Monday, September 19, 2016

Working Toward a Bully-free World

It’s sad but true. Studies have repeatedly found that children with disabilities are 2-3 times more likely to be bullied than their non-disabled peers. Now that school is back in session, and the 10th anniversary of National Bullying Prevention Month is approaching, it’s incumbent upon teachers, therapists and parents to be on the lookout for signs that their student, son or daughter is being bullied. 

Once viewed as a universal rite of passage, in recent years, the destructive impact of bullying is finally receiving the attention it deserves.  In fact,  according to the Center for Disease Control, “students who are bullied are more likely to experience low self-esteem and isolation, perform poorly in school, have few friends in school, have a negative view of school, experience physical symptoms (such as headaches, stomachaches, or problems sleeping), and to experience mental health issues (such as depression, suicidal thoughts, and anxiety.”

Compounding the effects of bullying, are today’s social media platforms. In past generations, children who were bullied at school for instance, might find refuge in their homes. But the prevalence of cyber-bullying, and the 24 hour nature of digital communication means that victims of bullying may find themselves with no place to hide.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Talking Tech

Imagine knowing what you would like to say, but not being able to say it? Thanks to augmentative and alternative (AAC) devices, many children and adults with communication disorders are finding their voices.

While the earliest examples of AAC devices date back to the middle of the twentieth century with inventions such as the POSM (patient operated selector mechanism), a “sip-and-puff typewriter controller” in 1960 and the “Comhandi, an electronic letter board” a few years later, twenty-first century technology has taken AAC to an entirely new level.  Today, individuals who are non-verbal or unable to speak clearly due to autism, deafness, developmental disabilities, cerebral palsy, strokes, vocal and swallowing disorders have many options for self-expression.

When choosing a communication device, it’s essential to take the user’s individual needs into account. Not every communicator is appropriate for every person. If you’re unsure what kind of device to purchase, consult with a therapist, special educator or reach out to the folks at Enabling Devices. We’ll be happy to point you in the right direction.

Enabling Devices offers a range of communication devices and we are confident that one or more of these communicators will meet the needs of your student or family member. Here is just a sampling of our most popular communicators.

For the beginner
Is basic communication what you’re after? These one and two message communicators are easy to use. Record songs, jokes and greetings. Use them at home, work, to start a conversation, or to order at a restaurant. Learn to activate one or two messages, then move up to three, four or six!

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Best Back-to-School Reads

Do we ever outgrow that back-to-school feeling? Somehow, regardless of how old we are or how long it’s been since we actually went to school, once Labor Day weekend is over, the time for lounging at the pool, barbeques in the back yard and indulging in guilty pleasures such as ice cream and trashy beach reads are over. But it’s not all bad. Even for those of us who aren’t students any more, fall can be motivating. We’re feeling rested, restored and ready to focus on more serious pursuits—exciting personal projects, renewed interest in our careers, and catching up on challenging and intellectually rewarding reading.  Since back-to-school season tends to be busy, we’ve saved you some time, by compiling a list of some (relatively) new and noteworthy books in the disabilities field. Whether you’re a teacher, therapist, parent or child, this list offers good reads for everyone.

For teachers and therapists
Today’s teachers and therapists know that assistive technology can do wonders for helping children with disabilities to communicate, learn and play. Many of those assistive technology devices are developed and available through Enabling Devices. But not everyone receives the training necessary to make the best use of the technology that exists. “Assistive Technology for Young Children” will provide professionals with all the information they need to help their students and clients, and to create fully inclusive classrooms.

“Communication Interventions for Individuals with Severe Disabilities,” edited by Rose A. Sevcik, Ph.D., and MaryAnn Romski Ph.D.
This 2016 text includes the latest research and clinical and educational recommendations for helping students and clients with severe disabilities to communicate more effectively. With the contributions of 30 scholars, the book offers evidence-based interventions for populations including young children with intellectual disabilities, deafblind children, children with Down syndrome and autism spectrum disorders.  Check out Enabling Devices’ communication devices!

Monday, August 29, 2016

Five Tips for Teachers and Therapists to Start the Year Off Right

The work of a special educator or therapist is demanding. It’s not particularly glamorous, or especially lucrative. It takes special qualities like compassion, creativity, patience and intelligence. Because they give so much of themselves to others, it’s critical that special educators and therapists have time to recharge. If you’re a therapist or special educator, we hope you’ve had a restful, enjoyable and restorative summer. That way, you can be fully present—mentally and emotionally—to meet the needs of the children and families with whom you’ll be working throughout the school year.

