Making Museums Accessible and Inclusive

Person with VI Feeling an Art Sculpture

At first glance, it looks like a piece of the paper mache’ and mirror sculpture, “Os Saltimbancos” (“The Acrobats”), by Portuguese artist Jose’ de Guimaraes, has broken off. The brightly colored fragment lies on the floor next to the sculpture (see image below). Yet, an inquiry with the gallery’s security guard assures concerned museum goers that no, the sculpture isn’t broken. Instead, the fragment is placed purposely next to the sculpture so that blind and visually impaired visitors can explore the work of art by touching it. The same is true for another sculpture in the same gallery, “Marcelino Vespeira’s “O Menino Imperativo” (Imperative Boy”) which is exhibited with a replica right next to it. Visitors are free to touch the much smaller replica.  Some original works can also be touched if the individual wears gloves.

In the past decade or so, museums in the United States and around the world have boosted efforts to make their institutions more accessible and inclusive for people with disabilities.

Museum educators at Lisbon, Portugal’s Calouste Gulbenkian Museum recently established a new tour especially for visually impaired and blind visitors to help them to experience the museum’s visual art. Special needs educator Margarida Rodrigues says the program for the blind is just one of the programs the museum offers for people with special needs. “We started by offering programs for people with mental illness,” says Rodrigues. Nowadays, the museum also offers programming for people who are blind, deaf, have cerebral palsy, autism and intellectual disabilities.

A partner of the Tandem Project, The Calouste Gulbenkian Museum is one of seven institutions representing seven countries that “meet to test, develop and share tools and new approaches for people with disabilities to explore museums. The project aims to support better understanding of inclusivity in education and ability to creatively deal with diverse groups of learners with and without disabilities,” according to Tandem’s website.

Rodrigues says the activities that she and Margarida Vieira, who oversees the activities program for the public with disabilities, offer for museum visitors “always kick off with a work of art.” Depending on the nature of visitors’ disabilities, activities may include a mix of drawing, movement, auditory and tactile experiences. Rodrigues says that the museum educators often use sound with visitors with cerebral palsy. “We ask ‘can sound have color? Can we grab sound?’ Feeling vibration is wonderful for people with CP. They relax, can control and mix sound, create an orchestra tech sound.”

The museum’s disability program helps visitors with disabilities “gain comfort in the museum… express themselves… and explore issues of identity and body image,” says Rodrigues. Perhaps most importantly, the program provides visitors with disabilities an opportunity to have fun!

 

Six Ways That Swimming Benefits People with Disabilities

Therapist Working with Girl in a Pool

Swimming is a terrific way to cool off during the summer months and an effective way to stay fit throughout the year. It’s also a safety skill that everyone needs to learn. In recent years, more and more swim education programs have begun to offer swim lessons for people with special needs. It’s no wonder. The National Autism Association reports that, “drowning is among the leading causes of death of individuals with autism.” But swimming benefits children and adults with all types of special needs. Here are just some of the reasons why recreational swimming and swimming lessons are a worthwhile investment:

Swimming improves heart and lung health
According to the CDC, nearly half of all adults with disabilities don’t get any aerobic physical activity. Exercise is an essential part of maintaining one’s health, and swimming is an excellent way for people with mobility challenges to stay fit. In fact, Paralympic swimming coach Queenie Nichols, says “Athletes with disabilities, from below-knee amputations to severe quads, can compete and compete successfully.” That being said, it’s not necessary to be an elite athlete to reap the health benefits of swimming or adaptive swimming. These benefits include strengthening the cardiovascular system without putting undue stress on the body.

Swimming helps people with disabilities to maintain a healthy weight
The President’s Council on Health, Fitness and Nutrition reports that in children with disabilities, “obesity rates are approximately 38% higher than for children without disabilities. It gets worse for the adult population where obesity rates for adults with disabilities are approximately 57% higher than for adults without disabilities.” Swimming burns many calories making it a terrific treatment for obesity.

 Swimming improves motor skills and coordination
Swimming doesn’t require the level of motor skill development and coordination that some other sports do. At the same time, it helps to develop those skills. According to Natural Swimmer.com, “Swimmers of all ages will experience a boost to their brain development, due to the kicking of their legs and movement of their arms at the same time. As you work through this combination, you’ll begin to notice a boost in motor skills.”

