Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Holiday Greetings from Seth Kanor

Dear Friends:

It was about this time last year when I first joined Enabling Devices as the company’s CEO. My father, Dr. Steven E. Kanor, the company’s founder, had recently passed away, and I found myself rummaging around in his office. The desk was covered in notepads bursting with ideas, the drawers were stuffed with prototypes for communication devices; the bookshelves, packed with manufacturing supply catalogs; and scattered everywhere, still more prototypes for devices he thought might make somebody’s life better. There was also a lot of unopened mail, mostly from the many charities he supported: charities devoted to making somebody’s life, somewhere, better. That was his life’s mission. And standing in his office, surrounded by the very tangible evidence of that mission, I felt a duty, not only to honor his legacy, but also to move Enabling Devices ahead, embracing new technology and, as my father had always done, finding innovative ways to serve the people who use our products.

As I look back over the past year, I am pleased to report that the company is thriving. I only wish my dad could be here to see all the exciting developments that took place during 2016 and are in the works for 2017. Here are some of the highlights:

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Choose the Perfect Gift!

Ready for the holidays? If you haven’t completed your Christmas or Hanukkah shopping, there’s no need to panic. Enabling Devices will help you choose the perfect gifts and get them to you in the (Saint) Nick of time!
Not sure how to go about choosing a gift for that special someone? The Enabling Devices sales team is happy to help. We asked team members for their best advice on gift selection and here’s what they had to say.

1. Starting points
Before beginning the gift selection process, our sales staff recommends answering the following questions: What does the child enjoy doing? Does she like using her iPad? Is he a board-game lover? Perhaps she enjoys sensory stimulation. If purchasing a gift for a child who’s not well known to you, ask his parents what he might like. On a budget? Our new gift guide includes toys under $50.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The Gift of Music

With so many gift options, how can you determine the best choices for your loved one? Enabling Devices’ new gift guide can help. Organized by category, the guide features our most popular toys and products to make holiday gift-buying decisions a breeze. Though our sales team members are always available for individual consultations, you can also benefit from their comprehensive knowledge of our products right here.

This week, we talk with Sales Associate Robin L. Robin is a big fan of Enabling Devices’ musical toys. It’s no wonder! Data confirming the many health benefits of music as well as its capacity to bring people together is mounting every day. Below, Robin gives us a rundown on her favorite musical toys.

 Ring Around Bells (#2202)
Whether you’re buying for your own child or for use in an inclusive classroom, Robin highly recommends the updated, bestselling Ring Around Bells toy.  This toy is extremely versatile and can be used in several different ways. Colorful bells twirl around and play the musical scale when activated either by the attached switch or an independent capability switch, while the multi-colored LED lights blink; bells can be twirled by hand or can be detached and distributed so that many people can play them together. Ring Around Bells is a great toy for improving listening and grasping skills as well as eye-hand coordination. “The toy comes with a music card you can follow or you can compose your own music,” says Robin. The Ring Around Bells toy is perfect for the holidays since the bells sound like Christmas!

Young music lovers will be transfixed watching the multicolored glitter inside the twister twirl around and around. At the same time, the twister plays music. “The shiny glittery confetti has a holiday feel and is really attention-grabbing,” says Robin. In addition to being great fun, this toy also improves visual attention and listening skills!

This toy is ideal for your budding musician. This toy is more like a musical instrument. Children can ring the precision-tuned bells and play familiar songs including Twinkle, Twinkle and Mary Had a Little Lamb. They can also compose their own melodies or play along with seven additional pre-recorded songs including Old MacDonald and Row Your Boat. ”This is an amazing toy that turns your child into a live-in DJ!” says Robin. It’s also great for helping children to learn their colors and improving their listening skills.”

Great for children, teens and adults, this musical device works great as a backlight for tracing and as a light source for people with low vision. It also develops visual attention and is useful for practicing writing skills.

“I really like all of our inclusive music items if you can’t guess,” says Robin. “They teach how to follow along, they are pleasing to the ears and the eyes and most of all, they promote inclusion. They make children with disabilities feel that they are part of the group, not looking in from the outside.”

