What a great 2012-2013 school year! The Caroline School at Easter Seals Greater Houston is finishing its first year in our new space and we have grown with three classrooms and have expanded to include a pilot summer program. Our summer program will take place during June and July. Each week during the summer there will be a “summer theme” activity that correlates to a book and specific crafts. While our main focus during the summer is to continue our strong academics we will also be doing other fun activities such as music therapy, water play and yoga.
We are looking forward to the 2013-2014 school year! Have a great summer!
Based on demand, the need to reestablish the Caroline School arose from the issue of choice and making available an option for parents of children with significant disabilities who were/are seeking availability of a private alternative to existing public school special education programs. The focus is on meeting the physical, cognitive and social needs of the child including available physical, occupational and speech therapy on site (billed through Medicaid or private pay). Dependent on length of child’s school day and child’s needs, tuition ranges between $900-$2,500/monthly (scholarships and financial aid may be available).
This past weekend, Easter Seals Grater Houston held its third installment of our teen camp, Camp 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, we 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 MOST 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!”
*Easter Seals Greater Houston is committed to being a lifelong partner for individuals of all ages with disabilities, and their families. Adult Services offers educational and recreational opportunities to adults with disabilities. This program offers many of its clients’ their only opportunity for socializing and provides respite for the adult participant’s caregivers. Stay tuned for how much fun our clients has while learning to incorporate the Ipad into their lives, communication and education.
Many of you may not know it, but on many a Saturday the Easter Seals Greater Houston Adult Program goes bowling. It’s an all-volunteer affair sometimes with National Charity League, sometimes with Junior League, sometimes with different church groups but all with an emphasis on fun in the moment. I’ve had the privilege and pleasure of attending the past few years when my schedule permits. And at the end of the games, I’m always glad I did.
The Metro vans begin to roll in @ 10 AM to the bowling alley, and it takes very little time for the excitement to build. The program members collect by our side of the alley, catching up with each other since the last time they met; while some volunteers begin fishing out the ramps from storage. All the logistics takes a bit; what ramps for which lanes with who is assigned where, then getting everyone situated after traversing the lane seating area while pulling bowling balls from bags and lockers.
Finally, everyone arrives and all is set so practice can begin as a warm-up. This is also a warm-up for the volunteers, each having one to two bowlers to assist in getting the ball to their ramp, and learning the intricacies of how each bowler likes their ball to be set. After a few frames, it is time to begin bowling in earnest.
It’s a three game series, with whoever ends up with the highest average score wining free bowling for the day. And just to keep things on the up and up, Edith often serves as score keeper recording the player’s results for each game. Don’t let the smile fool you, the competition will begin to heat up fast.
My first bowler is Tom, as usual looking dapper in his winter hat. He’s kind of irresistible to the female volunteers, so he is always getting big hugs. He has his own bowling ball and can play a mean game. Once he gets a feel for his lane, his aim is unerringly accurate. No surprises when he gets a strike, often with a number of spares to follow. Getting scores of 150 points a game puts him in contention to be high scorer.
This is Bryan, my other bowling companion for the day. His big smile is no accident; he has a bright outlook on life. He recently got his own bowling ball and likes to use the heavy ramps for stability. He’s a bit of a power bowler, those balls fly down the ramp.
There is rivalry between the bowlers to see who gets high score every game. But what’s more important are those strikes, whenever someone gets one there are plenty of compliments and encouragement in their direction from everyone else. Pulling off a difficult shot to get a spare also brings a lot of attention. For us volunteers, time seems to fly by. Of course, after the games some nourishment is in order for the bowlers; favorite food, Pepsi and pizza.
By Carl, Long-time ESGH Volunteer. To donate to support this program and others like it, click here. Adult Services offers recreational opportunities to adults with disabilities. This program offers many of its clients’ their only opportunity for socializing and provides respite for the adult participant’s caregivers.
*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.
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!
I 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!
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!
“Light It Up Blue” – Autism Awareness Month
Awareness by nature of the word invokes the idea of heightened sensitivity, noticing something new in surroundings, maintaining a sense of curiosity and increased perception . Awareness is an opportunity to become educated in new areas of life.
