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Changing Perspectives

Changing Perspectives

By: Dr. Raymond Heipp

A few weeks ago, I ran into a former student of mine who graduated from the Class of 1987. It was enjoyable to catch up on life and share some fun anecdotes from the past. Then, last Friday, I virtually connected with a teacher to discuss some approaches that she was seeking to use to help keep her students calmer this academic year. As we wrapped up, I heard a thunderous sound from outside that kept getting louder. It was a clear and sunny day, so I had to investigate. To my surprise, it was the Blue Angels flying by. This should not have surprised me, as it’s a normal event for the Cleveland Airshow over Labor Day weekend to have the Blue Angels flying in my area. As I sit here on Labor Day, I am reflecting on those three events and thinking about how our perspectives in education have changed over time and what they are now.

If we go back to the late 1960s and early 1970s, Labor Day not only meant the suggested, “end of summer,” but also the factual end of summer vacation for us students. School started on the Tuesday after Labor Day, so we cherished that last chance to enjoy the outside freedom and play from dusk until dawn without homework! We knew that teachers were in school the week before, as the rooms were always decorated and bulletin boards were ready to display our work. When I became a teacher, I had the chance to visit with some of my own elementary teachers. They shared that the week before Labor Day was focused on getting the classroom ready, as well as making copies of worksheets for the activities throughout the first month of school. Those of us from certain generations remember the “Ditto Machines” and how careful we had to be with the master copies and to be ready to clean the blue ink off of our hands! It was an action that we don’t put much thought into today as our worksheets are either online or in a file, which makes printing a simple task.

Thinking back to my former student from the Class of 1987, we began school the week before Labor Day. This was done so teachers could get the administrative tasks (seating charts, assigning of textbooks and numbers, handing out of syllabi, etc.) completed and begin teaching before the weekend. Some of my colleagues used that long weekend to assign a paper or an extended homework assignment, while I knew that students would put in little effort because of the longer weekend. When speaking about past classroom environments, it was different than today. I was on the fifth floor of a 100-year-old building. “Air conditioning” meant that I opened all of my windows and my classroom door, and the teacher across the hall did the same thing. Teaching in Cleveland also meant that the Friday before Labor Day was practice for the Blue Angels at Burke Lakefront Airport. You did not want to schedule any tests or quizzes on that day as the noise did not allow any concentration. Making sure we had air circulating and that the students were not hanging out of the windows were our most important responsibilities. Today, air conditioning and air purifiers keep us comfortable and healthy.

How times change! My last Labor Day, which only focused on administrative tasks and continuing the movement into the new school year, came on September 3, twenty-one years ago. As a veteran administrator, the school year had already started, and we were getting ready for parent back-to-school nights. Another school year had begun, and everything was moving along. It would be only eight more days until the unthinkable would occur and I would never be able to look at the start of the school year with thoughts of simple planning again.

Although I was already out of administration and working with School Health, Labor Day weekend of 2020 meant something completely different for my colleagues that were still in schools. Administrators were furiously making sure students had access to equipment, internet, and other requirements for virtual learning. Teachers were adjusting for another year’s worth of lessons to be conducted in a virtual format. Some even needed to plan to conduct both virtual and in-person classes simultaneously. The focus became how we could teach in an environment that we never have before.

This year, the focus of teachers and administrators is looking at the health and well-being of our students. I want to remind all educators that we need to also make sure that we are taking care of ourselves within that structure! Breathing breaks, sensory breaks, calming areas, and yoga sessions are part of how we can all continue to move forward and live healthier lives. We need to look at education in a holistic manner and understand that a 30-60 second sensory break or teaching a student how to use breathing to calm down, creates a life skill that will assist them forever. Our students, as well as ourselves, are still in an anxious state of mind. By modeling how we can grasp all of the unique events that come our way each day, it gives them a greater lesson, compared to teaching them a science concept or a math equation. We give them a way to live.

Over the summer, I had an administrator ask me how much more difficult I thought it was to be in education now, compared to 20, 30, and 40 years ago. I told him that it was simply different. Our world 40 years ago was local and today it is global. Thirty years ago, we still had to research topics and questions in libraries using reference materials and today, we have students jump on their cell phones for the same information. Twenty years ago, we were focused on the safety and security for our schools and ourselves, and today we are more aware of everyone’s well-being. Perspectives and students are the key parts that have changed. We still need to operate with the idea of, “in loco parentis,” and adjust it to teaching life and coping skills. The most important thing for myself that I shared with the administrator, was how we, as educators, are now more aware of how our mental well-being is the key factor for us to bring our students to that same level.

Although the perspectives have changed, there is one task that we continue to do. We give our students the tools to make differences in their futures and, therefore, keep those perspectives changing to adjust to the world around them!

Preparedness: Don’t delay, do it today!