Swimming builds muscle strength, and increases flexibility
Swimming strengthens just about every muscle group in the body. Since water helps to support muscles, it’s an ideal form of exercise for those who are unable to do other muscle-building types of exercise. Swimming in a heated pool also helps to increase flexibility by relaxing the muscles. That’s why swimming is such an excellent activity for people with cerebral palsy, who often struggle with spasticity.

Swimming reduces pain
Studies show that swimming reduces pain for people with multiple sclerosis, arthritis and other disorders that cause chronic pain. Swimming and aquatherapy also help to facilitate healing for those rehabbing an injury.

Improves mental health
Research show that swimming improves symptoms of anxiety and depression, reduces stress and fatigue and builds confidence. Participating in a swimming class for people with special needs also provides valuable socialization opportunities.

 

 

Five Ways to Create a Sensory Garden for the Visually Impaired

Little Girl Smelling a Peony

Nothing is so beautiful as Spring –
When weeds, in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush;          
Thrush’s eggs look little low heavens, and thrush          
Through the echoing timber does so rinse and wring          
The ear, it strikes like lightnings to hear him sing; — Gerard Manley Hopkins
 
Written in May 1877, but unpublished until 1918, Gerard Manley Hopkins’ sonnet “Spring” captures the season of rebirth as perfectly today as it did then. Indeed, spring has a way of bringing us joy and enlivening our senses. Those who are blind or visually impaired may not be able to fully appreciate colors and landscape design, but sensory gardens offer them a unique and enchanting way to experience nature and engage their other four senses.

According to Jackie Carroll of Gardening Know How.com, “A garden for the blind, or for those with diminished sight, is one that appeals to all the senses without overwhelming them. In fact, garden plants for visually impaired individuals include those that can be touched, smelled, tasted, or even heard.” Here are some important considerations when designing a sensory garden for blind or VI people:

Safety
Safety and easy navigation are critical when designing a garden for blind or VI individuals. Carroll recommends garden design include “straight pathways and landmarks…[changes] in walkway texture… Railings, says Carroll, “should accompany any change in topography and begin a few feet before inclines or declines.” When selecting plants for the garden avoid prickly or thorny bushes and flowers. Poisonous plants should also be avoided since they could be accidentally ingested, or could cause reactions such as poison ivy and poison oak.

Smell
It goes without saying that fragrance is a critically important aspect of sensory gardens. But it’s important to choose scents carefully. Over-powering fragrances may be unpleasant for a blind or VI person with a heightened sensitivity to odors. Used selectively, fragrance helps visually impaired individuals find their way around the garden and of course — provides a pleasurable olfactory experience. Planet Natural suggests “a combination of scents that range from subtle to more intense… to produce the greatest variety and interest. Plants to consider for their scent include honeysuckle, lavender, violets, mint, and chocolate cosmos, which release a chocolate-like scent.”

Sound
Incorporate auditory elements to the sensory garden with wind chimes and water features such as trickling fountains and birdbaths that attract the lovely sound of chirping birds. Master gardener Susan Patterson suggests choosing “plant flora that makes noise when the wind passes through them, such as bamboo stems. Many seedpods make interesting sounds as well, and the end of season leaves provide a fun crunching sound under feet,” adds Patterson. “You can also include plants that encourage wildlife in the garden. The buzzing of a bee, the chirping of a cricket or the whizzing of a hummingbird all stimulates the sense of hearing.”

Touch
Sensory gardens offer a wonderful opportunity for tactile exploration. Plants and flowers with interesting textures include pussy willow, wooly thyme, chenille and hyacinth. Some plants such as scented geranium, release their scents when they are touched. For example, geraniums, lemon balm and mint.

Taste
Edible flowers add another sensory dimension to the garden. Examples from Planet Natural include “nasturtiums, evening primrose, hibiscus, and pansy.” Berries, fruit trees, vegetables, herbs and spices are another great addition. When planting edible flowers, fruits, herbs and spices, take care to place them in an area that’s distinct from the rest of the garden. This is particularly important for VI or blind people who may not be able to distinguish between edible and inedible plants.

 

Spring State of Mind

Man in Wheelchair Enjoying a Sunset

Though winter weather persists in many parts of the U.S., signs of spring are all around us.  Soon, we’ll find ourselves and our children itching to get outdoors to enjoy the warm temperatures, and sunshine. But when your child uses a wheelchair, finding accessible outdoor activities can be challenging. That needn’t discourage you. With a little research and ingenuity, you and your loved ones will be basking in the glow of spring!