In this month, which is dedicated to Autism Awareness, I hope that those unaware of autism spectrum disorders and unfamiliar with how individuals with neurological differences present to others, take the time to open their eyes and hearts and achieve a heightened sense of awareness.
This heightened awareness is most crucial in accepting our friends with invisible disabilities, those often categorized as high functioning. To the unaware, they appear “normal” but the social nuance offenses often occur and inevitably cause confusion or intolerance.
If we increase awareness however, upon reflection, the perceptive observer will notice the person behind the shy gaze, the maladaptive tone of voice, the learned responses or the over zealous response to a simple question.
All is takes is a mere fleeting second to consider with new awareness why the nuances of a social situation were “off”. What were the expectations in a social situation that were not met as anticipated and why? Was the encounter interpreted correctly or was there a cloaked exchange requiring a moment of sensitive awareness?
We all know someone deserving of our heightened awareness.
With conscious attention we can recognize talents and unique personality traits instead of perpetuating stereotypes and intolerance.
Be aware that communication comes in all styles.
An individual’s disability may be invisible, but their feelings are very real.
A new friendship full of amazing potential awaits in return.
Social Motion Skills – a program of Easter Seals Greater Houston was founded almost solely based on this reasoning. Teaching children and adolescents with social integration difficulties (autism spectrum disorders, ADHD, language and learning differences) to break through everyday social barriers in order to lead happy, integrated lives.
I’ve been asked to write about my daughter “L” and the help she has received from Easter Seals Greater Houston. My daughter “L” was born premature, anywhere from six to eight weeks early. “L” had a low Apgar score at birth, needed assistance with her breathing, and spent eleven days in the special care nursery at the hospital before being discharged. “L” seemed healthy until her six month checkup, when we first heard a doctor say the term “cerebral palsy”. At 14 months old, a MRI confirmed the diagnosis of cerebral palsy. “L” began physical and occupational therapy in Tucson at 15 months old. We moved back to Houston in 2009 with “L” still getting therapy. In December 2010, “L” had her first seizure and was officially diagnosed with epilepsy in February 2011. In May 2011, with both my wife and I working full-time, our family income was now too high for “L” to receive benefits through SSI. Without the accompanying Medicaid benefits that came with SSI, “L” had to stop her therapy. The place where “L” was receiving therapy only took Medicaid; they would not accept my private insurance. Not knowing what to do next, a Google search brought up Easter Seals Greater Houston. Easter Seals Greater Houston said they did indeed offer therapy and did take private insurance. The Easter Seals staff helped us get “L” Medicaid benefits through the Texas Medicaid Buy-In for Children program. That form of Medicaid lasted only a year, because our income is now too high for that program’s income limit. So starting in November 2012, we’ve been getting therapy only using our private insurance. One of the reasons we started “L” getting therapy at Easter Seals was she could keep getting therapy from them even if her Medicaid benefits stopped.
When “L” started physical therapy in the summer of 2011 at Easter Seals, she had only been walking for a year. By walking, I mean she could walk maybe across a room without grabbing onto something for support. “L” still used crutches, held someone’s hand or used walls and furniture to walk longer distances. “L” was able to start therapy at Easter Seals twice a week. Eventually we were able to get “L” a time slot for occupational therapy right before her physical therapy, so now she gets both types of therapy twice a week. Her physical therapist Melissa and her occupational therapist Monica have been a blessing and are having a huge impact on “L”’s life.
The progress “L” has made at Easter Seals has been astounding. I see “L” everyday, so I know this progress doesn’t happen overnight. I tell people that “L”’s progress is a miracle that happens just a little bit each day. To others though, who aren’t around “L” on a daily basis, her progress can seem like it happened overnight. “L” during her first year of therapy at Easter Seals went from needing crutches and assistance in walking long distances, to being able to walk the entire school hallway on her own. I noticed this last summer when I was getting “L” from Sunday school, that she was playing tag with the other kids in the school library. Now of course she wasn’t moving as fast as the other kids, but I noticed for the first time her moving in one direction, stopping and turning to start moving in another direction and doing so without grabbing onto anything for support. It’s moments like that when I remember; this girl didn’t walk across a room without the aid of a walker or crutches until she was 6 years old.