Gabriel Ryan, School Health Blog Writer and Contributor

September is National Preparedness Month. Launched in 2004, this is an outreach campaign sponsored and managed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Additionally, in August 2022, the White House issued a proclamation recognizing September as Preparedness Month. The goal is to educate and empower Americans throughout the year to prepare for and respond to emergencies and disasters. National Preparedness Month ends on September 30th, which is National Preparedness Day.

What does preparedness month mean to you? Do you already have a plan for a disaster or emergency?

The United States Ready Campaign includes a section for, “Individuals with Disabilities,” which describes its program as a national public service campaign to educate and empower people to prepare for emergencies. Their webpage includes helpful tips for those with a variety of disabilities, such as; mobility, vision, speech, intellectual disabilities, etc. This campaign encourages individuals to do four key things in order to be better prepared:

As a person that uses a wheelchair, I have thought a lot about preparing for different types of emergencies. What would I do first and how would I get to safety? I’ve tried to educate myself by attending seminars and reviewing information on disaster preparedness with a focus on persons with a disability, such as those sponsored by our state Office of Emergency Services (OES). This OES in California has established the Office of Access and Functional Needs (OAFN) within the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services. Their goal is to identify the needs of individuals with disabilities and others with access or functional needs before, during, and after disasters and to integrate them into the State’s emergency management systems. They have established an interactive emergency management tool map, which may guide individuals to resources during a disaster or emergency. Programs like Listos California have offered webinars that are simple to follow and provides resources available in over 20 languages. To find local official agencies and resources for your region, you can visit the FEMA: Search Your Location webpage.

I recently added a new item to my emergency essentials. I had a few experiences where I had to evacuate a building on a moment’s notice due to an emergency. One of those times was at a hotel in the middle of the night and another was during a doctor appointment. Luckily, in both situations, I was on the ground floor and was able to find an exit that did not have any steps to fully access the door leading outside. I have also had experiences where I have been stuck in an enclosed, accessible platform lift and/or situations where nobody was available with a key to operate the lift. These types of scenarios got me thinking, is there something I can carry with me that could help in these situations?

In doing some research, I discovered the perfect tool for me – a personal transport sling. This is a lightweight, compact sling, with multiple handles, that can be used to carry someone with mobility impairments to safety. There are a few varieties on the market, such as the Tuk-'n-kari Transfer Sling, or the one I tried, which is the ADAPTS portable transfer sling. These slings can not only be used for emergency transport, but in everyday use, such as transferring to a dentist/physician exam chair or a manual transfer versus using a mechanical lift.

Check out this demonstration video where I try out a portable transfer sling to go up and down some stairs. Having an item like this in my backpack is just one more way I can be prepared in the event of an emergency or a situation where I am in an area that my wheelchair is not able to go.

In doing some research, I discovered the perfect tool for me – a personal transport sling. This is a lightweight, compact sling, with multiple handles, that can be used to carry someone with mobility impairments to safety. There are a few varieties on the market, such as the Tuk-'n-kari Transfer Sling, or the one I tried, which is the ADAPTS portable transfer sling. These slings can not only be used for emergency transport, but in everyday use, such as transferring to a dentist/physician exam chair or a manual transfer versus using a mechanical lift.

Check out this demonstration video where I try out a portable transfer sling to go up and down some stairs. Having an item like this in my backpack is just one more way I can be prepared in the event of an emergency or a situation where I am in an area that my wheelchair is not able to go.

A portable transport sling would be a great addition to businesses and schools that already provide evacuation chairs. Transport slings would complement evacuation chairs, usually located in stairwells, as they fold up to the size of a piece of paper, weigh about one pound, and ensure multiple people have access to quickly get to safety. These could be located in strategic spots in classrooms and offices, issued to students/adults with mobility needs, and could also be included as part of first aid and safety kits on sports fields.

What is one item that you can add to your emergency essentials? Don’t delay, do it today!

For additional School Health resources related to preparing for disasters and emergencies, visit the School Safety Center web page to read the safety blog and access related products.

 

“Better to have, and not need, than to need, and not have” ~ Franz Kafka

Adaptive Fashion: Inclusive, Stylish Clothing, and Accessories

Gabriel Ryan, School Health Blog Writer and Contributor 

Years ago, finding adaptive clothing that was both functional and looked good could be difficult. There were specialty catalogs that carried some items, but mainly they were geared toward senior citizens, not so much toward children and young adults. Often, people that needed adaptive clothing creatively modified regular clothing themselves or enlisted the help of someone with skills in using a sewing machine or in clothing design. 

Fast forward to present day, it is exciting there are now several options when it comes to finding fashionable clothing for people of all ages and abilities.

 

What is adaptive clothing?

It is clothing specially designed for people with a disability that includes modifications to make it easier to take on and off for the individual or a caregiver. The type of modifications needed are unique to each person and their levels of independence, mobility, sensitivities, and dexterity.

