7 Ways to Make Halloween More Fun for Kids with Special Needs

By Ali Mellin
on October 25, 2017
trick or treating fun for kids with special needs
Most kids love Halloween, but
kids with disabilities may need a few simple accommodations so they can join in the trick or treating. Small changes to things like where you place the candy bowl and how you light your home will ensure that every kid in your neighborhood can make awesome Halloween memories this year. The team at Toronto’s Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital shares their tips.

1. Move your treat bowl down to street level
Stairs can be a challenge for kids who use wheelchairs or a walker. Consider coming down to hand out candy at the bottom of your stairs.

2. Make sure trick-or-treaters can see your face and mouth as you speak
If a kid struggles with speech and hearing issues, this will help them to understand what you’re saying.

3. Be patient
It may take some children with gross motor skill challenges or intellectual disabilities an extra minute or two to reach out to get their treat, or say “thank you.” Or they may need you to put the treat in their container for them. Never presume that a child is being rude or difficult if they seem to be moving or reacting slowly.

4. Use creative decorations and spooky music that can be detected from afar
For kids with seizure disorders such as epilepsy, flashing lights and startling scares can be triggers.

5. Be prepared to hand out non-candy options
Some kids have allergies or may not take in their food orally. Filling up your treat basket with stickers, coupons and small toys too will make their night.

6. Hand out treats in a well-lit area
This helps trick-or-treaters with vision challenges to see where they’re going and makes for a safer trick or treating experience.

7. Don’t call out the kid without a costume
Kids with conditions such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or sensory sensitivities may feel overwhelmed about getting into costume and refuse to dress up or change their mind at the last minute. If a kid shows up with little to no disguise, consider that the simple act of getting out the door amid the buzz of Hallowe’en to trick or treat at a few neighbours’ houses might already be a great accomplishment in itself.

This article first appeared on Today's Parent. Click here to see the original.

A Pumpkin Carving Alternative

By Ali Mellin
on October 13, 2017

painted pumpkins a carving alternative
Painted Pumpkins are fun to make and are a great Fall craft for children of all abilities to do. Traditional pumpkin carving is tricky and can be dangerous for little hands, so this alternative is something everyone can have fun with.

You can even use your EazyHold to keep a grip on the paintbrushes and glue bottles required for this fun activity!


Kyla paiting a pumpkin using EazyHold universal cuff

See the blog post from Kids Craft Room here 

 

Dad Builds Amazing Costumes Around Son's Wheelchair

By Ali Mellin
on October 13, 2017

Jeremy has cerebral palsy and has been in a wheelchair since he was 3 years old. His dad builds amazing costumes around Jeremy's wheelchair. This year's costume is no exception. Humankind
This year’s most epic Halloween costume goes to ... Jeremy Scott! Jeremy’s dad, Ryan, created this Ghostbusters masterpiece — a perfectly scaled replica of the Ecto-1 that encompasses Jeremy’s wheelchair.

Jeremy, 8, has spina bifida and has been in a wheelchair for the past five years.

His dad has been building these head-turning Halloween costumes for his son yearly. Jeremy has been Batman, Darth Vader, a pirate with a ship, a Star Wars snowspeeder and even Captain America.

Jeremy premiered the Ecto-1 earlier this month at Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego, where he receives treatment.

“I love the smile that it brings to Jeremy and how much he gets into it,“ Jeremy’s dad, Ryan, tells USA Today. “We have also loved the smiles it puts on others’ faces. That's part of why we went and visited the hospital. We wanted to bring smiles to the kids there because we know all too well what long hospital stays are like.”

On Halloween night, dad and Jeremy plan on showcasing the car in all of its glory — sirens blaring and music booming.

“We also plan on bringing the blow-up Stay Puft Marshmallow Man behind Jeremy to really make a spectacle!” promises Ryan.

This article originally appeared on USAToday. Read it here 

How This Mom Is Teaching Kids to Find Beauty in Her Daughter's Differences

By Ali Mellin
on October 04, 2017
Apert Syndrome

Kerry Lynch would much rather you ask questions than point and stare or make an obvious attempt not to stare. Her 2-year-old daughter, Mary Cate, was born with a rare genetic disorder called Apert Syndrome, which gives her facial and cranial abnormalities and developmental delays. Basically, she looks a bit different. But really, Mary Cate is an everyday 2-year-old. Her mom wants others to see that.

