Bucket List for Disabled Kids

If you aren’t in a position to live an easy, care-free life in a world like ours, then it helps to have people around you who would do anything to make sure you’re as happy as you can be while you have as much fun as possible. When you’re a 12-year-old girl–as Charley Hooper is–suffering from microcephaly, you can use all the help you can get. Hooper suffered this type of brain damage as the result of a birthing accident. When she was born, no one ensured her throat was clear. She went without oxygen for far too long.

Her eyes work, but her brain doesn’t process images. That means she’s effectively blind. She also requires a fair amount of help just to move about, because her brain can’t shoot the right signals where they need to go.

That hasn’t stopped her amazing mom from creating the world’s best bucket list for her little girl. She did it because she knew that Charley might not have as much time as everyone else does, and she wanted her daughter to experience as much as she could in the time remaining. This wasn’t a quick realization–it was a scary epiphany that only occurred after Charley almost died.

The bullet points on the bucket list aren’t always easy to achieve, either: one of them involved meeting Ed Sheeran.

When the list was originally conceived, it was meant to have a beginning, middle, and an end. Charley’s twelfth birthday was supposed to mark the culmination of that list, but instead, the list has not only continued to grow longer, it has grown indefinite. Charley’s mom became addicted to the sense of purpose that it gave her and her family, and the great experiences that it gave her daughter. That’s why she created a Facebook page dedicated to the challenge. Hopefully, these aspirations and moments to be cherished can show other people that some things are worth doing, and educate those who could use a little inspiration.

That’s not the end of it, though.

New Zealand has enjoyed a strong new advocate of maternal care and better accessibility for those living with disabilities. In addition to giving her own daughter with the experiences of a lifetime, she has also managed to provide hundreds of families with access to legal aid for parents in similar situations to their own. She did it using Action to Improve Maternity (or AIM), an organization dedicated to its namesake’s cause. On top of that, she is in the process of beginning charitable work that will bring truly disabled-accessible bathrooms to as many places in New Zealand as possible. With luck, this is only the beginning.

BENEFITS OF SIGN LANGUAGE FOR CHILDREN

Sign language has been a godsend to many deaf people since its invention in the 1800s by Thomas Gallaudet. Many communication challenges have been mitigated and eliminated thanks to sign language, as well as technological innovations like closed captioning.

Sign language can often be the only language that young deaf children will ever know. There is evidence to suggest that sign language may be beneficial to hearing children, as well as an alternate form of communication before the words of the native language, can be spoken.

It has been widely reported that gorillas and some monkeys are able to understand basic signs, and research has shown more recently that teaching sign language to babies and toddlers can help incomprehension by the children, understanding of needs by parents and creating a closer bond between children, siblings, and their parents even before verbal vocabulary enters into the communication dynamic.

Whether you realize it or not, sign language is a language, and even hearing children have an opportunity to benefit from bilingualism if sign language is taught as a second language just like Spanish or French. And research seems to confirm that the benefits that children gain from learning sign language as a second language are similar to those who learn a second spoken language other than their own.

We are always told, or encouraged, to teach children other languages either through educational apps like DuoLingo, through home instruction or in classroom settings at school. With sign language, you can develop your child mentally and emotionally well before he or she speaks first words, as even as early as six or seven months children can begin to use hand signals to communicate ideas.

Some of the benefits for children learning sign language are included here:

  • As much as an additional 12 IQ points over peers who don’t learn sign language
  • Better grades in school
  • As much as 17-percent higher scoring on standardized tests
  • Faster emotional and speech improvements
  • Earlier reading and a larger vocabulary
  • Better memory – sign language involves muscle action, and the more senses are used in learning, the better the child is remembering the concept
  • Speaking earlier and forming longer sentences at the same time as the peer group

As you can see, thinking of sign language as a second language and applying it to children’s education to support bilingualism, shows that young brains have the elasticity to understand multiple languages and to develop competency in more than one language at a time, even at a time of development before spoken words. It lends credence to the belief that babies do indeed understand language even before speaking it. Sign language is the perfect first language for them to “speak,” and the benefits are long-lasting and in some ways permanent in creating a well-rounded individual.

BENEFITS OF GLASSES FOR KIDS’ EYES

Children develop their five main senses during early years of life. It is unfortunate that some kids do not have the privilege of all five senses, and some will have blindness, deafness or may be insensitive to taste, for example.