Several popular clothing brands and mainstream stores have adaptive clothing lines. There are professional clothing designers willing to make adaptive clothing and smaller home-based businesses where a family member or individual is able and willing to showcase and share their creations. The internet has made it easy to find smaller companies that specialize in creating adaptive clothing.

As someone who uses a wheelchair, I am in the seated position a lot. Wearing pants that have a comfortable waist, not a lot of tags, and seams that are flat, rather than bulky, are important to me. Also, having fabric that stretches, isn’t tight on the hips and knees, as well as pant length, are all key factors. My arms are tight in the elbow and don’t straighten out all the way, and for this reason, many shirts can be difficult to get my arm through the opening if the fabric is too stiff. Sure, buying a larger size would fix this issue; however, the length and width of the shirt would be far too big and baggy. It is understandable why so many people that have difficulty with typical clothing rely on wearing sweatpants and basic t-shirts. These items are comfortable and are easy to take on and off. Sweatpants are a great choice, but what if you want more variety and options, fabrics, or styles, such as a pair of nicer pants or collared button up shirt? Luckily, you don’t have to look that far to find multiple selections of Adaptive wear in clothing stores and online.

 

Helpful clothing adaptations include examples such as the following list:

  • Magnetic closures on shirts and pants, replacing buttons
  • Velcro or zippers on the sides of pants or shirt arms
  • Larger neck openings on shirts
  • Magnetic zippers that can be connected with one hand
  • Zipper pulls that are longer and easier to grasp
  • Clothing that is shorter in the back for those who use wheelchairs
  • Shoes that slip on, have Velcro, or zippers
  • Elastic for adjustable cuffs and waists
  • Snaps for adjusting size width and length

The following companies design and promote adaptive clothing with a focus on the unique needs of individuals:

Zappos Adaptive­– Offers single and different size shoe options. You can buy a single shoe or buy a pair that are two different sizes. A quick search of the Ankle Foot Orthosis (AFO) friendly option came back with over 50 choices! When I was younger, it was always difficult and limiting when shopping for shoes to fit AFOs. It is amazing to see shoes with zippers that go around the entire front of the shoe. They also carry an entire section of colorful covers, belts, and pads related to G-tubes, insulin pumps, tracheostomy tubes, and more.

Tommy Adaptive– Promotes magnetic buttons on shirts and pants, that look like traditional buttons, but they easily connect and close. Easy open necklines, longer zipper pulls, one handed zippers, drawcord stoppers, pull up loops on shorts and pants, seated wear with Velcro closures in the back or side seams, and sensory friendly clothing. Jeans with Velcro and magnetic closure, which replace the button and zipper… that is awesome! It’s impressive that a popular brand like Tommy Hilfiger has a section included right on their main website for adaptive clothing.

JCPenney– Online catalog includes adaptive clothing and accessories with many features such as hook and loop fasteners, tag free, flat seams, easy shoulder openings, wide neck openings, pull on loops, adjustable waistbands, hidden abdominal access openings, magnetic buttons and zippers, adjustable leg openings, etc. They have their items separated into collections, including easy on and off, sensory friendly, seated wear, adjustable features, bodysuit closures, etc. They have so many clothes to choose from in a range of prices and even have a big and tall section.

IZ Adaptive– A fashion forward company creating clothing that is stylish and comfortable. Izzy Camilleri is a fashion designer that has created custom adaptive clothing since 2009. Her mission is to make great looking and well-fitting clothes accessible to everyone. The focus this company has on inclusion and the detail put into their “Game Changer Seamless Back Pants” is captivating. These are not just a pair of pants – to this company, they are a part of independence and self-expression.

Etsy– A quick search for adaptive clothing and you’ll find several handcrafted custom-made pieces such as pants and shirts with side openings, Velcro, magnets, etc. This is a great place to find small businesses who will even customize and make clothing to fit more specific needs.

BILLY Footwear– This footwear was developed by a person who is paralyzed with a goal of seeking to find ways to get dressed more easily. This brand uses a FlipTop Technology zipper shoe where the entire front of the shoe opens to place your foot inside.

Nike FlyEase– These athletic shoes include easy open or close, step-in heel, and adjustable straps. I personally wear the version with the wraparound zipper with a hook and loop strap on most days. The ease of sliding my foot into the shoe and zipping it up saves time and eliminates having to bend my foot in an odd position.

 

Aside from practicing dressing skills in real time, there are ways people can brush up on their fine motor skills and hand eye coordination through dressing skills tools and supports. Products designed for practice can be helpful for both children and adults. Some examples of tools used for practicing these fine motor skills, that can be found on the School Health website include; Manual Dexterity Learning Vests, Manual Dexterity Learning Boards, Dressing Board Set, Melissa & Doug Basic Skills Board, Dr. Pooch Dressing Pet Pal, and Learn and Play Teddy. There are also many “do it yourself” tutorials on YouTube for creating even more practice opportunities.

