Ease Into Sleep With Bedtime Routines

Bedtime Routines

Any parent knows that getting their kids to sleep can be a nightly struggle. In fact, a 2023 Penn State College of Medicine study found that “25% of children, 35% of adolescents and 45% of young adults suffer from insomnia symptoms.”

In children with intellectual and developmental disabilities, hearing impairment or deafness and visual impairment or blindness, the incidence of sleep disorders is even higher, with some studies finding that as many as 86% experience them.

Now that school is back in session, it’s more important than ever that children get a full night of good quality sleep. Here are some of the best ways to approach bedtime battles.

Establish a routine
Create a visual schedule for your nightly bedtime routine and share it with your child. A typical routine might be bath-time at 7 p.m. followed by pajamas, book, tuck-in and good night at 8 p.m. Stick to the schedule – even on weekends.

End electronics use early
Stop screen-time well before starting the bedtime routine. “Smartphones, tablets, computers, television screens, and some e-readers give off short-wavelength blue light that is very similar to sunlight,” according to sleepfoundation.com. “Not only does this light make people more alert, it also deceives the body into thinking it is still daytime.” It goes without saying—that’s the last thing we want at bedtime!

Make the bedroom conducive for sleep
Your child’s bedroom should be cool and dark with comfortable, soft bedding that doesn’t irritate sensitive children’s skin. Put toys away so they don’t present distractions. If your child needs some light to feel comfortable, use a nightlight. Tools such as white noise machines and weighted blankets may also encourage relaxation and sleep.

Choose bedtime snacks carefully
If your child wants a snack before bed, stick to foods and beverages without sugar or caffeine. Good bedtime snack choices include nut butter on whole wheat bread, banana, plain yogurt, apple slices and cheese.

Ask your pediatrician about melatonin
Only with your doctor’s approval, consider giving your child melatonin about 60 to 90 minutes before bedtime. According to healthychildren.com, “melatonin is a natural, hormone-like substance produced by an area in the brain called the pineal gland. It is released naturally at night and tells the body it’s time to sleep.” Discuss dosage amounts with your pediatrician before starting any supplement use.

Teach relaxation techniques
Some children respond positively to massage or relaxation exercises such as these from the Sleep Foundation. Relaxation exercises help children to calm their bodies and minds so they can drift off to sleep more easily.

Have a busy day
Encourage your child to spend as much time engaged in active, outdoor activities as possible during the day. That way, they’ll be more likely to fall asleep at night.

 

New Guide Will Help Clinicians Better Care for Individuals With Severe Autism Spectrum Disorder

Child on floor crying

According to Healthline, “Autism spectrum disorder is the diagnostic label given to a broad category of neurodevelopmental disorders.” These neurodevelopmental disorders include mild autism (formerly known as high functioning autism or Asperger’s syndrome) or what is now known as Level 1, and severe aka profound autism or level 3.

Level 3 ASD bears little resemblance to the mild autism that many have come to recognize from TV programs such as “Love on the Spectrum” and “Atypical.” And effective help for people with Level 3 ASD can be hard to come by.

People with Level 3 autism are often non-verbal and may exhibit dangerous behaviors that can cause harm to themselves and others.  Historically, clinicians have found themselves at a loss to help patients and families with behaviors such as head-banging, hitting, kicking, biting, destruction of property and more. Few clinical programs are designed to meet the needs of this population. But a new guide created by Autism Speaks may provide hope.

“Program Development and Best Practices for Treating Severe Behaviors in Autism” is designed to provide clinicians with the resources to help their severely autistic patients and their families in various ways. The guide, which came out of Autism Speaks’ 2020 Thought Leadership Summit on Challenging Behaviors, includes information for clinicians struggling to understand challenging behaviors in people with severe autism. It teaches clinicians techniques on how to intervene when severely autistic individuals are actively experiencing these behaviors. Additionally, the guide includes a toolkit for clinicians aiming to develop programs that can help these individuals and their families.

The guide focuses on various topics that relate to individuals with Level 3 ASD and includes an inventory of challenging behaviors; a screening tool for assessing and measuring behavior; practical treatment solutions based on evidence-based research; and a tool kit for clinicians interested in developing programs for individuals with severe behavioral problems.

In an interview with Disability Scoop, Jacqueline Perlmeter, program manager of clinical programs at Autism Speaks, explained the need for the guide.

“Despite the prevalence of these behaviors, the majority of families lack access to appropriate and effective treatments. This lack of access to quality care can lead to poor treatment outcomes, limitations on skill development, poorer quality of life and inability to participate in the community that they live in. In addition, these behaviors can lead to substantial physical and emotional harm to themselves and others.”

Added Perlmeter: “This is a highly underserved segment of our community who often cannot access the behavioral and mental health services they need, leading to worse outcomes and a higher likelihood of crisis situations,” Perlmeter said. “By publishing this guide, we are working to ensure that local providers — not just autism specialists — have the knowledge and skills they need to effectively serve this population.”

Autism Speaks is currently working on a similar guide geared for the families and non-clinical caregivers of people with severe ASD. Stay tuned.

7 Ways to Help Children of All Ages Become More Independent

Blog: 7 Ways to Help Children

Parenting: It doesn’t truly end when your child turns 18. If you’re a parent, chances are you spend a tremendous amount of time and energy worrying about your kids. If you’re a parent of a child with disabilities, your worries may be even more pervasive.

Regardless of disability, parents know that it’s their job to prepare their children to become as independent as possible. Today’s post includes some suggestions on how to encourage independence throughout your child’s life.

Provide choices

Younger children or those with intellectual disabilities may not have the judgment to make sound choices, but providing several good options about what to eat, what to wear, what to play with, etc. will give them practice making decisions and asserting themselves.

Be patient

Teaching children to complete ADL (activities of daily life) tasks on their own can take time and repetition. For parents who feel rushed and overwhelmed, it can be easier to do it yourself. Though it is tempting to do so, performing tasks that your child can learn to do for themselves eliminates important opportunities to encourage independence.

Find ways for them to help 

Whether it’s helping with meal prep on their wheelchair tray, dusting furniture, removing lint from the dryer, or bringing in the mail, most people with disabilities can perform certain chores. Doing chores successfully and being praised accordingly will go a long way toward increasing your child’s sense of competence and self-esteem and increasing their skill sets.

Encourage them to be their own advocate

When your child has an issue at school or work, it can be difficult to sit back and let them solve it on their own. While there are times when a parent must advocate for their child, why not let them try to manage the issue independently before rushing in to save the day? Allowing your child to ask for help or manage a problem independently will prepare them to solve problems when you’re not there to step in.

Let your child speak for him- or herself

Whether your child is verbal or uses an augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) device, give your child a chance to speak for themselves before you act as their spokesperson. Your child will benefit from the opportunity to express themselves.

Stay up on the latest technologies

Assistive technology enables your child to perform many tasks on their own. For example, communicators make it possible for non-verbal children and adults to express themselves, while switches and mounting devices such as the many sold by Enabling Devices, allow individuals with mobility challenges, blindness, or low vision to activate electronic products independently.

Treat adult children like adults

As we mentioned above, parenting lasts a lifetime. Sometimes it’s hard to separate from our adult children and to recognize that they have likes, dislikes, feelings, and opinions that don’t necessarily jive with our own. When adult children are disabled, it’s natural to be protective. Even when we have the best intentions, being overprotective can infantilize adult children with disabilities. Infantilizing behavior can make adult children feel incompetent and insecure and may discourage them from seeking greater independence.

How to Teach Children to Include Classmates With Disabilities

How to Teach Children to Include Classmates With Disabilities

School is back in session, and if you have a school-aged child, there is a high chance they will encounter a classmate with disabilities. It’s essential to teach your child about children with special needs and how to treat them. Unfortunately, many adults tend to feel awkward about acknowledging another person’s disabilities and, if they’re not careful, they can pass this attitude on to their children. Even if you don’t say things that are rude when talking about a person with disabilities, your child may pick up on your avoidance of the topic or your lack of understanding of people who are different.

Today, there are approximately 61 million Americans with disabilities. Ignoring them or avoiding them isn’t an option for adults or children. Instead, we need to learn how to include them and get to know them as we would any other person. As a parent, it’s crucial to help your child understand this and learn how to apply this knowledge in the classroom. But even if you agree about the importance of teaching kids about disabilities, it can sometimes be difficult to know where to start.

How Parents Can Teach Children About Peers With Special Needs

Some conversations will happen on the fly as your child observes people with special needs in their classroom, at a restaurant or in a store. It’s also important to address this topic with them outside of those moments. These conversations will teach them how to respond when they meet someone with different needs than them. Read on for tips on how to encourage your child to include students with disability in the classroom and outside the classroom.

1. Educate Your Kids and Share the Basics With Them

A great way to help young children understand disabilities is to make use of your local library. There are many great children’s books that talk about people with special needs and teach children how to engage with them. You can also look for online videos or television shows that positively portray people with special needs. Sesame Street does a great job of this and can be a great video resource for younger children.

One thing parents often forget is that videos and books are more effective if you take the time to talk about them with your child after they read or view them. Ask what they think, how they feel and how they can apply what they learned in everyday situations. If your child has a classmate with a disability, this is a great time to make the connection between the material they just encountered and the individual they see every day.

2. You Don’t Have to Explain Every Last Detail

Every child is different. This means they’ll process information differently. Children — especially younger ones — may easily become overwhelmed or confused if given too much information. The goal here is not to turn your child into an expert on disabilities. The goal is simply to help them realize that every child is different and those differences should be celebrated, not avoided.

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3. Teach Your Child That Everyone Is Different

Every person — with or without disabilities — is unique. Embracing others’ differences is an essential life skill. Even if they aren’t interacting with a special needs child daily, make it a point to encourage your child to interact with a variety of playmates. Seek out opportunities for them to engage with others who are different from them. And, perhaps most important of all, allow them to see you engaging with adults of various backgrounds and abilities. When this practice is modeled to them from the beginning, they will have an easier time understanding its practical applications when they encounter classmates with special needs.

