Tag Archives: teens with disabilities

Chaos and Trauma for a Family with a Child with Special Needs

reat_familykevinjohnson-4.jpgThe following story was written by BridgingApps’ Co-Founder, Cristen. Cristen and her son Vincent, who has special needs, were Easter Seals Greater Houston’s Walk With Me 2017 Ambassadors and have been dear friends of Easter Seals Greater Houston for years. Cristen graciously shared her story to show how having a loved one with a disability compounded the difficulty and stress faced during Hurricane Harvey.

 

Our house was built in 1955 and has never flooded. We typically have a modest hurricane and emergency kit prepared during Hurricane season. During Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Ike, I evacuated with both my sons, while my husband stayed to prepare and salvage the house.  As Harvey moved closer, we decided that this time we would not evacuate, but would shelter in place.

You see, my 14 year old son, Vincent, who has Down syndrome, a visualVincent-and-Cristen impairment and extreme sensory issues, generally is a good traveler, but sometimes he has difficulties with transitions. As he has gotten older, he has also gotten more opinionated, making an evacuation less desirable. This time, I made sure that we had enough medications, water and food.

However, we were not prepared for the amount of rain that kept coming and coming. We lost power in the middle of the night on Saturday. Our home is located 3 blocks from Brays Bayou, and we watched the water rise, then crest, then continue to rise on our street, and then in our yard. Most of the homes in our neighborhood are one story homes, and we could see our neighbors begin to flood. The water came into our garage, and we thought it was not long before it would come into our home. We decided to evacuate our home and go to a neighbor that was higher two blocks away.

In the span of about 30 minutes with zero planning, we threw important papers, picture albums and some clothing into our attic. We scrambled to get all of Vincent’s medications, shoes with orthotics, two pairs of different prescription glasses, incontinence supplies, and two days’ worth of clothing into backpacks and garbage bags. We attempted to save his $1500 adaptive stroller by throwing it on top of our car, because we knew it would take forever to get approval for another one.

My 17 year old son Martin volunteered to carry my 80 pound son Vincent to our neighbor’s house. My husband and I carried everything else. It was a challenge to explain to Vincent, who has a cognitive disability, that we needed to put on his raincoat and walk out in the pouring rain into water that was nearly waist deep on his brother’s back. My goal was to do it in a lighthearted way, but my voice broke, and it became impossible. Tears were streaming down my face, so I was glad for the rain to camouflage this awful fear in front of my children.

As we plunged into the cold water, it was amazing how small things like the sidewalk, bricks, tree roots, curbs and other small obstacles became huge obstacles, causing Martin to stumble, trip, and nearly drop Vincent multiple times. The truth is that if they fell and he went under water, the current was so strong, I am not sure that we would have found him.  It was hard for Vincent to see out of his glasses with the rain coming down, and it must have been terrifying for him. His preferred spot in life is on the floor, as it is predictable, steady and safe.

Martin had to rest, so we got to the front porch of a house at the intersection of our street. As we rested there, we saw people chest high in water carrying their dog. We had no idea where they were trying to go, and I am not sure they did either. At that moment, we saw a kayak two houses away. My husband got their attention, and it turns out they a couple in their 70s and offered to take us one by one to our friend on the next block who was on higher ground.  It was a given that Vincent would go first, so I had to explain to him that he needed to get into a “special boat” with complete strangers to get to our friend Carolyn’s house. As we maneuvered him into the unsteady kayak, he slowly sat on the lap of a woman named Diane. I kissed him and told him that I would see him in a few minutes. I simply could not believe how strong the current was, swiftly rushing towards Brays Bayou, as the kayak had to navigate across the intersection with my most vulnerable child.  I watched helplessly and had to trust that he would be ok.

It was at that moment that I broke down and had what I imagine was a FULL ON panic attack. I was unable to breathe and nearly fell down. My sweet husband Daniel, thought I was having an asthma attack and asked where my inhaler was.  In the pouring rain, in the middle of a swift river of water I wanted to smack him for not realizing that I was having a PANIC attack, not an asthma attack.

FullSizeRender

It seemed like FOREVER when the kayak returned reporting that they had safely deposited Vincent at our friend Carolyn’s house.  One by one the rest of us were ferried to her house, where we waited out the rest of the day and night of continuous rain and no power.

On Monday, when the water had receded enough, we returned to our house and watched the news that the forecast showed nothing but rain. Though Brays Bayou had gone down its banks a bit, with the power back on in our house, the weather reports were nothing but rain and prediction that Brays was going to crest again.  We immediately decided to evacuate a second time to another friend’s house about 2 miles north of our home. This decision was based completely on the best place for Vincent. We determined where we would go based on which friends of ours had not flooded yet, did not have a cat (allergies), and had enough room where Vincent could have his own space because of his sensory issues.

