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Top 5 Strategies for Increasing Accessibility in Presentations

Access Angle: Top 5 Strategies for Increasing Accessibility in Presentations

By: Gabriel Ryan, School Health Blog Writer and Contributor

How do I increase accessibility in presentations you ask?

Keeping some considerations in mind when developing your next presentation will enable even more participants to access the content you are sharing. Several computer programs have made it really easy to create presentations with lightning speed. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the colors, graphics, and animations. In an effort to ensure the widest access to participants with differing learning styles, consider these top 5 strategies.

  1. Closed Captions for Multimedia Content: When including videos or audio clips in presentations, turn on the closed caption option. This option can also be turned on when hosting an online meeting.  Individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing, that are able to read, would potentially be able to access the material should an interpreter not be present. Closed captions also benefit those who may be viewing the presentation if they are in a noisy environment, not able to use their sound, or prefer to read along.
  2. Fonts and Colors: Certain fonts are easier to read for individuals with visual impairments or dyslexia. Examples of fonts that you might try are Arial, Calibri, or Verdana. Color of text and background are also important. The computer lets us choose all the colors under the rainbow, however not everyone can see certain color combinations. For this reason, choose color combinations that are high contrast between the font and the background. Avoid conveying information using color alone, include descriptions or labels where possible.
  3. Alt Text for Images and Graphics: Include descriptive alternative text (alt text) for all elements that are visual such as pictures, graphics, charts, etc. This helps to provide context for someone not able to clearly see the image or graphic. Alt text should briefly describe the image or graphic.
  4. Minimize Large Blocks of Content: Structuring content with headings and bulleted lists improves organization and allows participants to see key points easier. Participants that use a screen reader can best access content when it includes the formal structure of headings and subheadings or numbered and bulleted lists. Limiting clutter of several animated or unnecessarily overlapping graphics helps to keep the focus on your content. Breaking the information down into smaller segments of content or splitting the information up across several slides makes for a better participant experience.
  5. Learn, Practice, Ask: There are several software programs that include an accessibility tab, for example Microsoft Word and PowerPoint, both include accessibility checkers that provide suggestions on improving the accessibility of your page or presentation. A quick search online will land you on documents and YouTube videos with tutorials on how to format materials. There are even companies that, for a small fee, offer to edit your materials to ensure they meet the standard compliance requirements. Ask your participants for feedback on your materials to see if in fact they are accessible to the population you were trying to reach.

Learning how to make presentations and materials accessible takes time and practice. When you take the extra step to incorporate these considerations, it expands access and increases the possibility for participants with a variety of learning needs to benefit from the content presented.

“Accessibility allows us to tap into everyone’s potential.” ― Debra Ruh

Let us know: Did you find this article interesting? Would you like to read more of these types of articles? Do you have a topic you would like to see highlighted? Contact me, Gabe Ryan, through email: gryan@scoolhealth.com. I’d love to know how you’ve used the information from the School Health Access Angle segments.

Summer Plans for Our Next Best Academic Year

Summer Plans for Our Next Best Academic Year

By: Dr. Ray Heipp

The Beach Boys gave us an “Endless Summer” almost 40 years ago. While that might be something we could use today, we only have so many weeks for our own transition from the 2023-24 academic year to the 2024-25 academic year. We want to make sure we have some time for ourselves as well as keeping an eye toward the start of the year. What are some of those things that would be helpful to focus upon understanding the current educational environments in which we operate? How can we set ourselves up for a healthy academic year as well as from a mental health standpoint?

Let’s start with you first. The phrase that I have heard and used for most of my academic career is “You don’t understand. I don’t have time for myself.” It is always good to focus on your family or on matters that need to be addressed during the summer. Taking just 15 minutes per day along with finding some time each week to “do you” can lead to a more relaxed and refreshed feeling throughout the summer and into the upcoming school year. “Do you” can be anything you want it to be. I know some folks like to go to the beach and soak up the sun. Others might prefer to go camping or hiking to be closer to nature.  Some might simply want to find a comfortable chair and a good book. Whatever your choice is, do it! Even if you are on a vacation with the family, still find that 15 minutes where you can be by yourself and recharge. By finding this time now in the summer months, you may be able to create a habit that can move with you into the school year.

