Strategies and Products for Caregiving When a Loved One Has Cerebral Palsy

Although it often gets lumped in with chronic “diseases,” cerebral palsy is not a disease. It is a condition that results from damage to areas of the brain responsible for movement a child experiences while they are in the womb or, in some cases, immediately after birth. Doctors can usually diagnose cerebral palsy, or CP, early on — during or not long after infancy.

Because cerebral palsy treatment and severity can look different for each person, developing a plan for how to care for your loved one with this condition or how to help someone with CP is a critical part of helping them manage it throughout childhood and adulthood. No matter how much you love someone, caring for a child or adult with cerebral palsy is stressful. It puts a lot of pressure on you every day. And, if you aren’t careful, the ins and outs of figuring out how to manage your loved one’s symptoms can quickly become overwhelming.

While we can’t cure cerebral palsy or suddenly make all your stressors disappear, specific strategies and products can help make your job as a caregiver just a little bit easier.

What Is Cerebral Palsy?

Cerebral palsy is a condition that results when a child experiences brain damage in the womb or immediately after birth. Marked by problems related to movement, muscle tone and posture, its effects are permanent.


The severity of cerebral palsy can vary, providing challenges that are unique for every caregiver. Some people with cerebral palsy can walk on their own, while others must rely on a wheelchair. Some can communicate their needs, and others are non-verbal. While cerebral palsy itself is a neurological condition, it can lead to a variety of other problems for individuals. While each person is different, in general, someone with cerebral palsy is also more likely to struggle with:

  • Abnormal perceptions of touch or pain
  • Seizures
  • Cognitive issues
  • Hearing and vision problems
  • Incontinence
  • Intellectual disabilities, including ADD and ADHD
  • Oral diseases
  • Mental health conditions

An individual with CP does face a unique set of challenges, but in today’s world, there many tools and strategies available to help them progress and live happy, productive lives. In many cases, they can make significant strides toward independence, which also relieves some of the pressure on their caregivers.

As a caregiver for someone with cerebral palsy — whether child or adult — you are always looking for ways to help your loved one improve their overall health and well-being. At Enabling Devices, we understand care for cerebral palsy in the home is an ongoing process of education and discovery. You never stop growing and learning, because you are determined to do the best you can as you care for your loved one.

Making Daily Life Easier

When it comes to at-home care for cerebral palsy, there are a lot of products and strategies available to help make life easier. Knowing what’s out there and how it can help you is essential to provide care for someone you love successfully.

living with cerebral palsy routines and care plans

Remember, establishing routines and an effective care plan may take time. After all, figuring out what works best doesn’t usually happen overnight. There will be times of trial and error before you finally settle on what works. You may spend months trying a new product or strategy, only to discover a better option down the road.

CP is a lifelong condition, so taking time to try different strategies and developing a plan that works for your loved one’s unique challenges is the best way to make sure everyone is comfortable and thriving where they are.

As you strive toward this, it’s essential to take time for self-care. Find ways to relieve stress, ask for help — more about that later — and remember to rest. One of the best cerebral palsy caregiving tips is to make sure you are helping yourself, too.

Communication and Language Development

One unique challenge that accompanies caring for someone with cerebral palsy is encouraging communication and language development. While cerebral palsy itself is typically a condition that affects movement, it can have profound cognitive impacts as well. Because of the limitations on their muscle development and function, individuals with cerebral palsy may struggle with facial expressions, gestures, speech, voice production and language — that is, being able to communicate and express their needs in a clear, concise way.

When it comes to how to raise a child with cerebral palsy, one vital job of caregivers is to address these issues when children are young, so as they grow, they learn to communicate and function in the world around them.

communication and language development for cerebral palsy

Some ways parents of children with cerebral palsy can encourage this behavior include:

1. Parallel Talk

This strategy is simple. As your child performs an activity — for example, playing with wooden blocks — you, the parent, talk about what’s happening while they do it. As they play, you might say, “Oh, look, you’re building with blocks. You put the red on top of the blue. Oh no, they fell over!” Think of it as narrating your child’s activities.

2. Self-Talk

This method is similar to parallel talk, only you are narrating what you as the parent are doing, rather than observing your child. As you play with your child, talk about what you are doing. For example, as you play with blocks, you might say, “Here is a yellow block. I think I will put it on top of the red block. Look at that! The red block is shaped like a square.”

3. Expansions and Extensions

In this case, you as the caregiver can add on to your child’s vocabulary to help them expand it. For example, if your child says “Dog,” you can expand it by saying “Fluffy dog.” Or, you can extend it to say, “The man is walking the dog.”

4. Non-Verbal Communication

Non-verbal communication falls into two categories — assisted and unassisted. Assisted includes technologies designed to help non-verbal individuals express themselves, such as computers, speech synthesis machines, or Augmentative & Alternative Communicators (AAC). Enabling Devices has dozens of AAC devices. These devices can be as simple as a one-message communicator, multiple message communicators, or progressive communicators that grow with your child. Unassisted includes communication methods such as sign language. If your child is non-verbal, trying out some of these options can ease frustrations and provide a means for communication.

5. Create Opportunities

Sometimes, the best way to encourage a child’s communication is to give them opportunities to practice. Place a favorite toy just out of their reach, so they will have to ask for it. Or, encourage them to socialize with other people. The more opportunities they have to practice communication, the better they will become at expressing their thoughts, feelings and opinions.

