Saturday, April 30, 2011

Special Needs: What is Autism/Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)?

What is Autism?
Good question, it means different things to different people.  Maybe the question what we really want to know is who are these autistic people?

 So who are these autistic kids anyway?

I've been working with kids diagnosed with autism for the past 13 years, they are all different and many kids with cognitive impairments have autistic behaviors.  By autistic behaviors I mean self stimulating behaviors like arm flapping, stimming off of lights, moving fingers in front of their face and watching intently, flipping objects, spinning objects, perseverating, those kinds of things. 

Five-minute screen identifies subtle signs of autism in one-year-olds

Five-minute screen identifies subtle signs of autism in one-year-olds

Monday, April 25, 2011

2011 Spring Handicap Horseback Riding Session-Berrien, Cass, Van Buren Counties


The Therapeutic Riding Program began April 17th, group therapeutic horseback riding lessons for all ages of people with special needs runs for 7 weeks.

Benefits of Therapeutic Riding
  • Builds Muscle Strength and Flexibility.
  • Sense of Accomplishment as Goals are Met.
  • Improved Self-Confidence and Esteem.
  • Provides Exercise to the Rider.
  • Greater Ability to Focus and Stay on Task.
  • Promotes and Encourages Social Skills.
  • Increased Problem Solving Ability.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Special Needs Kids: Working with Disabilities: Cortical Visual Impairment

As a Paraprofessional in a classroom for Severe Multiple Impairments I work everyday with Cortical Blindness. Cortical Blindness is also often referred to as Cortical Visual Impairment or CVI, basically a neurological disorder where the occipital cortex of the brain doesn't know how to process or properly interpret what the eyes are seeing.

Four major causes of CVI:
  • Asphyxia

  • Brain maldevelopment

  • Head injury

  • Infection

Friday, April 22, 2011

The art of interaction

When I was a child my Grandfather used to take me to visit my great Aunt who was Severely Cognitively Impaired. She had been born in the early thirties when the general public knew very little about these types of disabilities and my Aunt Ester had been listed as Severely Retarded. She was unable to do the simplest of labors around the farm so she had been placed in an institution and later various group homes because well, her family didn't have the time or the know how to take care of her. My Grandfather loved his sister dearly and took every opportunity to visit her. I was always in his shadow so I usually ended up accompanying him.

As a young child I often wondered about the people who suffered from the Severe Multiple Impairments that were usually lined up along the walls at the group homes. I always thought it was wrong just to put them into their wheelchairs and leave them all day to stare out the window. Nobody ever seemed to talk to them. Nobody showed them any attention other than to change their diapers or spoon feed them. I was saddened by the idea of being locked away in one's own mind and ignored by the outside world. So one day while I was waiting for my grandfather I had begun to roll a ball around on the floor and I notice that several of them were watching me. At first I was uncomfortable under their vacant gazes but after awhile I grew curious and bolder. I walked over to an elderly women who reminded me of my Grandmother and started talking to her. Her smile was immediate and warm. I could tell that she didn't understand me but I held her hand anyway and kept talking. I think the contact was reassuring to both of us. When it was time to leave she patted the top of my hand and her smile broadened. I like to believe she was saying thank you. After that every time I went back I talked to everyone I had time for. Sometimes I got a reaction, sometimes I didn't but it was always worth a try.

Now I work as a paraprofessional for the Multiply Impaired ages 3-6. My babies as I like to refer to them. For the most part my daily routine is very simple, interact as much as possible. Find ways to get them to interact with me. To do this I use toys, a variety of lighting, different types music, banging on musical instruments or the sides of their chairs with drumsticks. Tapping on their shoes, whatever it takes. But I'm always talking to them, encouraging them to communicate. To come out of their shells and experience the world. Other times when I can tell that they do not feel so well I just sit and talk with them. Let them know what's in store for the day and that they have an opinion that is valued.

But most importantly I use love. Just holding their hand or swinging it along to the beat of music. picking them up and rocking them and letting them know that I'm here for them and they are important and they will never be shoved into a corner around me. And I'm always waiting for that smile.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Media Push Aims To Raise Accessibility Awareness

A national campaign launching this week is designed to help people with and without disabilities better understand accessibility.
The web-based campaign dubbed “what is WRONG with these pictures?” will be promoted on social media websites and through a series of print advertisements directing people to participate in an online game to test their knowledge of accessibility issues.

