and explain their own personal care needs to the volunteers. They are really learning to be self advocates and understand how to take responsibility for themselves. I also love watching the campers develop true friendships among one another. They all exchange contact information with each other at camp and many stay in touch and become great friends! They really are each other’s best support because no one knows what it’s like to be in their shoes except for them.  I love that Camp MDSCF4664OST helps the campers find and connect with people who understand them and can relate to their life experiences. Not to mention, it’s a great place for these teens to escape for a weekend and just let loose and have fun!

I hope that Camp MOST continues to grow and encourage teens through their high school years. It is definitely my dream to see some of these campers come back in the future as mentors to the new campers! Between the community support, MOST, Social Motion Skills and High School High Tech, we hope the community sees the importance of giving teens with disabilities a chance – they can excel at school, go on to college and be gainfully employed. We can’t do it without support both monetarily and volunteer based. Please consider making a gift, serving as a volunteer or asking your company to be a host site for our high school program.

Here’s a little taste of the success we see – C has been attending our children’s camp since he was 7 years old.  Every year at our children’s camp, he refused to do the high ropes course.  Now 14, C saw being at teen camp as a rite of passage and as an opportunity to challenge himself and step outside of his comfort zone.  So, C got up to the top of the high ropes course (nearly 3 stories high!), and then flew back down via the zip line.  C screamed and beamed all the way down, and at the end of it exclaimed, “Check it out, I did it!”

By Betsy Keane, Camp Coordinator, Easter Seals Greater Houston

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The Morning After

If you have ever had a wedding, quinceanera, shower or other large party, you know the feeling the morning after. It is like that for non-profits after a special event. You feel happy, exhausted, and amazed by the incredible friends and family you have in your life. Our first annual Walk With Me truly fit this mold. Saturday, at the fantastic Houston Zoo (who were great to work with), we had more than 900 Houstonians walk with us. We thought the event might be a success early on when Think Energy came in as our first corporate sponsor.  Toni Williams said, “I love what you do. How can we help.” And that is how is started…We had some super stars there including the gracious and joyful Judy Germany, of Kinder Morgan Terminals, who raised more than $40,000 and inspired us all to do more as well as our Children’s Therapy client, seven-year old Carmen, who raised more than $2,600 to help buy therapy equipment (okay..it did not hurt that she is so stinkin’ cute)! Randall’s held a Cupcake Walk (HUGE hit with the kids) and CVS was there in force as a generous national and local sponsor. We had the amazing Debbie Roff and Girl Scout Troops 18031, 12557, and 18235 who chose us as their spring service project – they created stations for children’s passports to be stamped (like face painting and hula hooping) to win a prize and adopted the slogan “We Are Able”. If everyone was as organized, generous and smart as these Girl Scouts – most of the world’s problems would be solved. When we realized we were going to have three times as many walkers as we had planned for – Shipley’s stepped in at the last-minute to add to the food with donuts. With Roseanne Rogers emceeing, the Texans’ Toro wowing the kids, and the Rocket’s Launch Crew helping us get our groove on-it was a magical day. What was most moving and incredible to me, was that like this great city – our walk included people of all ages, of every race, religion and socio-economic background, with and without disabilities – all together just enjoying each other and a beautiful day together. It was a chance for our supporters to meet some of the families we serve, to meet our ambassadors, the Salas Family, Matthew Stephenson, Hector Avila and Tom Bailey, for children to see kids with disabilities doing the same things they do, for a city to really shine. When we set our goals last year for our first walk, we hoped to have 300 walkers and to raise $50,000. We had over 900 walkers, 130 volunteers and raised $130,000 and counting!! We suggested that if you joined us, the life you changed might just be your own – well, in every respect, I think we delivered.

By Elise Hough, CEO, Easter Seals Greater Houston

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April….Listen Up, Get Educated, Raise Your Voice…

Did you know April is National Autism and Occupational Therapy Month?

When we are young, we all learn what our 5 senses are (sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch).  Our senses are how we take in the world.  Are you one of those people who hate the tag in the back of your shirt?  Or you can’t stand when the line on the toe of your sock is crooked?  Those are two examples of how your body reacts to what something feels like.  Children who have severe sensory problems spend their day thinking about how the tag in their shirt feels instead of what the teacher is saying in the front of the class.

Often children who are born early or children who are in the Autism Spectrum Disorder have sensory issues.  My oldest was born 10 weeks early and boy did he have sensory issues!  He could not stand grass!  If you sat him in grass, he would try to balance on his bottom and hold up both arms and legs so they did not touch the grass.  If he held a squishy banana or you put a sticker on his hand, he would gag!!  Thankfully today, after years of therapy, he was able to work through his issues.

Occupational Therapists specialize in children with sensory impairments or problems.  They will help your child work through the sensory issues with therapy, exposure (like playing with pudding, shaving cream, etc…) and home activities.

If you think your child’s sensory issues that interfere with how they function in the world, you may want to have them evaluated by an Occupational Therapist. OR you can take our Developmental Milestones Screening (ASQ).

Some “red flags” or things to look for are:

  • Extreme dislike of swinging or rough & tumble play
  • Extreme dislike of bath time
  • Walking on toes or not walking on certain textures (ie: grass, tile, etc.)
  • Extreme dislike of sticky or textured foods (will gag, can’t touch them or cries when you don’t wash their hands right away).

Now imagine the families that need assistance with their children who need just such help….and they can’t get it. Read this article about 1,000 of Texas Kids facing the situation from the Austin American Statesman.

Want to do something about it? Sign the petition for Make the First Five Count, call or write your legislature,  and let your voice be heard.

Support us. Shop at Randalls Food Market this month for April Disability Awareness. ESGH receives a portion of the proceeds!

Dena Day, Easter Seals Greater Houston Program Director, Infant/Early Childhood Intervention

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