As you look ahead for your students, here are some themes you might want to consider. The first is the idea of transitioning. How can you begin to look at multiple aspects of your classroom day and create opportunities for transition? One of the tools I always recommend as an important part of training the behavior of transitioning between activities is a Time Timer Visual Timer. Aside from decreasing anxiety through the use of a visual timer, one can also begin to have consistency in transitioning between activities. If you have a Time Timer sitting on a shelf somewhere, bring it down and use it every day. If you don’t have one, consider using a 5-minute timer as it gives a different visual perspective for your students. We are beginning to use their own bodies to train the behavior of a timed transition. We are also teaching them the importance of a schedule moving forward in their lives. Simply putting information on a dry-erase board as to the activities which need to be completed is good in identifying which tasks need to be done. That is like a to-do list. Adding in the visual time aspect is what creates a stronger behavior around completing that transition. Please be aware that having timers with numbers or using an actual clock can only be as effective as the individual’s cognitive ability to process time. The research supporting the use of a visual timer reducing anxiety focuses on the fact that numbers still require math and do not always alleviate feelings around needing to rush through things. A visual timer creates an understanding of the passage of time and a visual cue to understand how much time is left. I even use a visual timer when completing activities as it keeps me more focused.

The second theme focuses on sensory supports and how to use them properly. We have been trained to believe that sensory supports should only be used during escalations or periods of increased emotional response. In fact, when any individual, including those who are neuro-typical, is taught to use socially and environmentally appropriate sensory supports, they can begin to work on self-regulating behaviors which can then transition outside of the classroom. For those who do not look to put items in their mouths or to throw things, products such as a tangle toy, boinks, sensory stones, or a pencil grip can become tools that can be a go-to when feelings of stress or overwhelm begin to arise. Again, this is a strategy that can work for all individuals. I have a “worry stone” that I carry with me and a tangle toy on my office desk. Sensory supports should not be hidden away until certain times. I have even worked with some OTs and some SLPs who give sensory supports to individuals when completing therapy sessions so that those individuals can process their kinetic energy and train themselves to maintain focus on the task at hand.

Another theme is one that I preach on a regular basis. This theme is making any assistive technology inclusive and accessible to many. Again, what devices do you have sitting on shelves because the student who needed them has graduated or transitioned to another building? See how you can repurpose those devices to enhance what goes on in your classroom. I love the example of using TalkingBrix2 to become single message “direction givers” in different parts of the classroom.  Now, your voice can be in multiple places at one time, and you begin to train a behavior around getting directions from auditory and visual prompts as well as getting them from a teacher, therapist, or another adult. Think about when that student might enter the workplace and have to get directions from a training video instead of a person. You have them ready to go!  Other single message communicators can also be placed in different areas to give affirmations or reminders. Be creative with your AAC devices. I always share the example of using a QuickTalker with the Widgit software to create “auditory books.” Take a book like Goodnight Moon and record the pages on your QuickTalker. Use Widgit to create a grid that has a picture of the pages and record what is written on that page. Now, individuals can take the book and the QuickTalker and “read” to themselves without always needing your input. Let them begin to understand the flow of words within reading and get them to enjoy it as they learn how to do it.

Incorporate switches into your classroom as well. Something as simple as taking a battery interrupter and putting it into a light and then connecting it to a switch can help you to create an “answer button,” a “call button,” a “question button,” or any other type of button you can design as the use of that switch simply turns on the light. Now, many students can communicate that way without the need to shout out loud, raise a hand, or go unnoticed as their hand or voice might not be visible or audible.

Summer is the time where we can create the idea in our minds of how we can utilize the tools that we have to enhance our classroom environments. Dream big and let those dreams come to fruition! Don’t forget to take the time for yourself first. When you are centered and focused, it allows you to be even more focused on those around you, students and family! If you do have some questions about your specific environments, feel free to reach out to me at rheipp@schoolhealth.com and let’s see what we can come up with for you.

May you have an amazing summer and come back ready for an amazing 2024-25 Academic Year!

10 Tips for PE Summer Camps

10 Tips for PE Summer Camps

 

Create a safe, inclusive, well-organized, and fun summer camp experience for every student. With an incalculable number of games and activities, every individual can get active and interact with their peers. These tips are specifically designed to enhance the physical education experience of every participant all summer long! 