“L” started 2nd grade this fall, and Friday in PE class is Lap Day. That is the day the kids walk laps around the ball field. The PE teacher tells me eight laps around the ball field equals one mile. “L” started out the school year in August being able to finish two laps. By October the PE teacher said “L” was doing four laps, or half a mile. “L” would soon have the opportunity to participate in the Fun Run/Buddy Field Day fund-raiser for the Athletics Department at her school. The event was held during school the last Thursday in October. The PE teacher encouraged “L” to do more than four laps. Well “L” went out there that day and did eight laps, a full mile. My wife and I couldn’t be there that day, but there were a lot of parents there volunteering during the event. The church’s Trunks and Treat festival was the next evening. My wife and I kept being told by people how amazed they were at how far “L” had walked on her own. At a Halloween party later that night, the dad of one of the other girls in “L”’s 2nd grade class started crying as he told me how moved he was watching “L” walk a mile on her own that day. People at the church and school saw “L” arrive for Kindergarten barely able to get around with a walker, and now they see her able to walk a mile on her own as a 2nd grader. Walkers and crutches are in the past for “L”. We still have a wheelchair for when we go to the mall or the zoo, and the next goal is to make the wheelchair a thing of the past for “L”. Melissa, her Easter Seals physical therapist is the guide to making this progress happen.
The occupational therapy “L” receives at Easter Seals has helped her fine tune her motor skills. She continues to improve with her ability to dress herself. Getting clothes on and off is becoming easier for her. Her handwriting has improved and now she is even attempting to do cursive writing. Her latest achievement is being able to tie the laces on her shoes. I knew something was up one night when I arrived home from work. “L” was sitting there in the big chair with the biggest smile on her face. She had just arrived home herself from her therapy sessions. She proceeded to sit there and tie her shoelaces into a perfect knot. Yes it took three attempts, but the third time was the charm. I gave that girl the biggest hug. When “L” was a toddler, all she could do is move her fingers in unison like she was doing a waving motion. Now at age of eight she is tying her shoes. Without occupational therapy and Monica, her Easter Seals occupational therapist, “L” wouldn’t be able to tie her shoelaces.
Another great thing Easter Seals has done for “L” is be the sponsor for Camp Smiles held at Camp for All near Burton, TX. “L” got to go to camp for the first time last summer. “L” absolutely loved camp. She loved the fact the camp was setup so she, and other children like her, could have fun. On the way home from camp she asked me if should could go back next year. That camp and all the fun those children have there doesn’t happen without the help and hard work of the people at Easter Seals Greater Houston.
Easter Seals is there for “L”. I get emails from Easter Seals where they make you aware of legislation that affects the benefits and rights of the disabled. Easter Seals is out there fighting for the rights of people like “L”. They are out there, reminding our elected officials that money spent on kids like “L” is not wasted money. I look at how far “L” has come since she first started therapy. Money spent on these kids early, when they are still developing will give them a better chance at a normal adult life. The more normal an adult life they have, the less money they’ll need from government resources as an adult. In the business world, Return on Investment is what the executives are always worried about. Let me tell you, the Return on Investment on the monetary resources that have gone towards helping “L” is off the charts. All you have to do is look at where “L” started in 2005 and where she is now in 2013. Easter Seals gets this idea, and is out there fighting for the needs of disabled children.
I thank God all the time for helping me find the kind people at Easter Seals Greater Houston. They are there for “L”. They are there to answer my questions. They are there to help fight and provide a voice for the disabled in Washington DC and elsewhere. They are there everyday, making Houston and the surrounding area a better place to live.