We returned to our house on Wednesday to begin the clean-up and on Saturday had to be evacuated AGAIN because of a bad gas leak in our yard.  We hadn’t even unpacked from the 2nd evacuation, so it seemed to be easier than the other two, but we as a family were nearly at a breaking point emotionally.  Vincent’s daily schedule is predictable, planned out and communicated to him to reduce his anxiety. The previous 7 days had been everything but predictable. It was emotional, stressful, unpredictable, and frustrating.  For most families dealing with this hurricane was horrific, but for our family with a child who has cognitive and sensory issues, it was tremendously difficult.  Luckily our house sustained only minor damage, but the toll it has taken on our whole family will take weeks to recover.  It has changed the way I will prepare for disasters, and it will change forever the way that we discuss it with our children.

Cristen Reat, Parent and BridgingApps Co-Founder, Easter Seals Greater Houston

As of today, thousands have been begun to receive direct client services as well as clothing, medical equipment, and assistance from Easter Seals Greater Houston. These families have been through a major trauma; please donate to help us meet their needs.If you or someone you know needs assistance, please contact us at Harvey@eastersealshouston.org. If you or your company would like to partner with Easter Seals, please contact us at Info@eastersealshouston.org.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Latest News

Free Summertime Fun!

Are you looking for ways to get your children involved this Summer? Come and join one of our fun Play Groups! Our Play Groups are free and offered on Tuesday evenings (with the exception of Play-A-Palooza) at our Easter Seals main office.

Karate– Through participation in this class, IMG_3928your child will learn balance and self-control through various drills and independent lessons. These practices include training in martial arts etiquette, respect for authority and self-esteem. Using a goal setting martial arts curriculum, participants gain confidence through repetition, guidance, and praise. Karate is open to ages 6 to 18 years old. Karate is on the 2nd and 4th Tuesdays of the month from 6:00pm to 6:45pm.

 

Yoga– Yoga emphasizes stretching and breathing techniques designed to enhance development. Teachers reinforce memory, independence, and group focus! Yoga is open to ages 4 to 18 years old. Yoga is on the 2nd and 4th Tuesdays of the month from 6:50pm to 7:35pm.

Dance– Our dancers dance, prance, and play group blog photo 3imagine what to do with a scarf – all the while not realizing that they are focusing, following directions, and using their imaginations. Dance is on the 3rd Tuesday of the month from 6:30pm to 7:15pm

 

Teen Night –Teen Night is open to teens ages 14 and up with a primary diagnosis of cerebral palsy or a similar neurological disorder with a developmental age of at least a 12-year-old. They must understand topics discussed relevant to the 12-18 year old age group. Our Teens will have an opportunity to socialize, play games, and attend a Jam Session! Teen Night is held the 1st Tuesday of every month from 6:00pm to 7:30pm.

Pet Therapy –Clients will get the opportunity to playplay group blog photo 2 with our pet therapy dogs, see tricks, and enjoy their furry company! All ages are welcome. Pet Therapy will be on the 3rd Tuesday of every month from 5:30pm to 6:30pm.

Play-A-Palooza – Our adapted Play-A-Palooza play group incorporates play and music to build cognitive and physical skills (for ages 0-5 years old). Play-A-Palooza in Stafford is held on the 1st and 3rd Thursdays of the month from 10:30am to 11:20am. The Stafford location is 12300 Parc Crest Dr. Stafford, TX 77477.

To be added to our Easter Seals Greater Houston Play Group Database to receive weekly updates, please contact Lindsey Holton at 713-838-9050 x 309 or at lholton@eastersealshouston.org

For more information on our Play Groups please visit us at www.eastersealshouston.org

Lindsey Holton, Easter Seals Greater Houston, Program Director

Leave a comment

Filed under Latest News

Getting the MOST Out of Camp

 

GroupCamp MOST (Miles of Smiles for Teens) is Easter Seals Greater Houston’s three-day overnight retreat for teens with cerebral palsy. Camp MOST and Easter Seals’ Transition Program teamed up to create four jam sessions, group sessions for learning and reflection. The four topics covered self esteem; understanding realistic vs. unrealistic expectations and exploring options; conflicts and setbacks; and envisioning the future. Great group chats were had, and they didn’t stop when the sessions ended- you could hear the teens still talking about the topics around the table at mealtimes!

Ever wonder who our Camp MOST teens are or what they’re like?  Here’s a glimpse, in their own words:

DSC_0004What are you good at?