Ideally, you’ve had time, in the weeks prior to the start of the new school term, to prepare yourself for your incoming students. Here are some tips for teachers and therapists to make the early days of the new school year as smooth and stress-free as possible.

1. Know your students
If possible, get to know students and families before the first day of school. A phone-call or even an introductory letter or email to say “hello” several weeks before the first day of school can do wonders for easing back-to-school jitters. Talking with your students’ parents or other faculty members who have worked with your student before, can help you to be prepared with strategies that will work best. If for some reason, it wasn’t possible to make contact or to obtain information prior to the first day of school, do so as soon as possible.

The National Association of Special Education Teachers, (NASET) recommends teachers obtain and review the following information on incoming students:
·                     Previous schools students have attended
·                     Students’ medical records
·                     Students’ permanent records
·                     Past teachers’ reports
·                     Past report cards
·                     Standardized test scores
·                     IEPs including all recommendations and accommodations including health alerts, assistive technologies, disability classification

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Five Extracurricular Activities That Can Benefit Kids With Special Needs

With back to school season on the horizon, many parents are busily scheduling their children’s extracurricular activities. Extracurriculars like sports, performing and fine arts classes, computer clubs and youth groups can do wonders for children’s self-esteem, social lives and skills development. Children with special needs can benefit from activities geared toward their strengths, talents and interests. Increasingly, recreational, arts-based and socialization programs adapted for children with disabilities, are cropping up across the country. Here is a sampling of some of the newest and most innovative extracurricular activities we’ve come across. While the programs mentioned here are not necessarily in your neck of the woods, most likely, you will find similar programs in your own community.  

1. Adapted Dance
More and more cities are now offering adaptive dance classes for people with disabilities. Ballet for All Kids, with studios in New York City and Los Angeles offers classical ballet instruction for children with mobility challenges, autism spectrum disorders, blindness, deafness and ADHD using the Schlachte Method, developed by Bonnie Schlachte the program’s founder.

The Music in Motion program, part of the Maryland Youth Ballet in Silver Spring, Maryland offers two classes for children with disabilities, one for children who are able to walk and another for children who use wheelchairs and walkers.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Eight Tips To Ease the Transition Back to School

It’s that time of year again. Time to think about heading back to school. While some children greet the beginning of a new school year with excitement, others, especially those who face academic, behavioral and social challenges, are typically more anxious about returning to school. While you can’t promise your child or yourself that everything will go perfectly this year, there are strategies you can use to make the transition go more smoothly. We’ve compiled a list of tips to get the new school year off to a positive start.

1. Create a social story
Help your child be better prepared for school and the situations that are likely to arise there by creating a social story.  According to the Head Start Center for Inclusion, “Social Stories are short stories, often with pictures, describing a situation from the child’s point of view… Social Stories are designed to help children to gain a better understanding and have consistent reminders of the expectations in challenging social situations.”

Typically, social stories focus on an activity such as walking down the hall in school, having appropriate manners while eating lunch with peers, sharing or being a good sport. For more information, visit Carol Gray Social Stories. You can find sample social stories on Child-Parent-Autism-Café.com.

2. Take your child for a school visit
If at all possible, arrange to visit your child’s school and teacher at least once before the beginning of the school year. Having a chance to talk with his teacher, see his classroom, and walk the halls will go a long way toward making him feel less anxious about the first day. This is particularly true if your child will be attending a new school in the fall.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Mouthing Off

As the summer winds down, many parents are turning their attention to back-to-school preparations. According to the American Dental Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics, those preparations should include a trip to the dentist.

Regular dental visits are important year-round, but a back-to-school checkup is key in fighting the most common chronic disease found in school-age children: cavities. In fact, dental disease causes children to miss more than 51 million school hours each year,” say the ADA and the AAP.
If your child has special needs, she may have special dental needs as well. Based on statistics gathered by the National Museum of Dentistry in partnership with the Kennedy Krieger Institute Center for Autism and Related Disorders and the University of Maryland School of Dentistry, 

  • Children with special needs have higher rates of poor oral hygiene, gingivitis, periodontal disease than the general public
  • Medications, special diets and oral motor habits can cause oral health problems for many children with special needs
  • Dental care is the leading unmet health need among children with special needs
  • Across all income levels, children with special needs are almost twice as likely to have an unmet oral health care need than peers without special needs