These are just a few of the many companies out there now highlighting adaptive clothing as part of their offerings. There are many, many more clothing designers and companies focusing on this type of apparel, and it is much easier to find and purchase adaptive clothing than ever before. In addition to all of the creative openings, closures, magnets, and pockets that makes the clothing unique, there is a notable increase in companies including people with disabilities in their advertisements as well. Not just in the section for adaptive clothing, but throughout different parts of their websites.

“Adaptive clothing expands inclusion with each stitch” ~ Gabriel Ryan

Beginning the New School Year Inclusively

Beginning the New School Year Inclusively 

By: Dr. Raymond Heipp

As we move into the 2022-23 school year, we have hope that this will be a more traditional year than the past two. We are also cognizant of the issues we still face as we prepare to work with our students. We are going to take a journey that brings in the themes of literacy, access, sensory support, inclusivity, and transparency. At the same time, we will take inspiration from a Paula Abdul song from 1991, “Promise of a New Day”:

So time over time
What will change the world?
No one knows (no one knows)
So the only promise is a day to live, to give
And share with one another

As we move into the new academic year, we are reminded that some of our students are still struggling with literacy and reading skills. Virtual learning took its toll on some students, even with Herculean efforts by their teachers. Learning styles are significant for everyone and our master teachers recognize the needs to have multiple styles of teaching built in for the sake of all learners. This need is heightened for those students who, due to the conditions they face, need structure, consistency, and multiple ways to understand what is being presented. I recently posted a Talkin’ Tech video extolling alternative uses for Alphabet Pebbles. The beauty of these pebbles is the fact that they can be used in classrooms from grades Pre-K through 12, adding a level of physical/tactile interaction to activities. As we look at the other conditions our students face, we see that assistive technology like the Reader Pen or LiveScribe can aid our more developed students while permitting them to display their abilities. Assistive Technology is NEVER a way of creating an unfair advantage and those who argue that point do not subscribe to the ideas of inclusivity. Inclusivity means that students are able to use the tools which allow them to work alongside every one of their peers within that room.

Literacy is so essential in the lives of all our students. As we look at programs like the Science of Reading, as well as other approaches, we see the opportunity to have all of our students understand letters, phonemes, and words in multiple styles. Take some time to reflect on how we can turn lessons involving literacy into something that is tactile in nature. When we look at our students who have moved into lessons focused on reading and notetaking, we must remember that not everyone will cognitively process the information the same way. Incorporating tools that permit text-to-speech principles, along with alternative forms of notetaking (think about taking digital images of your notes on the dry erase board and putting them into a PowerPoint or utilizing the save features within your interactive whiteboard and including those notes into an online PDF), provide all students with alternative access. Research demonstrates that by giving students the opportunity to review notes they may have missed, actually increases the attention they pay within the class itself.

Access also becomes such an essential piece for some individuals. One might not be able to access digital information in the same way as peers. Hence, an alternative mouse, like the Glassouse, might be appropriate, while other individuals may need switches or AAC devices in order to access information and communicate with others. This leads us into thinking about the creation of classrooms with transparent, Assistive Technology. I do not mean that the technology cannot be seen, but transparent, AT is so ingrained within the classroom that no student views it as different or strange.

Examples of this would be to use TalkingBrix 2 as a way of providing students classroom feedback or instructions at a station so that the teacher does not need to be involved. One could use a GoTalk 9+ as a way that students could read a book to themselves. By putting page pictures on the GoTalk 9+ and recording the words from that page on the device, students can then take the book and interact directly with the device to have it read aloud to them. In both of these cases, we are using AAC devices for tasks other than simple communication. In effect, we begin to de-sensitize the neuro-typical students to use AAC devices. Therefore, when a student needs to use the device for communication purposes, other students do not find it unusual because it is a familiar device. Switches can also provide access by taking a switch not being used by someone in particular, like the Jelly Bean or Compact Switches, which can be connected to a light and used like an answer button. By using these devices as something common, it breaks down barriers when students see an individual using one for digital access in other classes.

As we prepare our classrooms, we need to take the sensory needs of all our students into account. Fidgets or kinetic releases are both socially and classroom appropriate. Items like Mad Mattr or Tangle Jrs. are great tools to have available for all students when they feel overwhelmed in the classroom. We must remember that we are in a global environment where anxiety levels are high. Creating sensory breaks and even sensory stations within a classroom will be healthy for everyone. Think about having a corner or location where the students can go to just sit and relax. Adding in an object like the Fiber Optic Lamp introduces light and texture to the area. Breathing activities and yoga can also be used to help students relax.