But those who are so privileged are often put into various situations during their very early years to experiment with their senses by touching, hearing, seeing – and yes sometimes tasting – various objects and foods in order to have proper development of all the senses into a normal range.

Sometimes, though, one or more of the senses will not develop in a proper way, and children will need some assistance in the form of aids to maintain sensory use while development comes along.

You may hear of young ones sometimes needing small hearing aids for a time because their ear organs aren’t developing fast enough, and you might hear of children using glasses to see in their classrooms at school.

While there may be a belief that eyeglasses for young kids may be inappropriate because they might actually hinder the development of the eyes, the right prescription glasses may actually do the opposite and help accelerate the development of the eyes while allowing the children to have the right vision for the classroom and other activities.

The eyes are about focus muscles, which allow children to see clearly whether looking at a distance or up close. Under normal development in the early years, children will tend to be naturally far-sighted, as far-sightedness is not a condition where glasses would be necessary.

As the eyes develop and the focus muscles get stronger, a child will be able to make out more details up close and will be able to have their eyes’ focus move quickly from close objects to distant ones. Sometimes, however, the far-sightedness in a child may be more pronounced than normal, which would suggest that the focus muscles are not developing as they should.

It is important to put your child through a vision text in early years, so that a professional can make note of whether the eyes are developing slowly, or whether there is a problem with the eyes that are preventing the focus muscles from developing at all.

If far-sightedness develops within a normal range, that is considered normal that glasses are generally not recommended. But if near-sightedness is not where it should be at a certain age, then glasses may be a good tool to help the child see clearly while also utilizing the focus muscles to get them to develop more normally without sacrificing the child being unable to see the front of the classroom, for example.

If the near sight is slight, then that does not usually mean glasses are needed; it will take multiple tests to determine of development of the focus muscles is at a normal pace. Of course, a stigmatism may be present, as a child’s eye may not be developing into a perfect spherical shape, which of course will affect vision regardless of the focus muscle development. But an eye professional can do a check of your child’s eyes to monitor the progression of the visual development, and a recommendation of some prescription lenses for a short time by prove beneficial in developing eyes normally so the child can have good vision for years.

Think of glasses for kids as similar to braces for teeth, and you understand how it all works.

Why You Should Have Your Child Evaluated Early

If you’re a new parent or thinking of becoming one soon, then you should start getting familiar with how children develop over the years. What they pay attention to at which age when they start to learn how to communicate with you in a variety of ways, and how far along their learning should be in the first five years: all of these are crucial bits of knowledge. Most parents won’t know what signs to look for, and so they fail to recognize if their child has special needs requirements that aren’t currently being met. That’s why there’s no such thing as “too early” when it comes to having your child evaluated.

But what exactly does that mean?

Evaluation isn’t the same as it is in school or college. It isn’t about knowing all the right answers to a rigid set of questions on a test or exam. It’s about figuring out whether or not your child’s strengths and weaknesses are on par with other children his or her age. Is your child’s development where it should be? This is something every parent should know. This is especially true if you already have a child with special needs. It increases the chances that your next one will require more attention as well.

If your child isn’t in school yet and you or a pediatrician feel the need for this kind of evaluation, then don’t hesitate. Knowing everything you can know now will help prepare you for the day when your child is placed in an unfamiliar social situation later. You’ll know what kind of programs are available when your child is in school.

If your child is already in school, then knowing how to manage and navigate the obstacles ahead should be priority one. The procedures in place for this time of evaluation usually take the form of various tests in order to identify learning, social, and attention disorders. These can take a few days, but the resulting information will be worth the wait. The tests will discern where your child places in terms of key skills based on age. These include mathematics, reading, writing, websites etc.

If your child is special needs and requires additional attention, then you might be entitled to support systems that weren’t available to you before the evaluation.  Usually these include an Individualized Education Program (IEP) specifically catered to the needs of your child. Although many children might be enrolled in similar programs, each child’s needs are different, and so the type and amount of attention provided is personalized. The IEP allows you to become involved in a manner not typically available to other parents with children enrolled in the public school system. If your child has specific academic needs that you feel aren’t properly addressed, you’ll have the opportunity to fight to see them met.

This knowledge can help your child understand how their struggles can be better managed throughout the years, and often will help better integrate them into familiar environments. It will also help relieve a lot of the burden you often shoulder as the parent. It’s a win-win for everyone.