4. Emphasize That Just Because Someone Has a Physical Disability Doesn’t Mean They Can’t Do Something

A child who has a disability or physical limitation is still a person who enjoys activities and engaging with others their age. They want to be loved and accepted by their peers, but may simply require special accommodation to do so. As your child grows, teach them the importance of giving all students a chance to participate in activities. Encourage them to invite their classmates who have special needs to join in playground games and extracurricular activities when appropriate. If they aren’t sure what’s okay or their friend requires special accommodation, encourage your child to ask a teacher how to best include and assist their friend. It’s better to ask for an explanation than make incorrect assumptions and leave people out.

5. Teach Patience

Another thing to help your child understand is that children with special needs can often do the same things as their peers — it just takes them a little bit longer. Patience goes a long way toward building friendships and including others. If your child understands their classmate’s disability, it will be easier for them to display patience if they move slower or take longer to understand a game or activity.

6. Remind Your Child That Everyone Wants to Have Friends

If children don’t know any better, they may assume that a classmate who has difficulty communicating verbally or who cannot engage in physical activity does not want or need friends. Explain to your child that this assumption is false. Even children who are unable to communicate their needs or participate in certain activities still long for love and acceptance. As you talk with your child about their peers with special needs, it’s important to focus on the things they have in common with your child, rather than their differences. Remind them that everyone wants to have friends and be included. Even if their body doesn’t allow them to walk, run or speak, they are still human, and they love having friends who care for them.

7. Educate Yourself

To help your child develop a healthy and age-appropriate understanding of how to help special needs students in the classroom, it’s important to educate yourself first. Researching these topics can help you become more informed. If you know any specifics about the special needs of any of your child’s classmates, you can look more closely into these areas. However, it’s not necessary to become an expert. Your child isn’t looking for a lecture or to be overwhelmed with facts. Your child is simply looking to you to help them understand what’s going on and how to treat others with compassion.

8. Explain Adaptive Equipment

You can also discuss adaptive equipment with your kids. Explain how people with disabilities use extra tools to help them. While you describe the equipment, you could provide common examples, like:

In addition, you could talk about other helpful tools for people with disabilities, like designated parking spaces or wheelchair ramps.

By teaching kids to recognize adaptive equipment, they can be more understanding when seeing it in the future. You can also explain how to treat people that use the equipment. You can explain that the equipment is helpful for kids with disabilities and that you should treat it with respect.

9. Make Sure Kids Ask Before Helping

Many kids like to be helpers at school. From wanting to be the line leader to volunteering to pass out materials, these children want to assist their peers and teachers in any way they can. However, it’s important to teach your students to ask before trying to aid a child with a disability. If they try to help before getting permission, it could worsen the situation.

For instance, a student might want to comfort an upset child with special needs. The student could think a hug would help the child, but it might make them feel more uncomfortable.

Instead, you can teach your students to ask before jumping in with assistance. Asking a quick question like “Is there anything I can do to help?” can help people with disabilities set boundaries and accept the help they need. That way, they can stay more comfortable within the classroom.

10. Focus on Similarities

Another great approach for explaining disabilities to students is to focus on similarities. Instead of only explaining the differences, point out shared interests or traits between people with disabilities and everyone else. You could talk about similarities like:

  • Favorite subjects
  • Common hobbies
  • Hair colors
  • Favorite foods

As kids realize what they have in common with people with disabilities, it becomes easier to relate to them. This practice can help with empathy development, encouraging kids to experience someone else’s point of view.

How to Interact With Someone Who Has Special Needs

Your child will also look to you to model how to interact with a classmate who has special needs. Wondering how kids can include classmates with special needs? These tips can help.

1. Remember That Everyone Is Human

At the core of it all is the understanding that everyone is human. We all want acceptance and to engage with others. How do you show this to a child? Model this behavior in your interactions with everyone you meet. The way you treat the cashier at the grocery store, the crossing guard in front of your child’s school, and the other parents you encounter in the carpool line will go a long way toward teaching your child that every human being is valuable. If they see this modeled by their parents, they will be more likely to emulate this behavior with all of their classmates, regardless of any special needs they might have.

With younger children, play is a valuable tool for understanding and connecting with others. Young children form relationships through play and can develop a better understanding of their special needs peers when they engage together through play. Look for opportunities for your young child to engage and interact with other children and adults who are different from them.

2. Be Yourself

A common question children and adults have about engaging with special needs students is “How do I interact with them?” The short answer to this question is: Just be yourself! A child’s disability does not necessarily change their ability to respond to others around them. For instance, a child with speech and language disabilities can still participate in conversations with others using their adaptive equipment.

At the same time, there’s no need for your child to go overboard trying to engage with them. A child who tends to be quiet but loves to help might do better by offering assistance to a special needs peer during a classroom activity. A child who tends to be more talkative and outgoing may choose to engage in conversation with their special needs peer. Encourage your child to find ways to engage with their classmate that are reflective of their personality. Although everyone should step out of their comfort zone from time to time, there’s no reason your child has to change their personality or do things that they wouldn’t even do with their other classmates.

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3. Recognize Boundaries

Although it’s important for children to be inclusive of others, it’s also vital that they learn to understand that their classmates may have boundaries and struggles that don’t always go well with your child’s personality. For example, autistic children don’t usually like to be touched. An affectionate child might like to hug or touch other children, but a child with special needs might not welcome touches. Because children spend so much time in the classroom together, they often pick up on these preferences just from watching their classmates. However, it’s still important to remind them to be alert and aware of how their behavior can affect their classmates.

If your child has a classmate who uses a wheelchair to get around the school, teach them to consider the wheelchair to be an extension of their classmate’s body. That means that it’s not okay to lean on the wheelchair, destroy or deface it in any way or ask to ride in it. They should also never grab for the chair or attempt to push their classmate without permission.

4. Use the Universal Language of Music

In some cases, music can be a great way to bridge the gap between classmates of varying abilities and needs. Even if a child is non-verbal or has physical limitations, they can still connect with music because it is universally understood across the world. They can enjoy the antics and voices of their classmates, and they can connect with the words, even to silly songs. As children grow older, they may also be able to bond over the love of a particular genre of music or a band they both enjoy. This can be especially helpful for tweens and teens who are looking for ways to connect with a classmate with special needs.

5. Don’t Be Afraid to Talk

Even if your child has a classmate who is non-verbal, you can encourage them to engage in conversation with them. Engaging in conversation with another person demonstrates an interest in them and helps to establish a connection. Your child can tell stories or ask about their day. Remind them that it doesn’t have to turn into a 20-minute discussion. Even taking 30 seconds to say “hello” or telling a brief story about something that happened at the bus stop that morning can go a long way.

That being said, teach your child to be sensitive to their classmates if they have any hearing loss or sensory issues because conversation in a crowded or loud space may do more harm than good. Guide them to look for opportunities to talk in quiet face-to-face settings, such as during assignments that require students to choose a partner to complete them or inviting them to play an educational game during a free period.

Parents of special needs students are typically receptive to questions from their child’s classmates. These questions give them the opportunity to inform others and help them develop a more accurate understanding of what makes their child unique. It doesn’t take a well-scripted list of questions to approach another parent. Many times, a simple “Hello” is all you need to open the door to conversation.

6. Recognize Limitations

Children of all ages and stages have their limits. In children with special needs, these limitations are often magnified because of the physical or sensory issues associated with certain conditions. Talk with your child about recognizing these limits in their peers with special needs. For example, they may have a classmate who is deaf. That student may not be able to follow a conversation in spoken English, but they can still engage in active play at recess. Your child could also learn a few basic signs so that they can communicate with them.

If your child has a classmate with autism spectrum disorder, you may want to prepare them for witnessing their classmate having a meltdown or episode where they seem to be out of control. When these outbursts happen, children without disabilities can often misunderstand them. Children might react by making fun of or becoming scared of their special needs classmates. But the truth is that these outbursts are simply a part of their disability. It’s the teacher’s responsibility to prevent and mitigate these outbursts, not the children’s. But your child can cultivate an understanding attitude toward what’s happening and not allow it to mar their opinion of their classmate.

How Can Teachers Make the Classroom Inclusive?

Parents can and should play an active role in teaching their children how to treat others and how to get along with others who are different than them. But teachers have a valuable role to play in working with special needs children as well.

1. Accommodate Lessons to Ensure Everyone’s Needs Are Met

It might go without saying, but for teachers to accommodate their students’ needs, they must first understand those needs and limitations. Teachers should follow the same guidelines as children and parents by educating themselves on their students’ special needs, boundaries and limitations.

Once a teacher has a good handle on what their students’ needs are, then they can develop lesson plans that find creative ways to meet them. Make a point to coordinate with the school’s specialists, including occupational therapists, speech therapists, school psychologists, special education instructors and reading specialists. You can work together to build inclusive lessons that will provide the needed accommodations for all students.

While a teacher may need to make certain alterations to accommodate a student’s special needs, it’s essential to keep the general theme of the lesson the same for everyone. By engaging them in the same topics and basic activities, you promote an inclusive atmosphere for everyone in the class. When your students have a common goal, they’ll engage with each other more effectively and feel more like a cohesive group.

Depending on your students’ needs, you may also have an additional teacher in the classroom to assist them. Or, you might use specialized technology to obtain information in an alternative fashion. For example, a student who is deaf or hard of hearing may require a visual translation of the lesson or a seat up front to read lips during a lecture. If another teacher is assigned to work with one of the students in the classroom, work closely with them. That way, you can both adequately prepare to instruct the class and meet individual needs.

2. Avoid Stereotypes

Whether you’ve been teaching for two months or twenty years, you may have formed some preconceived notions about special needs students and how to interact with them. In some cases, these ideas may have been informed by stereotypes and long-ago incidents that served to inform and reinforce those stereotypes. Although it may not feel natural at first, make a point to check those conceptions at the door and start fresh.