So Lynch and Mary Cate prepared a presentation and began visiting schools in the Chicago area to teach kids how to understand people’s differences. In the last year, the pair has visited nearly 30 schools.

“I figured before she gets to an age where she’ll have to answer all these questions in school, let’s show the kids, ‘This is who she is,’” Lynch told The Mighty. “If I can make her life even a little bit easier, I’m going to do it.”

When Mary Cate was born, her mom, dad, and doctors faced the unknown. Only one in 65,000 to 88,000 newborns are born with the condition, according to Genetics Home Reference.

“We were terrified,” Lynch recalled. But even amidst the fear, crying and Googling of symptoms, one moment sticks out in her head — the day she and her husband brought Mary Cate home.

 

“It was a few days before Christmas,” Lynch told The Mighty. “When we pulled in, we saw that someone had decorated our house for us.”

In the last two years, Lynch says she remembers the kindness more than the uncomfortable moments that come when your child looks different than other kids. She recalls neighbors and friends who make dinners or send support when Mary Cate has yet another surgery in a children’s hospital in Texas. She remembers a woman who walked up to her, hugged her and said, ‘God bless you.’ She is in awe of the 11,000 people who like the Facebook page she has for Mary Cate and regularly visit her website. This is why Lynch visits school — so more kind moments pop up for her daughter — and for all kids with disabilities.

“I want to encourage kids to ask questions,” Lynch told The Mighty. “If I can make one person see differences in a different light — that’s what I want.”

This article first appeared on themighty.com. See the original article here



15 Ways to Help Your Child with Disabilities Transition Back to School

By Ali Mellin
on August 01, 2017

ways to help your child with disabilities transition back to school

via themighty.com


The beginning of a new school year makes me anxious, but not as anxious as it makes my children, who have disabilities.

I worry about the teachers. I worry about friendships. I worry about all that is included in the IEP because, will it be followed?

My kids worry about the new classroom, the new teachers, the new friends (or lack of friends). Because one of my daughters has cerebral palsy, she worries about accessibility, locker placement and her seating arrangements even though all those details are covered in her IEP.

Thankfully, we were in a school district where the school was willing to work with us and make the transition as smooth as possible. Every year, a few days before school started, I took both my girls to meet their new teachers, see their new classrooms, find their desks, find their lockers and make sure any accommodations necessary were put in place. Teachers, therapists and the adaptive PE teacher were present. On good years, I even brought coffee for everyone as a “thank you” for their time.

Yet, transitioning back to school is not only about the building or teachers. There is so much involved in “going back to school” after the summer break. So we reached out to our Mighty community and asked the parents, “What helps your child transition back to school?”

These were their answers:

1. “Quite honestly, it’s a great teacher that helps the most. A teacher who doesn’t try to make my son fit her mold, but lets him be himself. A teacher who sees the beauty in him and allows his funny and sweet personality shine through in his own way, not the ways of his neurotypical classmates. She’s the biggest piece of the puzzle, and how she handles the first weeks will dictate the rest of the year. Get him to love you and you’re golden. Create tension and misunderstanding and you’ve lost him before you hit the starting line.” — Tracy S.

2. “It’s all about preparation. We have taken pictures of his new classroom and teachers and talk about it a lot.” — Ann W.

3. “A few things: 1. Verbally reminding my son school is going to start again soon. 2. Taking walks to the school yard and playing there. 3. Visiting the school the last week of August and meeting his new teacher (my son’s school arranges this). 4. Buying a new lunch bag and school supplies and showing them to my son (or you could do this together). 5. Starting our earlier nighttime/bedtime routine at least a week before school starts.” — Donna C.

4. “Continue some sort of schedule and routine throughout the summer.” — Abby H.

5. “A detailed visual calendar, starting before school gets out, going all the way to school starting in the fall. It must show all months. It helps my two autistic boys to see all four months and to see the days crossed off.” — Cindy S.

6. “It helps my daughter to get into the routine of getting up early going to bed at a decent time a few weeks before school starts on top of talking about going back to school and having a visual schedule about getting ready in the morning. We also have visits with the new teacher and classroom at the end of the school year and before the new one starts.” — Rachel M.

7. “Loads of coaching before school starts. ‘We’re going back to school on Monday. We’re going to see teacher Sharon and all your friends. You’ll be able to play in the jungle gym. We’ll wake up early and put our uniform on and eat breakfast. It’ll be fun to go back to school.’ Just repeating variations of those phrases. Reminding him what to expect and when a few days before. This morning was back to school after a month [off] for us and I had one half-hearted protest, ‘I don’t want to have to go to school’ but [shortly after] was fine. Not even a moan at the drop-off.” — Jeanine S.

