Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Supporting Siblings

It’s not always easy being the sibling of a child with disabilities. Even when parents are extremely sensitive to their typically developing children’s needs, these siblings face unique challenges that are sometimes overlooked because they may pale in comparison to the many challenges faced by a brother or sister with disabilities. 

Some of these may include:
      ·   Guilt about not having a disability
      ·   Worries about the medical status of their sibling
      ·    Resentment that their sibling gets so much attention 
      ·    Embarrassment about their sibling’s appearance or behavior
      ·   Feelings of isolation because their family situation is different from their peers’
      ·    Feeling obligated to take a parenting role in relation to their sibling

Fortunately, there are things parents can do

Monday, February 13, 2017

Seven Ways to have a Happy and Inclusive Valentine’s Day

It’s easy to dismiss Valentine’s Day as just a “Hallmark holiday,” but for many children, February 14 is a special date with great significance. Though children with profound cognitive disabilities may not be aware of the holiday, children with more moderate challenges, especially those who attend school alongside typically developing peers, are at least somewhat tuned into to the Valentine’s Day festivities. As a teacher, therapist or parent, how can you make Valentine’s Day a happy time for your child, students or clients? Here are some tips to make the kids in your life feel loved.

1.                  Focus on friendship
Valentine’s Day is a great time to discuss love, friendship and kindness. Ask children to reflect on what it means to be a good friend and how we show love and kindness. Can they describe a time when they felt loved by a friend or family member?

2.                  Have a love-themed story-time
Read developmentally appropriate books about love and friendship and then discuss them with your child or students. Some good choices for younger children include:  “Love Monster” by Rachel Bright, “Be a Friend” by Salina Yoon and “If You’ll be My Valentine,” by Cynthia Rylant.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Award Season and the Disabilities Community

It’s that time of year again. In the past several weeks, the People’s Choice Awards, The Screen Actors Guild Awards, the Directors Guild Awards and the American Cinematographer Awards have all taken place. The Grammys, the Independent Spirit Awards and the Academy Awards will all air later this month. Though it’s been a great year for film and TV overall, when it comes to the representation of people with disabilities it left a lot to be desired.

Despite the fact that one in five Americans has some sort of disability, it’s rare to find a realistic, three dimensional major character with a disability on TV or in film. Even when a TV show or movie does feature a character with a disability, the role is seldom played by an actor with a disability. In fact, the Ruderman White Pages Report on Employment Of Actors With Disabilities In Television recently found that, “Ninety-five percent of characters with disabilities … are played by able-bodied actors.”

That said, in the past year, a number of TV programs and films featuring main characters with disabilities have drawn praise from critics. “Speechless” an ABC sitcom that airs on Wednesdays at 8:30 p.m. is especially groundbreaking.

Starring Minnie Driver as headstrong mom Maya DiMeo, “Speechless” is a typical sit-com about a typical family with one important difference. JJ, Maya’s eldest son, has cerebral palsy, is nonverbal and uses an augmentative alternative communication device to express himself. “Speechless” deserves credit for casting a young actor who actually has cerebral palsy to play the role of JJ. The actor, Micah Fowler and his realistic depiction of the teen boy with disabilities has received high praise from James Poniewozik of the New York Times.

“JJ DiMeo (Micah Fowler) is no angel. He’s sarcastic; he’s a little devious; he can be rude. In other words, he’s a teenager...That JJ has cerebral palsy, which keeps him from speaking, as well as limits his obscene gestures, is what makes ABC’s “Speechless” distinctive. That he’s a flawed kid with a flawed family in a reasonably funny sitcom is what makes ‘Speechless’ good, rather than simply worthy.”

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Five Inclusive Warm Weather Resorts

By the time February rolls around, many of us have had more than enough of wintry weather. And while the calendar tells us that spring is just around the corner, “Old Man Winter” doesn’t always cooperate. That’s why many families choose to get away to warm weather destinations during March and April.