When it comes to including and instructing students with special needs, teachers should refrain from allowing past experiences to inform their current situation. Remember that each of your students — regardless of their physical and mental abilities — is a human being. They each learn differently. They each have different likes and dislikes. They each have different ways of engaging with the world around them. As you know, part of a teacher’s goal is oftentimes to learn about their students and what makes them tick. Then, they can apply their training and knowledge to the business of helping them learn.

3. Maintain a Positive Attitude

There are just some days that staying positive in the classroom is really tough, but it’s important to maintain perspective and focus on the big picture. Believe each student is capable of succeeding and regularly evaluate your teaching plan for better ways to do this.

It’s also important to accept responsibility for the learning outcomes in your classroom. Although some students struggle more than others, there’s no benefit to blaming the student or their disability for their lack of understanding. There is no such thing as a waste of time. Regardless of how they engage with their class or what information they retain in the long run, your role is to teach them something they didn’t know before and prepare them for what’s ahead.

4. Maintain an Inclusive Atmosphere at All Times

Children will mimic the behavior they see in the adults around them. If a teacher includes all students in activities and strives to maintain an inclusive atmosphere in the classroom, then students will follow suit. If a teacher excludes certain students from certain activities or shows a preference for those they think are “smarter” or “better,” then they risk cultivating a divisive classroom.

A great way to create an inclusive environment is to incorporate games and interactive activities into lesson plans. This helps students learn about each other’s strengths and understand their personalities. It’s also a great way to develop unity among students. When children have fun together, it helps them grow closer to each other, regardless of their abilities.

5. Have Adaptive Equipment and Assistive Technology in the Classroom

Some of this may depend on your students’ individual needs, but having the appropriate adaptive equipment and assistive technology available in the classroom goes a long way toward effective instruction. Using assistive technology in the classroom ensures that students with varying levels of ability can be included in a variety of activities. It also helps to promote inclusion by ensuring no student is left out. Not sure what kind of equipment you need? Check out our wide variety of products and classroom kits.

6. Talk About Disabilities With Students in a Healthy Way

Lastly, remember to keep all classroom discussions about disabilities healthy and positive. Teachers can help students form positive feelings about peers with disabilities, instead of fear or awkwardness.

For instance, you could encourage healthy communication strategies like:

  • Humanize others: When students notice children who are different from them, inspire them to treat them like other classmates. For instance, you could tell students to introduce themselves and ask questions. Remind them of the similarities between everyone despite appearances.
  • Normalize confusion: Your students might feel confused about the best way to include or speak to kids with disabilities. Let them know that confusion is okay, but it’s important to overcome it and welcome others.
  • Use respect: Emphasize that respect is the most important aspect of all interactions. While it’s okay to ask questions, remind students that everyone’s feelings should come first. They should treat every person they meet with respect and think about how their words might impact others.

Taking a healthy approach to students with disabilities in the classroom can help you maintain a positive environment.

Assistive Technology Products and Classroom Kits from Enabling Devices

With the proper support, children who have special needs can thrive in the classroom environment. For more than three decades, Enabling Devices has worked with parents, teachers and special needs individuals to develop exceptional, high-quality products that help special needs individuals succeed in the classroom, the workplace and at home. Our ultimate goal is to help everyone we work with to live a full life and experience the joy of being able to fully engage in the world around them.

Ready to help your child or student thrive in the classroom? Browse our wide selection of products online or contact one of our representatives for help finding what you need.

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Back to School Tips and Themes for Special Education Teachers

Back-to-School Tips & Themes for Special Education Teachers

Back to school time means preparing yourself and your room for a new group of students. Special education teachers often have different considerations when getting ready for the school year than general education teachers. Each student in a special education classroom has unique needs to think about when planning your classroom design, layout and theme. In addition to the physical room, you also want to consider the classroom environment and how you can make your students feel comfortable and ready to learn.

Whether this year is your first teaching special education or you’ve been in the field for years, you can still use some helpful tips and ideas. Check out these ways to make your classroom fun and interactive, as well as tips for keeping your cool throughout the year.

Tips for a Special Education Teacher

Start the year off right by reorienting your mind for the new school year with some handy tips for teaching students with functional needs, commonly referred to as special needs. You don’t want to leave anything out of the planning stages, so your room will be ready for your students on the first day. These tips will keep you on task with the most important things to do and remember when starting the new year.

1. Communicate and Keep People Informed

Communication is critical in any teaching position, but it becomes especially important for special education teachers. Maintain open communication channels with parents, school administration and coworkers who will also work with your students. These people all have essential roles in helping your students learn and thrive in your classroom. In fact, communication is so vital that it may be mandated by law by keeping up with individualized education programs (IEPs).

Communicate and Keep People Informed

2. Review and Prepare Tools for Your Students’ IEPs

Your students’ IEPs outline the accommodations you need to make for each student’s learning needs in the classroom, extracurricular doings and nonacademic activities. These documents are critical to your success with your students. Knowing how you need to modify your classroom and teaching will help when you create lesson plans for your students with special needs.

If possible, generate one-page summaries of each IEP. These summaries will help you learn about each student’s needs. The single-page references will make it easier to review information quickly from the IEPs in the future.

review students ieps

While reviewing each student’s IEP, add important dates for the student’s milestones, meetings and deadlines into your calendar. Doing this planning at the beginning of the year will ensure you don’t miss significant events in any of your students’ learning schedules.

Keep a list of supplies you will need for your classroom to fulfill the requirements in the IEPs. Because your students will have different needs, look for products that make learning more accessible to them, such as:

3. Establish Daily and Weekly Schedules

establish-daily-weekly-schedules

You will need to establish regular schedules for your students. Having a routine will help your students feel more secure, understand expectations, increase student engagement and minimize behavioral problems. The repetitive nature of an established schedule in your classroom gives your students the chance to learn what to anticipate.

Special education teacher organization becomes vital when you try to maintain a set routine with your students. But when you have an established schedule, planning your days happens faster because you can set out materials for several lessons or days in advance. Routines make organizing your classroom easier and help you better prepare for every learning opportunity.

When you organize your classroom and have lesson materials ready, your students won’t need to wait for you and possibly lose focus. Students who know what to expect, especially those who have conditions like autism that increase rigidity in thinking patterns, will be more prepared to learn during the given lessons.

Don’t be too rigid in your routine, though. Fire drills, canceled school days and other unexpected events can happen to delay your plans. Be flexible enough that such incidents don’t derail your lesson plans. Even after a disruption, you should return to the routine as soon as possible to help your students feel safer in the predictability of the schedule.

4. Remember Every Day Is a New Day

All teachers get frustrated during their work. You may benefit from compartmentalizing each day. Don’t carry stress from one day to the next. It can be easy to remember yesterday’s meltdowns, but it’s important to start each day fresh and not bring up past bad behavior.

Just because you treat each day as a new beginning, you still need to keep your students accountable for their actions. Don’t wait to discipline a student. If you do it the following day, neither of you remembers the incident well enough for the consequences to have an effect. Instead, correct student behaviors the moment they do them. Once corrected, move on from the event.

If you need professional help, don’t wait to talk to another teacher or seek out special needs teaching resources. Online sources from experts will help you with tips for classroom management and behavior issues you may experience.

To maintain your mental health, you can:

  • Keep a positive outlook.
  • Separate yourself from your stresses at the end of the day by finding something rewarding to engage in.
  • Find some means of building yourself up and resetting your stress levels at the end of the day or during the weekends, such as exercising, visiting friends or practicing a hobby or skill.

By taking care of your needs, you will be better prepared to take care of your students and their requirements.

Tips for Designing Spaces Intentionally in Special Education Classrooms

When setting up your classroom, you need to do so intentionally. Every piece you have and its placement must fulfill a role in your teaching. Even the special education classroom ideas you use need to relate to your instruction. Find out some handy tips for making your room beautiful and practical.

1. Keep It Age-Appropriate

Though you will likely have students of varying actual and development ages, you still need to keep your classroom age-appropriate. The students will probably have a specific age range, such as 5- to 12-year-old children or teenagers. Use these age groups to find appropriate room decorations.

Also, wait until after you review the IEPs before decorating your room. You need to know the needs of your students before choosing classroom materials and dĂ©cor for them. Some students may need visuals, educational devices or seating that differs from their peers’ needs or those of a general classroom.

2. Space Is Critical

Perhaps more important than the furnishings and devices in your classroom layout for your students with special needs is the unused space. You will need space to move around as well as allowing your students free movement.

When setting up a classroom for students with special needs, allow for different spaces with specific uses, such as a calming area, teaching area, reading area, play area and individual learning area.

Calming Space in Special Needs Classroom

A calming area will give your students a place to relax when they feel overwhelmed. Include a comfortable place to sit, such as a swing, rug or bean bag chair. This area could also serve as a sensory space or center in an autism classroom.

Sensory Space or Sensory Room for Special Education Classroom

space is critical

In a sensory space or room, you want to have objects that appeal to different needs, such as:

In addition to having a place for students to explore sights, sounds and sensations, a sensory space also allows room for a group area. Here, you can conduct class lessons and have student presentations.

Teaching Area in Special Needs Classroom

The teaching area includes your desk and personal workspace. Teach students about respecting the boundaries around your desk by correcting them if they try to slip into your area.

Play Space for Special Education Classroom

Don’t forget that students need to play. Having a play area gives your students an outlet for their energy and a way to interact with adaptive or adapted toys. Also, consider adding activity centers to the play area. These toys have a variety of actions the students can do to stimulate multiple senses. Additionally, you can browse our products by your teaching goals in our menu — activate, communicate, develop, educate and play.

Older students who engage in reading and writing will need an area for these activities. Have a bookshelf for books, and nearby, keep a supply area of paper, pencils and other writing supplies.