Developing Hand/Eye Coordination and Fine Motor Skills

Hand/eye coordination is an essential function for someone with cerebral palsy. As the use of visual cues to direct and engage the hands in action, hand/eye coordination can be challenging for someone with cerebral palsy because it requires the simultaneous use of the vision system as well as the hands and muscles.

Often mentioned in tandem with fine motor skills, which require tiny muscle movements, hand/eye coordination is the development of the skill of using the vision system and hand muscles simultaneously.

developing hand eye coordination for people with cerebral palsy

One of the best ways to help your loved one develop in one or both of these areas is with one of Enabling Devices’ assistive technologies. These devices provide fun and, often, guided interaction between the individual and their caregiver to help people with cerebral palsy in their development. The goal of these devices is to improve hand/eye coordination, as well as assist individuals with cerebral palsy as they develop and improve their fine motor skills.

1. Shape Sorting

Reminiscent of a popular child’s toy, this low-profile shape sorter — fondly called Drop-in-a-Bucket — is designed for players who have a more limited reach. The bucket has lights on it to attract the user’s attention, as well as music that plays when the user drops the shape into the correct hole. One great thing about this is that it teaches object placement and hand/eye coordination, as well as shape recognition. That combines two crucial functions into one item!

2. Pull and Play Switch

The Pull and Play Switch encourages the practice of three important motions — swiping, grasping and reaching. It can attach to a tabletop, wheelchair or bed rail, and comes with two different sized pulls. The object of the game is to encourage the player to reach for the ball suspended from the frame and then grab on to it with a finger or hand.

3. Stacking Blocks

These Stacking Blocks are designed to develop several skills vital to an individual with cerebral palsy. The object is to hone fine motor skills by placing one block at a time on the stack until it’s complete. As the individual places blocks onto the stack, they can also work on addition and subtraction and hand/eye coordination as they work to use their hands to guide the blocks to the right place.

4. Fine Motor Kit

Two Fine Motor Kits include different items that are designed to help children and teenagers strengthen their fingers and hands, develop grasping skills and hone their fine motor skills. It contains two pairs of easy-grip scissors, several games and the teen kit even has a Glow-in-the-Dark Dreamcatcher.

Daily Living Tasks

Another challenge caregivers often face is enabling your loved one with cerebral palsy to complete daily tasks. Generally speaking, four main tasks comprise the category of daily living — personal hygiene, eating/drinking, dressing and using the bathroom.

daily living tasks for those with cerebral palsy

While the extent of a person’s CP will indeed dictate their ability to perform any of these four activities, it should be the goal of any caregiver to promote as much independence as possible to build and maintain muscle function, as well as for peace of mind. Caregivers cannot be present every second of every day, and teaching an individual with cerebral palsy to perform specific tasks on their own can give them a sense of independence, as well as provide a much-needed respite for you.

Your medical team can provide guidance on how to go about teaching and developing certain skills within an individual with cerebral palsy, but it is critical to find ways to incorporate instruction into daily activities when raising a child with cerebral palsy. For example, use mealtime as a time to gradually teach your loved one to feed themselves. To do this, you can prepare them ahead of time for the table setup, what utensils they will use and what they will be eating. Then, during the meal, work with them on correct posture and the mechanics of chewing, if necessary, as well as identifying unfamiliar foods and the proper way to eat.

There are also a variety of useful products on the market that focus on how to help someone with cerebral palsy as they develop muscle control and the ability to perform daily living tasks. For example, tools like Enabling Devices’ ADL Boards help individuals with cerebral palsy develop the skills they need to dress. Each of the four boards helps with mastery of manipulative skills, including buttons, snaps, laces and zippers.

Over time, if a person’s abilities allow, they can also begin to practice and master specific life skills — that is, skills that help them care for themselves on more than a basic level. These skills might include housework, meal preparation, communication, managing finances and shopping. They can also include pursuing hobbies and activities that are of interest to the individual.

Depending on their abilities, products such as Enabling Devices’ battery-powered scissors provide electronic cutting, promoting independence and allowing someone with limited mobility to cut paper, fabric and other items on their own. While a pair of scissors might seem like no big deal, to a person with physical limitations, the ability to use an everyday object like a pair of scissors can provide a much-needed boost in their self-esteem and joy.

Products for Sensory Needs

Along with the physical challenges that come with cerebral palsy, individuals with this condition can also struggle with sensory processing disorder. While a sensory processing disorder can manifest itself in many different ways, it means they have a heightened sensitivity to things in their environment. These could include fear of loud noises, sensitivity to scratchy fabrics or even failure to respond when they encounter extreme temperatures. Yes, everyone hates startling sounds or the tastes of certain foods, but, for an individual with a sensory processing disorder, these aversions can take on an exaggerated effect to the point where they have a negative physical response to a trigger, such as vomiting when a loud noise happens.


products for sensory needs for those with cerebral palsy

Enabling Devices offers a variety of products designed to help individuals with sensory processing disorder, including toys, lights and chairs. We also provide sensory room design services to connect families with special needs to trained professionals who can recommend designs and products tailored to their individual needs.

Essential Products and Adapted Devices

One especially significant tool for individuals with cerebral palsy is the adaptive switch, a button used to activate adapted devices. The size and technology behind switches vary, so there is something out there for individuals of all levels of disability. These switches can make it possible for individuals with cerebral palsy to access a variety of devices including communicators, adapted toys, adapted electronics and even iPads. Enabling Devices has dozens of switches that address a wide range of needs — head switches, hand switches, sip & puff switches, mounted switches, and even an eye blink switch.

essential products and adapted devices for people with cerebral palsy

Caregivers can attach switches to mounts, which come in a variety of sizes and designs. The job of a mount is to position a switch in a way that makes it most accessible for a particular individual based upon their physical needs. These can make a huge difference for an individual with limited physical abilities.