8. “We like to meet with the teacher before school starts to make sure everyone has the same expectations and the way is paved for an awesome school year for our girl.” — Dana C.

9. “I work in schools. Have the child visit the school prior to the start of the school year. Seeing classroom(s) can help relieve stress. Review the schedule of the first day, so your child knows what to expect. If your child uses a locker, practice how to open one.” — Kelly C.

10. “I have two teenagers with severe anxiety. We have reviewed their 504 accommodations so they know what they are, again. They do better if they know how to handle an uncomfortable but likely situation, so we talk about that (in therapy and at home.) We talk about coping techniques and remind them that they can do this.” — Lynne S.

11. “I start telling my son three weeks before school starts that school is going to start and mark it on the calendar. We do worksheets throughout summer so he doesn’t lose skills. Also, I have him pick out favorite foods, snacks, new shoes and clothes several weeks before school starts so he is in the mindset.” — Lana B.

12. “My son has been given a transition book with pictures of his new teachers, his classroom, where the toilets are, where he’ll be picked up from etc. He helped make it. There’s also space for pictures of his new lunch bag and shoes and anything else we add over the summer.” — Liz B.

13. “We use social stories that have pictures of his new classroom, his new teacher, fun things in this classroom, we don’t start getting him prepared too early, as he can get anxious. We discuss what he will eat, we pick out a lunch box and school bag, we will try on his uniform to check there are no tags that will hurt him. We go over what he has learned [at school] repeatedly. It will never be easy for him to go back to school after six weeks, but these things help.” — Michelle B.

14. “Year round school. It [was] wonderful last year.” — Kate A.

15. “Back-to-school shopping and labelling his things. Bedtime routine and picking his clothes in advance. Social story about the bus and meet-and-greet at school.” — Leidy G.

What helps your child transition back to school? Let us know in the comments.

Click here to read the original article..


Kids with Arthritis?

By Ali Mellin
on July 17, 2017

juvenile arthritis awareness

Arthritis is close to our hearts here at EazyHold. We invented our universal cuffs because of the arthritis we were suffering from and knew there was a whole world of people our age trying to accomplish everyday tasks with great difficulty due to stiffness and pain in their joints. 

When one talks about arthritis, you typically think of a "baby boomer," a grandparent, or even a great-grandparent. Though nearly 300,000 children in America have been diagnosed with juvenile arthritis, it's not something people are very aware of and we want you to help us change that!

Children that suffer from juvenile arthritis are not experiencing typical aches and pains that you may experience as an adult; they have various types of autoimmune arthritis that cause their immune system to attack their joints, causing swelling, stiffness, pain and even permanent damage. A child with juvenile arthritis may lose their sight, motor function, inhibit bone growth, and can be fatal if left untreated.     

July is Juvenile Arthritis Awareness month! In the age of social media, raising awareness to any cause is more profound and easy to do. This month, you can help those afflicted with arthritis by making a donation to arthritis research, wearing blue for the month of July, sharing relevant posts to your social media accounts, use the hash tag #curearthritis, and tell at least one person in your life about juvenile arthritis.

Click here to make a donation to Arthritis National Research Foundation
Visit curearthritis.org for more information

Five Fun Summer Activities for People of all Abilities

By Ali Mellin
on July 10, 2017

5 fun summer acitivites for all abilities
Summer is a fun time; there are vacations, trips to amusement/water parks, camping trips, late night hangouts with friends, and summer camps for kids ... there’s a lot to do!

We thought it would be fun to compile a list of five inclusive summer activities for people of all abilities to take part in:
 
1. PRIDE Learning Centers: San Fernando Valley and the Los Angeles Area

PRIDE offers weekly camps for children with learning disabilities and related difficulties such as dyslexia, auditory processing, visual processing, ADHD, autism and other learning issues. They are specialists in Orton-Gillingham, a multi-sensory reading approach. The camps that PRIDE offers aren’t only for learning, they strive to make their environments as fun as possible.

Click here to see the full list of PRIDE’s camps.

2. Autism Speaks Walk

Autism Speaks Walk is the world’s largest autism fundraising event. Powered by the love of parents, grandparents, siblings, friends, relatives, and supporters, the funds raised help ensure that people who have autism have access to the tools they need to live ‘their best lives.’