Individual Learning Area for Special Education

Student desks give your classroom members space of their own. This space provides them with a working area as well as an escape if they need individual time. Instruct students to return to their desks as a transition during your routine when you need to set up a new area.

3. Match the Room to Your Teaching Style

How do you teach? Do you use one board or two? Do your students sit individually or in groups? Arrange your classroom to complement and enhance your teaching methods.

If you have students regularly work in groups, do they work on the floor in a circle or collaborate at tables? Should you have students do individual work more often, allow plenty of comfortable space for them around their desks.

4. Make It a Fun Environment so Students Feel Comfortable

You want any special education teacher themes you use to be fun and applicable to your students. Using bright colors makes matching up decorations easier. Green, yellow, red and blue are good colors to choose.

If you want a basic color scheme rather than using specific special education classroom decorating ideas, use a different color for each area of your room. Classroom kits in each area of your room can assist with teaching.

These and other fun activities for special education teachers will make your class more enjoyable and accessible to all your students.

Designing a Special Education Classroom for Elementary School Students

Designing a Special Education Classroom for Elementary School Students

Special education classrooms for elementary students should support learning and adapt to students’ unique needs and abilities.

Use a center or hub system to move students around the classroom and engage them in different lessons. Set up a special activity for each area, such as independent work, art, science and math. Rotate students through the small group areas throughout the day, so they can learn all the concepts.

Help students keep their assignments and materials organized with labeled bins. Homework, worksheets and school supplies will have their own place. Classroom-wide schedules can be color-coded by student, so each student can keep track of their activities.

Students who need an outlet for fidgeting should also have a sensory toy at their desk to play with. The Gel Lap Pad weighs 5 pounds for self-soothing and has squishable, sparkling gel that students can play with to improve focus.

Your classroom can also have a sensory space with calming or energizing toys for all students to play with. The Sensory Exploration Tent is a fun way for students to increase their sensory awareness by playing with a wood fidget puzzle, Tranquil Turtle and other toys.

Designing a Special Education Classroom for Middle and High School Students

Middle and high school students in a special education classroom — similar to those in an elementary school — need the right support to learn and be independent. Special education classrooms for high school and middle school students should be responsive, as every student has unique needs.

In many special education classrooms, group work for the entire class period can be challenging. Create a center or station setup where students can focus on a different activity in each area. Station ideas include individual IEP and curriculum work, group activities and life skill tasks. You can also set up a waiting area if one student needs to wait on another student to move on to the next station.

Keep learning materials organized in color-coded and labeled bins. This organization helps students find their own materials, which is important for building independence and assessing their ability to understand and follow directions.

Encourage group work and social skill development by clustering student desks together. Each desk cluster can have a unique activity, like working on a lesson or playing a tabletop game like Bingo and Hi Ho Cherry-O to help students recognize numbers and interact with each other.

Special Education DĂ©cor Ideas

Special Education DĂ©cor Ideas

Classroom décor can be functional to reinforce your lessons and make the space a fun place to learn. For décor in special education classrooms, less is often more, as too many decorations may overstimulate some students.

For small group workspaces, use a Fluorescent Black Light Carpet that displays neon colors to help calm students. You can also turn the visuals and work materials from lessons into your classroom décor. Print images or concepts on colored paper and attach them to your board. Set up a Go! Board in a central location to keep students on task.

Special education teachers can create themed bulletin boards that add value to the classroom. Themed boards organize learning materials and reinforce concepts. For example, you can have a schedule board with the day’s activities, a word wall with new vocabulary terms, or a goal board with your class’s goals for the day, week or year.

For your printed paper décor, laminate the paper and adhere it with magnets or mounting putty. The lamination preserves the paper to prevent fading and tearing. You can use these visuals every year, saving time and money with your special education classroom decoration.

Special Education Classroom Themes: A Room for Everyone

Are you interested in using room themes for your classroom? If so, think through if you would like to make regular changes to your classroom’s appearance. Will you have the time to make seasonal changes to your room? Or do you want to change it based on current lesson themes?

Choosing age-appropriate themes becomes critical for creating a space that will benefit your students instead of distracting them. Your room layout should still have separate working areas. These spaces will guide your placement of themed decorations. Need some inspiration or tips? Check out these ideas for special needs classrooms.

1. Camping Theme

Back to school themes for special education may include aspects of summer or look forward to the new school year. Even students who have never slept in a tent can appreciate a summer tie-in with a camping theme. You can also use this theme at the end of the year as a kick-off to vacation.

Set up your teacher’s desk as the “Park Headquarters” or “Ranger’s Station” with a sign on the front and a ranger’s hat on the desktop or hung on the wall behind.

Call the reading area or the group work area the campfire. You can use colored light to replicate a campfire. If you already have a tent in your sensory area, you may use that in the campfire area.

Bring in potted plants to make the whole classroom feel like it’s outside. Even if you don’t have a forest around you, the greenery will bring a bit of nature into your room. Your theme could have an extra benefit.

camping theme

Greenery in your room may have an added benefit of encouraging student engagement. Adding plants through classroom design may improve student performance.

2. Seasons Theme

seasons theme

If you feel ambitious, consider a seasons theme that will need changing four times a year. Because the room changes a few times a year, students get the interest of looking at new décor without the stress of changes that occur too frequently.

You don’t have to add decorations for holidays like the Fourth of July or Valentine’s Day. To make this theme easier for yourself, keep each season generic. The fewer specifics you have for the season, the less often you will have to take down and put up new decorations.

For summer, try a beach theme. Beach balls in the sensory or play area, sunglasses on your desk and beach towels for the students to sit on are a few ways to customize your room.

Fall dĂ©cor can include fall landscapes. Continue the theme by using orange, brown and red color schemes in your classroom’s learning areas.

Winter themes may but don’t have to include holidays. Focus on a snow theme to stretch out this theme long after winter break.

Just as you don’t have to have Christmas decorations during the winter, you also don’t need Easter decorations for your spring theme. But you can still have bunnies, flowers and pastel colors.

If you have a bulletin board, consider putting up a paper tree and changing the leaves with the seasons.

3. World Theme

A world theme is an ideal tie-in to your geography lesson plans. You can set up each section of your classroom as a separate “country” with items to show the geography and culture of the area. This theme teaches your students the names of some countries while giving them a fun cultural activity.

Give students passports to check in at each station in your room. They can collect a sticker from each “country” they visit until they fill their passport.

4. Crayon Theme

Bright colors around your classroom make a visually appealing learning environment while teaching your students about art. Use a dominant color for each section of your class and shades of that color for accessories. Doing so teaches students about the variety of colors in the spectrum.

You can expand this theme from just crayons to art by incorporating art supplies or kits into the different areas of your classroom. Encourage creativity by incorporating art projects into your lessons. Painting, drawing, coloring, clay molding and similar projects encourage tactile and visual stimulation. Of course, you want to adapt the plans to your students’ learning needs.

5. City Theme

city theme

Label each of the areas of your classroom with different buildings in a city. Refer to these places when giving students directions to add to the fun.

For example, name your desk “city hall.” As the head of the classroom, you have a job similar to a town mayor.

The play area can be the “park” or “public pool.” Just as residents of a town play at a park, your students will use the play area for recreation.

Student desks can be “downtown” because students work there just as people work in a downtown region. The correlations between these two locations can increase with the addition of tape on the floor around the desks to resemble city streets.

For classrooms with a reading and writing area, label it the “library” if your students use it more for reading. For writing, call it the “town newspaper.”

When you call your students to the group work area for lessons, refer to it as the “community center.” Residents of a town usually meet in such a place to collaborate on ideas, just as your students do when they come to the group work area of your room.

Browse the Lineup From Enabling Devices to Get Inspired

Start the year by equipping your classroom with the products your students need for an accessible learning experience. You’ll find everything you need at Enabling Devices. We offer classroom decorations, toys, educational objects and much more to help you give your students the best education possible.

If you need more ideas for your room themes, browse through our products at Enabling Devices. We have a wide range of products, toys, electronics and accessories to accommodate students of all abilities, including:

You’ll even find special education classroom resources and ideas and informative special education blog posts on our website.

Browse our products and resources for special education teachers to prepare for back to school. Contact Enabling Devices for more information or assistance finding the right products for your special education classroom.

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Best Vacation Spots With Excellent Accessibility

Best Vacation Spots With Excellent Accessibility

Going on vacation always requires a good deal of planning. You need to arrange flights, drive highways and book accommodations. The process isn’t simple, and the logistics become more complex when you or one of your travel companions is living with a disability.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities. Unfortunately, there are many places that are not compliant and do not provide accessible options for wheelchair users and those with other disabilities. After weeks or months of anticipation, few things are worse than getting to your destination and finding that they can’t accommodate a disability.

That’s why we’ve created this vacation guide with the best travel tips for people with disabilities and accessible vacation destinations in America.

Tips for Travel for People With Disabilities

Arranging trips for people with disabilities can involve some extra planning. Here’s a brief travel guide to help you get started:

  • Search for flight accommodations early: The Air Carrier Access Act prohibits airlines from discriminating against people with disabilities and requires they provide certain accommodations. However, additional research before buying your tickets can help you find an airline that will provide the most accommodating flights.
  • Get travel insurance with medical coverage: Depending on your insurance, you may not have coverage for medical issues outside the United States. If you’re going overseas, look for travel insurance that will cover you in case of a medical emergency.
  • Look for discounts: Many services and attractions offer discounts for people with disabilities. For example, Amtrak offers discounted tickets for adults with disabilities. U.S. citizens with permanent disabilities are also eligible for the National Park Service’s Access Pass, which grants free lifetime admittance to over 2,000 locations.
  • Research transportation: You’ll probably want to see several things at your destination, so be sure to research your options. While renting a car or van is often the most convenient for people with mobility equipment, parking can raise additional complications. Knowing your transportation plans ahead of time can make your trip much smoother.