What good would switches and mounts be without adapted devices that attach to them? Enabling Devices offers hundreds of adapted devices that work with our switches. These include:


Finding Help

Being the parent of a child or adult with cerebral palsy can be both physically and mentally demanding. Just as you are intentional about taking good care of your loved one, you should also be intentional about taking care of yourself. Caregiver burnout can result in depression, anxiety and a variety of mental and physical health issues.

Unfortunately, all the devices and assistive technology in the world cannot prevent a caregiver from overdoing it. As a caregiver, you have a responsibility to yourself, as well as your loved one, to ask for help. This assistance could be in the form of a babysitter who comes once a week while you go to a movie, or it could be a trained professional who takes a more frequent and active role in the day-to-day care of your loved one.

Whatever route you decide to take, you will likely feel some apprehension about allowing someone else to spend time with your child without you present — no matter how old your child is. Some anxiety is normal, especially in the beginning. But, as you adapt to the presence of another person, it’s important to remember:

1. Change Is Good

Your child can find happiness and a fresh perspective when they spend a few hours with someone else. Interacting with a new person, encountering different ideas and playing various games can be stimulating for them, as well as you.

2. Taking Care of Yourself Helps Your Family

By avoiding caregiver burnout, you keep yourself mentally sharp and ready to care for your family, which is particularly vital if you have others in your home who do not have cerebral palsy. When you a break from your responsibilities as a caregiver, you can pay better attention to your other family members and nurture relationships that might otherwise fall by the wayside.

finding caregiving help for those with cerebral palsy

Just because it’s important to get help doesn’t mean you’ll leave your loved one with the first person you find. Take time to find someone you trust, and make sure they understand how to babysit a child with cerebral palsy. Then, once you’ve hired someone, spend time with them outlining expectations and routines. Be clear about what you expect, and make sure you know what their expectations are too.

About Enabling Devices

Since our founding in 1978, Enabling Devices has been dedicated to providing high-quality, individualized service to our clients and their families. Our goal goes beyond providing products to perform a task or assist with a daily function. Our mission is to create products that allow our clients to unlock their full potential and experience joy and independence they didn’t think was possible.

shop products for cerebral palsy enabling devices

Enabling Devices is proud to serve clients with a variety of needs, including clients with cerebral palsy. We offer a wide range of products to provide accessibility and to address muscle development, sensory issues, fine motor skills, teach cause and effect, and much more.

For questions about our products or to place an order, contact us today at 800-832-8697.

Two Blind Brothers Fashion

Owners of Two Blind Brothers Fashion

With Thanksgiving in the rear view window, the 2019 holiday shopping season is well underway. If you’re reading this, we probably don’t need to remind you to visit Enabling to find the best selection of adapted toys, sensory items, electronics, switches, communicators, training products and more.

But if you’re looking for something we don’t sell — say a super-soft, ultra-fashionable T-shirt or polo, or a piece of jewelry that expresses an inspiring message — you might want to consider a gift from Two Blind

Founded by brothers Bryan and Branford Manley in 2017, Two Blind Brothers sells designer clothing and accessories for men, women and children. The Manley brothers, who both have Stargardt disease, a form of macular degeneration that has robbed them of much of their sight, started the company “to make shopping easier for the visually impaired by creating the best shirts that appeal to everyone.”

As the Two Blind Brothers’ website explains, “a person with a visual impairment can’t just go into a store, spot a shirt they like, and try it on to see how they look. A person with a visual impairment instead has to rely on other factors to determine what they want to buy, such as how the shirt feels, how it forms to their body, how comfortable it is to wear, and what other people have to say about it.”

Like many individuals who are blind, the Manley brothers have highly developed tactile abilities that worked to their advantages when it came to selecting the softest textiles for their apparel. After testing thousands of fabric samples, the Manleys came upon the perfect blend — 66% bamboo, 28% cotton, and 6% spandex — a combination they promise will make Two Blind Brothers shirts your favorites!

Two Blind Brothers also stands out because of its “Shop Blind” website. Designed specifically for blind shoppers and distinct from the company’s website for seeing customers, Shop Blind’s premise is “trust,” say the brothers. “We’re asking you to trust us to get a product we think you will LOVE without ever having seen it, the same way that trust lifts us all up every day.”

Clothing produced by Two Blind Brothers is also distinctive and practical for blind customers because each piece has the garment’s color written in Braille above the right bottom hemline. As the creators note: “this subtle, yet impactful detail is recognizable, stylish and a great conversation starter.” Likewise, necklaces and bracelets with the message “Love is blind” written in Braille help to raise awareness about blindness.

Two Blind Brothers products aren’t inexpensive, yet they’re well-made and support a great cause. In fact, all proceeds from the sale of their products are donated towards research programs developing cures for retinal eye diseases.

For more information, visit

Eight Ways to Thank Wounded Warriors on Veterans Day

Veteran in Wheelchair in front of an American Flag

On Veterans Day, Enabling Devices salutes our veterans, especially those who have service-connected disabilities. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 4.7 million veterans, or 25 percent of all veterans, had a service-connected disability.