The most important responsibility to remember for this year is that you need to take care of yourself. Those of you who have worked with me already know that I urge everyone associated with schools to take 5 minutes of “me” or “quiet” time each day. This “me” time is critical for you as it helps to re-center and refresh. The school environment is stressful for all of us who work within it. Ironically, we focus on taking care of our students first and then look to take care of our families afterwards. We tend to leave ourselves out of the “care equation.” We can only give as much as we have, and if we do not have a lot, we cannot give a lot. We need to take time for ourselves daily, as well as engage in other healthy activities, to allow us to be the best we can be! In being the best we can be, we maintain that promise of a new day by being able to share the most we can with our students!

Period Equity in Schools

 

For a young adult, there’s arguably almost nothing worse than getting an unexpected period – especially at school. Often, there’s some embarrassment that follows. The student might have to ask to be excused from class, go talk to the school nurse for a pad or tampon, or maybe they already bled through their clothes.

Period equity has become a hot topic both in and out of schools. As a matter of fact, many states are considering or have already passed laws that require schools or public spaces to provide free access to menstrual products.

One study showed that 23 percent of students have struggled to afford period products. Many have also experienced some form of period poverty, the term that’s used to describe a lack of access to menstrual products. Some even had to wear menstruation products longer than the recommended time because they could not afford to buy more. The same study also found that 70 percent of students felt like the environment at school made them feel self-conscious about having their period.

A lack of access to menstruation products in school can also lead to learning loss. The study found that four in five menstruating students said they either missed class or knew someone who missed class because they didn’t have access to pads or tampons when they needed them.

So, what can schools do to help?

Ensuring that students have easy access to menstrual products when they need them is key. Make sure that they are in more places than just the school nurse’s office, or the building’s front office. Place them in multiple bathrooms around the building and let students know where they can be found. Not only does this provide quicker access for the student, but it’s also more discreet because they won’t have to walk across the building or campus, while bleeding, in order to get what they need.

Recently, some nurses and educators have created “menstruation stations,” or kits to keep in their offices, classroom, or bathroom.

 Here are some tips on how to put your own together:

  • Provide both pads and tampons so the student has a choice.
  • Include baby wipes for easier and more hygienic clean up.
  • For students in middle school, it may be helpful to provide some age appropriate information to help them understand what a period is if it’s their first time.
  • Let students know to whom they can go to get ibuprofen or similar pain relievers.
  • Let students know who they can reach out to if the menstruation station needs to be restocked.
  • Ensure that students of all genders have equal access to kits, supplies, and menstruation stations.

If you do create a menstruation station, it is important to let your students know that they exist in the building and that they can use them when they need them. Period equity will have a positive snowball effect. It can mean more socioeconomic equity for those who come from disadvantaged or low-income communities. It can mean that the stigma surrounding having a period, or even talking about it, will eventually go away. It can also mean that young people with periods will miss less class time because they have easier access to the products they need.

Interested in creating a menstruation station in your building, and making sure that your students have access to the hygiene products they need? Connect with your School Health representative or contact us to get started!

 

Additional Information

https://www.learningforjustice.org/magazine/spring-2019/equity-period

https://www.npr.org/2021/12/02/1056830306/free-tampons-public-schools

https://www.gcsu.edu/womenscenter/menstruation-station

https://www.amightygirl.com/blog?p=26183

Special Olympics Unified Cup 2022: Meet the Athletic Trainers

 

School Health is proud to support the Special Olympics Unified Cup which will take place in Detroit, Michigan, from July 31-August 6. This international soccer event will bring together 450 players from 24 teams who will be competing across 60 soccer matches to claim the Unified Cup. The teams consist of players of all abilities, many of whom have special needs.

This is the first year that School Health is sponsoring the Unified Cup and the company will be sending two Athletic Trainers, Donna Boyd and Ric Moreno, to support Team USA on the field. Check out their bios and photo below!

Donna Boyd, MS, LAT, ATC

Donna Boyd has dedicated her career to teaching and helping others. She is a certified athletic trainer currently on the medical staff with the United States Tennis Association (USTA) and Emory University’s ATC Outreach program. After a 28-year teaching career, she is back in the virtual classroom teaching various college courses as an Adjunct Professor at the University of Montevallo. She has helped aspiring athletic trainers at the University of Alabama and at the high school level where she taught clinical sports medicine.  Outside of the classroom, Donna has helped thousands of student, collegiate, and professional athletes over the years to achieve their best on and off the fields and courts of play. She is excited to join the Special Olympics team and work with these exceptional athletes and people. 

Ric Moreno MS, ATC, CSCS, EMT

Ricardo Moreno received his bachelor’s degree in Exercise and Sports Science/Biology and a Masters in Exercise and Sports Science/Sports Administration from The University of Arizona. He is also Certified as a K-12 Teacher of Biology and Physical Education, an Athletic Trainer, a Strength and Conditioning Specialist, CPR/AED and First Aid Instructor and Emergency Medical Technician. His 39 years of experience have taken him all over the world working with High School, College, and Professional Athletes (Toronto Blue Jays, Oakland Athletics, San Francisco Giants, Boston Red Sox, Harlem Globetrotters and The United States Tennis Association). 