Best Wheelchair-Accessible Vacations in the U.S.

From sightseeing at famous landmarks to adaptive river rafting trips, the U.S. offers plenty of wheelchair-friendly options without traveling too far from home. We’ve collected some of the best vacation ideas for a wheelchair-accessible getaway in America:

1. Washington, D.C.

The nation’s capital is an excellent choice for accessible family vacations. The National Mall’s wide, well-maintained walkways make it easy to visit its landmarks and monuments, from the U.S. Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial. The Smithsonian Institute offers free admission to over a dozen museums and institutions — including the Smithsonian Gardens and the National Zoo — with various accessibility features, including:

  • Free-to-borrow manual wheelchairs.
  • Captioned videos.
  • Audio descriptions for exhibits.
  • Scheduled tours with sign language interpretation.

2. Daytona, Florida

Fans of the track will enjoy the options at Daytona International Speedway:

  • Get a tour: The All Access Tour is a wheelchair-accessible 90-minute tour around the Speedway. Guests get an up-close look at the track and end at the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America.
  • Watch a race: ADA seating is available for guests who want to watch a race.

Those who want to enjoy the sun and surf will find Daytona Beach a wonderfully accessible option. The county allows beach driving and parking in selected areas, and the four lifeguard towers also serve as rental locations for free beach wheelchairs.

3. Las Vegas, Nevada

Las Vegas is one of the best places in North America for a vacation for people with limited mobility. The city takes wheelchair accessibility seriously:

  • Hotels: Many hotels on and off the Las Vegas Strip offer ADA-compliant rooms and suites at several price points.
  • Sidewalks: The Strip and other tourist areas have wide, wheelchair-friendly sidewalks with curb cuts at each intersection. Crosswalks also include audio and visual alerts.
  • Transportation: Most taxi services maintain several wheelchair taxis. There’s also a fully accessible public bus service and a wheelchair-accessible monorail system.
  • Entertainment: Las Vegas has accessible options for everyone, from gambling at the casinos to enjoying theater shows to trying out the SlotZilla Zip Line.

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Accessible Amusement Parks

There’s nothing quite like the wonder and thrill of an amusement park. With large crowds and attractions at every turn, it’s important to pick an amusement park that has something to offer for those with differing abilities. The following are some of the best accessible places to vacation.

1. Disneyland and Disney World

Whether you’re visiting Disney World in Orlando, Florida, or the original Disneyland in Anaheim, California, there’s a lot to love about Disney. Both resorts are dedicated to providing accommodations for guests with disabilities.

Disneyland and Disney World offer dedicated accessible parking lots throughout the parks for guests with mobility devices. These lots require a valid accessible parking permit and have standard parking rates.

handicap accessible rides at Disney

When it comes to wheelchair-friendly attractions, Disney World is unmatched. Guests can choose from more than 40 at three levels of access:

  • Must transfer from wheelchair or ECV to ride
  • Must transfer from ECV to a wheelchair to ride
  • Must transfer from ECV to a wheelchair, then from a wheelchair to ride

The attractions which allow guests to stay in a wheelchair or ECV are found in these areas of the park:

  • Magic Kingdom Park
  • Epcot
  • Disney’s Hollywood Studios
  • Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park
  • Disney’s Blizzard Beach Water Park

Disneyland also has an extensive list of wheelchair-accessible attractions located all over the park as well as other services for guests with mobility disabilities.

Both Disney World and Disneyland both have a comprehensive host of services that cater to multiple disabilities. Their services for guests on the autism spectrum and individuals with cognitive disabilities are particularly robust, including:

  • Advance ticket purchase
  • Stroller, wheelchair and ECV rental
  • Quiet break areas
  • Companion restrooms
  • Dietary accommodations

Both of the parks’ Disability Access Services (DAS) allow guests to schedule their visits to rides and attractions so they don’t have to wait in a long queue that could cause distress. With DAS, guests can spend the intervening time exploring the park, enjoying entertainment or even checking out a different attraction while they wait.

Other services are available to assist those with:

    • Visual impairment: Guests with visual impairment can request a Disney Handheld Device and access Audio Description for entertainment, park attractions and popular locations with prerecorded audio.
    • Hearing impairment: The parks offer sign language interpretation, and the Disney Handheld Device provides features like assistive listening, handheld captioning and video captioning. Both parks also offer room amenities for guests with hearing impairment staying in a resort hotel.
    • Mobility issues: Both parks provide wheelchair and mobility scooter rentals. Disney World offers complimentary bus service between parks, and all buses can accommodate up to two mobility devices.

Leashed or harnessed service animals are welcome for those who need them. For visual information on Disneyland’s accessibility and what to expect in the park, you can view the Park Guide for Guests With Disabilities. Disney World offers four guides to different sections.

2. Sesame Place

Located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Sesame Place is a theme and water park based on the beloved kids’ show Sesame Street. It also happens to be one of the best vacation spots for wheelchairs. In keeping with the show’s reputation for ever-expanding inclusivity, Sesame Place has a robust accessibility program that makes it one of the best East Coast accessible vacation spots. They are the first theme park in the world to receive designation as a Certified Autism Center (CAC).

sesame place certified autism center

The park has partnered with the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards (IBCCES) to ensure guests on the autism spectrum can enjoy the park and have their particular needs met. The staff is specially trained in the following areas:

  • Autism overview
  • Sensory awareness
  • Motor skills
  • Program development
  • Social skills
  • Communication
  • Environment
  • Emotional awareness

In addition to a highly-trained cast of team members, Sesame Place has a Ride Accessibility Program (RAP). This unique feature uses a questionnaire to match the abilities of individual guests to each ride. After completing the questionnaire, you can bring it to the park’s Welcome Center and receive a personalized list of the rides and attractions that meet your or your companion’s special needs. Some of the park’s other accessibility services include:

  • Noise-canceling headphones
  • Low-sensory areas
  • Low-sensory parade seating
  • Show scripts
  • Sign language interpretation
  • Wheelchair rentals
  • Wheelchair parade seating

Sesame Places’ Dedicated Sensory Rooms

If you have a child with special needs who may become overstimulated, you can take advantage of two brand new sensory rooms to help them calm down and enjoy the rest of the day. Enabling Devices was proud to partner with Sesame Place in the creation of these rooms and provided many products designed to soothe and engage kids.

3. Morgan’s Wonderland

While other theme parks may provide excellent accommodations for guests with disabilities, Morgan’s Wonderland was designed for accessibility from the ground up. This non-profit “oasis of inclusion” is situated on 25 acres in San Antonio, Texas.

The founder, Gordon Hartman, was inspired by his daughter, Morgan. Her physical and cognitive challenges were the basis for Gordon’s mission to provide a place for special needs people of all ages to experience wonder and joy. The result is a 100% wheelchair-accessible Wonderland.

The success of this ultra-inclusive theme park gave rise to a sister water park, Morgan’s Inspiration Island, complete with waterproof wheelchairs available for rental. If you want a completely accessible park, Morgan’s Wonderland is the amusement park for you.

Accessible Cruises

Accessible Cruises

There’s nothing quite like a cruise to bring on deep relaxation and stoke your sense of adventure. However, navigating a cruise ship with a mobility-based disability can be a bit of a headache if you don’t know what you’re getting into. Here are three cruises to consider.

1. Royal Caribbean’s Symphony of the Seas

The Symphony of the Seas is the place to be if you want to enjoy gorgeous views, gourmet food and stunning shows. It’s also an excellent cruise option for those with mobility disabilities. The ship has 46 accessible cabins, which feature:

  • Doors at least 32 inches wide
  • No doorsill to get into the room
  • Ramped bathroom thresholds
  • Grab bars in the bathroom
  • Lowered sinks
  • Roll-in showers
  • Fold-down shower benches
  • Hand-held showerheads
  • Lowered safes

The accessibility of the staterooms is essential, but you don’t want to spend your whole vacation in your room. The recreational facilities have several accessibility perks, including:

  • Lifts at the main pool and whirlpool
  • Lowered playing tables at the casino
  • Wheelchair seating in front and back of the Royal Theater, Studio B and Aqua Theater
  • Braille deck and stateroom numbers
  • Assistive listening systems in theaters
  • Amplified phones

royal Caribbean cruise with sign language interpreter

If a sign language interpreter is required, this cruise will provide one as long as you provide at least 60 days’ notice before the cruise departs.

2. Disney Cruise Line: Fantasy

You can surround yourself with the trademark magic of Disney by booking a cruise on the Fantasy. This cruise is all about immersing yourself in fun and fantasy and offers some standard disability accommodations. In addition to the same ADA specifications for 25 wheelchair-friendly staterooms and bathrooms inside them, this Disney cruise ship offers a variety of other accommodations, including:

  • Sign Language Interpretation: The sign language service interprets live theater performances and other shows for the first dinner seating and the late performance in the Walt Disney Theater.
  • Assistive Listening Devices: For a refundable deposit, guests with mild to moderate hearing loss can use amplified receivers at multiple stations around the ship.
  • Room Service Texting: Guests can use their phones to text for room service, rather than calling in.
  • Stateroom Communication Kit: This kit includes an alarm clock, bed shaker notification, alerts for the doorbell and phone, and a smoke detector that uses a strobe light.
  • Audio Description: You can experience movies in the Buena Vista Theatre with audio description by picking up a receiver at guest services.

Disney cruise accessibility accommodations

One of the unique features of this cruise line is Castaway Cay. This private Disney island is packed full of adventure and excitement. The island has its own tram for transportation, as well as an accessible cabana. One of the most enticing features is the availability of sand wheelchairs for rental. This opens up a world of possibilities that most other cruises don’t offer.

Note that if you require sign language interpretation or the use of a pull lift, you’ll have to request these services before you book your cruise.