New Technology for Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral palsy can result in moderate or severe symptoms that range from mobility issues and brain-related thinking problems to pain or seizures. Cerebral palsy is classified as a permanent movement disorder, sometimes genetic, sometimes caused by brain damage. Because movement can be extremely inhibited in those suffering from the disorder, new technology shows the potential to be a bright light illuminating a long, dark path sometimes without end.

Researchers out of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) that operates in Bethesda, Maryland are providing kids who suffer from this disorder with mechanical exoskeletons to help them experience a range of motion that might otherwise be impossible for them to achieve, especially when confronted with longer distances that normally present a greater challenge. The researchers may have expected some pushback from the participating kids, but that’s not what happened. It turns out that everyone likes feeling superhuman every once in awhile. Thanks, Iron Man.

The biggest obstacle for kids who grow up with cerebral palsy can be the transition to adulthood. When you’re forced to walk with a crouched stance that isn’t atypical for palsy sufferers on a regular basis, it’s not uncommon to lose mobility as you grow older. Sometimes, walking becomes impossible as the years advance. The purpose of the exoskeleton is to increase the longevity of the bones, joints, muscles, and tendons by allowing the children to further extend their legs while they walk. It does this by wrapping the legs with metal supports that help manage the knee’s mobility during the rhythm that most of us maintain without thinking while we walk about.

Sometimes surgery can provide the same benefits, but a noninvasive approach is certainly always welcomed by parents and children alike. During routine surveillance of seven children during six separate visits, researchers were able to determine that the mechanical construct achieved the intended purpose: knee extension. Better yet, the exoskeleton didn’t do all the work. The children were still forced to use their own muscles to walk. This is an important step for the researchers because any surgery usually requires that muscles and tendons be lengthened. If muscle deterioration had occurred during the visits, then they would have failed in their goals.

The real proof of success comes next, though. Seven kids is a start, but it isn’t nearly enough to make any real conclusions. A larger trial in which many more children will don the exoskeletons will inevitably be conducted. The real difference is in the amount of time they have with the new technology though. While these exoskeletons were worn briefly, and only on a handful of occasions, the next study will occur with children who get to wear them for an entire year.

The team of researchers responsible for the project is also looking to expand to children with other mobility disabilities.

The Similarities And Differences Between Nearsightedness And Farsightedness

Of all the eye problems from which human beings might suffer, near and farsightedness are perhaps the more prevalent. People get diagnosed with one or both of those problems almost every day. If you’ve heard people refer to these disorders but have no idea what they are, then you’re not alone.

Nearsightedness and farsightedness are perhaps the most well-studied eye problems. Thanks to this fact, there are a number of corrective tools and procedures for the problem. However, understanding how those work depends on understanding the difference between the two.

How Are Nearsightedness And Farsightedness Similar?

Both of these eye disorders come from a similar problem. Namely, they are both refractory issues. What does that mean?

When the human eye is hit by light (or as most people call it “seeing”), the pupil takes that light in and reflects it against the back of the eye. The retina then processes it, and the brain puts a picture together. This is how humans see.

With nearsightedness and farsightedness, the light doesn’t reflect properly. Since the light doesn’t reflect properly, vision becomes distorted. It’s much like when a flashlight or another light bulb gets dirty. The light can’t shine properly and instead shines at different strengths.

How Are Nearsightedness And Farsightedness Different?

At a very basic level, the answer is simple. One causes you to have difficulty seeing at close range, the other causes you to have difficulty seeing at further ranges.

You’ve probably seen someone who’s nearsighted before. When they aren’t wearing glasses, they’ll hold books and other objects further away. This is so that they can see it more clearly since objects close to them appear blurry.

How does this happen? It can be caused by a number of events. Physical damage to the eye can cause it, but in general, the cause is age. As humans get older, the eye begins to dry out and lose its shape. As the shape is lost, the light doesn’t focus the way it’s supposed to.

Farsightedness is similar, but the other side of the coin. When someone is farsighted (sometimes called hyperopia), things far away become blurry. This is caused by a flattening of the cornea or an incorrect curvature of the lens.

As you can see, both of these disorders are caused by the eyes becoming irregularly shaped. This is why there are so many ways to help treat these problems while on Medicaid or any other type of medical plan.