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Enabling Devices: Access for Everyone

While this blog usually focuses on topics pertaining to children with disabilities, their parents, teachers and therapists, Enabling Devices also creates, adapts and sells innovative devices for teens and adults. Now that the holiday shopping season is officially under way, you need look no further for gifts that will truly improve the quality of life for loved ones with disabilities.

Capability switches are a great choice since they open up a world of possibilities for people with disabilities. Thanks to these gadgets, even individuals with the most profound mobility and neurological challenges are able to access a range of devices including computers, communicators, toys, wheelchairs and environmental controls, independently.    
Sady Paulson a video editor with cerebral palsy was recently featured in a video shown on Apple’s new accessibility website. In a recent interview with Mashable’s Katie Dupere, Paulson said that switch technology “has been instrumental in allowing her to pursue her passion for video creation. ‘Before Switch Control, there were limitations to what I could do and how long it would take me …These were physical limitations that held me back from realizing my dreams. But I knew all along that I had the ability, the creativity and the passion. Switch Control has removed those barriers and empowered me to access my abilities and pursue my passion.’"

Monday, November 21, 2016

Eight Ways to Minimize Holiday Season Stress

It's back! America’s holiday season—a time for family, feasting, parties, shopping, gift-giving and a break from regular routines such as work, school, and extra-curricular activities. While most of us look forward to the holiday season, there’s no question that it can be stressful. Holiday stress may be compounded for families with children with disabilities. Yet, with some careful planning, you can minimize the stress and maximize the joy of the holiday season. Here are some of the best strategies:

1. Pace yourself
Holiday season is chock full of parties, family events, school concerts, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Chanukah and Kwanza and New Year’s get-togethers. While you may feel pressure to participate in all of them, resist the urge to do too much. All children, but especially those who are young or have special needs may become easily overwhelmed, over-tired and over-stimulated by large crowds of people, loud noise and blinking lights associated with holiday season, so choose family activities carefully, and approach the activities you do select planfully. 

2. Have an escape route
Be prepared in case a family outing doesn’t pan out as you had planned. One Friendship Circle blogger who is the parent of a special needs child says that she and her husband bring two cars when they go places with their kids so “one of us can leave if our child with special needs is acting up. This way our other children can remain (if they wish), and our child with special needs can go home where he feels more comfortable.” 

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Research Points to Proven Therapy for Young Children with Autism

On Oct. 25, while most parents of young children were absorbed with preparing Halloween costumes, and estimating how much candy to purchase for trick-or-treaters, the Lancet Medical Journal published the results of a groundbreaking study by researchers at University of Manchester, King's College London and Newcastle University. The “Preschool Autism Communication Trial” (PACT) which was conducted over six years and included 152 families of children with severe autism, found that what some media outlets have dubbed “super parenting,” helps reduce symptoms of autism in the long-term.  The great news? Anyone can be a “super-parent”, with the right training. Parents who participated in the study watched videos of themselves interacting with their autistic children while communication experts provided coaching on how they could expand communication with their children, some of whom were non-verbal.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Paralympic Glory

This past Sunday, long-distance wheelchair racer, Tatyana McFadden, who has spina bifida “won her fifth overall New York title, earning her a fourth straight sweep of all four [New York, Chicago, Boston and London] major marathons,” reports Team U.S.A.org. The win made the 27-year-old McFadden the first woman in the history of wheelchair racing or elite running to do so. It was also a boon to McFadden, who was disappointed by her (nevertheless outstanding) performance this summer in the Rio Paralympics. McFadden’s historic marathon record got us thinking about the origins of wheelchair sports, which date back to the 1940s and Dr. Ludwig Guttmann.

Known as the “father of the Paralympics,” Guttmann, a prominent German Jewish neurosurgeon had the connections to escape Nazi Germany with his wife and children, settling in Oxford, England in 1939. Due to an influx of veterans with spinal cord injuries sustained during World War II, the British government put Dr. Guttmann in charge of a unit for veterans with paraplegia on the grounds of Stoke Mandeville Hospital in 1944.