3. Carnival Horizon

The Carnival Horizon takes a unique approach to staterooms for guests by offering three different tiers of accessible rooms:

  • Fully Accessible Cabins: These rooms are designed for guests with highly limited mobility. To meet the needs of those who need wheelchairs or scooters, these rooms feature turning space, accessible routes through the room and an accessible restroom.
  • Single-side Approach Cabins: These rooms feature the same accessible bathroom but offer an accessible route and clear space for only one side of the bed. In rooms with two beds, one side of each bed is accessible.
  • Ambulatory Accessible Cabins: These rooms are designed for guests who have some limitations in mobility but who don’t use a scooter or wheelchair. They have features such as grab bars to help with balance.

There are 65 accessible rooms altogether. All rooms are assigned on a first-come-first-served basis, so it’s a good idea to reserve your accessible room as far in advance as possible.

Carnival Horizon Cruise wheelchair accessible

As for the rest of the ship, wheelchair users have plenty of freedom to roam. The ship’s dining areas, bars and the main theater all have wheelchair seating. For those with other types of disabilities, Carnival offers these services:

  • Visual-tactile cabin alert system
  • Teletypewriter to communicate with Guest Services
  • Amplifying headsets
  • Sign language interpreters
  • Braille signage
  • Large print format on some publications

Those with working service dogs are permitted to bring them aboard, but you should review all policies and procedures to ensure the dog is up to date on all veterinary requirements.

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Accessible Beaches

Beaches are one of the classic places for summer vacations, but beach travel destinations with wheelchair access can be hard to locate. The following summer destinations with wheelchair access are some of the best places to have fun in the sun.

1. San Diego, California

San Diego is known for being one of the most accessible cities for beach-goers with disabilities. Many of the beaches have sand wheelchairs available for free rental, whether powered or manual. The thing to remember is that there’s often no reservation for the chairs, and it’s first-come-first-served. On some of the more popular, crowded beaches, this can mean having to wait a while for your turn. Here are three of the best San Diego beaches with wheelchair access:

  • Mission Beach: This is an extremely popular beach where there’s always something going on. The most active sections feature people cycling, rollerblading, skateboarding and more. The south end of the beach is quieter, but its parking and bathrooms are not always fully accessible.
  • La Jolla Shores: This very family-friendly beach and located a short drive north of downtown. There is a wide paved walkway between the beach and nearby Kellog Park, as well as an accessible bathroom and parking lot.
  • Imperial Beach: If you’re concerned about the chair rental process, Imperial Beach is one of the few that requires a reservation. They have two power chairs available for use on the beautiful beach, and manual chairs you can use with no reservation.

San Diego Wheelchair Accessible Beaches

2. Key Largo, Florida

If you’re looking for summer destinations with wheelchair access, consider heading on down to Florida to experience Tranquil Adventures. This not-for-profit organization was founded more than 30 years ago by Captain Mick Nealy with the mission of providing accessible boat tours for people with disabilities. As a survivor of polio, Captain Nealy has a unique understanding of what makes an experience magical for people with disabilities.

The dock and both boats are completely accessible to wheelchairs. Equipped with Coast Guard-approved safety measures, each boat can fit four people in wheelchairs and a total of 10 individuals. It doesn’t get much more family-friendly than these boat outings. Here are a few of the possible destinations on a Tranquil Adventures tour:

  • Key Largo Bay
  • Everglades National Park
  • Pennekamp State Park
  • Blackwater Sound

Participants can go fishing or snorkeling, try out island hopping, visit a beach party or stop off at a tiki bar. The combinations are nearly endless, making for a valuable repeat experience.

These tours cost $350 for a four-hour half-day and $500 if you want to make a full eight-hour day of it. As wheelchair-accessible vacation destinations go, Tranquil Adventures tours get top marks.

3. Hanauma Bay, Hawaii

Vacationers with a taste for adventure will love Hanauma Bay State Park. This nature preserve has a gorgeous crescent-shaped beach and the very unique appeal of being formed by the crater of a dormant volcano. The soft white sands are both picturesque and ideal for those who need to rent a wheelchair to traverse the beach. The balloon-tired beach chairs are available free of charge from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. all year.

handicap accessible beaches hawaii hanauma bay

A tram takes visitors to and from the beach area, and it has a ramp to accommodate wheelchairs. Additionally, city buses have kneeling capabilities so you’re not limited to the beach in your exploration. All of the Bay’s facilities have been designed with accessibility in mind.

Activities are not in short supply at Hanauma Bay. Some of the things to do include:

  • Snorkeling
  • Catamaran tours
  • Wild dolphin watching
  • Island tours
  • Luaus
  • Sunset dinner cruises
  • Helicopter tours

This is hands down one of the most accessible vacation destinations, and a perfect spot for family fun.

Accessible National Parks

Many people assume that they’ll have to cross national parks off the list of accessible destinations since they often require a lot of hiking and other activities unsuitable for those with disabilities. However, several national parks make great accessible vacation spots. Additionally, if you’re a U.S. citizen and permanently disabled, you can get an Interagency Access Pass for lifetime free admission. The three parks below are definitely worth a visit.

1. Grand Canyon National Park

Arizona’s Grand Canyon is undoubtedly a destination worth seeing in your lifetime, and the park has made it easy for wheelchair users to plan an unforgettable trip. The park has a variety of accessible facilities including:

  • ATMs
  • Bookstores
  • Restrooms
  • Gift shops
  • Dining areas
  • Lodging and campgrounds
  • Shuttle buses
  • Teletypewriter

If you need a sign language interpreter, give the park at least three weeks’ notice and one will be provided. The park also offers a cell phone tour and has wheelchairs available for rental at both the North and South Rim.

The park has several wheelchair-accessible trails and multiple scenic drives where you can take in a gorgeous vista without leaving your vehicle. Scenic drive accessibility permits are available for visitors with mobility issues. You can enjoy a variety of activities such as a wheelchair-accessible tour of an ancestral Puebloan village or a visit to the Yavapai Geology Museum. To get the details on which trails and facilities are accessible, as well as rules for bringing a service animal, check out the park’s Accessibility Guide.

2. Zion National Park

Located in Utah, Zion National Park makes camping and immersing yourself in nature easier. There are multiple campsites set aside for visitors with disabilities, and service dogs are permitted throughout the park as long as they are leashed. The ranger program schedule indicates which programs are accessible, and you can reserve assistive listening devices for any program.

The park has multiple trails suitable for wheelchair users, with the Pa’rus Trail being the most accessible. The trail is fairly short at 1.5 miles long and has a smoothly-paved width of 8 feet so wheelchairs can roll right alongside walking visitors. The Riverside Walk is also a good option, as the first 0.4 miles are accessible. In addition to the trails, these other park attractions all offer some degree of accessibility:

  • Canyon Visitor Center
  • Human History Museum
  • Kolob Canyons Visitor Center
  • Canyon Transportation
  • Zion Lodge
  • Picnic areas
  • Watchman Campground

Zion National Park is an excellent option if you’re looking to immerse yourself in Utah’s natural beauty.

handicap accessibility Zion National Park

3. Everglades National Park

At a whopping 1.5 million square acres of tropical and subtropical habitat, the sheer size of the Everglades National Park means some parts of it are inaccessible. However, plenty of sites and trails are available for those with mobility disabilities.

The Royal Palm Visitor Center is the best place to start. From clearly marked spots with accessible parking to trailheads and a store accessible by curb ramp, this part of the park is one of the best accessible vacation spots. This area has two accessible trails:

  • Anhinga Trail: This trail is 0.8 miles long round-trip, making it ideal for those who prefer a short jaunt into nature. The abundance of wildlife, from alligators to anhingas, makes this a popular destination.
  • Gumbo Limbo Trail: This trail is even shorter at 0.4 miles round trip. It is paved and meanders through a shady covering of gumbo limbo trees.

These paved paths do sometimes have mild to moderate cracks in them, but they are not disruptive enough to prevent the average wheelchair user from enjoying the trails.

If you’d like to venture into the heart of the park, Shark Valley is the place to do so. The road here is flat and paved, and there is a wheelchair overlook along the path. It’s also home to the Bobcat Boardwalk, a sensational place to get views of the marsh.

Enhance Your Vacation With Enabling Devices

If you’re traveling with a child or other individual who has special needs, accessibility is just the beginning. Enabling Devices is committed to providing a huge selection of products for people with disabilities, from communication devices to sensory products. If you need adapted toys and games or other devices to make your vacation time easier and more engaging for a disabled individual, we invite you to browse our selection of products and learn more about our services.

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Keeping Love Alive When Parenting a Child with Special Needs

Valentine's Day

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, many of us are pondering the nature of love. And while the holiday brings to mind images of hearts and flowers, in reality, love isn’t always romantic. Frequently, it’s anything but. What’s more, studies find that most marriages suffer after children are born.

“Comparing couples with and without children, researchers found that the rate of the decline in relationship satisfaction is nearly twice as steep for couples who have children than for childless couples,” writes Matthew D. Johnson, Director of the Marriage and Family Studies Laboratory at SUNY Binghamton in the the Washington Post.

Raising children is stressful regardless, but when your child or children have special needs, there’s even more stress.

Yet that doesn’t mean your marriage is doomed. It only means that you need to tend to your relationship with your spouse even more carefully — on Valentine’s Day and every day.

Here are some tips for keeping your love alive for the long haul:

1. Don’t forget the person you married before kids
When you’re a parent, especially a parent of a child with disabilities, parenting can become all encompassing. Resist the tendency to think of your spouse as only a co-parent. Do your best to find half an hour or so every day to catch up on aspects of your life that aren’t about the kids. 

2. Appreciate your spouse’s strengths as a parent
Instead of assuming you’re the only one who can care for your child appropriately, divide and conquer. Don’t assume your spouse is not up to the task of babysitting so you can have a night out with friends. Maybe you’re better at housework and your spouse is better at cooking. Let it be. Trust each other and know when to take a break.