Interested in honoring our disabled veterans this Veteran’s Day? Consider volunteering or making a donation to an organization that supports them. Here are some of the most reputable:

Wounded Warrior Project
Founded in 2003, WWP provides a range of services to veterans who sustained physical or mental injuries, or illnesses during military service that was performed on or after Sept. 11, 2001. WWP also offers support services to family and caregivers of wounded veterans including benefits and career counseling; mental health services such as PTSD treatment and stress reduction; and physical fitness training programs.

Disabled American Veterans
DAV’s stated mission is “empowering veterans to lead high-quality lives with respect and dignity”. Their efforts include “fighting for the interests of America’s injured heroes on Capitol Hill; and educating the public about the great sacrifices and needs of veterans transitioning back to civilian life.” The organization provides veterans with over 600,000 rides to medical appointments and helps veterans complete more than 200,000 benefit claims. DAV’s services are free to veterans of every war and their families. There are 1,300 chapters all over the United States.

Puppies Behind Bars
This multifaceted nonprofit organization trains inmates to raise service dogs for wounded veterans, and bomb-detecting dogs for use in law enforcement. The dogs are specially trained to work with veterans with PTSD and traumatic brain injuries. Since the program started in 2008, 66 dogs have been paired with wounded veterans in 26 states.

Homes for Our Troops
Approximately 11 percent of the homeless in the U.S. are veterans. Homes for Our Troops, founded in 2004, builds and donates accessible houses for severely injured veterans of post 9/11 wars. The organization also adapts existing homes so that injured veterans can continue to live in them.

Fisher House, Inc.
With an A+ rating from CharityWatch, you can feel secure that your donation is going to good use when you support Fisher House, Inc. Fisher House provides nearby temporary housing for families of veterans who are hospitalized for an injury or illness. To date, Fisher House has built 84 locations on military installations and on VA campuses. The program also gives scholarships for veterans, their children and spouses and raises money for the travel needs of families of hospitalized veterans.

Semper Fi Fund
Another A+ rated charity, Semper Fi is committed to providing the resources severely injured veterans require to recover and transition back into civilian life. The organization offers three distinct programs — the service member and family support program which provides direct financial assistance and programs for veterans and their loved ones; the transition program that provides education and career assistance to help veterans to live productive lives despite their injuries; and the integrative health program which offers a variety of physical and mental health programs and therapeutic activities.

Hope for the Warriors
Hope for the Warriors offers a spectrum of services to wounded veterans and their families including physical and mental health and wellness programs; transition services; and sports and recreation activities. The Hope for Warriors Wish program fulfills wishes for wounded warriors who need financial assistance to fulfill their dreams.

Gary Sinese Foundation
Supporting veterans had always been important to actor Gary Sinese. But after 9/11, he stepped up his volunteer and fundraising efforts on behalf of the men and women who defend our country. In 2011, he founded the Gary Sinese Foundation which offers programs such as R.I.S.E. (Restoring Independence Supporting Empowerment), a program that builds adapted homes and modifies homes and cars for severely injured veterans. The Foundation’s Relief and Resiliency programs provide recreational activities to the children of fallen heroes, as well as mental health and financial assistance to veterans and their families. In addition, the Foundation’s Community and Education branch helps to raise awareness about the issues facing military families, and provides meals and arts and entertainment experiences to active military and veteran communities. The Gary Sinese Foundation also serves the needs of first responders.


8 Disabilities-themed Blogs to Check Out Now!

Six People Sitting with Laptops and Concept Art about Blogs behind them

If you’re reading this right now, welcome to Enabling Devices’ blog. If you’re not a regular reader, we hope you’ll become one. If you do read us regularly, we’d love to know what you think about the blog. Are there topics we cover that are particularly interesting? Are there topics we haven’t covered that you’d like us to explore? If so, please share your impressions, suggestions and any feedback you may have.

Though we’re partial to our own blog, we can’t pretend that we’re the only disabilities-themed blog or news source on the internet. In fact, there are lots of blogs and websites that present valuable information, opinions, news and support for people with disabilities, their families, teachers and therapists. Each blog has its own voice, its own tone and its own point of view. Below, you will find a list including many of the best blogs and websites on disabilities-related themes. Happy reading and don’t forget to visit us again!

The Mighty
The Mighty isn’t so much a blog as it’s an online community that provides support to people affected by disabilities and other health and mental health challenges. It includes stories, news and videos on over 600 topics including autism, cancer, cognitive disabilities, mental illness, and rare diseases.  Written by people personally affected by disabilities and health concerns, readers will feel empowered, understood, and be able to connect with other people affected by disability.

Wheelchair Kamikaze
Though Wheelchair Kamikaze’s founder Marc Stecker hasn’t been writing lately, it’s well worth it to check out his blog for posts written from 2015-2018. The award-winning blog by Stecker, who has multiple sclerosis, is beautifully written and full of well-researched scientific information. It’s also notable for Stecker’s sense of humor and his moving and relatable reflections on having a chronic illness.

Disability Scoop
The largest disability-related news organization in the country, Disability Scoop provides daily reporting about topics of interest to the disabilities community. Topics include autism, intellectual disabilities, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome and more. The online publication looks at disabilities in terms of politics, education, science, money and more.

Have Wheelchair Will Travel
A travel blog for wheelchair users, Have Wheelchair Will Travel was founded by an Australian woman named Julie, who loves to travel. When her son was born with CP, she and the rest of her family needed to adapt their traveling to include her son’s wheelchair. As she explains on the “About Us” page: “The aim of this website is to give some tips on places we’ve found accommodating, wheelchair accessible/friendly and some fun things we found in our travels.”