Guttmann took up his new post with great enthusiasm. According to a history compiled by the British Paralympic Association, the doctor “fundamentally disagreed with the commonly held medical view on a paraplegic patient's future and felt it essential to restore hope and self-belief in his patients as well practical re-training so when they were well enough to leave they could once more contribute to society."

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Politicians Take Heed: People with Disabilities are a hugely important voting bloc!

Is it our imagination or are people with disabilities receiving more attention from politicians this election season? From the Republican and Democratic conventions where both parties included speakers and performers with disabilities, to more muscular efforts to make voting accessible to individuals with disabilities, at long last, politicians and those working to get them elected are finally recognizing the power and size of this important group of voters. That’s not to say that the job is done. Far from it.

The Numbers
According to RespectAbility, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization founded in 2013, that works “to end stigmas and advance opportunities for people with disabilities … America has 56 million people with disabilities, comprising the largest minority group in America, and the only one that, due to an accident or illness, anyone can join at any time.” That’s powerful! In addition, says RespectAbility, “35.4 million people with disabilities will be eligible to vote in the November 2016 elections, representing close to one-sixth of the total electorate. That’s an increase of nearly 11 percent since 2008.”

Despite the prevalence of disability among eligible voters, statistics show that voters with disabilities have historically been less likely to vote. In a white paper she authored for the Presidential Commission on Election Administration in 2013,” Lisa Shur, J.D., Ph.D, found “that there would be 3.0 million more voters with disabilities if they voted at the same rate as otherwise-similar people without disabilities.” Obviously, the voices of too many Americans are not being heard.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Seven Tips for An Accessible and Happy Halloween

It’s the rare child who doesn’t look forward to celebrating Halloween. Children with disabilities are no exception. Depending on the issues presented by your child’s disability you may need to come up with some creative ideas to make the most of the holiday. We’ve surfed the web to find the best advice for making your Halloween fun and accessible.

1. Be creative!
Now six years old, Elena Walke, daughter of Easter Seal’s blogger, Bernhard Walke, was born with quadriplegic cerebral palsy. As a very little girl, Elena was unable to sit up on her own. That didn’t prevent her father and mother from making sure Elena celebrated Halloween in style. Since Elena needed to be held, her parents dressed up as chefs, and carried Elena, who was wearing a bright red lobster costume, around the neighborhood in a giant pot!

2. Incorporate the wheelchair
If your child uses a wheelchair, make it an important part of his costume. Cinderellas can ride door to door in beautifully decorated coaches, and Batmans’ wheelchairs can be transformed into bat-mobiles! For more great ideas on wheelchair decorating, visit Magic Wheelchair.com a nonprofit started by Ryan and Lana Weimer, parents of five children, three of whom have spinal muscular atrophy.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Happy Apps: Seven new apps for people with disabilities

Remember when there were no apps? When everything we wanted to know and do wasn’t literally at your fingertips? In today’s world, there’s an app for everything and new ones are being developed all the time. Apps have transformed life for everyone, but perhaps they have improved quality of life for people with disabilities the most. We’ve scoured the Internet to find the newest, most innovative and most useful apps for people with disabilities. Our findings are below. Happy apping!

Created by Matt McCann, an Irishman with cerebral palsy, Access Earth is an app and web platform that uses crowd sourcing to gather information from users on accessible hotels, restaurants, stores and attractions. McCann, a software engineer, decided to start his business after having one too many experiences with sites that called themselves “accessible” though they really were far from it. Though Access Earth is just getting off the ground, McCann hopes that in time, the app will become a “Trip Advisor” for people with disabilities.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Raising Awareness of Rett Syndrome

In last week’s post, we recognized Down Syndrome Awarenness Month by celebrating the accomplishments of people with Down syndrome. Since October is also Rett Syndrome Awareness Month, this week’s post will highlight this relatively unknown neurological disorder that affects approximately one in 10,000-15,000 female births.  