  1. Plan Dynamic Activities: Prepare a diverse range of physical activities that cater to different skill levels, interests, and abilities. Ensure you have all necessary equipment ready and in working condition.
  2. Promote Teamwork and Sportsmanship: Design activities that encourage teamwork, cooperation, and fair play. Students should foster a sense of community and mutual respect among students and staff.
  3. Encourage Inclusivity: Design activities that are accessible and enjoyable for all students, regardless of their physical and emotional abilities. Promote a culture of respect, kindness, trustworthiness.
  4. Be Flexible: Prepare to adapt activities based on weather conditions, student energy and interest levels, or other unforeseen circumstances. Flexibility is crucial to maintaining a positive and engaging summer camp experience.
  5. Prioritize Safety: Conduct safety checks of all sports equipment in all facilities. Train staff in first aid and educate them on emergency procedures specific to physical activities. Establish clear rules to reduce the risk of injuries and offer treatment if needed.
  6. Stay Organized: Maintain detailed records of student information, including medical histories, allergies, and emergency contacts. Checklists can help ensure all equipment is accounted for, activities run smoothly, and even allow an easy way to share plans.
  7. Conduct Pre-Camp Training: Provide comprehensive training for staff on proven instructional strategies, injury prevention, and effective communication with children and parents. All parties should know proper protocols.
  8. Effective Communication: Maintain clear and consistent communication with students, staff, and parents. Provide detailed information about daily schedules, activity rules, and emergency contact procedures so that everyone can be kept in the loop.
  9. Evaluate and Improve: Regularly ask feedback from students, parents, and fellow staff. Use this information to continuously improve your summer camp activities, organization, and overall experience.
  10. Make It Fun and Engaging: Create a positive and energetic atmosphere where students feel excited to participate and play. Incorporate games and challenges to keep the experience enjoyable and motivating.
     

Remember, the most important part of summer camp is for everyone to have fun! Students and staff should have an enjoyable experience making memories and staying active. There are many ways for everyone to participate safely, while engaging in exciting physical and educational activities that will help build healthy habits for life.

National CPR & AED Awareness Week: Five Ways to Get Involved

National CPR and AED Awareness Week is a reminder of the power everyone holds when it comes to saving a life. According to the American Heart Association, during a cardiac emergency, for every minute that passes without CPR or a defibrillating shock, the probability of survival drops by about 10%*. This makes it important that bystanders know how to properly administer CPR and have quick access to an AED in times of crises. Through quality training and education, you’ll be able to foster the confidence you need to get one step closer to helping someone survive.

The Five Ways:

  • Encourage CPR and AED Certifications – Encouraging others to get CPR and AED certified can help them learn the life-saving skills and techniques necessary to respond to sudden cardiac arrest. Communities can use education and awareness to create a network of prepared responders who know how to act swiftly during cardiac emergencies, ultimately saving more lives.
  • Know the Signs and Symptoms – Actions as simple as telling someone to dial 911 or fetch the closest AED can make a difference in survival outcomes. Some AEDs, including ZOLL AEDs, provide written and verbal instructions to help inexperienced individuals perform quality CPR. If you witness somebody experiencing the following, be sure to act: 
    • No pulse or breathing
    • Loss of consciousness
    • Heart palpitations 
    • Loss of consciousness
  • Evaluate AED Placement – Take the time to review the location of AEDs in your school or facility. They should be placed in visible areas and within three minutes of every location in your building.  This includes providing one on each floor and storing them 48 inches off the ground for better wheelchair accessibility. When thinking of AED implementation, many locations need to be considered, including:
    • Elevators
    • Outside stairways
    • Cafeterias
    • Fitness centers and gymnasiums
    • Primary entrances and reception desks
    • Main corridors
    • Outdoor areas where students play sports
  • Ensure Rescue Readiness – Having emergency equipment readily available is vital for prompt intervention during SCA. Furthermore, having a well-defined emergency response plan can help ensure that everyone knows their roles and responsibilities in the event of sudden cardiac arrest. Staying ready for the unexpected at all times has the ability to increase survival rates and enhance overall public safety. Check out our School Safety Center and comprehensive supply list and use them as references when you're emergency planning and checking supplies off your list.
  • Enable Your Community to Take Action – Brainstorming how you can spread awareness about the significance of CPR and AEDs is another way you can take part this week.  Sharing personal stories or testimonials via social media is one approach to this – be sure to use the hashtag #AEDsHelpSaveLives! Using a voice and word-of-mouth will help you shine the spotlight on this topic this week and for weeks to come.

* 2010 AHA Guidelines for CPR and ECC. 

Hope: Understanding How We Create It in Ourselves and Our Individuals

Hope: Understanding How We Create It in Ourselves and Our Individuals

By: Dr. Ray Heipp

 

May is a wonderful month - it is a time when spring has taken root here in the Midwest and hints of summer are in the air. From an academic perspective, it is a time of many transitions. When I was an administrator, it came to signify the end of the current year along with the beginning of the preparation for the new year. Those endings came in the shape of graduations and the movement to the next level of academia or movement into the workplace. In all of this, there was and still is a feeling of hope and excitement for all involved.

But what is hope and why is it so important, especially after the pandemic? Let’s start with the current levels of anxiety and stress in everyone. The pandemic brought about a lot of changes in how we interact with others. It was a traumatic experience which created ripple effects in the way people deal with daily activities. That anxiety has also led to a level of frustration that we see played out in the world around us. Part of what helps us address that anxiety and stress is the hope that things will get better.