1. Take a Hike
Enjoy family hikes before the weather gets too hot. These days, many trails can accommodate wheelchairs. If you aren’t sure which trails are accessible, visit Traillink.com. The website is the place to find out which trails in your area are designed with wheelchair users in mind and it also provides descriptions and other valuable information about each trail.

2. Find an accessible playground
Though not nearly as common as we would like, accessible playgrounds are more common than they were in the past. Accessibleplayground.com includes a listing of wheelchair accessible and inclusive playgrounds all over the country. Hopefully, there’s one in your neck of the woods.

3. Take a long weekend away
These days, many online resources cater to the need of travelers with mobility challenges. Whether you’re seeking accessible lodging, transportation options, restaurants or recreational facilities, websites such as spintheglobe.net, easyaccesstravel.com and accessiblejourneys.com can help you organize a trip that will offer fun, adventure and relaxation for every member of the family.

4. Embrace Adventure
Though there aren’t a ton of venues where wheelchair users can enjoy the freedom and excitement of ziplines, high ropes courses and adventure-based learning, these facilities do exist. Check out The Root Farm in Saukwoit, N.Y. Note: some summer camps also offer accessible ropes courses.

5. Try Adaptive Sports
Being a wheelchair user no longer means that sports aren’t accessible. In fact, nowadays almost every sport is available to people with physical disabilities. Visit disabledsportsusa.com to find out how your child can participate in outdoor sports including archery, basketball, canoeing, cycling and more.

6. Go fishing
Fishing Has No Boundaries believes the joy of fishing should be available to all, regardless of ability level. A national nonprofit, the organization now has 27 chapters in 13 states. Hopefully, one is located in your area of the country.

7. Visit a Botanical Garden
Nothing says Spring like a trip to a botanical garden. Most have wheelchair accessible paths and facilities, but check individual sites before heading out.

8. Attend an outdoor concert
Hearing a favorite band or musical ensemble outdoors is one of spring and summer’s greatest joys. But when you can’t access the park or stadium where the concert is being held, it’s far from fun. Mobilityworks.com recommends researching the venue ahead of time; asking questions; purchasing tickets beforehand and arriving early. After the concert, says Mobilityworks, be sure to review the venue online at sites like Yelp, Facebook and Google “to help improve accessibility awareness.”

 

Inclusive Volunteer Programs Welcome Altruistic People with Disabilities

First observed in 1986, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, honors the birthday of the most iconic civil rights leader of our time. In 1994, the holiday also became a national day of service or as the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) puts it: “A day on, not a day off.” CNCS says its “MLK Day of Service is intended to empower individuals, strengthen communities, bridge barriers, create solutions to social problems, and move us closer to Dr. King’s vision of a “Beloved Community.”

This year’s MLK Day, on Jan. 21, saw thousands of Americans taking part in volunteer projects of all kinds. But until recently, people with disabilities were viewed as the recipients of other people’s volunteer efforts, not as volunteers in their own rights.

Obstacles facing people with disabilities who want to volunteer include misconceptions about their abilities and about the costs associated with making volunteer sites or activities accessible. Individuals with disabilities may also contend with lack of access to reliable transportation and fears that they may lose their disability benefits if they perform volunteer work. All of these assumptions — most of which are inaccurate — are unfortunate, because prospective volunteers, as well as organizations that need volunteers, can all benefit from inclusive volunteer programs.

The benefits of volunteer work for people with disabilities include: increased self-esteem; increased awareness about the abilities of people with physical and/or intellectual challenges; opportunities for learning valuable work readiness; socialization opportunities; and a feeling of belonging to their communities. For organizations, inclusive volunteer programs provide free labor that helps to further their missions.

Yet, the landscape for inclusive volunteer organizations is improving. Nowadays organizations like CNCS are recognizing the value of volunteers with disabilities. For the third year in a row, CNCS has awarded grants to The ARC and five other organizations that serve people with disabilities “to plan and execute volunteer programs that will unite Americans in service.”

According to the ARC’s website, “In the first year of funding, chapters of The ARC recruited 705 volunteers who contributed over 5,700 hours of service and fed 10,230 people in need.” ARC volunteers have served their communities in a variety of ways including “serving meals at soup kitchens; preparing and delivering meals to seniors; stocking food pantries; beautifying community spaces; spending time with people who are isolated; and helping care for pets and other animals.”