The Autism Speaks Walk is a great activity for family members, or even for individuals who have autism. The walks aren’t very long, and you’ll have a great opportunity to connect with people who have encountered similar life experiences.

Click here to see their full list of walks.

3. Joni and Friends—International Family Retreats

Joni and Friends offers hope and help to families through their International Family Retreats (IFRs). In partnership with local organizations and churches, they offer family camps to children with disabilities. Their camps are offered throughout most of the United States. There are even volunteer opportunities available. To volunteer, please visit the Joni and Friends website by clicking here.

Click here to see Joni and Friends full schedule of camps.

4. Summer C.A.M.P.-- Clinically Advanced Multi-Modality Program

Summer C.A.M.P. is designed to help children in a fun and exciting environment. Their approach is to use a data driven evidence based treatment, in combination with the needs of each individual child, to come up with the best treatment solution possible.

They teach the mind to think, the hands to work, and the heart to love. Join them for a summer of sun, fun and friends at their inclusive summer camp. Achieve goals, conquer fears, build confidence, self-esteem, and develop an enthusiasm for life while learning social and emotional skills that will last a lifetime. Each of their summer programs run for 8-9 weeks.

The primary areas they strive to improve are:

  • Self-esteem
  • Social Behavior
  • Rule Following
  • Friendship Skills
  • Classroom Behavior
  • Home Behavior
  • Academic Competence
  • Anger Control
  • Problem-solving Skills

    Click here to see their full list of events.

5. The Guided Tour

The Guided Tour, since 1972, has helped thousands of men, women and children with developmental challenges achieve greater independence. The focus of The Guided Tour is to provide a growth-producing experience for their travelers, in which they are able to travel and socialize independent of their families. To be able, many for the first time, to share their own vacation experiences with their families, their supervisors, co-workers and friends. The Guided Tour staff ensures that travelers not only have their independence, but they also help travelers with their money, and their medications.

Click here to see their list of tours.
 

There are many inclusive activities for people of all abilities to participate in over the Summer; the key is finding one that works for you and your loved ones.

Do you have experience with a great inclusive Summer activity or camp? Please share with us in the comments below so that everyone reading this article has even more resources to draw from.



Arthrogryposis Awareness

By Ali Mellin
on June 26, 2017
image of an infants feet and legs affected by arthrogryposis multiplex congenita

The end of this month marks Arthrogryposis Awareness Day!

What is Arthrogryposis?
Arthrogryposis Multiplex Congenita (AMC) describes a congenital joint contracture in two or more areas of the body. Any joint can be affected such as feet, shoulders, wrists, hands, jaw, and spine. "Children born with one or more joint contractures have abnormal fibrosis of the muscle tissue causing muscle shortening, and therefore are unable to perform active extension and flexion in the affected joint or joints." (source Wikipedia)

These joint contractures occur 1 in every 3,000 live births and are divided into three groups: amyoplasia, distal arthrogryposis, and syndromic. There are over 400 types of arthrogryposis, it is non-curable, can be related to other syndromes and underlying conditions and also is linked to lack of fetal movement in utero.

Though difficult to do typical everyday tasks, most children born with arthrogryposis grow into successful, independent adults with help from occupational and speech therapies, splinting, and surgeries.  

Search your closets and help raise awareness for AMC by wearing blue on June 30th! Other ways you can help are to use the hashtag #blueforAMC, visit amcsupport.org to learn more, and share posts with AMC facts to your social media pages.

One of our absolute favorite videos we've received from a customer is this video of Kori self feeding with EazyHold. Kori was born with arthrogryposis and she uses the pink EazyHold to help self feed ... she did an incredible job practicing with her occupational therapist, don't you think?


arthrogryposis awareness day is june 30th

 

Are Babies Having Strokes?

By Kerry mellin
on May 22, 2017

Babies Having Strokes? Pediatric Stroke Awareness Month
This is not easy to talk about, but did you know that Strokes are the leading cause of serious long term disability in the United States?  A common misconception is that strokes only affect adults; in fact, children can also have them. Even those who are physically healthy can suddenly experience the symptoms of a stroke. However, up to 80 percent of strokes are preventable! 

One of the best tools in combating strokes is raising awareness. 

