Monday, August 22, 2011

For the Parents: Age Appropriate Back to School Shopping Ideas

    Caselogic PBS-1 ScooterPak fits 16-Inch to 18-Inch Scooters, Black
  • A new backpack is something every student looks forward to at Back-to-School time
    • A Trabasack is can be both a wheelchair bag and a tray (we have one in my classroom and love it!)
    • ActiveCare, Caselogic and Wheelchair Gear make nice wheelchair packs (try to buy from vendors that are not disability specific for better prices)
    • Or just any sturdy and cool new bag would be great!
  • Functional Accessories
    •  medical id is essential, probably the most important thing your child wears every day, definitely the only thing that can save lives
      • These companies offer hip bracelets, necklaces, shoes tags and other options for your child's medical id needs: N'Style, Medic Alert (has 1-800 number for EMS to call) Zoo Bears, Petite Baubles 
      • if you can't or won't do medical id jewelery please be sure a medical id card is in your child's bag
    • Chewable Jewelry is a great way to prevent your child from tooth grinding, mouthing/biting objects and other oral stimming behaviors while providing calming sensory input.  Gone are the days of having to give children washcloths or attaching chewy tubes to clothing
    • Loose the bib.  If clothing protection is a must replace the bib with other options.
      • for uncontrolled drooling multiple layers of bandanas, if needed use clips to hold in place behind the neck 
      • or you could purchase or sew your own lined bandanas
      • for messy eating you can try an adult cloth clothing protector, but try to pick something hip ( has some from time to time)
      • a tee shirt cut up the back and worn while eating can work
      • another choice is a make-up/hair-dresser cover-up/apron or "cutting cape"
      • a box of 500 disposable clothing protectors (think lobster bibs) can be purchased for about $40 and should last more than a whole school year for clothing protection during snack and lunch (restaurant stores are cheaper than medical stores)

    Saturday, August 20, 2011

    For the Parents: Back to School Tips

    It's back to school time and here are some tips a special educator wants you to think about for back to school.
    • return your health forms, it sounds obvious, but because so many students with severe special needs/medical fragility stay in the same class for a few years it is easy to forget that we need the forms filled out AGAIN, sorry about that!
    • on that note make sure the TEAM has the most recent contact info for you and your emergency contacts
    • speaking of paper work make sure your IEP is signed and returned, loose tracking of those papers from back in May happens, but it is much easier for the TEAM is there is a current plan
    • working with your team decide where a spare set of clothes will be stored, (back pack? cubby? nurses office? locker?) and send in a set of clothes that fit and are weather appropriate for the season (repeat as needed, LOL)
    • send in a few back up meals (be in some Easy Mac, a few cans of formula or the cost of a school lunch)
    • make sure school has plenty of supplies for all your students needs(feeding, changing, medical, communication)
    • see what for of school/home communication your child's team uses and try to fit it into your day, teachers and staff LOVE knowing what is going on at home, then we can make what we are teaching so much more relevant
    • consider sending in a photo album of important family, friends and places with short sentences about each, it doesn't have to be fancy, just print out pictures, hand write sentences and staple (although fancy is fine, you can even great it on an AAC device for the student to share)
    • when was the last time your child's wheelchair, walker, AAC device or other equipment had a good scrub down?  Follow the manufacturers directions, toss those cushion covers in the wash and give everything a good cleaning. 
    •  if your child is in a new class, program or school, or even if their is just new staff in the room consider creating "cheat sheets" or a full transition portfolio/communication passport that includes basics about health needs, feeding, positioning and communication
    • label everything!

    Monday, August 15, 2011

    Android Apps for Our Kids

    iPods and iPads are slowly facing more and more competition from Android and Windows.  As that happens there are more options on those platforms for AAC-related and other apps for individuals with severe or multiple special needs.  Here are a few to get you Android users started:

    Augmentative and Alternative Communication
    • AAC Speech Buddy, $27.99, uses the free Mulberry Symbol Set, 12 TTS voices and online management
    • Discover My Voice, $50.00, uses photos and TTS or recorded voice
    • Free AAC, speech output from screen full of proprietary symbols, free
    • iAugCom, $4.99, uses white on back communication icons
    • JABTalk,$9.99, uses photos and recorded speech
    • LangLearner Speaker, free, text based only, TTS, low quality voice
    • myVoice AAC, free but costs to increase vocabulary, complex vocabulary sets, uses photos, high quality TTS voices, GPS allows automatic location based board changes
    • My Voice, My Words, TTS with clip art images arranged in grids, $10.23
    • TapTalker, TTS using an adapted keyboard, $3.23
    • TapToTalk, free but upgrade costs $99.95 a year, uses included icons or user photos, TTS with subscription
    • Touch and Go, free, uses photos and TTS
    • Vocal Slides,free, a flip through photo slides and touch to make them speak
    • Voice4U, $29.99, uses proprietary icons or user taken photos
    Visual Supports

    • Activity Timer, $.99, visual countdown timer 
    • AutiPlan, free for basic version, uses Screla Icons (black on white images) works with the AutiPlan software
    • Autism Turn Taker, $3.99, uses visual prompts to teach/supports turn taking
    • Easy Kid Timer, $1.00, A visual countdown timer that then gives a visual prompt to do what is next, also includes a photo cropper
    • Model Me Going Places, free, social stories to support children in situations like going for a haircut
    • myPrompts, $1.61, use photographs to create visual schedules, offer choices or use with the built in count down timer
    • Visual Auditory Primer Pro, $.99, visual timer

    ABA/Data Collection

    • Behavior Status, free, track behavior, graph and be able to show a child is their behavior is red, yellow or green
    • Behavior Tracker Pro,$29.99 , track multiple behaviors for multiple individuals using many intervention designs (ABC chart, intervals, audio/video recording, etc) and graph data (also integrates with the Behavior Tracker software if you have it)
    • Easy Kid Tokens, free, set up a "I am working for..." sentence and number of tokens to be earned and use as a reward board
    • Kid Mode, free, games, stories and more for kids
    • Synapse Apps, $7.99-$29.99, apps for SLPs
    • WebTeam Corportation offers 10 Android apps for children with autism that use principles of ABA to teach skills
    • Vizzle Player, free, if you use Vizzle in your school this free player app works with the Honeycomb OS to offer mobile access

    Friday, August 12, 2011

    That Hurts!

    It was 1999 and Danielle was a ten year old with cerebral palsy who was non-speaking and non-ambulatory.  Although she would soon have a defined yes/no we weren't there yet.  She lay on a mat in my classroom in the city and cried.  We tried music, favorite toys, hand lotion and massage and even scolding her to stop.  She didn't.  Finally I verbally listed body parts to her from the toes up touching each one and she stopped crying when I said "do your thighs hurt?"  Two days later we have confirmation of a femur fracture from previously undiagnosed brittle bones.  I filed away the memory of connection between the unusual behavior and the student being in pain.

    In 2004 in a classroom for high school students in rural New England a young man, Chuck, with multiple disabilities including spastic quadriplegia, communication impairment and hearing impairment refused to transfer from his manual wheelchair into his power chair.  We argued, I insisted and he went off to his job in the community.  The next day the refusal to transfer chairs happened again.  Danielle came to mind and I asked if he was in pain.  He nodded.  It turned out his seat cushion had popped, all the gel had leaked out and he was sitting on a metal plate.  I again filed away the memory of the connection between unusual behavior and pain.

    Recently, in a classroom nearly 60 miles from that classroom in rural New England another young woman with profound, multiple disabilities was crying every day, during every transfer and every slight shift in positioning.  She was unable to indicate in any way what the tears were about.  A few days passed and some people questioned if the behavior was manipulation.  Danielle and Chuck entered my mind and I asked the nurse if we could try giving her some Tylenol just to rule out pain.  The next morning we did just that and to our thrill not a tear was shed all day and for the first time in weeks the student was able to participate in active PT exercises! 

    I wish there was some way I could thank Danielle and Chuck (and all my other students) for teaching me that all behavior is communication and that sometimes that communication is simply, "that hurts!"

    Crocs for AFO's

    Image from
    Here's a tip passed on by a parent - Crocs can work great with AFO's (leg braces)! They stretch a bit to get on, are generally a little wider than other shoes and are cool too!

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