He has learned a great deal working in Physical Therapy Clinics and the back offices of Orthopedic Surgeons.  He has run his own Strength and Speed Summer Camps, planning, developing, implementing, and evaluating the athletes’ performance. He has counseled and coached individuals in the areas of Nutrition and Sports Psychology to help create a complete and balanced performer.

To learn more about School Health’s sponsorship at the 2022 Special Olympics Unified Cup, visit our press release page.

OrCam MyEYE Pro

Gabriel Ryan, School Health Blog Writer and Contributor 

A few months ago I wrote an article about the OrCam Read, which is a smart pen that converts text from any printed surface or digital screen into audio. This device is for people with low vision, reading fatigue, reading difficulties, including dyslexia, and for anyone who would prefer to listen to the text. I recently had the opportunity to try another product from OrCam which is called the OrCam MyEYE Pro. Much like the OrCam Read, the MyEye Pro is a small portable assistive reading device which uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Optical Character Recognition (OCR). This device is smaller, at 0.59” x 0.83” x 2.99”, it is designed to attach to the frames of any pair of glasses.

Key features of this product include:

  • Reads text from any printed surface like magazines or books, and digital screens such as a computer
  • Identifies products, currency, and recognizes faces
  • Built-in mini speaker
  • Bluetooth enabled allowing pairing with earphones or speakers.
  • Adjustable user settings, such as volume, reading speed, and choice of voice
  • Touch/swipe sensor bar
  • Operates using several voice commands, such as, “Hey OrCam” followed by the command
  • Smart Reading”, simply ask and listen. Retrieve and read only the text that interests you
  • OrCam MyEYE Pro comes with a charger, USB cable, eyeglasses frames, mounting kit, and a carrying case

I was excited to try the OrCam MyEYE Pro because of the hands-free features as compared to the handheld OrCam Read. The device came with an eyeglasses frame in the box since it must be mounted to the frames for use. I already wear glasses and was able to attach one of the magnetic mounts to the arm of my glasses and cinch the straps tightly. The mount magnets allow the OrCam MyEYE Pro to attach in the correct position, ready to focus on text in front of you. When not in use, the mount simply stays on the glasses. I’ve found this mount has not been distracting to me at all. Although it looks like it may be heavy, when mounted the device is hardly noticeable and does not weigh down on the frame contact points on my face.

I decided to test out this device on multiple occasions, including while at the grocery store. Since I have a vision impairment, generally I know the products I like to purchase by their colors on the packaging, the pictures and logos, if the name is printed in larger text, I can recognize that pattern, etc.. I like to check out new products and look for deals. I spent some time cruising the aisles and learning about the various options. Using this device for the first time, I was blown away by the additional detail I was able to learn about all the store products. I never knew there were so many different types of coffee brands, flavors, and roast options in one store. Of course, I can see the packaging, but I am not able to get close enough to read the fine print on the packaging. I was amazed the OrCam MyEYE read the packaging and the price of everything in front of me. I really enjoyed going to the different sections of the store and repeating this same experience in the noodle aisle, the soup aisle, etc. I used the built-in speaker and noticed that I could hear the information clearly and those shopping around me were not really able to hear the device reading all the details of everything, it was fairly discreet.

There are several other features to explore on this device, which could truly be exciting to anyone with a visual impairment or reading challenges looking for this type of assistive technology. A few things to keep in mind if taking this device on the go:

  • The battery life is up to 2-hours, plan your use accordingly.
  • Consider carrying a mobile charger to plug the device in and allow the 40-minute recharge as you transition to your next activity.
  • If the device isn’t verbally responding, a brief touch on the sensor bar activates the device once again.
  • After prolonged use, the device became warm to the touch. As with any electronics, monitor this and any devices when using for long periods of time.

For more information or to purchase the OrCam MyEYE Pro visit the School Health website. Check out the additional details through the following resources:

Help Me, Funding-Won-Rayobi!

Help Me, Funding-Won-Rayobi!

By: Dr. Raymond Heipp

Picture if you will: A small robot rolls into my office and suddenly a message comes forth.  Except take out the robot and make that my personal cell phone in another room and the message is the noise letting me know there is a voicemail.  This happens on a regular basis.  However, the message this time was different.  At the end of my work calls, I grabbed my cell and checked the voicemail.  It was a wonderful old friend who also was a long-time colleague (no, she does not have a hair style that looks like cinnamon rolls on the sides!)  She did though leave this brief message with a chuckle, “Help me, Funding-Won-Rayobi!”

When I called her back, we caught up for a few minutes and then she let me know the purpose for her call. “I am so sick and tired of people reaching out to me, telling me they know how to help spend my ESSER and other special funding opportunities, then proceeding to tell me about their only product. How can I best spend my funds and still support my teachers and students?”  I was shocked that she asked me that question.  She had been an administrator when I was still in that office and has continued to move into higher administrative positions while I moved into the consulting and supporting arena.  I asked her why she would call me on this question, and she responded with, “You’ve been in my shoes, and you have always been supportive when I needed something.  Plus, you give me solutions and ideas, not product placements!”

