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 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.