Interested in getting started with volunteer work? The ARC provides comprehensive information for prospective volunteers and the organizations they wish to serve on its website. Visit them today:  https://www.thearc.org/

Five Ways to Make the Most of Summertime

Boy on Porch Swing Reading a Book

For many children and parents, summertime provides a welcome respite from the stressors of the school year. With freedom from homework, bedtime battles, and morning meltdowns, families have time to slow down, kick back, and enjoy some much-needed R&R. But summertime also offers opportunities to practice social-emotional, physical and recreational skills that can make the coming school year less stressful and more successful. Here are some tips for helping your child make the most of the summer months.

Avoid summer slide
A literature review conducted by David M. Quinn and Morgan Polikoff of the Brookings Institution in 2017 concluded that “on average, students’ achievement scores declined over summer vacation by one month’s worth of school-year learning…” Fortunately, it doesn’t take a great deal of effort to ensure that your student doesn’t regress. According to Scholastic.com, “Research shows that reading just six books during the summer may keep a struggling reader from regressing.” You can also encourage a love of reading by reading aloud to children of all ages.

Discover new hobbies
Exploring interests and trying new things is worthwhile for all people, but for children with disabilities, who may face limitations of one sort or another, finding their unique talents and passions may be even more vital. Summer is a great time to try activities such as adaptive sports, music, art, drama, science or coding. Camps and community-based classes offer an ever-expanding smorgasbord of offerings.

Make friends
The summer season offers children a variety of social situations that aren’t always available during the school year. Camps, whether for children with special needs or for children of differing abilities, can be wonderful settings for making new friends and practicing social skills in a safe and nurturing environment. Likewise, the unstructured play that happens outdoors in the neighborhood, at the pool or in the playground can all be good places to forge friendships.

For example, says Shonna Tuck, writing for the Friendship Circle: “Parks provide primarily sensory (sand, water, etc.) and physical play that developmentally tends to be easier for young children struggling to connect and play with other kids.” You can help your child get started by initiating a game that will attract other children, says Tuck.

If your child has difficulty in social situations, summer is the perfect time to help her improve her interpersonal skills. A fun way for your child to practice these skills is by engaging a “peer mentor,” says Tuck. “…Older children tend to be able to fill in the social gaps of younger kids and provide additional social practice for your child.”

Learn vocational skills
For teens and young adults with special needs, summertime offers a range of vocational training opportunities. For example, “The Workforce Recruitment Program sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor connects federal and private sector employers across the country with college students and recent graduates with disabilities seeking summer and/or permanent jobs. Teens and young adults with special needs in Los Angeles can benefit from programs such as The Help Group’s Summer Vocational Training Program. The program offers individual and group activities that expose them to “real world work experience.” There’s a good chance that a program such as this one exists in your neck of the woods.

Enjoy family activities
During the school year, it can be hard to find time for family bonding. Summer vacations, day trips, and recreational activities offer precious opportunities for fun, learning, and strengthening relationships between parents, children and siblings. As Tuck points out, “Children build the strength and resilience they need knowing that they have a place at home and people at home who just ‘get them’ and love them for themselves.”

 

Water Play for Kids with Special Needs Offers Swimmingly Good Times

Boy Playing in Baby Pool

When the weather’s hot and humid, there’s nothing like a dip in the pool. And while swimming in a pool is one of the best ways to cool off, it certainly isn’t the only option. Whether it’s a day at the beach, a physical therapy session at the gym, a hosing off in the driveway or just splashing around in a plastic kiddy pool in the backyard, getting wet is one of the joys of summertime. For people with special needs, waterplay also has additional benefits you may not have considered.  Here are some of the ways in which water can be wonderfully therapeutic.

Increases sensory integration
According to Ilana Danneman, a physical therapist writing for Friendship Circle, “water activities are a tremendous asset to a starved or overactive sensory system. Water can energize, and yet it can also calm.” In the water, people with sensory integration challenges learn to acclimate to water temperature and texture, and may become more comfortable getting water on their faces and in their eyes. These skills can translate into important activities of daily living such as bathing and showering.

Builds strength and flexibility
Wonderbaby.org stresses the value of aquatic therapy for children who are blind or have developmental delays: “Water provides a natural resistance that can increase muscle strength, but this resistance is proportional to the effort exerted against it, so the harder you push or kick, the more of a workout you get. If you can’t push as hard, you get a small work out. The water automatically adjusts to your child’s needs.” Whether your child struggles with high muscle tone or low muscle tone, aquatic therapy is a terrific way to stretch and strengthen muscles.