Love That Max (A Blog for Kids with Disabilities Who Kick Butt)
As you might guess, Love That Max was started by Max’s Mom, Ellen Seidman, a magazine editor turned award-winning blogger. After Max was diagnosed with CP, Seidman started this blog to chronicle Max’s triumphs and her own experiences parenting a child with CP. The blog also includes posts from other parents of children with special needs who share their joys, struggles and accomplishments.

Exceptional Parent
An online magazine that covers a range of issues around parenting children with disabilities, Exceptional Parent has been around for 47 years. The magazine covers news, gives practical advice and emotional support. Its mission is “to improve the quality of life for all people with chronic life-long conditions, as well the physicians, allied health care and educational professionals who are involved in their care and development.“

 American Foundation for the Blind Blog
This blog provides news about a variety of issues that affect the blind: employment, disabilities law, education, sports, arts and leisure and more.

Perkins School for the Blind Stories
Even if you or your family member are not students at the historic Perkins School, you can benefit from blogposts about issues from parenting to education to disabilities policy. The oldest school for the blind in the country, Perkins was home to Helen Keller and Annie Sullivan!

10 Podcasts Worth a Listen

Man Broadcasting a Podcast

In recent years, the popularity of podcasts has soared. According to statistics compiled by Podcast, as of 2019, 51 percent of people in the United States report they have listened to a podcast. Currently, Podcast Insights estimates there are 750,000 podcasts and 30 million episodes available on the internet. Still, some of us remain confused about what podcasts are and why many people prefer listening to podcasts to consuming other types of digital media.

For the uninitiated, podcasts are digital media files, usually audio, but sometimes video, that can be downloaded or streamed on one’s smartphone, iPad or computer. Podcasts tend to feature in-depth reporting on a wide range of topics that many listeners believe they cannot find elsewhere. Another advantage?  Podcasts can be heard on demand, in accordance with the listener’s schedule.

Here are some of the top-rated podcasts on topics that may be of interest to individuals in the disabilities community.

Disability Matters
Hosted by Joyce Bender, this podcast focuses primarily on employment issues facing people with disabilities.

The Accessible Stall
Join hosts Kyle Khachadurian and Emily Ladau as they delve into topics of interest to the disabilities community from their diverse perspectives.

Ouch: Disability Talk
Simon Minty, Kate Monaghan and the Ouch team take you to “the place where real disability talk happens” on this BBC podcast.

 Disability Visibility
This podcast, created by disability activist and founder of the Disability Visibility Project, Alice Wong, covers a variety of cultural, political and media-related topics through “a disabled lens.”

Two Disabled Dudes
The hosts of this podcast, Kyle Bryant and Sean Baumstark, have a rare condition called Friedreich’s ataxia that effects their balance and coordination. Despite these challenges, Bryant and Baumstark have become long-distance biking champions. Their podcast is about breaking barriers and fulfilling one’s dreams.

Chronically Chilled
This podcast explores issues related to chronic illness, disabilities and mental health in a discussion-based format.

Assistive Technology Update with Josh Anderson
Get current with the latest assistive technology advances for people with disabilities in this weekly podcast.

Inclusive Education Project Podcast
Special Education and Civil Rights attorneys, Amanda Selogie and Vickie Brett host this weekly podcast about education reform and disability rights.

Disability: A New History
This 10-part series hosted by Peter White and created by the BBC, uncovers the largely forgotten histories of people with disabilities who lived during the 18th and 19th centuries.

Disarming Disability
Hosts Nicole Kelly and Sarah Tuberty speak to experts on a variety of topics of interest to people in the disabilities community. Recent podcasts have focused on being a good advocate, and portrayals of people with disabilities in the media.

Happy listening!

How Virtual Reality Technology Relieves Pain and Speeds Recovery

Woman in Wheelchair using a Virtual Reality Headset

photo courtesy of: The Radio Scout


Several years ago, retired science teacher, volunteer fire fighter and chimney sweep Robert Jester suffered a devastating accident when he fell from a roof while cleaning a chimney. Jester, a Long Island, N.Y. resident, broke 19 bones, and woke up in the hospital to find himself paralyzed from the waist down. After multiple surgeries and five-day-a-week rehabilitation sessions, Jester continued to experience excruciating pain. Concerned about the effects of habitual opioid use, Jester turned to virtual reality technology to manage his pain.

Until recently, many of us have only associated virtual reality with 3-D movies and video games. Yet, virtual reality can be used in countless other ways. Not sure, what virtual reality means?

The Virtual Reality Society defines it as follows: “Virtual reality is the term used to describe a three-dimensional, computer generated environment which can be explored and interacted with by a person. That person becomes part of this virtual world or is immersed within this environment and whilst there, is able to manipulate objects or perform a series of actions.”

Those who have used the technology says it feels incredibly real.

In 2015, a company called appliedVR created a platform that could be used to “impact chronic pain as well as acute pain and anxiety experiences before, after, and during surgery, child labor, oncology infusions, emergency room procedures, and rehabilitation sessions.” According to appliedVR’s website, since its founding, “appliedVR has delivered scientifically designed and validated digital health solutions to over 30,000 patients in more than 250 hospitals and in 8 countries globally.”