The mistake many make is to assume that the ideas of wishing and hoping are the same. It is not a matter of semantics here. Instead, it is a matter of approach to the world that differentiates the two. A wish is a passive idea. “When you wish upon a star….” and other phrases around wishes surrender the idea to the power of someone or something else. A hope, by its very nature, includes some action on our part. Let’s go back to school ourselves. “I hope to play varsity this year.” “I want a lead role in the fall production.” I want to get a 3.0 GPA.” “I want to pass physics.” These are all statements of hope that require us to put in the practice or the work that will help us to get there. Unfortunately, we allow a lack of understanding of the difference between these two ideas to hinder ourselves and our students from perceiving the actions which need to take place.

Think of it this way. “I want to pass Physics” is a statement of hope that includes an awareness that homework needs to be done, tutoring may need to be a part of the plan, and studying will be required. We lose some of that deeper understanding when we say things like “I hope I have Ms. Flabitz and not that crazy Dr. H.” That is not a statement of hope, it is simply a wish which could lead us down a bad path if we end up with that crazy guy.

So how can we grab onto hope and demonstrate it to our students, our colleagues, our families, and our communities? First, we want to understand that we will be taking some action. I have recently had the privilege of taking a course on hope through the work of our owners here at School Health. We aligned ourselves with Kathryn Goetzke and her SHINE Hope Company to take a look at this idea of hope and how we could incorporate it into the workplace. There are also versions for schools. Here, I simply hope to focus on what we can be doing as individuals. We can start by taking a quick survey to determine our “Hope Score” and begin to work from there.  Here is the link for that survey: Measure Your Hope - The Shine Hope Company

From there, we are able to look at our own strengths in this area.  Always focus on your strengths first as that supports us subconsciously. You and your students have amazing strengths that can heighten hope around what you are doing and help get through those difficult times. Once you have taken the survey, you are able to move into the process which entails movement through the idea of SHINE. So how do you SHINE as you seek to increase your hope?

We start by looking at the ways in which we can address our stress. Stress Skills make up the “S” in SHINE. These are skills that most of us will recognize and can probably even identify why they are important. These are not extensive skills which require hours of study or practice. Simple ideas like controlled breathing, walking, exercise, listening to soothing music, and counting to 10 are all examples of how we can act when dealing with stress. The more that we can utilize skills that reduce stress the better the opportunity we have for increasing hope.

The “H” brings us to Happiness Habits. What are those activities that both make us happy and can create a positive sensation (for which there is a physiological reason!) within us. These habits include things like listening to music, being in nature, practicing affirmations, and playing games. Those are some of the activities one might expect. There are others though that focus on our health, like getting the proper sleep, eating in a healthy manner (yes, it is okay to have a cheat day!), and practicing affirmations. There are also a few habits which may surprise you.  These are habits like donating time, talent, and treasure to groups in need, giving a hug, and smiling. All of these help produce chemicals in the brain which add to our happiness and well-being.

Next, we move into taking Inspired Actions. Basically, think of this as setting goals for yourself that can help you navigate the challenges of any given day. Many of you have heard me speak of SMART goals before and those fit quite well into bringing hope to your life. SMART goals are those which are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time bound. Set these goals for all aspects of your life and look to help students understand how goal setting works. Don’t be afraid to set some short-term goals to achieve levels of success leading up to your long-term goals.

The “N” refers to Nourishing Networks. Who is it you spend your time around? What are they inspiring you to do? It is a researched fact that spending time with a set group of people acclimates you into feeling, believing, and reaching similar levels as those in the group. If you are around positive people who are focused on making life better, you will tend to do the same. However, if you are around negative people or people who chose the couch over other activities, you will tend to act in the same way. For those of us who have children, think of the warnings we may have given to our children when it came to their friend groups. Hope is achieved through positive action and the belief that there is another level for you to reach. Hanging around the right people reinforces your belief in yourself and gives you the potential for a support team as you move forward.

Finally, the “E” represents Eliminating Challenges. The greatest challenge many face is limiting beliefs around what they can become. Believe in yourself, work to enhance your strengths, and then address areas for improvement. When you see something you believe in, go after it and do not let naysayers hold you back.

This post is not long enough to take your completely through the process of using hope to achieve your goals and to bring you through the challenges of each day as unscathed as possible. Should you have more questions about hope, this program for your school or students, please feel free to reach out to me.

The Importance of Audiobooks and Accessibility

Access Angle: The Importance of Audiobooks and Accessibility 

By: Gabriel Ryan, School Health Blog Writer and Contributor

 

Audiobooks revolutionize the way we interact with literature. They can be valuable for individuals with learning disabilities, visual impairments, or that have difficulty reading or physically holding printed material.