Improves motor planning skills
Being in the water helps people who face challenges with proprioceptive input, such as those who are blind. “The constant light pressure that surrounds the body in the water is the perfect antidote to this problem,” since that pressure increases body awareness, says Wonderbaby.

Develops balancing skills
Water is a safe place to exercise and to practice balancing since the lack of gravity removes fears of falling on hard surfaces. As Danneman points out, “a baby pool can afford an emergent walker an opportunity to work on gait training and balance skills using a ring or float, much like a floor walker. Kids who are more advanced can walk and play around without the ring.”

Increases socialization and communication opportunities
Water is a great equalizer making it easier for children with mobility challenges to keep up with friends and family members. According to the folks at Kids Craft Room.com, “Water play can be an avenue for children to take their first steps from “playing alongside someone” to actually “playing with someone” as they follow other children’s ideas and join in with them.

Encourages water safety
Swimming lessons are a must for children with disabilities, particularly, children with autism who are prone to wandering. “Tragically, the leading cause of death among individuals with autism after wandering is drowning,” says Autism Speaks. The organization stresses the importance of starting to teach children about water safety and providing swimming lessons as early as possible.

Five Reasons to Institute Family Game Nights in Your Home

It’s the holiday season, and for most of us that means time off from school and work, plenty of social gatherings, and lots more family time. Family game nights are a terrific way for families to spend time together during the holidays and in the upcoming winter months. In fact, write Amber and Andy Ankowski for PBS.org: “Numerous studies have shown that children from families who maintain strong lines of communication through frequent get-togethers like game nights and family dinners enjoy benefits to nearly every aspect of their lives…”

For families with differently abled members, it can be challenging to find games that everyone can enjoy together. But no worries! Enabling Devices’ adapted games make family game nights accessible to people of all abilities including Adapted Pie Face, High Roller, Game Spinner, Hi Ho Cherry O, Tic Tac Toe, and Matching Picture Lotto Bingo.

Wondering why family game nights are so important? Read on to learn more!

Social skills practice
Nowadays, almost any game can be played on our smartphones and iPads. That’s all well and good, but taking a break from our devices forces us to interact with each other face-to-face, something extremely valuable, particularly for children with social skills deficits. Games provide opportunities to practice turn-taking, following rules and directions and to win and lose gracefully. “Many developmental studies show that children that are normally withdrawn for whatever reasons, have shown a lot of improvement in their ability to cooperate with playmates, and have even increased their popularity among their playmates because of skills brought about by playing games,” says Families.com.

Improved motor, dexterity and hand-eye coordination skills
Depending upon their disability, game activities such as rolling dice, shuffling cards and even activating a switch provide opportunities to practice fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination while having fun.

Enhanced academic skills
Most games require players to recognize letters, colors, shapes and numbers strengthening math and reading skills. A 2007 study by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University found that preschoolers who played “linear number board games” showed better “numerical knowledge” than peers who did not.

Increased confidence
Learning skills, having successful interactions with others and improving one’s game-playing abilities naturally result in the development of higher self-esteem.

Fun!
With all the benefits we’ve listed, it’s easy to overlook what’s perhaps the most important benefit of game-playing —having fun with the people we love!  Enjoy the games and enjoy the holidays!

 

Three Cheers for Inclusion

“Step,” a new documentary that won accolades at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival and opened earlier this month in theaters across the nation tells the inspiring story of an inner city high school’s girls Step team that overcomes significant obstacles to win their state’s step dance championship. The skills they learn through their team membership help to prepare them for their school’s ultimate goal: To ensure that every member of the team is accepted to college. The film got us thinking: What’s available to girls (and boys) with disabilities in the realm of competitive dance and cheerleading? As it turns out, there’s a lot out there!

In fact, about a week ago, U.S.A. Today reported on a special needs cheerleading squad in Salisbury, Maryland that’s become one of the state’s most successful teams. The “Shooting Stars” is made up of athletes with disabilities ages 7-53. And its team leaders say, all it takes to join the team “is a positive attitude.”

Then there’s this: In partnership with the International Cheer Union, ParaCheer International is currently developing a “new division” of cheerleading for athletes with and without disabilities who cheer together. According to Paracheer’s website, the division “will involve mixed teams of disabled and non-disabled athletes, working together to create a routine that incorporates most of the elements of a current cheerleading routine – jumps, dance, stunts and tumbling ….”

Recently, a hip hop dance team from Fort Myers that includes members who are blind, and have Down’s syndrome was invited to participate in an international dance competition. Team leader, Trish Colecki’s motto? “We may be disabled but we aren’t unable.”

