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. You really know how to make lemon into lemonade. 

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.

Teaching Tips For Autistic

Many people struggle with autism spectrum disorder. For those who have it, the sensory inputs of everyday life can be overwhelming and cause unwanted behaviors, not to mention the challenges of education and learning. For others, it can be a great exercise in patience and understanding, to see a child struggle with what many of us consider to be routine in the world around us. For those in a position of educating children with autism, this can be especially challenging due to the need to accommodate the tendencies followed by autism. This is hard to say that those with autism should be labeled or treated as anything besides normal. Like all children, they simply require attention and specific accommodations that maximize their potential to learn and understand the basics from math to science to their ABCs. Some children are visual learners, some are oral learners, some learn through application. And while autism is challenging in itself, the ability to learn is no less present for those who have autism with the proper methods, techniques and teaching tips.

One of the greater challenges to autism spectrum disorder is overstimulation through external sources. Flickering lights, bright or attracting colors, loud sounds or even large groups of people can be distracting, even discomforting, for those with autism. This sort of overstimulation can also lead to challenging behavior and cause children with autism to exhibit anxiety. Providing a calm atmosphere with minimal distractions so children can focus is key in this regard. If need be, accommodations via specified work areas should be arranged when particular tasks need to be completed. Involving their interests in the body of tasks as much as possible can also encourage children to focus and complete the tasks they are given. Feel free to be selective about activities in which they may or may not participate due to lack of interest, and make sure to encourage open-ended tasks and group work.

Differentiating verbal communication can also be challenging for those with autism. Avoid using sarcasm or idioms, as the literal meaning of your words is likely to be understood or considered more quickly than your tone or inflection. Be sure to use concise directions, and don’t overwhelm children with too many steps at a time. In Temple Grandin‘s guide for teaching children and adults with autism, she specified how she was unable to remember more than three steps if asking for directions and would require written instructions to follow. Sometimes, when you are giving instructions, children will return them with blank stares. Try rewording your instructions, and encourage children to repeat them back to you to demonstrate understanding on their part. Be sure to address children as directly as possible, by name if need be. This will assure them that they are part of a group that is being addressed so they can better understand that directions apply to them as well.

It is important to provide structure and routine for children with autism. Deviating from routine can also result in challenging behaviors or anxiety similar to overstimulation. Be sure to set specific times for regularly-performed activities and stick to them as closely as possible. If this should become an issue at any point, the best course of action is to alert children of a break in routine preemptively rather than allow them to discover it on their own. This will give them time to process the deviation. It is also encouraged that they are given small amounts of free time for what some may call obsessive behavior as a reward for adhering to structure and reinforcing positive behaviors throughout the day.

It is also important to remember that not everyone involved will understand the displays of autism. Protecting children from teasing by their peers and making peers aware of autism, in general, is advised. Should a child make displays of anger or frustration, it is important that the target of their frustration may not match the source. Patience is essential, lest you end up frustrated as well and further encourage potentially unwanted behavior.

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.

Choosing A School For Your Disabled Kid

Knowing the benefits of the many different school systems available whenever you move from one place to another is key if you want to provide your children with the kind of advantages they need to thrive in a rapidly changing world, but what was an already difficult decision for a normal child becomes nearly impossible if your child has special needs. So what should you do if your child is disabled or needs more attention than the other children in the neighborhood? Well, luckily there are systems in place to help you out.

You can choose to enroll in an online school, but there are disadvantages to doing so, especially if your child has a behavioral disorder which precipitates a personalized, one on one approach. You can also choose to homeschool, if you know you can provide the right education to meet your child’s needs. Most parents find this a substantial challenge, and it should only be undertaken if you’re sure you aren’t doing more harm than good. Seek professional support before you try. It’s a lot more likely that you’ll need the guidance of an institution or individual professionally accustomed to your child’s needs.

Magnet schools are public schools that cater to kids who are disabled. Unlike most traditional schools, they specialize in certain areas or provide a focus in an area where your child may struggle, such as math or science. Magnet schools are prone to unfortunate long waiting lists, and if the particular magnet school you really want is located in a different school district, then transportation could become a major issue. With every pro, there’s a con.

Charter schools represent another more controversial option, and it’s up to you if you want to take the chance on this one. Although they do offer smaller classes that allow your child a more personalized experience, they are run by groups that may not get adequate funding for children with disabilities, and if the government finds that standards aren’t met, the school can be abruptly shut down. If this happens, your children will need to transition to a different school with different teachers, and that can hinder the learning process a lot more for a disabled child.