3. Listen to your partner’s perspective
When you’re the parent of a child with disabilities, decisions can feel like life and death. Sometimes they are. But keep an open mind about how to handle situations regarding your child’s healthcare, education, etc. Don’t assume that you have all the answers. Instead share your thoughts and really listen to what your partner has to say.

4. Communicate
Feeling hurt or unrecognized, anxious or angry? Don’t bottle it up. Find time to talk to your partner calmly and face-to-face. Otherwise, your resentment will be expressed in all sorts of ways — none of them productive!

Some couples have difficulty settling conflicts and can benefit from having an intermediary. If that sounds like you and your spouse, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. Find a therapist or marriage counselor to facilitate communication.

5. Take time for yourself
We know… you don’t have time. But taking time for yourself will make you a better parent and a better partner. That can mean taking a walk or browsing in a book shop or having a girls’ or guys’ night out.

6. Take time to be together
We know… you don’t have time.  You have to make time. Regular date nights are an essential part of taking care of your relationship. An evening out of the house is ideal, but even if it’s just having a late dinner after you finally get the kids to bed or binge-watching your favorite TV show, having fun together is a must!

7. Express your love
There’s no substitute for letting your partner know they’re loved. Small thoughtful gestures, a quick kiss, a mushy text, and most important, saying the “three little words” make all the difference. And do it every day, not just on Valentine’s Day.

Strategies and Tips for Teaching Kids With ADHD

Strategies and Tips for Teaching Kids With ADHD

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) — one of the most common childhood neurodevelopmental disorders — is typically identified in children after they begin attending school. Today, an estimated 6.1 million U.S. children have an ADHD diagnosis.

While an official ADHD diagnosis comes from a medical professional, teachers play a role in helping students with ADHD learn to adapt and overcome the limitations this disorder presents. Whether you’re a special education teacher or a teacher with a student with ADHD in a general education classroom, the challenges of effectively teaching a student with ADHD can be significant. From issues with classroom management to a lack of support from administrators or parents, there are many reasons teachers may struggle to provide adequate help for their students.

The good news is that even with those challenges, it is possible for students with ADHD — and their teachers — to thrive every day. Teachers play a big role in a child’s educational success, especially for students with ADHD. Teachers can make small, impactful changes to classroom activities and overall attitudes and integrate teaching strategies to support all students.

A teacher has the opportunity to positively impact their students with ADHD for many years to come by providing them with a structured classroom setup that encourages learning, enforces discipline and improves their self-esteem. Students with ADHD can learn they are capable and gain confidence in their schoolwork.

The Challenges of Teaching Students With ADHD

ADHD can magnify the typical challenges students face in a general education classroom, especially in school districts lacking funding or qualified teachers. In these cases, teachers tend to be overworked or overwhelmed because they are working with students they may feel unqualified to teach.

The following are specific areas where teachers may experience difficulty when teaching students with ADHD in the classroom:

1. Paperwork

Teachers of students with ADHD may devote a lot of time to developing and maintaining an up-to-date Individualized Education Plan (IEP) to track a student’s progress and identify potential problems. Keeping track of a student’s progress is essential to their success in school because this paperwork is often how problems are addressed. But the amount of time and paperwork IEPs require can weigh down even the most experienced teachers.

In some cases, a special education teacher may oversee IEPs for students in several general education classes, checking in with their teachers for updates on academic progress and seeing students a few times a week for additional help. In other cases, students with ADHD may have other disabilities that require them to spend their school days in special education classrooms. In both cases, teachers must maintain accurate and up-to-date paperwork to define goals and track progress.

For special education teachers who don’t see each student with ADHD daily, the paperwork can be especially challenging because they may have the added step of collecting information from one or more teachers to compile it into one file for each student.

2. Lack of Support

Some teachers lack support from the parents of students with ADHD. When there is a lack of expectations and consistency at home, learning strategies and routines a teacher tries to implement in the classroom may not be effective. Parents who are unable or unwilling to maintain regular communication and support a teacher’s classroom expectations can also make it more difficult for teachers to make progress with their students.

In other cases, the lack of support may come from the school’s administration or the school district. Many schools are tight on money, and administrators are pressured to achieve more results with less funding. In some districts, special education programs may not have the funding to hire an adequate number of teachers or purchase the equipment they need. Teachers may be expected to keep up with a large number of students without having the time or money they need to be successful.

3. Scheduling

Finding the time to maintain communication with parents, complete paperwork, grade papers and teach can be difficult for teachers. Meetings must be scheduled during planning time or after school, cutting into a teacher’s time to update lesson plans or spend time with their family. Added to that are the challenges of scheduling IEP meetings that take parental and administration schedules into account, which can sometimes feel impossible.

4. Behavior Management

Behavior management is a big part of teaching a child with ADHD. For example, they may easily become frustrated with school, and their teacher may often get the brunt of their frustration. Managing these emotions in a classroom setting can sometimes take time away from instruction or other daily activities. On a larger level, teaching a child with ADHD requires a lot of time and effort spent identifying their triggers and emotions and then teaching them how to control those emotions.

Teachers may also spend extra time figuring out how to present the material so these students can learn effectively. They may need to devote time to help students stay organized, maintain planners or homework calendars and create an organizational system that keeps their students on track and focused each day. Often, they need to maintain communication with parents, sending emails or making phone calls to update them on their child’s behavior and progress.

16 Teaching Strategies for Students With ADHD

Here are several tips to help your students with ADHD succeed.

1. Establish Rules

Every good classroom has a short, simple list of rules to follow. These rules should be clearly laid out and posted from the beginning of the school year. Rules can be more effective for students with ADHD when incorporated alongside strategies for ADHD classroom management into their daily routine.

For example, instead of simply saying, “No talking when you come to class,” tell students, “When you arrive, sit down quietly and begin the math problems on the board.” Consistently modeling these behaviors every day can go a long way toward teaching students what you expect.

2. Create a Routine

Routines are essential when teaching students with ADHD because they help students stay on task. For example, place homework assignments in the same spot every day or write them on the same place on the board, and take a few minutes at the end of class to go over them so students know what’s expected of them. Stick to the same basic daily schedule, and incorporate time to move around or engage in physical activity.

3. Make Learning Personalized

Though every child needs to receive the same educational material, they learn in different ways. Some students may struggle to sit still long enough to complete assignments, while others struggle more with organization and remembering to complete each step in an assignment.

Consider providing hands-on activities to present the material or allowing students to “teach” each other by breaking into small groups. Incorporating manipulatives and more interactive activities and games into the classroom may also keep students engaged and focused. It may be beneficial to break down an assignment into several smaller steps, providing students with a checklist they can mark when they complete each step.

4. Offer Choices

Many times, offering several choices for how to finish an assignment can produce better results and prevent emotions from overwhelming a student with ADHD. For example, if you want a student to practice a set of vocabulary words, allow them to choose between writing each word in a sentence, creating their own flashcards or air-writing each word. In math, you can give them choices between a worksheet, answering problems on the board or using a calculator to complete assignments.

5. Communicate Intentionally

With a classroom full of students, it can be easy to forget that each student is an individual. Inquiring about their interests and answering their questions goes a long way toward their academic success, especially for students with ADHD. Take the time to greet each student by name, and use their name when calling on them in class. Create a classroom bulletin board to display your students’ artwork, photos, accomplishments and interests.

If students with ADHD exhibit negative behavior in the classroom or struggle to keep up with schoolwork, ask questions instead of reprimanding them. If they misbehave, you can ask them, “Is this a good choice or a bad choice?” to help the student understand their behavior was inappropriate.

6. Provide Visual Reminders

Provide Visual Reminders

Students with ADHD respond to visual reminders, cues and examples, so incorporate a visual component into your lessons and homework assignments. For example, you can demonstrate a skill like writing on the board so the student can follow along. During independent work, write out the key points on the board so students can reference as they work. Post important concepts on bright-colored poster board around your classroom.

Visual reminders also help students stay on schedule. The Go! Board System supports scheduling techniques with eight picture symbols that the student can remove when they complete the task.

7. Provide Hands-On Learning Opportunities

Encourage your students with ADHD to experience things first-hand to engage them in learning. Create learning opportunities that allow your students to participate. For example, you can have students build and take apart a model to understand how it works. Have students write and act in a play to express their creativity, or create an assignment in which the student records on video.

For music-themed lessons, you can integrate toys that teach music appreciation and allow students to play music. With an Adapted Musical Cymbal, students can use a capability switch to make a percussive sound. The Ring Around Bells has twirling, ringing bells that also increase auditory development and teach cause and effect.

8. Reduce Distractions

Help your students focus on the lesson or assignment by reducing potentially distracting barriers. Place their desk near the source of instruction in a low-distraction area of the classroom. Often, these areas are closest to your desk and furthest from windows and doors. When giving the class instructions for homework, stand near them to help them focus.

A Classroom Fidget Kit has fidget toys to help students stay focused and regulated to facilitate learning. They can play with a variety of toys to meet their sensory needs, such as a gel bead ball, rainbow pom ball, squish disk, water snake and more.

9. Use Positive Role Models

Peer role models can give students with ADHD a positive example of good classroom behavior. Create a seating chart where the student sits near the “role model” students. Positive peer models also help students ease the potential distractions from other students with diverting behaviors.

10. Provide Positive Feedback

Many students with ADHD respond best when they are offered positive, immediate and frequent feedback. For example, when a student with ADHD completes an assignment, use positive praise, such as “You’re doing a great job!” If their answer is incorrect, get a positive conversation going by saying, “Let’s talk this through” or “Does that sound right to you?”

11. Fit Assignments to Attention Span

Students with ADHD will likely struggle to complete long assignments. Be sure that they’re seated in an area in the classroom that provides minimal distractions, then make accommodations for finishing assignments, such as allowing them extra time to finish a test or complete an assignment in stages rather than all at once.