One of the few neurological disorders that is found almost exclusively in girls, until recently, Rett syndrome was considered a form of autism. Like children with autism, girls with Rett appear to grow and develop normally in the early months of life. But between their sixth and eighteenth months, baby girls with Rett syndrome, typically exhibit signs of stagnation or regression.

As described by Rett Syndrome.org, after affected girls reach 6-18 months, “a period of regression then follows when she loses communication skills and purposeful use of her hands. Soon, stereotypical hand movements such as hand washing, gait disturbances, and slowing of the normal rate of head growth become apparent. Other problems may include seizures and disorganized breathing patterns while she is awake, an abnormal side-to-side curvature of the spine (scoliosis), and sleep disturbances. In the early years, there may be a period of isolation or withdrawal when she is irritable and cries inconsolably. Over time, motor problems may increase, but in general, irritability lessens and eye contact and communication improve.”

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Sky’s the Limit for People With Down Syndrome!

October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month, a time to celebrate people with Down Syndrome and their significant accomplishments and contributions. It’s also the perfect time to advocate for the acceptance, inclusion, and inherent value of people with the condition.

In recognition of Down Syndrome Awareness Month, and the impressive abilities of people with the condition, Enabling Devices has put together this list of awe-inspiring people with Down Syndrome. Read on and be amazed!

Yizhou Hu, orchestral conductor
The son of a professional cellist, Yizhou Hu (ZhouZhou), who was born with Down Syndrome, inherited his father’s musical talent. Despite the fact that he can’t read music, ZhouZhou, has become a successful orchestral conductor.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Five TED Talks to Watch Today

Here at Enabling Devices, we can’t think of a more enjoyable or powerful way to learn, than by watching a really fine TED Talk. For the uninitiated, “TED is a nonprofit devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks (18 minutes or less).”

There are TED Talks on just about any topic you can imagine including all sorts of topics related to disabilities. TED Talks challenge viewers to reconsider their beliefs and assumptions and to discover new ways of thinking about nearly everything under the sun.

For your viewing pleasure, we’ve taken the liberty of curating a list of the best TED Talks from people living and thriving with disabilities.

At 19 years of age, Joshua Prager was hit by a truck driven by a man with 27 prior moving violations, while riding in a mini-bus in Jerusalem. The accident, left him with quadriplegia, and though he eventually regained the ability to walk, albeit with a limp and using a cane, his life was changed forever. Determined to win an apology from the man who caused his life-long disability, Prager returned to Jerusalem and gained some unexpected insights.

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

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Nine Tips to Create a Playgroup

Being the parent of a special needs child can be isolating.  So many activities are off limits due to accessibility concerns, behavioral problems and communication challenges. It’s hard enough coping with your own loneliness, but knowing your child struggles to make friends is heartbreaking for most parents.  One way to break down barriers and find social opportunities for you and your child is by hosting an inclusive playgroup where children with special needs and typically developing children play together. Children with special needs may benefit from observing typically developing peers, and those without developmental challenges will learn from and come to appreciate their peers with special needs. 

We’ve put together some guidelines for making playgroups successful.

1.                  Organize playgroups around developmental age
If your child has a disability, she may not be functioning at the same level as typically developing children of her own age. Your child may have more success playing with children who match her developmental, not her chronological age.

2.                 Keep it small
Children with special needs can be easily over-stimulated and overwhelmed so it’s wise to limit the number of children in the playgroup to no more than four or five.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Nothing Comes Between Stephanie Alves and her Adaptive Jeans

For 25 years, fashion designer, Stephanie Alves worked for large companies like Ann Taylor Loft and small companies like The Harari Collection.  She even owned a boutique in the East Village of New York City where she sold her own designs. Yet it was only after a family member endured two failed back surgeries and ended up using a wheelchair that she discovered her true calling.

“I went to visit my step-sister after the surgery and she told me that she didn’t even feel like getting dressed. It was just too hard,” recalls Alves. “So I said, ‘What if I just opened up the pants so they were easy to get on?’ After that, I started adapting clothing for other people with disabilities and I realized, ‘This is what I should be doing.’”  She started a business called the Able Tailor in 2010.