 

What are Audiobooks?

Audiobooks, sometimes described as a “talking book,” are audio files or recordings of books and other pieces of literature that are read out loud. A reading of the complete text, word-for-word, is called “unabridged,” while an edited version that is shorter is called “abridged.” The recordings are available on records, cassette tapes, CDs, and most popular in digital formats at the present time. Depending on the format, they can be listened to on CD players, Walkmans, computers, tablets, smart phones, home and car entertainment systems, etc.

Spoken word recordings were invented in the late 1800s by Thomas Alva Edison, but the early 1900s is when audiobooks emerged as a result of the creation of a recording studio that supported this purpose. “In 1931, the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) and Library of Congress Books for the Adult Blind Project established the ‘Talking Books Program’ (Books for the Blind), which was intended to provide reading material for veterans injured during World War I and other visually impaired adults,” according to Matthew Rubery, ed. (2011). "Introduction". Audiobooks, Literature, and Sound Studies. Routledge. pp. 1–21. 

You read that right!…Inclusivity and access for people with disabilities was one of the main reasons audiobooks were further established back in the 1900s!

The developments of audiobooks opened the door for Shakespeare’s plays, popular novels, and even the Bible and the Constitution to become available in this audio format many years ago. Audiobooks gained more popularity in the late 1990s and early 2000s when further technology, such as digital media players, became available. By 2017, as technology continued to evolve and expand, consumers were listening more to a digital source rather than physical CDs or audio cassette tapes. Shared by Writer’s Digest in 2022, “…audiobooks are the fastest-growing format in book publishing,” and are, “…predicted to become a $19 billion dollar industry by 2027”.

Originally, audiobooks were read by one narrator and this person was not necessarily the author of the book. It has become popular in more recent times, that Authors narrate their own books or that an entire cast be a part of the recording, instead of just one voice. This has drawn even more people into enjoying and connecting with the material in digital format. Audiobooks provide opportunity and access for people to read more content than ever before since they can read books and “how to” manuals while commuting or multi-tasking.

In education, the use of audio material is invaluable. As an individual with both visual and physical impairments, I was able to take advantage of audio access of printed material back in the late 1990s through early 2000s. I was assigned a cassette player and the books for book reports and class assignments were sent home with me as multiple cassettes. Schools could request to borrow these materials from organizations that support individuals with blindness and visual impairment. At the time, my textbooks were chopped up and scanned into a large digital scanner. There was a program on my assigned laptop that could read the material and highlight the words as they were being spoken. This was certainly a great deal of work for those scanning each page. However, a bit later, the digital copy of the textbooks was available within the teachers’ materials, and we could then use those, instead of having to request the deconstruction of the textbooks. I personally am grateful these materials and access has further developed. I can look up just about anything now on my tablet or smart speaker and listen and learn. I’ve been able to participate in book clubs and discussions about books and related material without having to special order or carry around a cassette or CD player. There are several audiobook platforms that have subscriptions or offer free materials. I am excited to see what the next chapter will unfold in this technology!

Now, with the tap of a screen or the click of a button, a wealth of knowledge and information becomes accessible to all.

Let us know: Did you find this article interesting? Would you like to read more of these types of articles? Do you have a topic you would like to see highlighted? Contact me through email– Gabe Ryan gryan@schoolhealth.com. I’d love to know how you’ve used information from the School Health Access Angle segments.

School Nurse Day 2024: Encouraging the Next Generation of School Nurses

We want to express our sincere appreciation for the incredible efforts of school nurses. Every day, you play a vital role in ensuring the health and well-being of students in our schools. From administering medications and treating injuries to providing emotional support and promoting healthy habits, your dedication knows no bounds.

This past week, we asked you to share your experiences, advice, and best practices to help empower the next generation of school nurses. Your responses gave us even more insight into how essential you are for nurturing students’ health and well-being.

Below are just some of the submissions we received.

What Would You Like to Share with Future School Nurses?

“Each student is unique.  Each student has their own story and their own history.  Even the frequent flyers are searching for something. It may be your touch, tone of your voice, or calmness of your clinic that brings them some comfort and peace. The days get hectic, but you are making a difference in each of these students’ lives.” – Dawn P.

“In school nursing, compassion with consistency is key. Each student that walks into your office has a story beyond the one that brought them to you. Be kind, be empathetic, and listen to them. Follow up on the issues that you see, call home when you have concerns, and use your resources. Sometimes all it takes is one person to take the extra step to make a huge difference in a child's life, and that one person could be you!” – Casey R.