We at Easter Seals Greater Houston have countless stories of our clients with disabilities who are non-verbal and who were previously thought to not be at the same cognitive level of their peers, actually be cognitively higher than their peers but just needing the outlet of communication devices. Many of our clients and their families live below the poverty level, simply due to care-giving issues and medical bills – placing expensive communication devices out of their reach. We are incredibly proud of our AT&T Assistive Technology Lab, which allows anyone in our community who has the need to try out assistive technology to be able to do so with assistance and guidance and with no charge, and our BridgingApps.org program, which was conceived, implemented and expanded only because of a few incredible parents and their sheer will and determination. We our especially proud of the parents who when faced with a stumbling block, figure out a way around it and share it with the world. This is one of the cases. Thank you to all of you. Family, friends, parents, teachers, counselors, schools and employers, etc – take a look at the training, curriculum, evaluation capabilities and therapist reviewed apps that have come out of the combination of parents and the cutting edge technology that is in the forefront of our world today.
Our son Nolan, has been non-verbal for the last 11 years. We have been working with him since the age of one on speech utilizing a wide range of speech therapy, different therapists, and a wide assortment of assistive technology also known as Augmentive and Alternative Communication devices (AAC). Over the last five years we have incorporated a huge number of apps for iPod Touch, iPhone and iPad into Nolan’s speech communication tools. We noticed that although Nolan could not speak, he began to communicate with us by showing us pictures on our smartphones. We wondered if we could design and create an app that could organize pictures in a simple, but intuitive way to facilitate what Nolan was trying to communicate. This is how urTalker Pro was developed. Many non-verbal, autistic and special needs individuals have the ability to learn and use assistive technology, but the price for specific devices can be prohibitive. urTalker was developed to be affordable .
We were invited to share information about our app at a BridgingApps monthly meeting and appreciated the opportunity to demonstrate how the app works and provide a copy for the AT&T Assistive Technology Lab at Easter Seals Greater Houston. Families and professionals are welcome to try out the app in the lab and give us feedback. We believe this is only the beginning, and we plan to develop additional apps, specifically one in Spanish and one targeted to those recovering from strokes. urTalker Pro is a fully featured communication app providing affordable augmentative and alternative communication. This assistive technology app comes with fully customizable grid or “board” style views for categories and words allowing the user to grow with the app. You can start with simple 1 or 2 word communication views and move all the way up to 16 grid displays for advanced communication needs.
urTalker allow you to leverage the camera and audio on the iPad to add your own picture and sounds so individuals can fully personalize the app with their home, food, therapy or related items that help them communicate. Our applications are designed to help individuals with communication disabilities have a voice. Our communication apps are designed to become a portable communication device that is fully customized to that individual. Whether it is a child or an adult our apps are designed for simple to complex communication and easy to configure. While every urTalker communication app comes with default categories and images, every app provides the ability to create any number or additional categories, load any type of image and most importantly record your voice for use with those images and words.
Unless Congress acts soon, the majority of federal programs will be cut by approximately 5% on March 1, limiting already strained programs for children and adults with disabilities and their families.
I’m writing this letter because I’m concerned that Texas will decrease their funding for ECI services. Over the last year I have learned how important Early Childhood Intervention services are and I would like to share with you my story or rather my daughters’ stories. In March of 2012 Easter Seals Greater Houston evaluated my 2nd born daughter, K, who was a week away from turning two years old. We were concerned about “K”’s speech, which was delayed. Weeks prior to our evaluation “K” finally said mama, which was one of just a handful of words she could say. And when I say words, I mean “words” that only a mother could understand/figure out. After a thorough evaluation she was determined to be behind in Expressive Communication with no other delays, which wasn’t enough to qualify her for ECI services. I can’t tell you how upsetting it was to hear that my daughter ranked 2nd percentile in Expressive Communication, but that it was not enough to qualify her for the ECI speech therapy due to no other delays. In April 2012 “K” started Speech Therapy privately and after months of working with private insurance her therapy sessions were finally approved. “K” attended speech therapy for 6 months and in September 2012 she tested out of speech therapy. It’s still difficult to understand “K”, but she has come so far in such a short time. Speech Therapy did wonders for “K” and gave her the tools she needed to catch up to her peers in expressive language. Luckily for us we took the initiative to seek private speech therapy and our insurance approved it. Unfortunately, there are many children out there who don’t qualify through ECI speech or any other therapy, whose parents work but don’t have appropriate insurance or don’t have insurance at all and fall through the cracks. It makes me sad, because early intervention is so very important. And these same children will not be school ready when its time.