For Jester, appliedVR has made a huge difference. When Jester is overwhelmed by pain, he skips the pain medicine and instead, straps on his VR goggles. He finds that the 3-D technology can “refocus my attention to flying on the Wright’s airplane or looking at animals out on the plains, or looking at farm animals. It takes my attention away from the pain.” In time, Jester taught himself to use his mind (without the technology) to escape his pain for hours at a time.

In fact, Jester claims that virtual reality has done even more than reduce his pain and need for pain medicines. It has also done wonders for his recovery process he says. Jester is now able to move his leg — something doctors told him he would never be able to do. And research backs up Jester’s belief in how VR can hasten recovery. “Research has shown that VR-mediated rehabilitation can speed the pace at which these patients regain physical abilities,” writes Sarah DiGiulio for NBC News. “One study of stroke patients showed that VR rehab led to more improvements in arm and hand movement compared to conventional rehab after four weeks of therapy. The VR-assisted patients had better mobility when the doctors checked in two months later. Other research has shown similarly successful outcomes for patients with cerebral palsy undergoing rehab for balance problems.”

When it comes to its medical uses, many doctors and patients believe that the sky’s the limit. As for Jester, he insists that despite doctors’ prognoses, he will walk again.

Everyone is Beautiful!

Disabled Girl Hair Style

When your child has a disability, everyday activities that parents of typically developing children take for granted can be challenging. For example: getting a haircut. When your child uses a wheelchair or has sensory issues, finding a salon and a hairdresser with the accessibility and sensitivity to manage your child’s special needs is not a foregone conclusion. Far from it.

Thanks to the Americans with Disabilities Act, many salons are now wheelchair accessible, yet precious few of them provide comprehensive services to people with disabilities. For example, people with autism or sensory integration disorders may find the environment of hair salons overly bright, noisy or crowded or the experience of having their hair shampooed or cut anxiety provoking. Meanwhile, people who use wheelchairs are often out of luck when it comes to having their hair shampooed or even getting through the doors!

As the population ages, the need for fully accessible salons will increase significantly. Some salon owners and beauticians are taking the requirements of people with disabilities into account. But one thing is clear: There is a significant need for more salons to create accommodations for special needs clients. Here are some of the few businesses in and outside of the U.S. currently catering to people with disabilities.

One such business is KidSnips in the Chicago area. With eight locations, KidSnips salons are wheelchair accessible and its stylists are all trained to work with children with disabilities. According to its website, KidSnips’ stylists take time to explain the haircut process to anxious children. There is even a video on their website showing young customers what the haircut experience will entail. KidSnips’ stylists are also careful to respect young customers’ sensory issues “foregoing clippers and trimmers for scissors…” based on children’s preferences. For children who dislike the sensation of water spraying on their hair, stylists “will spray [their] hands or combs with water to avoid spraying directly on the child’s hair.”

In consultation with Autism Speaks, Snipits, another franchise with locations in Long Island, N.Y., New Jersey, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and elsewhere, also trains its stylists to work with children on the autism spectrum.

Located in New South Wales, Australia, Shear Abilities is miles ahead of the rest. Owner Desiree McDonald is the mother of a woman with cerebral palsy and is well aware of the indignities that people with disabilities often face when it comes to finding accessible and respectful salon services.

McDonald says she opened Shear Abilities because she wants “to put clients, big or small, with a disability first because they deserve it. They deserve the royal treatment, they deserve to feel equal, they deserve to feel comfortable, they deserve to feel like they are not putting anyone out, they deserve to fit in.”

The salon offers, “entry ramps, special chairs, a lifting hoist and other features that make wheelchair access a breeze. For ultimate comfort, [Shear Abilities] also offers a full lay-down massage chair with neck support. “ Additionally, Shear Abilities has group programs and workshops that “help build confidence and self-esteem.” The business also provides in-home services for individual clients or residents of group homes.

Speaking of in-home services, The Traveling Barbers helps to match people with disabilities with mobile barbers and hair stylists in their areas. According to the website, “the same way Craigslist introduces buyers to sellers, we introduce those with disabilities who are in need of in-home hair care services, to local mobile barbers and hairstylists from their area…”

Jollylocks, another Australian haircutting establishment, offers mobile salon services to children with special needs including those with intellectual, physical and sensory disabilities. In addition to working with children, Jollylocks’ stylists will provide in-home styling for busy parents who may not have the time to get to a salon.

Here’s hoping that more entrepreneurs in the beauty industry recognize that people with disabilities are a huge and growing market that deserves their attention!

Five Reasons to Bring a Pet into Your Child’s Life

Little boy hugging a Golden Retriever dog

Considering adding a pet to your household? If you have a child with a disability, the benefits of owning a pet can be significant. In fact, research has shown that pets can help children with physical and developmental disabilities in myriad ways. Here’s what the science says:

1. Pets encourage increased physical activity.
A 2017 case study at Oregon State University found that a program that incorporated the family dog into an exercise program for a 10-year-old boy with cerebral palsy “led to a wide range of improvements for the child, including physical activity as well as motor skills, quality of life and human-animal interactions.” Said study co-author Megan MacDonald: “They develop a partnership and the activities become more fun and challenging for the child.”

2. Pets help children with autism to form connections with others
Many children with autistic spectrum disorders have difficulty connecting to other people. Studies show that autistic children in homes with pet dogs, learn to make such connections. For example, a 2014 study published in the journal Pediatric Nursing, found that in families with dogs, 94 percent of children “were bonded” with them. And “children living with dogs interacted with them in play and/or sharing personal space,” noted researchers. In addition, having a pet also gave children an “opportunity to learn responsibility and companionship.”