“Get to know the students and staff outside of the health office. Take some time visiting the cafeteria during lunchtime, show up at the student’s after school activities, volunteer to be on committees. We are all so busy every day, but every so often, leave the office (even five minutes  every other week), to walk around and be present in the school. Getting to know the community you work in gives a whole new perspective to the students you care for.” – Katie P.

“School nursing is a specialty with many unique challenges and rewards. Realize that you will not know everything on day one, day 50, or day 2,000. Trust your training and experience. Connect with other school nurses, mentor when you can, and ask for help when you need it. You got this!” – Rebekkah D.

“When you are feeling overwhelmed between paperwork, screenings, and students coming into the office, take time to reground yourself. Remind yourself daily why you are here and who you are here to help.” -Alison S.

“Be patient, calm, and listen.  Sometimes we feel hurried to get through a checklist of "must-dos" and may miss an opportunity to impact a student's life or academic success.” – Colleen H.

BLOG: You Don’t Have to Let Field Day Stress You Out!

By: Kristy Cobbs, 2021 INSHAPE Elementary PE Teacher of the Year

 

Planning a memorable and enjoyable field day can be daunting, but I’m here to help you make it easy breezy! I’m excited to share my expert tips and game recommendations to ensure your field day is a stress-free success!

 

  • Start early  

Set your date at the beginning of the year and put it on the master calendar. Advertise the date to the students’ parents in advance to ensure lots of volunteers. If you have difficulty getting volunteers, classroom teachers and aides can help run stations.

 

  • Stop worrying about structured timed rotations  

Instead, create 25-30 mini games and allow students to rotate freely in student-picked friend groups of about four to six. No competition, no keeping score and no sticking to a strict rotation schedule.  Just fun. See the list below for some of my favorites.

 

  • Keep a record

Make sure to save your list of activities each year along with a brief description of each.  Every year, add about five new activities and take out five older ones. Rotate old activities back in every few years. Students never get tired of the classics like the 3-legged race and tug-of-war.

 

  • Organize equipment ahead of time

Use cardboard boxes from the cafeteria to sort equipment according to the stations, making sure to include the activity description.  On the morning of the big day, grab the boxes and set up the stations.  Give the description write-ups to the parent volunteer so they know how to instruct the game.  

Optional Equipment:

PALOS™ Foldable Storage Baskets, Large

PALOS™ Foldable Game & Storage Baskets, Small

 

Some of my favorite Field Day activities.

 

  • Catch a Cannon Ball:  Using School Health PE Cannon Launchers, students take turns launching cannon balls to their partner.  Partners try to catch the cannon balls with a small bucket or with their hands.  

Optional Equipment:

o   The Zone™ Cannon Launchers

o   The Zone™ Buckets 

 

  • Ice Cream Scoop Relay: How about a “cold treat?” Students race back and forth trying to add scoops of ice cream to their cone.

Optional Equipment:

o   The Zone™ Ice Cream Scoop Relay

 

  • Tic Tac Toe: Zip tie nine hoops together forming a three-by-three grid.  Students take turns throwing discs or bean bags into the squares playing tic-tac-toe.  

Optional Equipment:

o   Deluxe Hoops 12-Pack

o   The Zone POWRDisc

o   Canvas Bean Bags

 

  • Water Balloon T-Ball:  Using batting tees and plastic bats, place water balloon on tee and have students hit it off. Watch out for the splash!

Optional Equipment:

o   The Zone™ Plastic Bat Set

o   Heavy Rubber Batting Tee

 

  • Junk in Your Trunk: Take empty tissue boxes and cut a slit in the ends near the base.  Slide belts through the slit. The Zone Super Straps work great. Add miscellaneous items like poker chips, dominoes, or plastic letters inside the tissue box.  Secure the tissue box to the student’s waist and then turn on some music and let them shake it out!

Optional Equipment:

o   The Zone™ Super Straps & Flags

 

  • Jenga®:  Create Jenga pieces with 12 pack soda sleeves.  Stuff sleeves with newspaper to add weight so they don’t blow away, then tape shut.  Use about 27-30 sleeves per game. Play Jenga as normal.

 

Bonus: Student Favorite!!

  • Belly Bumpers: Create a circle with cones.  Students climb into the belly bumpers and bump into other students trying to knock them out of the circle.

Optional Equipment:

o   Belly Bumpers

o   Standard Colored Half Cone Sets

 

I hope these tips help reduce your stress and help you have a successful Field Day!

Inclusive Recreation– Exploring the Shoreline with Beach Wheelchairs

 

What are Beach Wheelchairs? 