At the same time we were seeking services through ECI for “K” we had our 3rd child, “L”. “L” was born on March 1st, 2012 from an unremarkable pregnancy and delivery. At four months old “L” was a very fussy baby, still very newborn-like and not making eye-contact. In early July “L” was evaluated by a Pediatric Ophthalmologist and it was concluded that she was not seeing much of anything and was diagnosed with poor vision and possibly Delayed Visual Maturation. I spent the next few weeks (and months) researching everything I could on poor vision. I also contacted Easter Seals Greater Houston’s ECI, because I knew “L” was going to need a lot of help. I was very nervous about the evaluation, because I’d gone through this once before with “K” and was let down when she didn’t qualify. I was prepared to defend my daughters need for services, but it was apparent very early in the evaluation that “L” qualified for the services due to her poor vision and delayed motor skills. Over the following 7 months my beautiful “L” learned so much with the help of ECI services. Her services included (and continue to include) Physical Therapy 4 times a month, Occupational Therapy 3 times a month, Nutrition every 2 months and Vision services through HISD 3 times a month. “L”’s vision has improved greatly and her motor skills are almost on schedule for her age. She is now 11 months old and just started crawling. “L” has had to work so much harder to achieve her milestones and that is with the wonderful help of her therapists and teachers. I am so grateful for their help and I can’t imagine where we’d be today if it wasn’t for these services.
I was greatly worried after learning that ECI may receive decreased funding. I’m worried what decreases could do to the services our children receive. Is it going to be even harder for children to qualify? Will their delays have to be so much worse in order to qualify? Early intervention is supposed to prevent delays not wait for them to get worse. I believe Early Childhood Intervention is just that; it’s “Early Intervention”. I believe it makes a difference in children’s lives (my child’s life). It’s hard to understand how very important this service is unless you experience it for yourself with your own children. I truly feel ECI has changed my daughter’s life; that it has given her a chance to have a chance at a normal life. And I know my story is not the only one; I know there are numerous parents out there who feel the same as I do. Please continue to support our children in the program of Early Childhood Intervention. Our children deserve it!
Weigh in with your government now! https://easterseals.capwiz.com/easterseals//issues/alert/?alertID=62169961
The picture of us gold mining for fake jewelry and gems pops onto the white screen. I can feel the sides of my mouth grow and my cheeks now double in size. Then I look to her mother and see the happiness in her eyes as she sees that her child had fun that week. J is an eleven-year-old girl that I cared for over the course of a week at Easter Seals Greater Houston‘s Camp Smiles Overnight Camp at Camp for All. She is not an ordinary girl either she has cerebral palsy, which is a disability that affects the motor control of the body, but that nor her wheelchair let her define who she is.
As we gathered into the main hall to meet the parents of the campers, I see her parents stand up and wave their hands with excitement to see her. As I pointed to them she immediately saw her parents and thrusted her electric wheelchair towards them. I wrapped my arms around her mother’s and pat each other lightly on the back and I shake her father’s hand as firmly as possible. Immediately after that she looked up at her dad and said that she wanted to go to the car grab all her stuff and go home. Did I do something wrong? Did she not have fun with me? Her mom tells me that she hates saying goodbye and will avoid that interaction anyway she can. I chuckled with the relief that it was not my fault she wanted to leave. The slideshow plays and J was outside with her father not wanting to face the fact of saying goodbye. I sat next her mother and we saw the picture of us up on the screen I started to feel my throat close and my face turn red as the memories of the week flash through my head. Her mother gave a bigger hug than before and said “Thank you; you do not know how much this means to us and for J.” I replied, “No, you do not know how much this means to me. She completely changed my life.”
When I said those last five words I knew in that moment it was true. An eleven-year-old girl who has not even entered the fourth grade changed my entire viewpoint on life. She made me see that others come before me and also to not always be selfish in a way that hurts others. In life we always take for granted the people in wheelchairs or with disabilities. It makes us think we are better than them but in actuality we are equal to them. J made me see her not as kid in a wheelchair but as the most charismatic child on the planet.