  • Writing & reading
  • Painting
  • Making friends
  • Learning
  • Art & being sassy
  • Listening
  • Swimming & running
  • Making conversation
  • Coding
  • Expressing my opinion
  • Riding horses
  • Video games
  • Making people laugh

What are your goals and ambitions?

  • Get stronger physically
  • Lower my school stress
  • Be the best person I can be
  • Publish a book
  • Continue to go to school and work
  • Work hard in school
  • Go to college and move out
  • Finish college
  • Express myself
  • Do well at Rodeo
  • Transfer to a 4 year college, get a degree, and become a web designer
  • Walk across the stage at graduation (from a camper who uses a wheelchair)

What makes you strong?DSC_0097

  • My spirit to get back up
  • My kindness
  • Having a good heart
  • Being myself
  • The people who love me
  • My work ethic
  • My sense of humor
  • Church
  • The support and encouragement I get from friends on social media

My future is bright because…

  • I’m going to try my best in life
  • I’ll be graduating soon
  • I do amazing at school
  • My positive attitude
  • My family and friends support me
  • I’m me
  • I’m talented
  • I’m going to prom with a pretty girl
  • I work hard, I don’t give up, and I don’t feel sorry for myself

Special thanks to Jacquelyn Miller, Easter Seals Greater Houston’s Ready to Achieve Mentoring Program (RAMP) Coordinator/Transition Coordinator, for adapting the curriculum for Camp MOST, and to Amy Burgdorf for facilitating the jam sessions.

Leave a comment

Filed under Latest News

High School High Tech Royalty and Celebrating Disability Employment Awareness Month!

Hear ye, hear ye! Easter Seals Greater Houston‘s High School High Tech is homecomingking4pleased to announce that we now have Royalty among us!  Montgomery ISD just crowned our very own HSHT student, Jahlil Howard, to be the 2016 Montgomery High School Homecoming King! Jahlil, a high school senior, is a second year participant in our High School High Tech and Ready to Achieve Mentoring program and has been a shining example of leadership to his peers.

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.

homecomingking2This outgoing Senior has been super active in our HSHT program and has participated in several career field trips including Montgomery County Mock Interview Day, tours of Olive Garden and Woodforest National Bank and even defied gravity at a HSHT indoor skydiving event at IFly Woodlands!  In addition to HSHT, Jahlil continues to break barriers as an avid runner and member of the MHS Varsity Cross Country Team and has been recognized with several awards for his Cross Country achievements, including District Champ, all the while maintaining his steady summer job. homecomingking1

Jahlil became involved with HSHT with the support and encouragement of his MISD Transition Specialist Lesa Bolling who proudly remarked, “Jahlil is an awesome young man with an outstanding personality! He makes everyone around him feel at ease. Jahlil’s faith is grounded and he speaks of it often.” Mrs. Bolling couldn’t have said it better!  Congratulations to our amazing young man, and Royal Highness, Jahlil Howard!

Carmen Phillips, Easter Seals Greater Houston
Montgomery County HSHT Program Coordinator

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Latest News

Miraculous Megan: Longtime Client and Friend

Megan Fry is an amazing 17 year old girl. She has been part of the Easter Seals Greater Houston family for over 10 years. She has the mind and the personality of a typical developing teenage girl. She loves art and has her own website, Just My Eye, that meg-w-dvox-300x225showcases her creations. One of Megan’s many unique qualities is that she was born with cerebral palsy, with an end result of being nonverbal and using a wheelchair to maneuver around. You need to be careful because she drives her chair around very fast! She communicates and shows off her big personality by using a Tobii. The Tobii is a device that allows Megan to use her eyes to pick out her words which are then shared through the speaker.

Over the years, Megan has attended our summer camps, participated in Family Day Out, received In-Home Respite, and participated in our BridgingApps program. Her family has participated in our Lil’ Rustler Rodeo night with the Houston Livestocgroupk Show and Rodeo, used a Respitality weekend, participated in our Walk With Me at the Houston Zoo event and our Hats Off to Mother’s Luncheon. We were fortunate to have Megan as our summer intern this past year. She created and distributed our Easter Seals Montgomery County newsletter. Megan is currently participating in our Family Day Out program as a Junior Director. She is amazing with our clients and our families.

CIMG1544

Megan is a true success story and ambassador for Easter Seals Greater Houston. Megan and her mom even went on speaking engagements last year to represent Easter Seals during the United Way campaign. She has received services and continues to give back to our community. We can’t wait to see what the future holds for Megan because we know there is nothing she can’t accomplish!

Kristie Carlisle, Respite Program, Easter Seals Greater Houston

Check out Megan’s dad’s post about how assistive technology helped him connect with his daughter here!