A successful family vacation takes careful research and planning. For families with children with special needs, choosing the right vacation spot is especially crucial. If you’re planning a spring break getaway, now’s the time to book it. But no worries. We’ve scoured the Internet to find an up-to-date list of the best warm-weather vacation resorts for families whose children have special needs.

Traveling with a kid on the spectrum can be challenging. Waiting on long lines, bright lights, loud noise, unfamiliar foods, and stressful social situations aren’t exactly conducive to relaxation and fun. Autism On The Seas to the rescue! Founded in 2007, the company works with cruise lines such as Royal Caribbean International, Carnival Cruise Line, Norwegian Cruise Line and Disney Cruise Line to provide individualized services for cruise guests with special needs. And don’t be fooled by the company’s name. Autism On The Seas is not just for children on the spectrum. The company’s staff members, all trained to work with children with special needs and to anticipate the needs of their families, are also able to accommodate children with cerebral palsy, Down syndrome and a range of developmental and cognitive disabilities. Families who travel as part of the Autism On The Seas charter don’t wait on lines, can request special diets and take part in activities especially designed for them. In addition to enjoying activities together, families have opportunities to socialize with other families whose children have special needs. Since staff members are able to manage all kinds of behavioral challenges, parents are free to have some much needed alone time to refresh and rejuvenate.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Make the New Year Sense-ational!

2016 was a sensational year for the team at Enabling Devices. Why, you might ask? In addition to making great strides with our rebranding project and brand new soon-to-launch website, we also designed 18 sensory rooms for centers that serve people with disabilities. We feel especially proud of this accomplishment because all of our design services were provided to clients entirely free of charge.

For the uninitiated, Sensory rooms are spaces where children and adults can explore their environments through visual, auditory and tactile experiences,” explains Karen O’Brien, Product Development Specialist at Enabling Devices. “They offer highly individualized experiences and serve individuals with a variety of disabilities including autism spectrum disorders, developmental disabilities, post traumatic stress disorders, cerebral palsy and sensory processing disorders.”

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Winter Fun Made Accessible

iSkate founded by Dorothy Hamill

Few recreational activities can rival the thrill of winter sports. Thanks to a growing number of adaptive winter sports programs, children (and adults) with disabilities can enjoy skiing, skating, ice hockey and sleigh riding.  We’ve compiled this brief guide to adaptive winter sports so you’re prepared to hit the ice or the slopes, just in time for the season’s first big freeze or snowfall.

Ice Skating
Founded by Olympic gold medalist and figure skater, Dorothy Hamill, Kennedy Krieger Institute’s I-Skate program in Baltimore, Md. is an example of a program that gives children with disabilities including cerebral palsy, spina bifida, muscular dystrophy, cancer and amputated limbs and paralysis the chance to ice skate. Adaptive ice-skating makes use of equipment such as adaptive ice skates, walkers, ice sleds and helmets to make it possible for skaters to participate safely.

“When I learned to skate,” Hamill told the folks at the KKI, “the motion of gliding on the ice and the fresh air on my face felt like heaven. And learning to handle yourself on the ice, mastering something difficult gives you a sense of pride. I want to give that experience to these children so they will be able to say ‘I can skate.’” 

For information about adaptive ice skating programs in your area, visit Gliding Stars.org

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

New Year’s Resolutions for Caregivers

Whether you’re a parent of a child with special needs, a special educator, occupational or physical therapist, it’s safe to say that you expend a tremendous amount of time and a great deal of physical and emotional energy caring for others. When that’s the case, it’s easy to neglect your own needs. Doing so may be more detrimental to your physical and mental health than you realize.

According to the Child Mind Institute, “Studies show that parents of children with developmental, psychiatric or learning disorders are far more likely than others to experience anxiety, depression, insomnia, fatigue and marital problems.”

Furthermore, a British study, on the psychosocial, endocrine and immune consequences of caring for a child with autism or ADHD found parents of children with ADHD and autism who experience chronic stress on a daily basis, are more susceptible to physical maladies.