So, I started off by asking her some questions.  The first question which is something that we, as administrators, should be asking is, “Tell me about the difficulties your students with differing abilities are experiencing today and how those difficulties are similar or dissimilar to pre-pandemic times.” Her response to this one is something I have heard from many districts recently.  She began by talking about the literacy abilities of her students.  She spoke of how the movement to virtual classes interrupted the progress of many students and created significant challenges for her younger students, especially those who missed out on direct instruction during critical developmental times.

We then spoke about how ESSER funding could be used for just about anything for her students when it came to literacy.    For those students who were still struggling with literacy development, we spoke about manipulative products like Alphabet Pebbles, Alphabet Beanbags, Traceable Alphabet Shapes, and Letter Foam Magnets allowed for so many types of activities within classrooms for both individual students as well as groups.  If she wanted to go outside of the classroom and into the gymnasium or playground, she could also consider something like the BRAINBall™. Using manipulatives adds the physical dimension to learning and early literacy which many students need after virtual learning environments.

For students who were older, we looked at reading supports like the Reader Pen and Orcam Read as well as software like CaptiAssess and CaptiAccomodate.  The Reader Pen could create scenarios where her students who struggle with reading due to dyslexia or other issues could read their texts and paper tests right there in an inclusive classroom; giving a stronger sense of independence along with the ability to handle the information.  The Orcam Read could work in a similar manner and support students on computers or tablets; especially those with visual impairments or fine motor issues as well.  The Capti software family can reside on the school computers and be something that supports her students in all phases of learning, while constantly giving feedback to the teachers as well.

As we discussed these ideas, she asked about tools for access.  Access is huge for me as I am always encouraging schools to find the strengths of their students and use the tool for access which best fits each individual student.  Again, under ESSER funding as well as other standard special education funding sources, tools for access and communication are available.  I am a big fan of both Ablenet switches as well as switches from Enabling Devices.  I shared with her that Enabling Devices recently went to manufacturing their switches in a new manner creating more flexibility in how the switches can be tailored for schools as well as how they work.  With any switch though, the critical piece is to look at the student.  Do they need a standard switch like Specs or a Piko Button.  Do they need something along the lines of proximity like a Candy Corn, Honeybee, or Movement Sensor switch?  What about something more specific like a chin switch or a finger switch?  This is where I suggested that her AT team have a “testing kit” of several different types of switches that could be loaned out for evaluations and to order these kits through current funding.  I did suggest that she add into those kits a Glassouse alternative mouse and a head mouse for some of her more severe students.  Finally, I let her know that I will be back out on the road conducting AT Seminars again along with Jodi Szuter for schools to see and interact with many new and familiar technologies to review.  I always want schools to see the applicability of assistive technology to all spaces within a school to make them more inclusive and create a level of positive transparency around assistive tech.

Finally, she mentioned the need for sensory support.  She was worried that her OTs were being overworked as they were doing an amazing job of supporting so many students.  That is again happening throughout the country as OTs have been so critical in helping students reacclimate to the routines of the classroom.  She was also concerned that simply putting in a sensory room in a building would drastically limit how many students could receive proper support.  So, we talked about the creation of sensory spaces again using ESSER funds as well as other IDEA funding to bring in items which could be placed in multiple classrooms and shared with students throughout the day.   The critical piece I shared with her is that sensory inputs work to maintain wellness and create less anxiety allowing the focus to be on learning.  She and her team had been so focused on a single sensory room that they had not even considered “mini” sensory rooms throughout the school. 

I shared with her that the critical piece is to know the needs of the students through the insights of the teachers and not to be focused on only one product.  There is no “one-size-fits-all” technology.  However, there are many solutions that can be created for students that maximize the money being spent, and protect the schools for changing environments in the future.  She was grateful for that call and let me know that I will be invited to visit in the late summer.

In the same way, I am available to support all of you.  Feel free to reach out to me at rheipp@schoolhealth.com for thoughts and ideas around your students.  We must be able to work together and see what will work for our students.  We cannot simply purchase things because we are told that they work under ESSER funding.  Many devices do fall under those guidelines.  We need to put together plans that look, not only at next year, but for years to come for our students.  In that way, we all benefit!

Bottles and Accessories for Giraffe Bottle Hands-Free Drinking System

Gabriel Ryan, School Health Blog Writer and Contributor 

The weather is heating up heading into summer! Hydration is critical to stay healthy.  I cannot think of a better product to spotlight than the Giraffe Bottle Hands-Free Drinking System. In 2020, I wrote a product review on this item. Over two years later, I am still using this product as my main hydration source.

