Tag Archives: teens with disabilities

Carrying On The Family Tradition

Last month I had the amazing opportunity of volunteering with Easter Seals Greater Houston at Camp M.O.S.T.! The camp is a weekend long retreat for teens with disabilities to socialize, gain confidence and be comfortable just the way they are. Over the course of a weekend I was able to build meaningful connections with the teens in my cabin as we shared our interests and unique experiences with each other. Because of the smaller size of the group we were all able to share meals together and spend more time talking with each other in between activities! It was a great chance to set down the phone for a weekend and be present. I found my time at Camp M.O.S.T. to be empowering and uplifting, but most importantly really fun! I am looking forward to the Fall Camp Smiles in November!

 I have to give credit to my discovery of Easter Seals Greater Houston and this exceptional program to my sister Dr. Margaret Markham, who volunteered at Camp Smiles from 2000-2007, my brother-in-law Dr. Travis Markham, who volunteered at Camp Smiles from 2000-2008, and my brother Michael Ryan, who volunteered at Camp Smiles from 2002-2009. Upon moving to Houston for college my siblings encouraged me to get involved with Easter Seals Greater Houston and themselves have stayed active through donations. As a family we believe that Easter Seals Greater Houston is an incredible organization that touches close to our hearts!
-Mary Kate Ryan

Learn more about getting plugged into Easter Seals Greater Houston’s Camp and Recreation programs as a camper, counselor, or volunteer! Further the mission of 100% inclusive and joyful camps by donating today!

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Back-to-School with TexasYouth2Adult

BridgingApps' Amy Fuchs giving a presentation over TexasYouth2Adult

The following blog was written by the Easter Seals Greater Houston’s BridgingApps Team.

As school gets geared back up, you may be like many parents who are looking at the last few years of their teenager’s school years and asking themselves questions such as, “What happens next?” or “Are they prepared for adulthood?”.  If you need guidance getting your teen ready to transition to adulthood, our website, www.TexasYouth2Adult.com, is a great place to start! 

Preview of TexasYouth2Adult Categories

TexasYouth2Adult empowers parents by giving them the questions they did not know they needed to ask in lists organized by age and easy-to-search categories including Medical, Education, Social & Recreational, Legal & Advocacy, Financial Management, Independent Living, and Employment. So for example, for a task categorized as Medical, they know to start with their child’s physician when asking questions.  Because TexasYouth2Adult is organized not only by categories, but also by lists created based on age ranges, parents are able to look ahead so that they can be prepared for discussing transition before the school waits to begin the discussion, which is often right before the student’s 14th birthday.

TexasYouth2Adult also contains a wealth of articles and apps related to transition needs.  For example, maybe you or your adult child needs to notarize a document.  Did you know there is an app that allows you to have certain documents notarized using the camera on your mobile device?  Check out the BridgingApps review of Notarize to learn more.  Maybe your young adult needs assistance reading certain materials for class or for their jobs?  In this case, a text-to-speech app like Speechify could be a great tool for them to have on their smartphone or tablet.

To learn more about helping your loved one move from childhood to adulthood, visit www.TexasYouth2Adult.com and create a free account so that you can access the recommended tasks lists and all of the helpful articles.  For more suggestions on recommended apps or to search for your own apps, visit www.BridgingApps.org.

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The most important thing about Camp MOST

This wonderful mini success story was written by Camp M.O.S.T. volunteer, Darrell, on his most recent application for virtual Camp M.O.S.T. taking place this month. 

“I’ve had the blessing to experience both in-person and online Camp MOST. Although one might not be ideal as the other, I can’t express how much I’ve enjoyed them both. I’ve learned that what makes Camp MOST special isn’t the location, the ice cream, or the 2 hours of sleep. It’s the campers, the counselors, and the dancing to music like nothing matters that makes Camp MOST special to me. I wouldn’t change a thing about our camp!!”

Easter Seals Greater Houston is so proud to host inclusive and unbelievably fun camps, for kids, teens, and families throughout the year. Learn more about our camps!

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Transition and Employment in the Pandemic

2020 has been anything but usual for the adolescents and adults Easter Seals Greater Houston serves and it has certainly been different for our staff. We have learned to provide services remotely and to help both job seekers and employers adapt to the changing circumstances in which people work and supervise the people who work in their companies.

In March, COVID-19 halted in-person services for high school students in our summer program which, after a two month hiatus, returned as remote services. Our staff, Robert Aranda, Ron Taylor, and Jacquie Privitera, had to figure out how to make lessons interesting and engaging for the students while meeting the requirements of the Texas Workforce Commission, the sponsors of the program. Our students and staff designed a commercial for a network consulting firm and then presented that commercial to a panel of judges from local corporations. All of this was done remotely, including a job performed, for pay, by one of our students for the networking company, Sepulveda Technology Consultants.

Job seekers, and the companies that employ them, have also had to adapt to the challenges of COVID-19. Early in the pandemic, a group of young men with autism, who were completing internships in the IT Department for Chevron, had to adjust to working from home. Despite the stereotype of persons with autism preferring solitude, these men had a difficult time adjusting to not being with their supervisors and coworkers. Their Employment Specialist, Robert Aranda, had to switch from providing face to face services to making contact only by telephone. After many sessions between Robert and the employees and supervisors, all four of the interns were offered permanent positions at Chevron. They still hold their positions and are successfully working remotely today.

For some workers, going to work in an office or warehouse is not possible because of medical issues or mental illness. Ron Taylor, one of our Employment Specialists, worked remotely for several months with a person with severe back pain, searching for the right opportunity. They found a position with Walgreens that let her work from home. Ron worked with our partners at Texas Workforce Solutions to procure a chair and desk that would support her back and let her work. As her personal computer was not suitable for her job, Ron arranged for a donated computer to be made available until she can purchase her own laptop. She is now working from home, processing orders for Walgreens and is on her way to having the funds to purchase her own computer.

Robert Williams, Easter Seals Greater Houston,
Program Director – Employment/Transition Services

Easter Seals Greater Houston provides Transition Services for youth ages 16-27 with autism and mental health conditions. Services include transition evaluation and planning, social skills training, family and community resources and goals which reflect the youth’s realizable aspirations in areas of education or work, peer supports, job placement, job coaching and supported employment. Learn more.

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. High School/High Tech also offers a mentoring program called RAMP – Ready to Achieve Mentor Program. Learn more.

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College-bound… Katy Parent Night Out helps teens prepare for college!

es pno_-20

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 

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Samantha’s Communication Device gets an Update!

Last Spring, Sam transitioned from using a limited auditory scanning device to a device with unlimited app-based software using auditory scanning to communicate!samantha 1

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.samantha 2

Tabitha Hernandez, Easter Seals Greater Houston, The Caroline School Director

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Let the Camps Begin

“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

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Celebrating NDEAM – National Disability Employment Awareness Month

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

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Transition Success and Walmart Employee of the Month!

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
RAranda@eastersealshouston.org

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Anchors Aweigh Campers

IMG_1272Ahoy 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!

IMG_1175On 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!

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“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

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