And dance and cheerleading teams aren’t just for kids. Take the L.A.-based Rollettes. Founded by Chelsie Hill, a competitive dancer who lost use of her lower body due to a car accident, the group of six women who all use wheelchairs, dance at festivals for people with varied abilities across the country. Recently, Hill told Today.com, “Of course there are things I miss being able to feel — leaps and kicks and backflips. But when I’m performing, I still feel the same rush that I used to. And when I go on stage, I don’t feel my chair. I don’t feel different. I’m just dancing, and that’s where my heart is.”

But you don’t have to live in Maryland, Florida or California to learn to cheerlead. A nonprofit called The Sparkle Effect teaches communities all over the country how to create cheerleading squads for people with disabilities. The Sparkle Effect began when Sarah Cronk, a 15-year-old high school cheerleader with a brother who is developmentally disabled, was inspired to create an inclusive cheerleading squad—The Sparkles— at her school in Bettendorf, Iowa. Cronk had seen how her brother suffered when he was excluded by classmates, and she was determined to create a vehicle that would bring differently abled students together.

What started as one team in 2008, has grown into an organization that has helped launch 200 cheerleading teams in 30 states and has impacted the lives of more than 10,000 students with and without disabilities.

In 2016, Cronk told People Magazine, “Ultimately, I want to run The Sparkle Effect out of business. I know that sounds crazy, but I want us as a nation to get to a point where inclusion is the norm and not the exception,” says Cronk. “I want us to arrive at a place where we don’t need organizations like The Sparkle Effect because inclusion is just the natural set point for schools nationwide.”

Cheers!

How the Arts Build Skills and Bring Joy

As the summer vacation season comes to an end, many parents have begun making plans for their children’s fall schedules. If your child has special needs, his schedule may be full of therapy appointments, doctor’s visits and tutoring sessions. Though it may be challenging to find time for other extracurricular activities, making space for the creative arts is well worth it. Participation in arts programming can increase children’s self-esteem, improve cognitive, motor and social skills and provides a sense of community that is sometimes hard to find in mainstream school settings. Fortunately, more and more arts education programs across the country are offering classes for children with special needs.

In today’s post, Enabling Devices looks at the benefits of creative arts experiences for children with special needs.

Theater for children with autism spectrum disorders
In recent years, educators and parents across the country have come to recognize that participation in the theater arts are extremely beneficial to children on the autism spectrum.
In a 2016 study, Vanderbilt University professor Blythe Corbett demonstrated how children enrolled in her 10-session, 40-hour program, SENSE Theater were less anxious, more likely to recognize faces, and more capable of understanding different points of view. According to an article by Laura McKenna in The Atlantic, “kids who completed the program had brain-frequency levels that were more similar to children without autism.”

Dance for children with physical disabilities
Mobility challenges needn’t be a deterrent to dancing. Even children who use wheelchairs can enjoy the many benefits of dance classes. According to Strictly Wheels, a UK-based organization that promotes wheelchair dance and runs wheelchair dance classes, these benefits include “Improving fitness and ability through exercise and dance; Boosting self-confidence and self-esteem through participation; Reducing social isolation through inclusion; Increasing personal independence through better ability to use a wheelchair.”

Music for the visually impaired
Research has shown that people who are blind, especially those who have been blind from an early age, are more likely [than those who are sighted] to have absolute or perfect pitch.
“Blind children’s brains undergo radical changes in order to make better use of the sensory inputs they can gather,” says Mic writer Tom Barnes. “Numerous fMRI and lesion studies suggest that individuals blind since childhood repurpose large portions of their visual cortex in order to respond better to auditory stimuli,” writes Barnes. “The younger children are when they lose their sight, the more powerful their auditory cortex can be, thanks to increased neural plasticity in place during infancy/early childhood/young childhood.”

Visual art for children with a variety of special needs
Making art is a wonderful means of creative expression for all children, but for children with disabilities, its benefits can be even greater. Not only does art increase children’s fine motor and cognitive skills, it offers enjoyable and therapeutic multisensory experiences—think finger painting or ceramics. If your child is unable to use her hands to create art, she may be able to hold a paintbrush with her mouth or foot. If that seems far-fetched, just check out the Association of Foot and Mouth Painting Artists website. In fact, writes Nancy Bailey for the online publication, Living in Dialogue, “Even the most severely disabled student can, through their senses, appreciate the joy of the arts.”