How To Treat Myopia And Hyperopia

The most common way to fix these disorders is via corrective eyewear. Glasses are designed to either adjust how the light hits the eyes or simply magnify the thing in front of the person (such as with reading glasses). Corrective eyewear has been around for decades, so by this point, it’s essentially perfected technology.

There are also some surgeries that can correct these problems. Some are safe, others are not. You should speak with your eye doctor before undergoing any surgical treatments.

At the end of the day, millions of people all over the world live with one of these two problems. As long as you wear corrective lenses, you shouldn’t have any drop in your quality of life.

This video does a great job displaying the differences between near and farsightedness:

Is Your Child Special Needs? This Is What You Need To Know!

Knowing that you’re different from everyone else can cause a lot of anxiety while growing up, but it’s not easy for the parent either. It can be made more difficult for a number of reasons. Some kids make it obvious. The signs are distinct enough that you know something is different right away. Then again, some children are more high-functioning than others, and will fit in with their peers just fine. This can make it exceedingly difficult to figure out whether or not your child has special needs, especially if you’re not familiar with the signs. Here are some of the things you should be on the lookout for.

One of the biggest concerns for any parent should be knowing that the signs to look for at depend on the age of the child. If you aren’t always around developing children (especially special needs children), then you may not even realize that your child is lagging behind. We often focus on verbal communication when we consider special needs, but a child can have issues with vision and hearing as well, and it’s important to take these functions into consideration too.

If your child has trouble seeing, then he or she might frequently touch or rub at their eyes. If a child tries to track your movement, but never maintains contact, there could be trouble brewing. Pay close attention to how your child interacts with toys, junk lying around on the floor, and other people. If your child complains of aches and pains in the ear or head, has infections and allergies, or speaks with abnormal volume, then he or she might have trouble hearing. Other signs to look for include response time to sounds, or inability to maintain eye contact after an abrupt noise. If your child can’t understand you, it doesn’t necessarily mean there’s any mental impairment–your child might just not hear properly.

Knowing whether or not a child has special needs while thinking is much more difficult to recognize because of how brain function progresses. Even by the first birthday, your child should be able to recognize you and the people most often around. By the second birthday, your child should have learned how to point. This signifies learning to identify simple objects. If your child isn’t talking by his or her third birthday, then you should consider finding help.

You should notice your child becoming much more active by the fourth birthday. This is the point in time at which he or she will enjoy storytime and start to become curious and ask questions. In addition, your child should be getting more comfortable when answering the questions you ask. Over the next few years, your child will learn colors, shapes, numbers, and the alphabet. When in a classroom setting, the child’s teacher will likely become aware of any issues you haven’t noticed yourself. However, it’s important that you catch special needs early on in order to combat lasting effects later in life. Doing so can help your child better fit in and adapt to social situations as they arise. It’ll make your life as a parent that much easier as well!

Famous People With Disabilities Are All Around Us

A lot of people who grow up and live with disabilities do so with the belief that they’re completely alone with their burden, and that kind of solitude can stunt one’s growth in unacceptable ways. The thing is, there have been famous people throughout history who have already proven that people with disabilities are most definitely not alone, and that they have what it takes to impact the world for the better. These are just a few of those people.

These days, most people know someone who has autism spectrum disorder. Sometimes, we might not even realize it. It can be mild, or it can greatly impact someone’s life. It can also take on many different forms, and doesn’t discriminate between those with high or low intelligence. Experts believe that Albert Einstein likely had some form of autism. Mozart, Matt Savage, and Tony DeBlois are just a few others who fall on the spectrum.

Mild cerebral palsy might leave a person with this disorder on crutches but able to do everything else, or it could significantly impact the daily routine in more meaningful ways. In either case, many famous personalities were subject to this movement disorder. In recent years, young actor RJ Mitte made waves playing “Walter White JR.”, on the AMC smash hit Breaking Bad. Not everyone realized that RJ actually does have a mild form of cerebral palsy, but he’s proof that everyone can accomplish what they put their mind to if they want it badly enough.

Epilepsy is a somewhat common neurological disorder which leads to seizures, and is most often treated and controlled rather than cured. Famous figures who had epilepsy were Vincent van Gogh, the great artist, scientist Isaac Newton, and Napoleon Bonaparte, the French conqueror.

