Hello, My name is Will Stricklan and I am a proud member of the Easter Seals Family. I participated in my first ever Walk With Me at the Houston Zoo on April 20, 2023. I am a veteran of the United States Navy from 2003-2007 and again in 2010. In 2004, while serving on board the USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72), we were the first to respond to the Tsunami that hit Indonesia. As a result of the Tsunami and the destruction and death that came with it, 20-year-old self was left with scars that I could not handle myself. In 2012, I was diagnosed with chronic and severe PTSD, anxiety, and depression from the events that transpired from that event. My life was a constant struggle, dealing with panic attacks that would happen at random and migraines being on 11 different medications at one point. In February of 2022 I was introduced to Easter Seals and their Veteran Organization. They help individuals like me with service animals to help me with those daily struggles of living life with PTSD. I was put into contact with Allie Keaton and My Service Dog. Allie became our Drill Instructor and whipped us into shape so that when it was time to get our very own service animal that we would be ready to start training our animals when they were ready at 8 weeks old. On July 30, 2022, I received my very own dog who was ironically named William. We quickly changed that to Scooter, which was my callsign while in the Navy. Scooter has brought so much joy and balance to my life over the last 11 months. He is a smart, energetic, sweet, loving, and independent puppy. We put in the work, trusted the program, and Scooter passed his Public Access test and AKC Canine Good Citizen test at just 11 months old and finished his Service Dog Training. We both graduated this last May and walked the stage together when I received my MBA from the University of Houston – Downtown. Living with PTSD is a never ending and constant battle, but with Scooter makes life a little easier.
Thank you to Easter Seals for this unbelievable gift that you have given me and my family. The daily struggle of just trying to function in society was something that I didn’t know how to overcome. Your organization has given me another lease on life with my new best friend. I will never be able to express my full gratitude for this special gift that I received.
Thank you to My Service Dog, Calypso Breeze Australian Labradoodles, and most importantly Allie Keaton for being that person who got me in line, got me ready to train Scooter, and helping me throughout this entire process.
Emmanuel and Israel will turn 16 years old soon. My boys were born at 37 weeks and were healthy babies until around the year and half age, when they were sick frequently and had severe ear infections. They lost the words they had and at times seemed like my babies had vanished. One of the things that we experienced was lack of awareness from their first pediatrician.
By age three the boys were diagnosed with speech impairment, autism and sensory processing disorder. With the help of the Doctor who diagnosed them, I started advocating for my boys and they started PPCD and therapies outside the school. For many years the boys would be in therapy 2 to 3 times a week taking Speech, OT and PT.
The twins were busy all the time and people seemed to enjoy their cuteness and cuddles. However, after 7 years of therapy we were let go with the excuse that the boys would benefit better if they received services at home. We had a therapist for a few months and then the boys were on a waiting list for later services. One of the things I observed was that once the boys hit early puberty and were diagnosed as IDD it became really hard for teachers, therapist and even myself to control some behaviors we had not seen before. From being the cute loving twins, who people adored they were now the boys in a waiting list to hopefully receive services that they deeply needed.
A few years went by, through those years we survived domestic violence and it took me a long time to get to a place mentally where I could start their therapies again. We were in survival mode for a long time. After Covid I decided to start looking for therapy again for my boys. I reached out to several clinics but did not hear back. In my experience is their age that makes it so hard to find services. That’s when I found Easter Seals, while it is quite a drive to get to the clinic but since the first visit I knew that the boys were welcomed in there.
My boys are always eager to go to therapy on Mondays, they started using a new communication program and are more engaged. They are working on life skills as well as job skills. One of my favorite things has been the exposure to riding a bike. At ESGH, we feel seen, welcomed and accepted. As the boys get older we have to remember that they are still in need of supports and I’m so glad we found Easter Seals.
One of the things that we started doing when things got really rough and they were let go of their therapy was that we started running. As a way to heal I became a long-distance runner and my boys have completed multiple 5k races.
- Lydia, Emmanuel and Israel’s Mom
Colton was diagnosed with Cornelia de Lange Syndrome at 6 months old, after several rounds of genetic testing. Shortly after, we were seen by a developmental pediatrician who suggested we get started on in-home therapies through the Early Childhood Intervention (ECI) program. We were approved for Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy, and Speech Therapy. It has been such an incredible blessing to be seen by such amazing therapists in our home for the past 2 years. When we first started, Colton couldn't roll over from his belly to his back. We progressed into rolling, then sitting, then standing, then walking with assistance, and now- Colton is RUNNING with his brother and sisters! We work continuously on fine motor skills, speech advancements, and social adaptions. The therapists with whom we work with have become family to us, and we will be forever grateful for the role they played in Colton's development. We will always hold Easter Seals Greater Houston's ECI near to our hearts, and recommend them to anyone needing therapies for their little ones.