Besides allowing accommodations for assignments, think about a student with ADHD as you’re planning assignments. Asking yourself, “Will this set them up for failure or success?” is a great way to start, and anticipating problems in advance gives you time to plan for alternatives or accommodations. This planning can also help avoid emotional meltdowns that might otherwise take away from instructional time.

12. Build in Time for Breaks

Allowing time for movement in between assignments, such as a bathroom break or recess, can go a long way toward helping students pay attention at the most important moments. If a student with ADHD needs opportunities for movement and it’s not time for a formal recess, consider asking them to run an errand to the office or help with a chore around the classroom.

If it’s not possible to allow for breaks, allowing them to keep a manipulative, such as a squeeze ball, at their desk may also help them by giving them an alternative outlet for movement when they have to stay seated.

13. Integrate Movement and Mindfulness Into Lessons

Some of the common symptoms of ADHD — including lack of concentration, clumsiness, hyperactivity, distractability and nervousness — can get in the way of effective learning. Rather than fight against these symptoms, incorporate short times of movement and mindfulness into the day’s schedule. Activities like yoga, Zumba or even a short walk can improve focus and improve a student’s ability to sit through and comprehend the lesson of the day.

Similarly, mindfulness exercises can help students with ADHD focus on their thoughts and feelings. When they can pay attention to their emotional state, they can better control themselves and prevent meltdowns or emotional outbursts later in the day.

14. Support Engagement and Participation

A teacher’s role is twofold — to present new material and to support children in their own discovery. The goal as a teacher isn’t to stand in front of the class and tell them things they need to know — it’s to encourage them to engage with the material being presented in a way they will remember it later.

This goal is true for all teacher-student relationships, but it’s essential when teaching students with ADHD. These actions may be as simple as moving a child with ADHD to the front of the room where there are fewer distractions or pairing students with a homework buddy to offer accountability to ensure homework assignments aren’t forgotten or overlooked.

Teachers can also encourage student engagement by helping them get organized. Take note of potential pitfalls and address them. Does a student with ADHD regularly forget assignment due dates? Help them set up a planner and check it at the end of every day. Hang a large calendar in the classroom and use it to make note of important due dates.

Does a student with ADHD lose assignments or forget to take the necessary supplies home each evening? You could create a color-coded folder system and put take-home assignments in the same color folder each day. You could also create a checklist of necessary materials and work with the student to check off necessary items each day before they leave school.

15. Reward Good Behavior

Some children with ADHD spend a lot of time being corrected or reprimanded for their behaviors. Praising good behavior and offering rewards when appropriate can make a huge difference in a child’s confidence.

One of the best things a teacher can do is look for daily ways to encourage and praise a student with ADHD. Be on the lookout for daily behavior victories or a personal best on a test grade, and provide specific and immediate praise. Offering praise in the middle of the situation can go a long way in providing motivation and confidence to continue the behavior later.

16. Partner With Parents

Communicate regularly with the parents of your students with ADHD to ensure they have the best learning experience possible, whether at home or in class. Some ways teachers and parents can work together to support students with ADHD include:

  • Keep in touch on a weekly basis or as needed.
  • Discuss any problems the student is having with schoolwork while at home.
  • Check if the student has completed their assignments, especially for any classes they are struggling with.
  • Help the student prepare for the next school day by helping them with homework and organizing school papers.

Support ADHD Classroom Management With Products From Enabling Devices

As a teacher, your days are full, with lesson plans to write, papers to grade and students to teach. Working with a student with ADHD can create additional challenges, but those challenges don’t have to be a burden. Students with ADHD are smart and creative kids who need a teacher who is willing to adapt to their unique way of seeing the world. By making small changes to the classroom, teachers can encourage students with ADHD to reach their full potential.

At Enabling Devices, we offer a range of products to help teachers and students make the most of their time in the classroom. For more than 40 years, our company has created and manufactured products that improve the quality of life and learning for children and adults with a wide range of disabilities. We have a wide selection of products to integrate into the classroom environment, including:

Browse our sensory products to find ADHD classroom tools that can enhance your instruction, or contact Enabling Devices for help finding the right products for your classroom.

Support ADHD Classroom Management With Products From Enabling Devices

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.

What-is-cerebral-palsy

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.

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!

Six Ways to Maximize Mealtimes

Family of Four Enjoying Dinner Together

Research shows that children in families that eat dinner together on a regular basis experience many mental, emotional and physical advantages. The Family Dinner Project cites the following evidence-based benefits of consistent family meals:

Better academic performance
Higher self-esteem
Greater sense of resilience
Lower risk of substance abuse
Lower risk of teen pregnancy
Lower risk of depression
Lower likelihood of developing eating disorders
Lower rates of obesity
Better family relationships

Yet, family meals can also be stressful, especially when a child has sensory processing issues that make the tastes, textures and temperatures of certain foods preferable to others. This can severely limit the range of foods your child will be willing to eat and can be frustrating for the whole family. Here are some suggestions for minimizing conflict and maximizing enjoyment during family meals.

Expose children to new foods gradually
Occupational therapist Moira Pena of Toronto’s Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation, says many children on the autism spectrum experience tremendous anxiety in advance of meals. “In my practice, I’ve worked with kids who are truly fearful of certain foods placed in front of them,” says Pena. “It’s important to appreciate and understand that these fears are just as powerful as, say, a fear of snakes or big spiders. With this in mind, I begin to use the principles of gradual exposure [exposing the child to the feared food in small steps] to help them learn to control and eventually get rid of these fears.”

 Let your child play with food
No worries! Food play doesn’t have to take place at the dinner table. Yet, letting a child with sensory processing difficulties play with their food is a great way to help them to feel comfortable tasting it. “Encourage your child to interact with food through his or her senses,” says Pena. “Talk about the look and feel of foods. Make interesting shapes with cookie cutters, etc. Think of it as “food school,” and reserve some time each week to engage in food learning through play,” says Pena.

Give your child choices
Forcing children to eat foods they don’t like, or insisting they eat everything on their plates is a losing battle that is likely to make mealtime a battleground. Instead, give your child a choice between eating a food they prefer and a new food and allow them to make the decision.

You can also give your child the food they choose along with a small portion of the food the rest of the family is eating. Over time, they may be inclined to give it a try.

Use positive reinforcement
Instead of punishing children for unwillingness to try new foods, bad table manners and other undesirable mealtime behaviors, reward positive behaviors such as trying a bite of a new food, by giving a child something special they value such as extra computer time, or better yet, some one on one time with a parent.

Stick to the routine
All children, but particularly those on the spectrum do best when they know what to expect. Whenever possible, endeavor to serve dinner at the same time every night. Allow your child to choose a regular seat and have other family members maintain their nightly places at the dinner table as well.

 Consult with a physician or therapist as needed
If you suspect that there is a medical reason for your child’s mealtime difficulties, be sure to consult with a professional.  Gastrointestinal, cardiopulmonary and pharmaceutical issues may all contribute to eating issues. Oral-motor feeding problems resulting from low tone and muscle weakness are also common in children on the autism spectrum. Oral motor exercises provided by a doctor, OT or PT can all be helpful in improving oral-motor skills.

 

 

 

 

 

5 Considerations When Choosing a College or University

College Student in Wheelchair in Campus Center

Is a college education right for your student? Though students with disabilities are still less likely to attend a four-year college or university than their typically developing peers, more than 2.4 million students with disabilities are currently pursuing college degrees in the United States. But some schools are more accommodating than others. Here are some things to consider when selecting a college.

Know your rights
Check out the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights website in order to gain a thorough understanding of your child’s rights when applying and attending college. According to OCR, “Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504) and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (Title II), prohibit discrimination on the basis of disability.” Yet, it’s important to know that post-secondary schools don’t have all the same requirements as school districts. For example, says the OCR, “Section 504 requires a school district to provide a free appropriate public education (FAPE) to each child with a disability in the district’s jurisdiction.” Postsecondary schools on the other hand, are not required to do so. “Rather, your postsecondary school is required to provide appropriate academic adjustments as necessary to ensure that it does not discriminate on the basis of disability. In addition, if your postsecondary school provides housing to nondisabled students, it must provide comparable, convenient, and accessible housing to students with disabilities at the same cost.” As you can see, it’s vital to be informed. This website will tell you what you need to know.

Explore your options
Though the college search can feel overwhelming, it’s best not to procrastinate. Begin researching colleges as early as your student’s freshman year of high school to ensure that there’s time to make the best choice possible. Speak with your child’s guidance counselor and consider hiring a college consultant if you feel extra help is needed. Compare notes with other students with disabilities and their parents to get a variety of perspectives.

Visit campuses
Visiting websites is not the same as visiting a campus. Though colleges are required by law to meet certain accessibility requirements, some fall short. Being on campus can allow you to see first-hand that buildings, dorm rooms and outdoor spaces are accessible to students who use wheelchairs. Are wheelchair ramps well paved, are doors wide enough; are elevators in good service? The answers to these questions will all help your student to make a sound decision.

Set up appointments with the disabilities offices at schools being considered
Talk with administrators and counselors in the disabilities office to determine whether they are well informed and attentive to the needs of students with disabilities. Be prepared with a list of questions that address the accommodations you will need in order to feel comfortable on campus and make sure that the staff answers the questions to your satisfaction.

Determine whether an inclusive or a specialized college is best
Colleges that cater to students with particular disabilities do exist, and for some people, considering them may be advantageous. For example, Gallaudet University in Washington D.C. mostly admits students who are deaf or hearing impaired. Landmark College in Vermont is one of the only schools in the U.S. specifically designed for students with learning differences. Other schools for the general student population are known for their above average programs for students with disabilities. For example, The Gersh College Experience at Daemon, in New York, focuses on students with autism, OCD, Tourette’s syndrome and ADHD. The University of Iowa’s REACH program works with students with intellectual, cognitive and learning disabilities, helping them to navigate all aspects of college life. And Drexel University in Pennsylvania offers a specialized program for students with autism. For a comprehensive list of colleges with superior services for students with disabilities, visit collegechoice.