Read More Here..

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Disability, Special Needs Children: Mom Struggles with Undiagnosed Genetic Syndrome

by Michele Juda
This is how today started…no less than eight phone calls were made in relation to my son Devon.  I talked with the supply company (twice), the GI office (twice), the pediatrician, the geneticist, the director of special education services for our school district, and Devon’s service coordinator.  When I got done with all that, my husband tried to lighten the mood by saying,  "Gee, you would think this kid had a disability or something!"
Yeah, you would…or would you?

From Complex Child emagazine: 
 Click here to read more.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Growing Up with a Sibling with Cerebral Palsy: Learning to adapt

My sister was born with cerebral palsy affecting the left side of her body. Her left arm is shortened and under developed. Her left leg is twisted inward making it very difficult for her to walk. She is not affected cognitively other than the fact that many of her classmates made fun of her. But through the years she’s learned not to allow any of that to affect her spirit. I think she has become the strongest person I know. 

Monday, April 4, 2011

Cerebral Palsy: Misunderstood,

Living With One Hand:

A recent conversation at the local gym left me surprised and made me wonder what others thought about the following situation:

I have Athetoid Cerebral Palsy which means I can control my arm about 60%.  I can wave hello to a passerby and turn on a light switch with my left hand – but that is about it.  My life with Cerebral Palsy has not stopped me yet… I invited my therapists to come watch me play soccer and basketball as I grew up.  I played the piano with my elbow, and I graduated college with my Masters in Occupational Therapy. 

The challenge I faced at the gym started as a simple conversation – she asked if I was married, to which I replied “yes, almost two years now.”  Then she asked a question that was more like a statement – “So would you abort if you got pregnant?” 

Where did Cerebral Palsy Come From?

Where did Cerebral Palsy Come From?
In the 1860s, an English surgeon named William Little wrote the first medical descriptions of a puzzling disorder that struck children in the first years of life, causing stiff, spastic muscles in their legs and, to a lesser degree, in their arms. These children had difficulty grasping objects, crawling, and walking. Unlike most other diseases that affect the brain, this condition didn’t get worse as the children grew older.  Instead, their disabilities stayed relatively the same. 
The disorder, which was called Little's disease for many years, is now known as spastic diplegia. It is one of a group of disorders that affect the control of movement and are gathered under the umbrella term of “cerebral palsy.”      

ADA: What type of flooring is best for wheelchairs and walkers?

Flooring that will be utilized in a home for wheelchairs and walkers needs to be smooth flooring or low pile carpet.  Plush carpet and textured carpet can be difficult for wheelchair or walker propulsion.

Goals for Choosing Flooring
  • Low-maintenance, durable.
  • Slip-resistant.
  • Resilient to allow for minimum injury or breakage from drops or falls.  The flooring should be a fairly smooth or regular surface for ease of use by persons with mobility or balance issues.
  • Matte finish, highly polished surfaces create glare and are usually slippery.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Special Needs: Kabuki Syndrome Genetic Testing

How common is Kabuki Syndrome?

Recently, I began working with a new child.  The child clearly had some autistic tendencies and a 'different' look which suggested to me some sort of syndrome.  As I discussed the child with the mom, the story the mother told me began to sound familiar.  Suddenly it occurred to me, the child was beginning to sound like a child with 'Kabuki Syndrome.'

Friday, April 1, 2011

Occupational Therapy: Sensory Integration Warm-Ups for Special Needs Children/Disabled Kids

As an occupational therapist working with special needs children I find that sometimes it is very difficult to find fine motor activities that cognitively impaired kids can not only understand but enjoy.  As with any other population when working on improving fine motor skills with special needs children I always use the same formula.
  • Begin with a warm-up activity.  Warm-up activities usually include sensory integration, gross upper extremity activities and move into fine motor warm-up activities prior to working on fine motor goal work.
  • Try to incorporate neurodevelopmental techniques (NDT) into activities.
  • Fine motor skills/activities that are functional.
This post will focus on sensory integration warm-up activities for special needs kids.