There do exist private schools that offer special services for students that have learning or attention problems as part of their disability, and these are especially good for all-around, comprehensive learning. Because all the children in these schools are in the same boat (they all have special needs) there is potentially less bullying, while the culture itself is adapted to meet all of their needs. The problem for most parents is expense, even though this probably offers the best solution to the problem of choosing a school. There are some scholarships available to help pay for the inflated expenses, however.

Ultimately, what you choose for your child depends on his or her needs and the level of support that can be provided from all sides.

What is The National Technical Institute for the Deaf?

The deaf and hard of hearing don’t always require the support of outside networks, because they build their own. The deaf community is strong and robust, and the pride of its members is unrivaled. If you were to ask a deaf person whether or not they would choose to be granted the ability to hear, the answers of many might surprise you. Most individuals who are born deaf do not consider themselves disadvantaged or disabled in any way, and many would choose to remain deaf in order to remain a part of the greater community. Even so, many institutions do provide support for those who require it. The National Technical Institute for the Deaf is one such institution.

The National Technical Institute for the Deaf (or NTID) is one of nine colleges that make up the Rochester Institute of Technology (or RIT). Of the 15,000 undergrads who choose to study at RIT, 1,200 are deaf or hard of hearing. That’s because the NTID provides the tools they need to learn on an equal footing with their peers who aren’t deaf. NTID has a number of programs that focus on career paths for any student, and has a phenomenal graduation rate. The NTID job placement rate is top of the line as well.

The mission statement of the NTID is simple, yet profound in its scope: the institute strives to give deaf or hard of hearing students state of the art technical programs, while complementing education with traditional arts and sciences packages. The purpose of all of this is to teach students how to maintain a proper work-life balance when they must eventually integrate with a fast-paced and quickly transforming world on the outside.

On top of that, NTID also strives to enhance already-strong networks for deaf and hard of hearing individuals by training new professionals how to work with them and for them. The institute complements its mission by taking advantage of research opportunities that might prove helpful to deaf members and people in general. The college does not keep the fruits of this labor to itself. Instead, it disseminates the relevant knowledge acquired to other organizations and institutions that could make use of it.

The instructors at NTID use a variety of methods to communicate with students. Sign language is of course used, as is fingerspelling, visual aids, and the Internet which provides material on the web. Tutoring is available for those who require it, as are the resources of any of the other eight colleges within RIT. When necessary, captioning services are rendered. NTID currently retains the biggest staff of interpreters for deaf or hard of hearing students in the United States, according to a personal injury attorney in Dallas.

What is The Association of Higher Education and Disability?

The Association of Higher Education and Disability (or AHEAD) is a grand international network comprised of more than 2,800 member organizations located in countries like the United States, England, Canada, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Greece, Japan, and many others. The purpose behind AHEAD is to help those tasked with developing policies that cater to those with disabilities. AHEAD provides extensive training for professionals who work in higher education institutions through a variety of means, including workshops and conferences, and various publications that help extend the influence of the network further than it would go otherwise.

AHEAD prides itself on the diversity of the entire network. The primary goal of the network is helping those with disabilities achieve equality in daily activities. AHEAD believes that participation by these individuals is key to a normal experience in higher education, and works to promote greater involvement.

A big part of what AHEAD does happens because of involvement by the governments behind each member. Without the support and continued  involvement from government bodies throughout the world, the network could not achieve what it does. That’s why AHEAD routinely discusses in an open forum different regulations that are instituted around the world. In the U.S., for example, AHEAD was able to comment on and influence the consequences of the ADAAA of 2008, which was passed in order to maintain previous laws passed ensuring that disabled Americans could not be discriminated against. When senate confirmation hearings began for Judge Sotomayor in 2009, AHEAD was there to put its two cents in and make sure that members inside of the network were informed of relevant news items.

Among the core values of AHEAD are diversity, wherein the platform helps foster more diverse communities inside of higher education institutions. Another is equity, wherein AHEAD strategically develops the resources needed for those with disabilities to achieve all they can. Respect is another, because everyone should be allowed to express individuality regardless of their differences. Lastly, the network promotes inclusivity, to ensure the participation of all who wish it.

Institutions and organizations like AHEAD help propel some of the world’s lesser represented individuals into the limelight, where they find the support they need to excel in a world that sometimes seems out to get them. Even so, the success or failure of such networks is limited because so many people aren’t aware they exist–and many others don’t seem to care. AHEAD will continue to fight the good fight for the foreseeable future.