Over the next several years, Alves tailored clothes for customers with a range of disabilities, altering their clothing according to their individual needs. Finally, she felt she knew enough to design a line of adaptive clothing.

“I already had a small clothing line, so I knew about manufacturing and having my own design business.”

But Alves didn’t want to take on too much too fast.  ‘I’m going to focus on one clothing category,’” she said.  In order to determine what type of clothing she should offer, Alves asked her customers, ’what is the clothing you most miss wearing?’ Everyone said they most missed wearing [comfortable] jeans.”  Alves founded ABL Denim with the help of a kickstarter campaign in 2013.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

DIR Floortime: What’s it all about? Q & A with Sima Gerber, Ph.D.

Experts agree—when diagnosed with a developmental disability such as autism, early intervention is crucial. Yet, the same experts don’t always agree on which interventions are most effective.  With some professionals favoring behavioral approaches such as Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), Pivotal Response Training (PRT) and Verbal Behavioral Analysis (VBA), others believing in developmental models such as P.L.A.Y. PROJECT, SCERTS and DIR (Developmental, Individualized, Relationship-based model) Floortime, and still others recommending a combination of interventions, parents have their work cut out for them. It can be overwhelming to decide what therapies will best meet your child’s needs.

In this week’s blog post, we learn about the DIR Floortime approach and speak with Sima Gerber, Ph.D., CCC-SLP, a trained DIR Floortime practitioner, speech/language therapist and professor of of Speech-Language Pathology in the Department of Linguistics and Communication Disorders of Queens College, City University of New York. Gerber specializes in working with children on the autism spectrum and has been using the DIR Floortime model in her therapeutic work with children for the past 25 years. She has worked as a speech-language pathologist for 40 years.

E.D.: What is the history of DIR Floortime?
S.G.: The DIR Floortime model was conceived by the late Stanley Greenspan, a child psychiatrist and Dr. Serena Wieder, a child psychologist.  In the 1970s Dr. Greenspan was working on the Clinical Infant Development Program, an NIMH clinical research study research study and he asked Serena to join him in 1978. In those days, autism was [at least thought to be] relatively rare.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Rainy-Day Summer Fun

When rain keeps you trapped indoors, keeping the kids occupied can be a challenge. No worries, though. Sensory play will engage kids for hours!

1. Why sensory play?
According to child development experts at PBS Parents, sensory play “helps children develop cognitively, linguistically, socially, emotionally, physically and creatively.”

While all children learn about the world through their senses, sensory play can be especially valuable for children with special needs who may have greater difficulty tolerating and integrating sensory stimuli.  For example, children on the autism spectrum are often uncomfortable with loud noise, bright lights, unfamiliar tastes or smells that they find offensive. Others have strong preferences when it comes to the clothes they wear, because certain textures bother them. Some children on the spectrum are overly- sensitive and react negatively to being touched while other children go out of their way to bump into walls and furniture in order to feel deeper sensations.

Sensory play is also important for children who don’t have full use of all of their senses. According to Wonderbaby.org, a project of Perkins School for the Blind, “It's important for children who are blind to participate in sensory play because it will help build their other senses and allow for sensations that may be directed by one sense (like sight) to be directed by another (like touch).”

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Visit the Only Bricks and Mortar Museum that Celebrates Disability!

Planning on being in or around the Buffalo, N.Y. area this summer? If so, you may want to spend a few hours at the Museum of disABILITY History. Founded in 1998, the museum was the brainchild of Dr. James Boles, president and CEO of People Inc., Western N.Y.’s leading nonprofit human services agency. Boles first recognized a need for a museum that collected and displayed archives and materials related to disability while teaching an Introduction to Disabilities class at the State University of New York at Buffalo.