May is Pediatric Stroke Awareness Month. Several groups around the nation are taking this opportunity to promote ways to prevent strokes. One of the biggest campaigns for Pediatric Stroke Awareness Month is being led by CHASA (Children’s Hemiplegia and Stroke Association). Every year they encourage people to “streak” for Pediatric Stroke Awareness. A “streak” means doing something several times throughout the month to raise awareness. For example, you can read a book to your child every day, because children with strokes often struggle to read. You can run a mile every day, to raise awareness for how strokes make it difficult to walk. You can even dye a purple “streak” into your hair as a conversation starter about pediatric strokes. “If these little stroke survivors can do some of the hard things they do every single day of their lives, then we can do something to honor them.”

 
Basically, CHASA encourages people to take part in simple tasks that we take for granted, and use them as an opportunity to educate people around them about the realities of pediatric strokes. 
 
Nancy is a mother whose son Robbie had a stroke while he was just an infant. A few years ago, Nancy streaked for Pediatric Awareness Month by posting a blog every day in May about her son’s disabilities. There are dozens of ways you can “streak” for Pediatric Awareness Month, so get creative and make a difference!
 
Strokes mostly afflict adults, so the signs are usually missed in children and teens. It’s important to know the signs so that you’re prepared. The easiest way is to remember the acronym F.A.S.T., which stands for Face drooping, Arm weakness, Speech difficulty, and Time to call 911. If your child exhibits any of these signs, it’s worth it to call 911 (or the emergency number in your country). When children have strokes, they also tend to show signs of numbness on one side of the body, sudden confusion or difficulty speaking. 
 
It’s not an easy subject to talk about, but raising awareness of pediatric strokes can reduce the negative effects that they have when they go unnoticed. The easiest way you can “streak” for pediatric awareness month is by wearing purple, and talking to people about what it represents!

purple ribbon for pediatric stroke awareness month

April is Occupational Therapy Month

By Ali Mellin
on April 20, 2017

april is occupational therapy month

The journey to independence after an injury, illness or other debilitating event presents several challenges to everyday life. But lucky for us, we have occupational therapists to help overcome those challenges! Occupational therapists (OTs) make it their mission help patients regain their ability to perform everyday life tasks after injury or illness. OTs truly make the world a better place!

This month is Occupational Therapy Month. Every year in April, occupational therapists from around the country take time to inform others of the importance of occupational therapy, and educate people on what occupational therapists do. Occupational therapists are responsible for helping people gain (or regain) the ability to complete everyday tasks or “occupations.” Occupational therapists have to customize their methods for each patient they work with, due to the fact that people are at different stages in their physical limitations. Their job is labor intensive, but their work is crucial for helping physically disabled or rehabilitating individuals gain their independence.

Different groups around the nation are taking this month to educate people on what occupational therapy really is. The students at James Madison University hosted a wonderful event for Occupational Therapy Month that was open to the entire student body. Here students were encouraged to write down the occupations most important to them, and to not take for granted the daily tasks they are able to perform. The students also set up a sports area to attract other students, with the hope of educating them on occupational therapy. One of the attendees was Mark Andrews, the founder of the nonprofit charitable organization ‘Therapeutic Adventures Inc.’ “With occupational therapy, you’re working with individuals not only in the workplace, but as they integrate back into society, and sports and recreation are a big part of that,” Andrews said. “So we’re out here to support what the students are trying to do and also to get the word out about what we’re doing.”

Andrews supplied the event with a very popular attraction -- a three-wheeled bike that’s operated by a hand crank instead of pedals. The bike is a perfect demonstration of a device that can be used in occupational therapy to help those with disabilities get back to doing the activities they love.

This year is more noteworthy than normal, as the occupational therapy field is celebrating its 100th anniversary! The profession started during WWI, when OTs first helped soldiers back into shape after they returned home from war with injuries. Since then, OTs have continued to help patients with everything from regaining strength to relearning how to engage in daily activities such as cooking and showering. The world wouldn’t be the same today without the hard work and dedication of occupational therapists!

After an injury or surgery, occupational therapists are usually the first line of support. OTs look at patients’ lifestyles, and the activities they do throughout the day to create customized solutions for them. Their main goal is empowering patients to accomplish the goals in their lives. “The role of an occupational therapist is to restore as much function as possible to a person who’s been incapacitated, and help that individual return as much as possible to doing the things that he or she loves to do,” said Ginny Holcomb, occupational therapist and co-owner of Teton Therapy.

The world needs occupational therapists. They are the people who dedicate themselves to helping others regain their lives. This month marks the profession’s centennial anniversary, and the field is only continuing to grow. No matter how big or small the issue may be, occupational therapy can make a lasting difference on a patient’s quality of life.

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