3. Guinea pigs help to improve social skills
Can’t manage caring for a dog right now? How about a guinea pig, hamster, gerbil or even a turtle?  A study conducted at the Autism Resource Center at Hospital Bohars in France found that autistic children from families that owned pets “were better able to share toys and food with both parents and other kids and better able to comfort others than the pet-less children were.”

4. Pets reduce stress and improve mood in children with learning disabilities and ADHD
According to the National Institutes of Health, “Interacting with animals has been shown to decrease levels of cortisol (a stress-related hormone) and lower blood pressure. Other studies have found that animals can reduce loneliness, increase feelings of social support, and boost your mood.”

5. Fish tanks can be therapeutic for children with disruptive behaviors.
The calming effects of watching fish swim in a fish tank reduces behavioral problems in children with emotional and behavioral disabilities according to a study at the University of Pennsylvania. Other studies have shown that gazing at fish tanks also reduces anxiety as well as heart rate and blood pressure.




Dating with Disabilities Made Easier

Image for Dating site for People with Disabilities

If Valentine’s Day week finds you online looking for love, you’ll have plenty of company. According to Time magazine, dating sites such as JDate, Christian Mingle, Match, Coffee Meets Bagel and others confirm that generally speaking “Valentine’s Day sees a spike in user activity.”

But that doesn’t mean it’s easy to find your soulmate online. In fact, online dating is not for the faint of heart and for singles with disabilities, it can be especially complicated.  For one thing, there’s the perennial question: Should you reveal your disability in your profile and pictures?

The folks at Easter Seals recommend disclosing your disability up front “especially if it greatly impacts your life. It weeds out close-minded people from the start so you don’t waste your time, and it can be a way to spark conversation and connection,” says Easter Seals.

What if you’d rather avoid the whole disclosure question? Many singles with disabilities choose to forego generic dating sites in favor of the growing number of sites specifically for people with disabilities. Here, we list and explain how some of most popular sites and apps work.

My Special Match
Created by a mom and dad of a daughter with disabilities, My Special is a place where singles with disabilities can find friends and potential mates in a safe and accepting virtual environment.

Special Bridge
Special Bridge isn’t only a dating site, it’s an online social community for people with disabilities. Whether you’re seeking a romantic partner or strictly online relationships, the site offers dating and safety tips, an active blogsite with articles on relevant topics such as dating with Asperger’s syndrome and dating with Down syndrome. The site is only accessible to community members with disabilities and its developers are vigilant about making sure that scammers can’t become members.

Meet Disabled Singles Club
When you join this dating site, your profile will also be seen by users of many other websites geared toward singles with disabilities. Note: if you don’t want that, you can opt out and just focus on the site you join. You can send flirts and private messages, participate in video chats and see who’s liked and favorited you. Get started for free.

This dating app which launched in 2017, was founded by Geoffrey Anderson, the brother of a man with cognitive disabilities. After seeing his brother struggle to meet people on mainstream websites and dating apps, Anderson was inspired to develop an app that would make it easier for users to disclose their disabilities without fear of being rejected because of them. Think of Glimmer as a more inclusive, disability-friendly kind of Tinder.

Disabled Dating Singles
According to Best Dating, this site is “easy to navigate, has an active dating community and is loaded with all the communication and search features that you look for in a good dating site.” Sign up for free and you can begin searching for compatible singles immediately.



Enabling Devices Bookshelf: 2019 Edition

Images of Books about Disabilities

Bundle up! The Polar Vortex is here! What better time to stay indoors and cuddle up with a good book? Enabling Devices has got your back with this updated list of highly rated fiction and nonfiction titles on a range of disabilities-related topics for readers of all ages and abilities.

“Autism in Heels: The Untold Story of a Female Life on the Spectrum” (Hardcover)
By Jennifer O’Toole, Skyhorse, 272 pages, $16.99
Girls with autism often present differently than boys with the developmental disorder. For that reason, they often wait years for a diagnosis. That was the case with author Jennifer O’Toole who was diagnosed with ASD at age 35. In her new book, O’Toole shares what life is like for a girl and woman with autism and how learning she had ASD changed her life.

“Differently Wired: Raising an Exceptional Child in a Conventional World” (Hardcover and audiobook)
by Deborah Reber, Brilliance Audio, $18.32; audiobook, $14.99 Available 2/19/19.
One in five children born today are neuro-atypical. The mother of a son with ADHD and Asperger’s who is also highly gifted, Reber offers this “how to” manual on creating new and positive paradigms that helps parents to parent exceptional children exceptionally.

“Forever Parenting: Voices of Parents of Adults with Special Needs” (Paperback)
By Rosemarie Scotti Hughes, Ph.D., (Westview Press), 144 pages, $11.99
What lies ahead for children with disabilities when they cross the threshold into adulthood? How can their parents ease the way? In this 2018 book, Scotti Hughes, the parent of an adult child with intellectual disabilities, shares her experiences as well as the experiences of other parents with children with special needs, as they advocate for their adult children. Full of wisdom, hope and help, “Forever Parenting” provides a map for navigating the complex journey ahead.

Young Adult
“A Curse So Dark and Lonely” (Hardcover)
By Brigid Kemmerer, Bloomsbury YA, 496 pages, $12.91
A contemporary retelling of “Beauty and the Beast,” this new novel’s brave heroine doesn’t let cerebral palsy stand in her way.