“The museum started with a small traveling exhibition entitled, “The Birth of Newborn Screening,” says Museum of disABILITY History director, Douglas Farley. “From there, it grew by adding a new exhibit each year. After ten years, the museum had enough content to set up shop permanently. In 2010, the New York State Board of Regents granted a charter.” It remains the only bricks and mortar museum dedicated to preserving disability history, says Farley.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Visionary Inclusion Campaign

In April, the Perkins School for the Blind launched a brand new social media and public relations campaign to promote the inclusion of those who are blind and have low vision. The campaign, Blind New World follows a nation-wide survey conducted by the school that “revealed the four barriers to blind inclusion: discomfort, pity, fear and stigma.” The study also found that 80 percent of respondents feel sorry for those who are blind, 74 percent believe they could not be happy if they lost their sight and more than half don’t feel comfortable when in the presence of someone who is blind.

Ironically, campaign advocates insist that thanks to educational opportunities and technological advances, “there has never been a better time to be blind.” According to Blind New World, “The biggest obstacle isn’t blindness. It’s a world that can’t see beyond it.”

Inspired by Corinne Grousbeck, chair of the Perkins School’s board and the mother of a student at the school, the campaign aims to “break the barriers to inclusion and connection, and to prepare the world to embrace today’s highly capable blind population.”

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Drum Therapy: The Many Benefits of Drumming

Music is widely recognized for its universal healing properties. Arguably, its benefits are even more profound for those who face cognitive, physical, behavioral and psychological challenges. Jordan Goodman, a musician, mental health counselor and founder of Beatwell, a company that brings therapeutic drumming to children and adults with and without disabilities, has seen music’s magic in action over and over again. 

A musician from childhood, Goodman developed an interest in psychology while attending college. He went on to earn a master’s degree in clinical psychology while continuing to play and teach music. In his work with drum students, Goodman couldn’t help but notice that they all appeared less anxious and more confident when they drummed. He began to suspect that drumming had significant healing and therapeutic properties.

Curious about his observation, Goodman decided to focus his graduate studies on the physiological and psychological effects of drumming. His discovery of the work of neurologist Barry Bittman confirmed his instincts. Bittman’s 2001 study showed that drumming increases the number of T-cells in the blood, helping the body to fight off viruses, while a 2005 study the neurologist co-authored found that “recreational music making, particularly, drumming, can reverse 19 genetic responses to stress.” Other research by Bittman showed that drumming improves mood, reduces burnout rates, enhances creativity and builds community.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Yoga For All

There’s no denying that the Eastern practice of yoga has taken the West by storm. Depending upon where you live, you might find a yoga studio on every other corner. Many studios now offer yoga classes for children and adults with a variety of special needs. We’ve compiled some information about yoga, its many benefits, as well as some resources so that you and your child can access the practice.

What is yoga?
      While there are many types of yoga, Hatha yoga is most widely practiced in the U.S. According to the National Center on Health, Physical Activity and Disability (NCHPD) Hatha Yoga “emphasizes body-mind wellness through postures or asanas which tone and strengthen our muscles and increase our flexibility.” And good news—regardless of the degree of physical, developmental and/or cognitive disability, almost everyone can benefit from the 5,000-year-old practice.

Just ask Matthew Sanford. Sanford, an author, yoga instructor, inspirational speaker and founder of the nonprofit, Mind/Body Solutions, was paralyzed from the chest down after an automobile accident at age 13. He discovered yoga 12 years later and the practice was life changing for him. Nowadays, Sanford helps people with and without disabilities to experience the transformative effects of yoga.

What are the benefits of yoga for those with physical disabilities?
      Many! According to Sanford, yoga practitioners can expect to enjoy “increased strength, balance, mental and physical flexibility, improvements in the quality of their breathing, a sense of lightness and freedom within their bodies, an increased ability to manage stress, a deepened sense of wholeness and connection with others and the discovery of a subtle level of mind-body sensation that is not impeded by disability.”

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Big Shoes to Fill

It’s been six months since Enabling Devices CEO, Seth Kanor stepped in to take the reins from his late father, Steven E. Kanor, Ph.D., the company’s founder and president. Speaking from the company’s headquarters in Hawthorne, N.Y., Kanor took time out from his busy schedule to share some thoughts about his dad, the people who make Enabling Devices run, what he’s learned so far, his aspirations for the company and the people it serves.

