Easter Seals Greater Houston Katy Parent Night Out has a long history of helping teens on the spectrum, including providing informational services for career and post-secondary education opportunities. Two of our very special clients, brothers who joined our program back in 2016 when they were 13 and 14 years old, have benefited from PNO’s guest speaker program, providing guidance for adolescents transitioning into adulthood! In 2017, a representative from HCC’s VAST (Vocational Advancement and Skills Training) Academy, a branch of HCC that provides “Opportunities include vocational certificates, pre-college, and freshman success bridge courses, career readiness credentials, internships and employment assistance offered through an inclusive, relevant and affordable avenue.”. Both boys, who have speech and developmental delays, have been accepted into HCC’s VAST program and are thriving in their new role as “big men on campus”. They are seeking vocational certificates that will help them find meaningful employment after graduation. These clients have overcome multiple obstacles (including losing their home from Hurricane Harvey in 2017) and Easter Seals Parent Night Out is proud to provide support and encouragement as they’ve grown into amazing young adults. PNO continues to inspire teens like these brothers, and WE are inspired THEIR success!
Kelly Knight, Easter Seals Greater Houston, PNO Respite Coordinator
Last Spring, Sam transitioned from using a limited auditory scanning device to a device with unlimited app-based software using auditory scanning to communicate!
Many of the parents who have come to Easter Seals Greater Houstons’ The Caroline School have done so out of a desire to find a more individualized education for their child – a school that would focus on the whole child, their physical, social, and cognitive development.
That’s exactly what Samantha’s family found. Sam began at The Caroline School a year ago and since has embarked on many educational changes. She worked on her physical skills by using her stander in the classroom and engaging in yoga stretches with support. She focused on her social skills by using both non-verbal gestures (smiles and singing), as well as her new communication device to share love and joy with her friends and teachers. Working on the physical and social aspects of learning, perfectly positioned Sam to grow her cognitive skill set as well! She used her new communication device to engage in lessons and home-to-school connection questions and activities. For example, she completed an “All About Me” project to share with the class.
Sam’s collective team of teachers, parents, ESGH therapists and nurses are so proud of her hard work! We can’t wait to begin her Senior year here at The Caroline School! It will surely be the best year yet.
Tabitha Hernandez, Easter Seals Greater Houston, The Caroline School Director
“It’s hard to believe that our camps for the Spring of 2019 are over! We have had such a blast these past couple of months at camp. This Spring, Easter Seals has hosted two wonderful weekend camps at Camp For All. We kicked off the New Year by running our second session of First Light Family Camp, a weekend retreat for veterans and their families! Though this camp was held in late January, we had beautiful and sunny weather all weekend long. Ten families joined in on the fun; we arrived on Friday night for dinner and had a campfire at dark- complete with s’mores and sing-a-long songs! Saturday was jam-packed with fun activities; we were able to participate in cast fishing, horses and barnyard, and even got to dress up in the costume closet and have a fashion show! Throughout the weekend, we broke into small groups to discuss stress relief/management, coping mechanisms, and even got to do some relaxation yoga! It was a fun adventure for our families to join us at camp for the first time!
We hosted our Spring session of Camp M.O.S.T. (Miles of Smiles for Teens) earlier this February! As always, camp was a blast! It was a fun reunion for campers and volunteers from the fall to get together again! The weather for this session of camp was chillier than usual, but our group braved the cold to participate in all the awesome activities camp has to offer. This session of Camp M.O.S.T. was Olympic themed, and everyone got in on the fun and light-hearted competition. During the weekend, we broke up into four teams; each team got their chance to compete in the Olympic events, ranging from “Counselor Curling” to a donut eating competition. The weekend also included some educational and inspiring Jam Sessions- where campers were able to work on skills such as advocacy, education, and other skills. Throughout the weekend, we were inspired by various videos and interviews with awesome Paralympic athletes! On Sunday, we had to say goodbye during our closing ceremony, but we are so excited for our next session of camp in the fall!”