Beach wheelchairs are specially designed to navigate sandy terrain and access beaches with ease. They often feature balloon like tires that glide over the sandy surface. These large tires distribute weight more evenly and don’t sink into the sand as easily. Traditional wheelchairs and transport chairs mostly have narrow wheels, which do not move through the sand very well or at all.

 

Beach Wheelchair Features

Beach Wheelchairs come in a variety of styles, so the materials, operation, and customization vary. Some general features include:

  • Frame: Constructed from durable materials such as aluminum or stainless steel to withstand the saltwater and sand. Some models have been created with PVC pipe as well
  • Tires: Large tires that are soft to roll over the loose and compact sand, gravel, and uneven terrain.
  • Arm rests/Footrests: Some models have removable armrests and footrests to make transfers easier
  • Seating: Some have an adjustable backrest or seat depth for customized support
  • Fabric: Typically made of strong, waterproof, UV-resistant and materials to withstand wear and tear and fading.
  • Floating ability: Some models have floats attached so the chair can go further into the water without tipping over
  • Safety: Seatbelts are common, along with brakes for the wheels and some have anti tipping features to prevent the chair from falling backwards in the sand
  • Manual/ Power: Some chairs are designed more for a caregiver or companion to push the user, while others have a joystick and operate like a power wheelchair.
  • Transport: Some models can be broken down into smaller pieces to be transported in a car or packed into a large bag for plane transport.

While beach wheelchairs are primarily associated with coastal environments, their use can extend far beyond the sand. They are well-suited for navigating other outdoor terrain, including parks, nature trails and even the snow. These types of chairs offer individuals the ability to explore a wide range of outdoor spaces.

Beach Access:

There are several beaches along the coasts of the United States that are accessible. The main accessibility features of these beaches include, accessible parking, paved pathways and boardwalks, beach access mats, portable beach walkways and ramps. Several beaches have equipment rentals or beach wheelchairs that can be borrowed. It’s important to “know before you go” when planning a trip to the beach to make it a smooth and fun activity. Researching online can be extremely helpful as many families and those that use wheelchairs share their experience of visiting various locations. Visitor centers that are near coastal towns may also include detail of access for people with disabilities. Many more initiatives nowadays are aimed at promoting accessible tourism for individuals with disabilities in the United States and around the world.

 

Beach Wheelchair Experience:

Going to beach has always been an adventure. When I was younger people could just carry me onto the beach. As I grew older and bigger my family had to become more innovative with how we would get me down to the water’s edge. Certain strollers would work okay when pulled backwards, snow sleds worked okay for a time, carrying me across the sand in various lawn chairs was fun but required a lot of heavy lifting. Then one year, I had the opportunity to try a beach chair that belonged to my good friend Justin. It was the best experience ever and he was gracious to let me borrow his chair many more times! We could stroll down the beach for miles and the distance between the parking lot and the edge of the water was not a factor because these chairs are easy for a caregiver to push. About eight years ago, I got my very own beach wheelchair, it’s called a Sand Rider and is shown in all the photos! I’ve now visited several beaches along the California, Oregon, and Washington coasts. The type of chair I have breaks down into smaller pieces allowing it to fit it into a car top carrier or in the back of a vehicle. This style does have a seatbelt and wheel brakes.

 

A few tips from my experience: If you have access to the beach chair ahead of your ocean trip, spend the time to figure out seating and safety. It’s so much better to already know the steps you’ll need to take for a successful beach trip, than trying to figure it out in the parking lot for the first time. If you do not have access to try things out ahead of time, pack a few extra items for comfort/safety. Consulting with a PT/OT may be extremely helpful for positioning and safety ideas.

  • Positioning: Seat and back pads are a must for me. I use a custom wheelchair, so positioning is critical. I place a non-slip material on the seat of my beach wheelchair and a separately purchased seat cushion. I have a wedge cushion I use for my back. Typically I will also roll up a few towels to place on each of my sides.
  • Safety straps: Although my beach chair has a seatbelt, traversing over the sandy terrain can often move your body from side to side. I prefer a chest strap to help stabilize me better. Special chest straps can be purchased for this purpose. I also added a calf strap to my chair for additional support.
  • Sun/wind gear: With all the excitement about being on the beach. Remember to include the essentials. A hat, sunglasses, water, sunscreen, jacket/lap blanket to match the weather, etc..
    Don’t forget the small Ziplock to carry the seashell treasures you’ll find!

Beach wheelchairs provide individuals with mobility challenges the freedom to explore and enjoy the beach, creating opportunities for unforgettable experiences and memories to last a lifetime!

Beach wheelchairs provide individuals with mobility challenges the freedom to explore and enjoy the beach, creating opportunities for unforgettable experiences and memories to last a lifetime!

