Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Five Strategies for Raising Graduation Rates for Students with Disabilities

Recent data shows that high school graduation rates in the United States are higher than in any other time in history. According to the 2017 Building a Grad Nation Report by Civic Enterprises and the Everyone Graduates Center at the School of Education at Johns Hopkins University, in 2015, “about half of all states reported high school graduation rates of 85 percent or more.” By 2020 those states are poised to graduate 90 percent of their high school seniors.  
But sadly, the data on students with disabilities tells a very different story. The same Grad Nation report also found that “Thirty-three states reported high school graduation rates for special education students below 70 percent, and nearly half of those 33 had graduation rates for students with disabilities below 60 percent.  Four states—South Carolina, Louisiana, Mississippi and Nevada—graduated half of their special education students.” Unless the graduation rates of students with disabilities, poor and minority students improve, the Grad Nation report concludes that the country won’t meet the 90 percent graduation mark.

In an article for Nonprofit Quarterly, Noreen Ohlrich, calls the gap in graduation rates between those with disabilities and without them “scandalously wide.” So, what if anything can be done to level the playing field? Here’s what some of the experts recommend.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Five Tips for Accessible Gardening

Though it happens every year, the arrival of spring is always a source of joy. For many of us, spring is the time for tending lawns, planting flowers, and beautifying decks, patios and window sills. The benefits of being out in nature are well known but bear repeating. According to the Greater Good Science Center at University of California, Berkeley, spending time out of doors in natural spaces reduces stress … makes you happier … relieves attention fatigue, increases creativity … may help you to be kinder and more generous and make you feel more alive.”

Like everyone else, people with disabilities reap tremendous benefits from experiencing nature. Yet, they may face greater challenges when it comes to creating and maintaining their outdoor spaces. Thanks to adaptive gardening tools, and thoughtful landscaping design, the challenges are surmountable. Here are some tips for making gardening accessible to all.

1. Make room for a wheelchair
Make sure paths are flat, hard, and at least three feet wide to accommodate a wheelchair. Paved paths are ideal for wheelchair users but if that’s not possible in your garden, keep grass well-mowed and dirt paths even and well-maintained. If there are stairs in your garden, replace them with a ramp.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Happy Mother's Day - Take a Break!

With Mother’s Day just around the corner, many of us are buying cards or gifts and planning meals or excursions to pay tribute to the mothers in our lives. Those of us who are mothers ourselves may be contemplating the joys of motherhood, while also looking forward to some TLC from our children, spouses or partners. Despite our love for our families, sometimes Mother’s Day TLC means getting away from the people we love most. Like the old TV commercial with the mom in the bath tub who asks her Calgon bath oil to “take her away,” sometimes mom just needs a break, some time to herself, and a chance to let go of both personal and professional responsibilities.

Getting away from it all is hard enough when your child doesn’t have significant disabilities. It’s a whole lot more complicated when your child has special emotional, behavioral or physical needs. It can also be even more essential to your health, the health of your family and ultimately, the health of your special needs child.

Finding care for a child with special needs is not as simple as calling the teenager down the street, or asking a grandparent to pitch in. When a child has complicated health issues, it’s essential that whomever is in charge, has the skills or training to keep them safe and contented.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Enabling Devices Book Shelf

A year has passed since we last surveyed some of the newest books on topics related to disabilities. As the weather warms, and many of us look forward to reading by the pool, on the porch, or while on summer vacations, we’ve compiled a list of five notable books published or released in paperback or E-book within the past year.

Being a Kennedy has always meant being in the public eye. Yet, due to the intellectual and physical disabilities she sustained during her birth, Rosemary Kennedy, the third child of Joe and Rose Kennedy, was kept out of the limelight. In this 2015 biography, now available in paperback, Kate Clifford Larson explores Rosemary’s tragic life.

Despite her vivacious personality and beauty, Rosemary’s parents were ashamed of her limitations and feared that the family’s image and social status would be diminished, if those outside the Kennedy clan knew about Rosemary’s disabilities. Thus, they pushed Rosemary beyond her capabilities, sent her away to schools and tried all sorts of questionable therapies including a traumatic and debilitating lobotomy in her 20s, in ill-fated attempts to “cure” her.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Six Tips for Preventing Wandering in People with Autism

As Autism Awareness Month 2017 comes to an end, we were heartened to learn of a new study which found that wandering, a common behavior among people with autism and other developmental disabilities, may be treatable with behavioral interventions. 

The study, “Clinical Outcomes of Behavioral Treatments for Elopement in Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder and Other Developmental Disabilities,” provides hope in the face of the deeply disturbing conclusions of another more recent study, “Injury Mortality in Individuals with Autism,” that found children and teens with autism are 40 times as likely to die from injuries as those without ASDs. Additionally, and equally as shocking, the study found the average age of death for those with ASDs was only 36 years old as opposed to 72 in the non-autistic population. Clearly, it is imperative that we find effective ways of preventing senseless injuries and deaths that result from wandering. Here are some tips and resources that will help keep more people with autism safe.

1. Swimming lessons
According to Guohua Li, MD, DrPH,  professor of epidemiology at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, and the senior author of the study on injury mortality, “Once a child is diagnosed with autism, usually between two years and three years of age, pediatricians and parents should immediately help enroll the child in swimming classes, before any behavioral therapy, speech therapy, or occupational therapy. Swimming ability for kids with autism is an imperative survival skill,” Dr Li said. In addition to their tendency for wandering, Li also noted that children and teens with autism often gravitate toward water. “With impaired communication and social skills, autistic kids tend to seek relief of their heightened anxiety from the serenity of water bodies. Unfortunately, this behavior too often leads to tragedies,” said Li.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Happy OT Month!

Hooray! It’s Occupational Therapy Awareness Month! Here at Enabling Devices, we’re all about celebrating the amazing work of these dedicated professionals. We thought we’d take this opportunity to explore the field and learn more about what makes these very special people tick. What are the qualities necessary to have a successful career as an OT? What training is involved? To get some answers, we talked with pediatric occupational therapist Jennifer Wingrat, OTR-L, ScD, who works in the acclaimed Child and Family Support Program (CFSD) at the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore, Maryland.

Enabling Devices: What made you decide to go into this field?

Jennifer Wingrat: I fell into it when I was a senior in high school. I was doing my senior project at an OT hand clinic. I liked working with the patients, making splints, helping people to live to their potential. I’ve been practicing for at least 20 years! In the past I’ve worked with different [populations]—people with spinal cord injuries, general pediatrics and others.

Nowadays you work with children. What’s that like?
I’ve always liked working with kids and I took that track in OT school. Now, I work in an early intervention program and most of the treatment is done in the patients’ homes. It’s a lot of fun.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Gotta Look Sharp

There’s good news for differently abled fashion mavens or even people who simply want dressing with disabilities to be a little bit easier—the 20 percent of Americans with disabilities are finally feeling the love from designers on Madison Avenue and beyond.

From big names like Tommy Hilfiger and Nike to niche designers like Lucy Jones, Maura Horton and Stephanie Alves (who was previously featured in Enabling’s blog), there’s a growing recognition that consumers with disabilities represent a large and growing market for the fashion industry. What took them so long???
Accessible Runway
Launched in 2016, Tommy Hilfiger’s adaptive collection was created in collaboration with a nonprofit called Runway of Dreams.  The nonprofit, founded by fashion designer, Mindy Scheier, was a labor of love. Scheier created it for her son Oliver who has a rare form of muscular dystrophy and wanted to dress like his peers.