Kenzie Richard, Camps Program Coordinator, Easter Seals Greater Houston
David Wright is a recent graduate of Stephen F. Austin High School in Sugar Land where he was in our Easter Seals Houston High School High Tech / RAMP (Ready to Achieve Mentoring) program since his freshman year. David has been interested in becoming a herpetologist for a long time and knows A LOT about it. Freshman year it was hard for our staff to keep him on track because he always wanted to talk about lizards, snakes, and reptiles. We literally couldn’t get him to talk about anything else! Through the years David got better about this, was more open to participating in what the class was doing and it was obvious he was starting to pick up on the importance of our mentoring and lessons about social cues and soft skills and more. Jacquelyn Privatera Miller went with him to his interview for the internship at the Houston Museum of Natural Science at Sugar Land and he was SO professional, acted like a well prepared young adult and dressed himself so well for the interview. Everyone was really impressed. David is thriving in this environment and has opened up more and can have great conversations with people including his new co-workers. He even hugs Jacquie now when he sees her, which he would never ever have done before. So really he has just grown and matured so much in the last few years and is doing a really impressive job at his internship! Help us congratulate David as he is enjoying his 20 hours/week internship AND is also enrolled at Wharton Community College! Huge thanks to the museum and the museum staff for making it a life changing experience for David!
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. High School/High Tech also offers a mentoring program called RAMP – Ready to Achieve Mentor Program. Learn more about High School/High Tech.
Jacquelyn Miller, Easter Seals Greater Houston, High School High Tech / RAMP
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
Ahoy from Camp MOST (Miles of Smiles for Teens)! This past weekend, Easter Seals Greater Houston hosted Camp MOST– a weekend retreat for young adults with cerebral palsy and other neurological disorders. Our theme this spring was Anchors Aweigh- we had nautical decorations, activities, and snacks! With 14 amazing campers and 17 amazing counselors we set sail for a fun filled weekend!
On Friday, the campers docked at Camp For All around dinner time. That night, we had an awesome Amazing Race activity and then a campfire complete with s’mores, skits, and some campfire songs. On both Saturday and Sunday Camp MOST hit some rough waters- it rained off and on both days. Despite the rain, our camp had the MOST fun! We got to participate in canoes, fishing, photography, archery, paintball, ZIPLINING, and most of all our amazing Jam Sessions.
In our Jam Sessions, we talked about awesome topics related to transition into young adulthood, and what that looks like as a teen with a disability. In the first Jam Session we discussed how independence doesn’t mean doing it all alone. Topics included learning to speak up and self-advocate during IEP meetings and college advising meetings. Later in the day campers were asked to “Set Your Course!” and each shared what they want and what they need to do to achieve this goal.
Each camper ended the weekend with fantastic memories, new friends, and a plan to set their course in order to achieve their dreams! All aboard for success!
“I want to figure out where I am in life and who I truly am. Step 1: Don’t listen to the negative talk/self-talk”
Mackenzie Richard, Camp Coordinator, Easter Seals Greater Houston
The following was written by the parents of one of our beloved clients that have participated in Easter Seals Greater Houston’s Family Day Out and Respite Voucher programs for many years.
Family Day Out is a center-based Respite service that provides respite care on Saturdays to families of children ages 6-14 with all types of disabilities. Our son, Brandon, and the other children benefit from arts and crafts, games, and playground activities and receive one-on-one assistance from volunteers. As parents we benefit greatly with much needed time to get caught up on anything we may need to get done (paperwork, house work …the list goes on) or even have a much needed day date! (Dates are far and in between!) Family Day Out also gives us much needed one-on-one time with our daughter. Children that have siblings with disabilities often don’t get as much attention due to the high demand kids with disabilities require. It’s a great opportunity to spend quality time with siblings.
What we love most about Family Day Out is that our son is able to spend time with volunteers, staff, and friends that over the years have gotten to know and love him. Each session is also staffed by a nurse and a center director. It’s somewhere he feels 100% accepted and has tons of fun.
We are so grateful to have been able to look forward to at least one Saturday several months a year that Brandon will be well taken care of while having fun so we can have time to ourselves, guilt-free. This September will be a sad one since the Family Day Out program is only able to accommodate kids through 14 years old at this time and Brandon turns 15 at the end of September.
We also participate in Easter Seals’ Respite Voucher Program which allows us to select our own childcare provider for in-home care. These hours allow us to run errands and take a much-needed break while Brandon is with someone we know and trust to care for him. As Brandon has gotten older the respite hours to use at our leisure have become as much of a blessing as Family Day Out. Qualified sitters (those who can handle meltdowns, behavior issues, etc.) for children with disabilities have a much higher rate than typical sitters so the respite hour vouchers help tremendously when funds are already tight.
Easter Seals Greater Houston’s
Family Day Out program and Respite Voucher program are truly blessings to ours and so many other families!
Jeff and Tiffany, Respite client parents, Easter Seals Greater Houston
Learn more about Easter Seals’ Care Giving Services.