Miriam Vicentea, Camp Smiles Counselor
The Avril Lavigne Foundation Brings Fun to Kids & Youth with Disabilities
(Los Angeles, January 25, 2012) – The Avril Lavigne Foundation announced the expansion of the Avril Lavigne Rockstar Clubs at Easter Seals into 10 markets in the U.S. and Canada to support much-needed recreational programming for kids and youth with disabilities to just be kids, explore their talents, make friends and have fun.
All North American Easter Seals affiliates were invited to apply for an Avril Lavigne Rockstar Club at Easter Seals grant. Following a review of the applicants, award-winning singer/songwriter and philanthropist Avril Lavigne selected ten Easter Seals grant recipients located in Los Angeles, California; Houston, Texas; Great Falls, Montana; Chicago, Illinois; Honolulu, Hawaii; Las Vegas, Nevada; Seattle, Washington; Youngstown, Ohio; Miami, Florida; and Alberta, Canada.
The selection was based on their overall impact and embodiment of the Avril Lavigne Foundation’s R.O.C.K.S. mission: to provide Respect, Opportunity, Choices, Knowledge, and Strength to children and youth living with serious illnesses or disabilities.
“It was really tough to pick the final ten,” said Lavigne. “I was so inspired by the creativity of everyone who applied and the exciting range of opportunities the Easter Seals affiliates presented. I have seen first-hand from my work with Easter Seals how important recreation programs are for kids with disabilities. My goal is to help bring more resources to these great programs which are often the first to experience budget cuts.”
Winning programs include overnight camp scholarships, a cooking/ life skills camp; social skills classes, an equestrian camp and a sibling support group; dance therapy classes; youth services programs including community outings and field trips for teens, a multi-sensory learning camp, a program to connect teens with disabilities with other kids in their community, and an adaptive bikes program. To learn more, please visit The Avril Lavigne Foundation website: www.theavrillavignefoundation.org.
“We’re so lucky to have such an incredible partner in Avril and The Avril Lavigne Foundation. She cares deeply about making sure kids and young people with disabilities have every opportunity to live life to the fullest, pursue their dreams, and find happiness. She’s also passionate about sharing a message of inclusion, that kids and young people with disabilities want to laugh, have fun with their friends, and just fit in – like all of us,” says James E. Williams, Jr., President and Chief Executive Officer, Easter Seals. “We also know when it comes to Easter Seals, Avril was most inspired by our recreational programming – services where kids and teens with disabilities can just be kids through social events, music, theater, sports, arts, leisure time, hobbies, getting out in the community and camp. That’s what The Avril Lavigne Rockstar Club at Easter Seals is all about.”
About Avril Lavigne
Avril Lavigne is a multi-platinum, Grammy-nominated singer/ songwriter. Avril is also a dedicated philanthropist, who was inspired by her work with children who are seriously ill or who have disabilities to form The Avril Lavigne Foundation in 2010. She also currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Nancy Davis Foundation for Multiple Sclerosis and has publicly supported a number of charitable organizations over the years, including Amnesty International, the Make-A-Wish Foundation, War Child, and YouthAIDS.
About The Avril Lavigne Foundation
Award-winning singer/songwriter and philanthropist Avril Lavigne created The Avril Lavigne Foundation in early 2010. The Avril Lavigne Foundation R.O.C.K.S.: Respect, Opportunity, Choices, Knowledge, and Strength in support of children and youth living with serious illnesses or disabilities. The Foundation partners with leading charitable organizations to design and deliver programs, raise awareness and mobilize support for children and youth living with a serious illness or a disability.
About Easter Seals
Easter Seals is the leading non-profit provider of services for individuals with autism, developmental disabilities, physical disabilities and other special needs. For over 90 years, they have been offering help and hope to children and adults living with disabilities, and to the families who love them. Through therapy, training, education and support services, Easter Seals creates life-changing solutions so that people with disabilities can live, learn, work and play. Support children and adults with disabilities at www.easterseals.com.