What has your new role taught you about your father?
The longer I’ve been at Enabling Devices, the more convinced I am that my father should be nominated for sainthood. I get calls all the time from people who say, “Your dad changed my life.” He was always asking: “How do we get to the people who need our services?”  “How do we improve people’s lives and meet them where they are?” “How do we make it easier for them to get out into the world and help them to find joy?” Everything we do is geared toward answering those questions.

What have you learned about the business?
The people who work here probably have a body of knowledge that couldn’t be replicated in a Ph.D. program. They have been hands-on with our products, customers and business for so long.

Like many people, I always thought that I needed to do something original— something different than what my father did. Now, I see that I am supposed to continue his mission and use my abilities to bring out the talents in others. My role is basically, to facilitate everything so that the people here, who are so knowledgeable and talented, can do what they do so well.

Additionally, I’ve discovered that there is a huge group of people in this country who work one-on-one with children with severe disabilities. This is pretty much the hardest work one can do and they don’t make a great deal of money. It’s a real calling, and I feel so grateful for them.

What is your favorite part of your new role?
It is such a privilege to know that we are making a difference in the lives of the people who use our products. Sometimes people call us looking for a solution to their loved one’s problem and we are their last chance. Being able to help in those instances is so special. When my father was running the business, if a customer called with a problem, he’d invite them into the office.  He’d say, “Come in now, we’ll fix it.” The first time someone called me with a special request, the person apologized.  I said, “Please don’t apologize. I’ve been waiting for this call. It’s an honor to take your call.” 

The people I am meeting in my new role are changing my life and my understanding of what matters. Are we going to live in a society that is exclusive or inclusive? In my view, we need to work toward a world that is more inclusive. There’s no question that our customers are giving me more than I am giving them.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

“Me Before You” - What’s Your Opinion?

The release of “Me Before You” has been met with a firestorm of criticism from the disabilities community. Based on on the bestselling novel by Jojo Moyes, the film tells the story of Will Traynor, a wealthy, handsome businessman paralyzed after a motorbike accident and Louisa Clark, a pretty yet provincial young woman, hired as his caregiver. Will, played by Sam Clafin of “The Hunger Games” fame and Louisa, played by Emilia Clarke of “Game of Thrones,” eventually fall in love. Unfortunately, that’s not where the story ends.

Why are people with disabilities and their allies up in arms? There are several reasons:

1. The role of Will Traynor is played by an actor without a physical disability
Given the paucity of roles for actors with disabilities, many in the disabilities community are incensed by the fact that someone with quadriplegia was not cast in the high profile role.

The casting of non-disabled actors in disabled roles is pervasive across the industry, despite the fact that there are numerous talented disabled actors languishing without work,” writes S.E. Smith for Care2.Seeing non-disabled people represent the disability experience is offensive, especially when the experience being depicted is itself so offensive.”

2. The film’s depiction of life with disability is extremely negative
Since so few films and television programs have characters with disabilities, viewers who don’t have disabilities or who don’t know people with disabilities only learn about their experiences from examples in films such as “Me Before You.” The result? People view the lives of people with disabilities as being tragic, miserable and pitiful.   

“Me Before You” capitalizes on existing widely held negative ideas about disability and exploits them as fodder for entertainment,” writes Emily Ladau, in a piece for Salon. “Prior to becoming disabled, Will was successful and happy, but Moyes implies that anything good in life will come to an end when disability becomes a reality.”

3. The film feels emotionally manipulative
Some disabilities advocates have pointed out that the film is “calculated to play upon the emotions of the viewer by evoking disability.” And it seems to work.
“It's become almost a running joke that if you want to win an Oscar, play a disabled character,” writes Kathleen Hawkins of the BBC. Think: Daniel Day Lewis for his performance in “My Left Foot,” Dustin Hoffman in “Rain Man,” and Eddie Redmayne for “The Theory of Everything.”