 

Let us know: Did you find this article interesting? Would you like to read more of these types of articles? Do you have a topic you would like to see highlighted? Contact me through email Gabe Ryan gryan@scoolhealth.com. I’d love to know how you use information from the School Health Access Angle segments.

Looking to the Future While Staying Present

April is such a unique month when it comes to our work with students. It’s a time when we are making sure that they are staying on top of their learning, especially upon returning from spring break. At the same time, we are making sure that they are prepared for the end of this academic year.  We cannot forget that we are also finalizing IEPs and making sure that we are ready to transition our students into the following academic year. I know it often feels like we are straddling academic years like the Colossus of Rhodes standing over both sides of the port. As we look at our own mental health and anxiety levels, what are some activities we can be doing to make this month and the rest of this year go as smoothly as possible?

Let’s start with planning for next year as the IEP process has us thinking that way already. Do you know who your students will be next year? In some cases, you may be continuing with a group or at least a few students.  Those are the ones that you can use to set a foundation for next year. Take their IEP information and as you continue to work with them this year, set aside worksheets, a list of activities, and a list of devices that you will need for them. As you create your lists, when possible, bring some of those devices into your classroom. Set them in a container that you can set in a cabinet for the summer. If your returning students still need them, verify with your AT Specialist or Special Education Director that you can store them over the summer to make it an easier transition for you in the fall.  

As you look toward the end of this year and the summer, you also want to start supporting the students with life skills that can be utilized throughout their lives. We spend time working on that end-of-year transition and do a wonderful job with that. We also want to start promoting behaviors for our students that make sense for the summer. Begin talking about nutrition and hydration, especially when it comes to the summer months. If your students are not participating in your summer program where these things can be monitored and supported, introduce lessons that create some of those behaviors now. Have some hydration breaks and talk about lunch and proper snacking. Some of you will have your students with you during the summer months and can reinforce these lessons. Know that either way, you are giving your students the skills they need to create some independence in the future. Another thing to consider when working with your students for the summer months is properly preparing themselves for being outdoors. See if you can work with local dollar stores to make sure that your students have proper eyewear when out in the sun. Speak a little about sunscreen as well. We recognize that the feeling of sunscreen might trigger some adverse reactions in some students, but we still want to provide information. For those students who do not like the feel of a spray or cream on their arms, legs, and face, work with them on understanding how to use shade, wearing hats if possible, and taking precautions by having some awareness of time in the sun.

In preparing for next year with devices or products you do not currently have, remember that ESSER III funding is open until September 30 when all monies must be encumbered. Many of your districts have a page on their website which shares how much ESSER money has been spent and how much is left. One of the suggestions I have been making to districts is to utilize these funds by projecting what devices might be needed over the next two to three years. Looking at products like the Scanmarker Pro for its use in ELL settings or the Big Mack in all areas of the building because they can serve multiple purposes may give you some guidance in buying. I have explained to districts that using their ESSER funds for things bought annually from your regular or IDEA funding, like classroom supplies, workbooks, or online subscriptions should continue to be aligned with those budgets. The ESSER III funds, based on how they are written, are perfect for stocking up on those devices which are regularly used, but may rely on grants in future years. Take some time, speak with those with whom you trust, and come up with a plan that has you better prepared for future students and budgets. Know that I am always there to support you with questions around this and can be reached at rheipp@schoolhealth.com.  

I am seeing districts right now using their funds on Ablenet products since they meet all government guidelines a couple of years ahead of the guidelines being formally put into place. I have seen the increase in systems like Simply Works to create accessible classrooms and workspaces. Some districts are supporting those with visual impairments by bringing in products like the OrCam Read3 which has AI that can support students in so many more ways than just reading documents out loud. Take some time (I know that is a precious commodity!) and think about how you can make your classroom environment even more inclusive and sensory friendly, like adding in a Sensory Blackout Tent. Looking ahead now can save you time and budget space in future years.

Finally, I want to share the most important activity for you at this time of the year. That activity is taking time for yourself! I know I sound like a broken record as I am continually reminding you about this.  Even five minutes a day of silence, self-reflection, meditation, breathing, or some other activity that lets you relax and focus on you. I have been speaking with colleagues throughout the country who are overly concerned about both the teacher and substitute teacher shortages. Many of these colleagues have shared with me that the greatest reason for teachers leaving is not retirement, but wanting to get away from the stress and feelings of overwhelm that are prevalent in so many aspects of education today. I am not saying that by taking five minutes a day that you will stay in education. What I am saying is that by taking those five minutes a day, you will be more centered and able to make the best decisions for yourself, your family, and your students. Know you are valued and appreciated!