Tourettes can present in odd ways, most notable of which is the cliche cursing vocal tic. But that doesn’t really characterize the neurological disorder, which results in more than one physical tic and at least one vocal tic. No one knows exactly what causes the disorder, but current scientific knowledge supposes that it is a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Dan Ackroyd, a popular actor, hasn’t experienced symptoms of Tourette’s and Asperger’s syndrome since he was about fourteen years old. Even so, it’s probably a surprise to no one that someone with such a strong personality experienced either disorder.

No matter who you are or what you choose to do in life, the people who came before us can serve as inspiration now and in the future. They show us that anything is possible with hard work and legal practice software, even for those of us who suffer from disabilities that we might otherwise think impossible to rise up from.  

What Are Assistive Devices And Who Are They For?

Those who are deaf or hard of hearing, or those who have a speech or language disorder sometimes require assistive devices (sometimes called assistive technologies) in order to help them communicate in certain situations. Sometimes the fault doesn’t lie in the person with the supposed “disorder” so much as in the people whom they need to communicate with. A deaf person can often communicate just fine using sign language, for example, but people who can hear don’t often take the time to learn how to communicate back. Sadly, the burden falls on the minority, and so the assistive devices are for their benefit as much as everyone else’s. Other devices are more necessary–like alarms or flashing lights to alert someone of danger.

There are many different kinds of technologies available depending on the needs of the person using them.

Assistive listening devices (or ALDs) are for the hard of hearing, and they help drown out background noises while amplifying more prominent sounds like voices or the sound of a horn blasting. They can be coupled with other type of hearing aids to further benefit the user’s hearing.

Alerting devices are used to complement bells or alarms. Instead of the sound of a doorbell, a deaf person might utilize a device that connects to the doorbell but issues a blinking light in place of the bell.

An augmentative and alternative communication device (or AAC) is used by those who have speech or communication disorders. As technology advances, so too do they. For example, the most basic AAC devices are picture boards, while the more advanced computer programs can create sound out of text or the same in reverse.

A hearing loop is a type of ALD that is comprised of a sound source, an amplifier, a wire that encircles a given room, and a receiver. Electromagnetic energy flows through the wire in order to enhance sound. Receivers for this type of system are often built into hearing aids, but aren’t always used.

Other ALDs involve FM radio signals to transmit similar sounds or infrared light to do the same. Personal amplifiers can also be used in place of the aforementioned if they aren’t available in a given environment.

These options represent only a very small number of the avenues available for those who need assistive technologies, and new research is conducted on a regular basis by the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) in order to consistently improve existing technology while searching for new and better technology in the future.

What Happens to Your Child’s IEP When You Switch Schools?

If your child requires an Individualized Education Program (or IEP), then you’ve probably been through the ringer a couple of times, and the gravity of your own decisions on the life of your child probably isn’t lost on you. If you’re experiencing a transition in your life, and that change affects your child as well, it can become a real hassle, and sometimes you won’t have the right answers at the right time. So what happens to your child’s IEP when they switch schools? It’s not all bad news.

First and foremost, your child’s IEP will not change if you’re switching to a new school within the same district. Whichever IEP you initially chose, it was a pact between you and the district in which you reside. No change in district means there is no change in the pact. Congratulations.

If you find that you need to move farther away, for example from California to NYC, and commuting to the old school district becomes impossible, then you probably will need a new IEP for the new school district, especially if it is in a new state. Fortunately, every state uses the same IEP terminology, even if that state has different rules that are applied to it. In the case that you move, you just need to do a little bit more research to find out about what’s available where you are and how different it is from what you already had.

If you switch to a different district in the same state, that district will ultimately decide how to handle the transition for your child’s IEP. It can choose to continue providing the resources for the current IEP, or it can choose to offer a new one that hopefully both parties will find amenable. Even if the new district decides to offer a new IEP, you can choose to be a part of the process or not. It’s up to you to do what you find is best for your child’s continuing education.

The problem with moving to a different state is law. Each state regulates education differently, and although those differences can be subtle at times, chances are you’ll find some of the details will change your child’s ability to maintain a place within the program at all. If the state rules regarding IEP find that your child is not eligible, there is not much you can do. It’s up to the school district to decide whether or not the child qualifies, and if he or she does, then they may also decide to offer a new evaluation for a new IEP. No matter the state, you’re still a part of the process if you choose to be.

The bottom line is this: moving might impact your child’s education in a big way, and it’s important to research how any potential moves can affect both of you long-term.