“This is not a Love Scene” (Hardcover, iPhone, iPad, iPod touch and Mac)
by S.C. Megale, (St. Martin’s Press), 288 pages, $18.99. Due out May 7
A talented young filmmaker with many strengths, Maeve’s rare form of muscular dystrophy tends to stand in the way of romantic prospects. But when she meets Cole Smith, the two discover an undeniable attraction that changes her outlook and her self-image.

“Rescue and Jessica: A Life-Changing Friendship” (Hardcover),
By Jessica Kensky, Patrick Downes and illustrated by Scott Magoon. (Candlewick), 32 pages, $15.29, K-4th grade
Based on a true story, this highly rated picture book teaches children about the deep love and devotion that develops between a young girl and her service dog.

“Jolly Molly Dolly”(Paperback)
By Julia Kay O’Connor, (self-published), 24 pages, $6.34
Written in rhyme, “Jolly Molly Dolly,” is the story of the school therapy doll at the special needs school where the author works. O’Connor’s sweet story endeavors to familiarize children with and without disabilities with the equipment used by children at her special needs school. O’Connor’s aim? To make these mobility devices less scary for the children who use them and for their mainstreamed classmates.

Happy reading and stay warm!

New Ride-sharing Apps Cater to People with Disabilities

Man in Wheelchair getting out of an Accessible Van

Despite requirements set forth in the Americans with Disabilities Act, access to transportation remains a major obstacle for people with disabilities. According to a survey of 1,650 people conducted by KRC Research for the National Aging and Disability Transportation Center, “Eighty percent of people with a disability and 40 percent of older adults who don’t drive said they couldn’t do all the activities and errands they needed or wanted to do because they couldn’t get around.”

Obstacles to transportation also limit opportunities for employment and socialization, keep people with disabilities unemployed and isolated. But several new ride-sharing apps are offering options for people with mobility challenges.

Cofounded by internationally known opera singer and entrepreneur Ja’Nese Jean, a new app called SAFETRIP provides wheelchair accessible vehicles and ambulances and is the only ride-sharing app that can be paid for through health insurance. SAFERIDE’s drivers receive sensitivity training, defensive driving training, and CPR training. Jean told IssueWire “Our goal is to create a bridge between an underserved demographic as it relates to ownership and influence in a mainstream thriving industry.”

Another ride-sharing app for people with disabilities is due out later this year. Scoot, which stands for Stronger Communities through Open and Organized Transportation, is being developed by an Illinois-based nonprofit called New Star. The app “will make available drivers specifically trained in working with people with disabilities, and with vehicles specially equipped to transport them,” New Star CEO Dan Strick told Disability Scoop recently.

Not to be outdone by these newcomers to the ride-sharing industry, Uber has also gotten into the act. According to the Washington Post, “Uber has long been criticized for its lack of wheelchair-accessible vehicles, and a lawsuit filed by the nonprofit Equal Rights Center in 2017 called out the company for its failure to provide access for passengers in wheelchairs and motorized scooters.” Recently, Uber in partnership with MV Transportation, launched wheelchair accessible ride-sharing in six cities. “MV will supply drivers and vehicles, while trips will be arranged through the Uber app,” said the Washington Post. Later this year, Uber plans to expand its services to customers in Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Paying Tribute to Inclusion

Diverse Group of People in a Circle Hugging

It’s been just over a week since a mass murderer took the lives of 11 individuals during Shabbat services at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Penn. Among the dead were two brothers with intellectual disabilities.

Cecil and David Rosenthal, ages 59 and 54, were well-loved by fellow congregants at the Tree of Life and throughout Pittsburgh’s Jewish and secular communities. And while many religious institutions have struggled to make their services, facilities and cultural climates accessible and inclusive to members with disabilities, it seems as if the Tree of Life had it right.

In remembrances published and broadcast across countless media outlets, the brothers were warmly praised for their devotion to the synagogue and their communities, their kindness and the joy they brought to others. During the brothers’ funeral on Oct. 30, their rabbi, Jeffrey Myers told the overflowing sanctuary full of more than 1,400 mourners, “They were two of the sweetest human beings you could ever meet,” according to The

Not only were the Rosenthal brothers beloved, they were active contributors to synagogue and community life. Per, “The brothers were fixtures at Tree of Life. Both helped out before, during and after services. David Rosenthal was meticulous about arranging prayer books and shawls. Cecil Rosenthal was a greeter.”

David and Cecil lived together in apartment supported by Achieva, a social service agency in Pittsburgh. Their lives were full. In addition to synagogue life, Cecil was active with the local Best Buddies Program and was known as “the unofficial mayor of Squirrel Hill,” according to USA Today. Said Jason Bertocchi, former chapter president and local Best Buddies board member: “Cecil became a true staple of our chapter over his 8+ years, and, recently, would always welcome me with open arms and meaningful conversation each and every time we would get together. Our chapter suffered a loss of a family member yesterday. Cecil was a wonderful man and an even better friend.” David worked for Good Will Industries and though more introverted than his brother, was said to have had a terrific sense of humor.

As lifelong Tree of Life congregant Jerry Solomon told the New York Times, the fact that the brothers were staples of the community was taken for granted. “Today we talk about inclusion, but they were just part of the community, and I didn’t think anything about it… It was my introduction to the fact that there are people like that and they are just like the rest of us,” said Solomon.