Leave a comment

Filed under Latest News

Ready to Achieve Mentoring Program with High School / High Tech and #STEM

January was National Mentoring Month, and so I want to take a minute to recognize one of our favorite volunteer mentors, Damon Dash, with our Easter Seals 2016 ramp mentorGreater Houston High School High Tech Program. Damon has been a mentor with our RAMP (Ready to Achieve Mentoring) program for four years, and is still going strong! The students that we work with come from all different backgrounds, and have all different types of abilities and challenges, but the one thing they all have in common (as they do with any high school student!) is that they can use advice from a mentor.

RAMPOver the years, Damon has been a mentor at three different schools, and is loved by his mentees. “S” was always so proud when Damon would come to cheer him on at his football games, and “E” was so happy to have someone help him fill out job applications (which led to him getting a job!). When “A” needed advice about school work, Damon was the first one he went to for help. The role of a mentor changes with each mentee they are paired with, and we love to see the impact that a wide variety of people have on our students. Damon loves to interact with our students, and as shown in this picture, they love learning from him, too!

From accountants to social work graduate students to Metro bus controllers to advisors from The University of Houston, we have had all sorts of volunteers come to help our students, and we are so grateful!

High School High Tech is always looking for new mentors, tour sites, volunteers for mock interview day, and summer internships hosts! Great way to get your company involved with STEM!!!

Erin Johnson, Easter Seals Greater Houston, High School High Tech Program Director

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Latest News

Keeping It In Perspective

March 2016 Transition blog by Jacquie

I stumbled across a short poem online the other day.

Cause I ain’t got a pencil
By Joshua T. Dickerson

I woke myself up
Because we ain’t got an alarm clock
Dug in the dirty clothes basket,
Cause ain’t nobody washed my uniform
Brushed my hair and teeth in the dark,
Cause the lights ain’t on
Even got my baby sister ready
Cause my mama wasn’t home.
Got us both to school on time,
To eat us a good breakfast.
Then when I got to class the teacher fussed
Cause I ain’t got a pencil.

Despite my making a conscious effort everyday to remember that not everyone’s circumstances are the same, I still need reminding sometimes. I still need to remember some of my students will come to class without something they need simply because they just don’t have it. It isn’t always forgetfulness. It isn’t always laziness. It isn’t always defiance of the rules. Some of the time, maybe even a lot of the time, they just don’t have it. It isn’t because they don’t want to listen and it isn’t because they don’t care.

During my first year with Easter Seals Greater Houston‘s High School/High Tech Program, a student asked what the house I grew up in looked like. I told everyone it was small but my parents took great care of it and made sure it always looked nice. They still do. They have lived in that house for 35 years. The student then said,

So, how big was the downstairs of your house?

I didn’t know and I hadn’t ever really thought about it.

Well, the downstairs is maybe a few feet bigger than this classroom.

My student, who is one of the funniest people I have ever known, laughed and said,

Miss. Do you know how big my whole house is? My ENTIRE house? It’s the size of this corner!

He walked over and held his arms out in a big bear hug stance and stood in the corner showing everyone that his house was as small as that space.

When we eat dinner, all our elbows touch. Me, my mama, my step dad, and my sister. Our elbows touch like this…

and he forced his elbows together in front of himself.  I will miss this kid next year. He is graduating. I am so proud of him but sad for myself.

Everyone laughed watching his theatrics including me, probably more than anyone else. But, it made me think. I’ve always thought of my house as small, but to someone who didn’t have that much, that house was pretty impressive. I’ve always been proud of it because my parents spent so many hours keeping it up and making sure it was the nicest house on our street; and it was and it still is.

I didn’t really realize that I was so fortunate to have things that other people with less might really admire. I had a picture of my parents’ house on my phone. I took it before I moved to Houston three years ago so that I could look at it whenever I got homesick. I showed my students and they all replied with “whoa!” and “that’s a nice house, miss” and “look at your street! It’s like a movie street!” They were right and I hadn’t realized until they said it.

I gain little bits of perspective slowly over time. My students teach it to me; these kids with challenges I have never had to face. What I always thought was average was actually really beautiful to some of them. What I always thought was an unspoken rule – bringing a pen or pencil to all my classes – was easy for me because I had all the things I needed for school. Money was set aside for school supplies and new school clothes every year without thought and without question. Not everyone has that. Some of my students don’t have that. I hope to change it somehow.

I bring spare pens to class now.

-Jacquie Miller, Transition, Easter Seals Greater Houston

To read more posts by Jacquie Miller, visit J-Vibe

Leave a comment

Filed under Latest News