 4. (Spoiler Alert) The film’s ending implies that having a disability is a fate worse than death.
In the end, despite his love for Louisa and everything else he has to live for, Will Traynor chooses to end his life. His reasons? He doesn’t want to live if he can’t do the things he did before his accident, he doesn’t want to be a burden to Louisa and his family and he doesn’t want her to end up resenting or pitying him in the future.

Members of Not Dead Yet UK, a group that’s part of a global alliance of people with disabilities who oppose euthanasia and assisted suicide picketed the film’s premiere and posted this statement on its website: “ Not Dead Yet UK is deeply concerned to see yet another film which casts non-disabled people as disabled people and shows the lives of disabled people as not worth living.”

Have you seen or read “Me Before You?” We’d love to hear what you think. Talk to us here or on Facebook or Twitter.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Making Camp Inclusive

When parents make the decision to send their child to camp, they have many options. They can opt for a day or sleep-away camp, outdoor adventure camp, sports camp, theater camp, religious camp and so on …  The possibilities multiply each year. If their child has a disability, they also have a choice to make when it comes to deciding whether to send their child to a “special” camp designed specifically for children with disabilities, an integrated camp that welcomes children with disabilities but groups them separately from their typically developing camp-mates, or an inclusive camp where campers of all abilities participate in all activities together.

In today’s blog post, we’ll “visit” Camp Chi, an inclusive overnight camp located in Lake Delton, Wisconsin. Camp Chi is affiliated with the JCC in Chicago, which also runs a variety of other camp programs.

For almost 20 years, Camp Chi has worked to integrate children with special needs into their camp program through its partnership with Keshet a nationally recognized provider of educational, recreational, vocational and social programs for individuals with disabilities. Yet until recently, there were limits to what they could provide.

In 2015, Camp Chi was selected as one of six camps to participate in the Ruderman/Alexander Inclusion Initiative. Thanks to the Inclusion Initiative, Camp Chi is now able to: “enroll more campers with disabilities, increase the length and variety of sessions offered, enhance staff training and focus more closely on social inclusion.”

Monday, May 16, 2016

Play Ball!

If it’s springtime it must be baseball season! For baseball-lovers young and old, a trip to the ballpark is one of the great joys of spring —especially when the home team wins! For young [and young at heart] baseball fans, playing the game can be equally joyful. According to the Aspen Institute’s Project Play, “participation in sports by children and adolescents is associated with a range of documented physical, emotional, social, educational and other benefits that can last into adulthood.”

But, all too often, youngsters with disabilities are left on the sidelines.

In recent years, a movement to make sports more inclusive has gained traction. Yet, despite good 
intentions, and modifications to the Americans With Disabilities Act in 2010, many recreational facilities, including ball fields, still don’t accommodate children with mobility challenges, visual impairment and other disabilities. Even when settings are completely accessible, children with disabilities may remain isolated because of the fears and misconceptions of typically developing peers. Fortunately, an organization called The Miracle League is changing that, one community at a time.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Making Summertime Special

For more than a century, North American summer camps have provided children and young adults with meaningful opportunities to immerse themselves in nature, develop life-long friendships, discover their strengths and talents, gain independence and engage in communal living.

According to the American Camp Association’s Case for Camp, “A quality camp experience provides our children with the opportunity to learn powerful lessons in community, character-building, skill development, and healthy living — a meaningful, engaged, and participatory environment.”

For children with special needs, who are all too often stuck on the sidelines, a summer camp experience can have an even more profound effect.  Today, there are so many different ways to take advantage of all that camp has to offer. No matter what your child’s disability, whether you choose a day camp, or sleep-away camp, an inclusive camp, where children with disabilities play alongside typically developing peers, a family camp, a religious camp or a specialty camp focusing on sports, arts, academics or computers, there is truly something for everyone.

But how can you tell if your child with special needs is prepared for a summer camping experience? How do you go about finding the appropriate setting? Will your child be safe?

We went directly to the source—The American Camp Association—to ask these questions. Here’s what we learned: