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.

 

 

 

 

 

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 or awkward 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 56.7 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. When it comes to teaching your child about special needs, it’s important to remember these tips.

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 the 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. They are never a reason to be scared or avoid someone.

3. Teach Your Child That Everyone Is Different

Every person — with or without disabilities — is unique. Teaching your child to embrace another’s differences rather than avoid them is a valuable life skill at any age. 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. They enjoy activities and engaging with others their age. They want to be loved and accepted by their peers. They 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, often, children with special needs can 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 is non-verbal or cannot engage in physical activity does not want or need friends. This is not true! 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. Spend time doing research to become more informed. If you know any specifics about the special needs of any of your child’s classmates, you can spend some time researching those topics. 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.

How to Interact With Someone Who Has Special Needs

 

Besides helping your child to understand their classmate better, 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 — regardless of abilities and limitations — is human. They still long for acceptance, and they still long 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. Even if they are non-verbal or unable to participate in certain physical activities, they still enjoy hearing your child talk or tell a joke.

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.

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. A hand on the back or a hug that may seem harmless to your affectionate child but may not be welcomed by a child with special needs. 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 songs that are silly. 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 the fact that they may witness their classmate having a meltdown or episode where they seem to be out of control. When these outbursts happen, children who don’t have a disability can often misunderstand them and make fun of or become scared of their special needs classmate. But the truth is that these outbursts are simply a part of their disability. It’s not your child’s job to prevent them or mitigate them when they happen. That’s what their teacher is there for. 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 they are. 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 what those needs and limitations are. Teachers should follow the same guidelines as children and parents by educating themselves on their students’ special needs, as well as their boundaries and limitations.

Once a teacher has a good handle on what their students’ needs are, then their goal should be to develop lesson plans that take those needs into account and 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 to develop inclusive lessons that will provide the needed accommodations for all students.

While a teacher may need to make certain alterations to accommodate a students’ 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 use specialized technology so that they can 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 that teacher so that you are both adequately prepared to instruct the class and meet the students’ 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 notions 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 stereotypes 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 Postive 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 is including all students in activities and striving 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 do this 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.

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.

Back-to-School Tips & 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. Whether this year is your first teaching special education or you’ve been in the field for years, you still can 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 special needs students. 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 & Keep People Informed

Communication is critical in any teaching position, but it becomes especially important for special education teachers. You will need to 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).

2. Review & 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 special needs students.

If possible, generate one-page summaries of each IEP. These summaries will help you learn about your students’ 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 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.

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 reduce behavior issues. 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 stresses 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, keep a positive outlook. Separate yourself from your stresses at the end of the day by finding something rewarding to engage in. Whether you exercise, visit friends or have a hobby, find some means of building yourself up and resetting your stress levels at the end of the day or during the weekends. 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 theme 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 ages and abilities, 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 décor 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 special needs students 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 special needs students, 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 four different needs — tactile, visual stimulation, vestibular and transition.

In addition to having a place for students to calm themselves, also allow 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 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. If you prefer a theme, consider the following special education classroom designs.

Special Education Room 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 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. In one study, adding plants as part of a behavioral intervention through classroom design significantly improved student performance. The classroom had at least one special needs student. Before the intervention, student engagement hovered around 3% of the time. After adding plants, changing the seating arrangement and improving the classroom layout, students increased their engagement to 45% of the time.

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 décor 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

If you need more ideas for your room themes, browse through our products at Enabling Devices. We offer classroom decorations, toys, educational objects and much more to help you give your students the best education possible. You’ll even find special education classroom resources and ideas here.

Don’t start the year without equipping your classroom with the products your students will need to have an accessible learning experience. You’ll find everything you need at Enabling Devices.

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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.

 

Best Vacation Spots With Excellent Handicap Access

best vacation spots for handicap 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. For that reason, we’ve rounded up the best accessible travel destinations in America.

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 places to vacation with handicap access.

1. Disneyland & Disney World

There’s a lot to love about the wonderful world of Disney, whether you’re visiting the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Fla., or the original Disneyland Park in Anaheim, Calif. Both parks have a variety of accommodations for guests with disabilities, including parking.

Disney World features separate disability parking lots for people with personal wheelchairs or other mobility devices. These lots are available throughout the four parks at the resort, although courtesy trams don’t stop there. Both Disneyland and Disney World require a valid disability 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 electric conveyance vehicle (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 with autism and other 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 disabilities
  • Hearing disabilities
  • Light sensitivity

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, 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 vacation spots with handicap access. 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 with autism 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

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.

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 disabled beach-goers. 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 beach is very family-friendly 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 travel 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 handicapped accessible travel 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 handicap access 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 handicap-friendly. 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 handicap access in the parking lot to trailheads and a store accessible by curb ramp, this part of the park is one of the best handicap access 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, 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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A Picture’s Worth a Thousand Words

Special Needs Child in Whimsical Photo

When babies are born with special needs, their parents are understandably frightened and overwhelmed. Though well-meaning, friends and family may be at a loss as to how to react to a newborn’s diagnosis. Instead of congratulations, parents of babies with disabilities or serious medical conditions are often greeted with expressions of sorrow and pity.

Baby photographer Angela Forker of New Haven, Indiana, understands that regardless of the pain and fear that new parents may experience when their babies are born with serious health challenges, there is also joy and pride.

Forker saw this first hand, when a couple in her church received a frightening diagnosis during the woman’s pregnancy. The baby was diagnosed with a severe form of holoprosencephaly and was not expected to survive the pregnancy. Miraculously, baby Madalyn was born alive and lived for 15 days. As Forker writes on her website, “While she may have looked different than other people’s babies, it didn’t even phase her parents. All they saw was Madalyn’s unique, captivating beauty. They adored their baby girl! When she was born, they wrote on their Facebook page, ‘She is perfect!’ They cherished every moment they had with her.”

The experience of Madalyn’s birth and her parent’s response to their critically ill baby inspired Forker to start the Precious Baby Project. The project comprises what Forker calls ‘Baby ImaginArt scenes.’ “These scenes feature babies as beautiful works of art, or as doing impossible things,” she writes. “My motto for my Baby ImaginArt scenes is ‘ANYthing is possible!’”

Forker says she began the project “to spread hope and raise awareness for babies with special needs as I take stunning and/or fun photos of babies with various medical needs. I want to show the world that every baby is precious!”

Instead of trying to hide babies’ disabilities or any necessary medical equipment such as tubes or wires, Forker incorporates them into her photographic scenes. Before each photo shoot, she consults with the parents, to learn about their baby’s medical needs and to choose a theme for the ImaginArt scene. For example, a baby girl named Ellis Rose, was photographed surrounded by roses, while a baby boy named Elijah who has Crouzon syndrome, a craniofacial disorder that necessitates the use of a trach tube and helmet, was photographed as an astronaut in space.

Special Needs Child in Whimsical Photograph

To participate in the Precious Baby Project, parents must be local to the New Haven, Indiana area or willing to travel to Forker’s home studio there. They must meet certain guidelines which can be viewed on her website. If chosen, families will receive two free digital images of their babies including one photo of their baby’s ImaginArt scene. For more information about Forker and to see photos of the Precious Baby Project, visit preciousbabyphotography.com/precious-baby-project.

 

Parent’s Guide to Sleepaway Camp

Two Boys Paddling in a Kayak on a Lake

After months of preparation, weeks of packing, and multiple conversations with the camp director, doctor and nurse, you’ve finally reached your child’s first day of sleepaway camp. Maybe you’ve dropped him off there, or maybe you’re one of a throng of parents waving to their children through the window as the camp bus rolls away.

In either scenario, you’re bound to be experiencing a mix of emotions — excitement about the prospect of much-needed time to yourself; guilt about the sense of relief you may feel; and significant anxiety about how your child will fare at camp.

If your child has disabilities, these emotions may be heightened. Here are some steps you can take to make the most of this brief time away from your child.

Remind yourself of the benefits of camp for your child
Most likely you spent hours researching the camp you selected for your child. You probably got references, interviewed the staff and maybe even visited the camp grounds. You made sure to choose a camp that seemed prepared to deal with whatever challenges — medical or behavioral — that your child presents. With these pieces in place, your child is set up to reap the many benefits that summer camp provides: the opportunity to make new friends, gain independence and self-confidence, and develop new skills.

 Give yourself a break
You deserve to have some time to focus on yourself, your significant other and even your other children. There is no cause to feel guilty about sending your child to camp or for feeling happy while he is there. Remember, this break will provide you with a chance to re-energize, so you’ll be able to be a better parent to him when he returns.

Spend time doing things you enjoy
Take advantage of the extra time that having a child at sleepaway camp offers. Plan a weekend away with your significant other, have lunch or drinks with friends; sign up for a class; begin an exercise regimen; read a book; or simply catch up on your sleep.

No news is good news
In an era of 24/7 access, it’s hard to adjust to camp communication guidelines. Most camps don’t allow campers to bring cell phones, and discourage phone calls between campers and parents in general. Camps have their reasons for rules such as these. Phone contact often worsens or even creates feelings of homesickness in campers. It may also cause unnecessary concerns for parents who may not realize their child’s homesickness is likely to dissipate soon after it arises.

That’s not to say that you shouldn’t receive frequent reports from your child’s counselors and camp administrators. They should communicate regularly and should always be available for phone inquiries and emails.

 Rediscover the lost art of letter-writing
Though phone calls, text messages and emailing are out of the question, you can write plenty of letters. The more the better! When determining what to write to your camper, focus on positive news from home. But not too positive! You don’t want your child feeling like he’s missing all the fun. Ask questions about camp, and let your child know you are proud of her for trying so many new activities and experiences.

Enjoy seeing your child’s photos online    
Nowadays many camps take hundreds of photos every day. The photos are posted on the camp website (mostly)for the benefit of worried parents. There’s nothing like seeing your child in a photo surrounded by new friends, and grinning from ear-to-ear!

 

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 communicatormultiple 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 switcheshand switchessip & 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.

10 Ways to Choose the Right School for Your Child

The Word School with a Magnifying Glass

Chances are, your child spends much of his or her day in a setting outside your home. Whether it be a public school, private school, daycare or therapeutic or vocational training program, knowing your child is being well-educated and well-cared for is critically important. But finding the right setting for your child with special needs can be challenging. Here are some steps you can take to ensure that your son or daughter is receiving the top-notch care and educational services he or she deserves.

1. Know your child’s rights
According to Disability World “Federal law mandates that each and every child is to receive an education that is both free and appropriate in an environment that is the least restrictive possible. … There are three federal laws that apply specifically to students with disabilities: The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA); Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973; and The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).”

Complicating matters, each state interprets federal law differently. Make sure you familiarize yourself with the laws in your home state.

 2. Have your child evaluated
Not sure what setting is appropriate for your child? You are entitled to a free evaluation by your home school’s study team. Typically, such evaluations include psychological, speech, physical, educational and occupational therapy assessments. Depending on the results of the evaluation, children remaining in the public school system may be given an IEP that will approve your child for whatever services are deemed necessary. This may also determine whether your child qualifies for a school especially for students with special needs.

 3. Visit multiple schools
If possible, visit more than one school or setting to determine what would be the best fit for your child. Significant variabilities exist between schools in terms of their campuses, accommodations, staffing, curricula and inclusion policies.

4. Meet individually with administrators
Though school tours are helpful, when your child has special needs, it’s essential to explore whether the school can accommodate them. Make sure to be candid about your child’s needs even if this may result in him being denied admission. It’s preferable to know that a school is not appropriate before you enroll your child. Once your child begins attending school, administrators and teachers should be readily available to provide progress reports and address concerns.

5. Get references
Don’t take the school’s word for it, ask for references from other parents who have children enrolled there. They are more likely to be forthcoming about the strengths and weaknesses of the school.

6. Be aware of the school’s staffing
Ask about class size and student: teacher ratios as well as whether the school has onsite clinical staff. Find out how many minutes per week of therapy your child will receive. In private school settings, is therapy part of the tuition or is it extra? Is 1:1 therapy provided or will your child receive therapy in a group?

7. How are behavioral issues handled?
You will want to know this whether your child has behavioral issues or not. If he does have behavioral issues, you’ll want to make sure the school manages them in a way that’s in keeping with your belief system. If your child doesn’t have behavioral issues, make sure that being around other students who are frequently disruptive won’t interfere with her learning, emotional or physical well-being.

8. What is the school’s policy on bullying?
Be sure you’re knowledgeable about the school’s bullying policy. As children with disabilities are more likely to experience bullying, you’ll want to know that school administrators and teachers take it seriously and will intervene immediately.

9. Does the school offer courses or activities that your child can access?
Confirm that the school is fully accessible for students with physical and learning differences. Ideally, your child should be able to participate in all learning and recreational opportunities provided at her school.

10. Take children’s feedback seriously
Most kids complain about school on occasion. But if your child seems frightened, regularly complains about feeling sick or is habitually resistant to attending school, pay attention. Particularly with non-verbal children, it can be tough to get to the bottom of what’s going on at school. Make sure to check in with teachers and administrators to determine what may be fueling your child’s reluctance. Ideally, sit in on classes, or visit at recess or lunchtime, to make sure your child is safe, comfortable and happy.