I’ve enjoyed using the Original Giraffe Bottle Hands-Free System which features the adjustable modular neck, drinking tube, one-way check valve, and the Clear Tritan Bottle. This is my “go-to” bottle for everyday water consumption.

As summarized on the Giraffe Bottle website, the “Giraffe Bottle Hands-Free Drinking System is a product that allows users with various abilities to stay hydrated. The assistive hydration technology is designed to be flexible and easy to use, with accessories available to mount wherever needed.”

Giraffe Bottle now offers some new bottles and accessories. In addition to the Plastic Clear Tritan Bottle, there is a Stainless Steel Bottle, which is insulated and keeps hot drinks hot for over 10 hours and cold drinks cold for over 18 hours.

There are additional modular neck and tube choices:

  • Giraffe Bottle Tower: hands-free drinking system is the original system with a rigid neck and integrated check valve.
  • Giraffe Bottle Tower XL: rigid neck, larger drinking tube than the original Tower, and a bite valve.
  • Giraffe Bottle Journey Hydration System: flexible drinking tube with a bite valve, includes a clip.

Accessories available, still include the bottle holder, with wheelchair rail bracket and the Aluminum Bottle Holder. In addition, there is now a soft neoprene bottle carrier with an adjustable strap.

I recently purchased the Giraffe Bottle Tower XL Starter kit. This included the journey flexible drinking tube with the bite valve and the larger rigid modular neck that accommodates the journey tube.  Here is a side-by-side picture of the original neck and tube (4mm) I was using, next to the larger new neck and flexible tube (6.4mm), which I am now using.

The most noticeable difference for me is the bite valve. This feature allows the user to control the flow of liquid moving through the tube, keeps the water right up to the bite valve, and it doesn’t leak. In my experience, taking a drink is much easier through this drinking tube. I don’t have to exert as much effort to take a sip of liquid, as compared to the original one I was using. One safety item to note, the bite valve is removable and could pose a choking hazard for some individuals.

This is a great drinking solution for the summer months and year-round, for both athletes and anyone looking for a handsfree drinking solution that is designed to provide the user more independence.

School Health offers the original Giraffe Bottle Hands-Free Drinking Solution through the website at https://www.schoolhealth.com/giraffe-bottle-hands-free-drinking-system

School Health also offers the Giraffe Bottle Journey Hydration System (stainless steel) through the website at https://www.schoolhealth.com/giraffe-bottle-journey-hydration-system-stainless-steel

Access my 2020 Product Review: Giraffe Bottle Hands-Free Drinking System blog at the following link https://www.schoolhealth.com/blog/product-review-giraffe-bottle-handsfree-drinking-system/

Hot (Accessible) Fun in the Summertime!

 

Those of us of another era may remember the song by Sly and the Family Stone, Hot Fun in the Summertime.  For many, the summer means excursions outdoors to places like beaches, parks, amusement parks, cook-outs, family gatherings, and athletic events.  Many other songs and stories talk about the noises of summer being filled with happiness and a sense of freedom which warmer weather can afford.  Unfortunately, not all of these activities might be accessible to a significant number of individuals.

Let’s start with the idea of the “noises” of summer.  One often thinks of the “crack of the bat,” the sounds of an orchestra or hometown band, and fireworks.  For those with sensory processing issues, those noises could cause more pain than enjoyment.  Consider the individuals with whom you are attending these events.  Be sure to bring along noise reduction or noise cancelling headphones or earbuds to help that individual be a part of the group and activity.  Although that individual might like going to a baseball game, the “roar of the crowd” might be too much.  Aside from the headphones or earbuds, see if your favorite team has a sensory area where they allow those who need it to take a break.  Don’t forget that as beautiful as fireworks are, the noises accompanying them can cause severe escalations if we do not prep our individuals and have the proper protective devices in place!

A trip to the beach sounds like fun for many folks.  The sand, sun, and surf make for a great combination.  Unfortunately, for those in wheelchairs or walkers, the beach is not something that is easily accessible.  Standard power and manual wheelchairs are not made to traverse sand.  Check with the beach where you will be visiting to see if they already have beach chairs which allow individuals to be transferred into the chair and moved more easily across the sand and to the water.  Some beaches, like one in Oregon, are putting down trails which let wheelchairs move without going into the sand itself.  Check things out first before going to make sure it is an enjoyable and accessible trip for your entire group!

There is always a concern about time off from school for younger individuals as the question about potential regression of learning arises.  Think about alternative ways of playing games which can be fun as well as enjoyable.  I always suggest having some Sillishapes letters and numbers around to play easy games which can occur in any environment, including the beach.  Have a letter of the day and talk about all the words that might start with that letter.  Engage in spelling activities when something is seen like a bird or a boat if the letter is “B.”  Another fun thing to consider is to borrow some Brainballs from the school and have outside games like “Fourquare” with a twist.  Instead of trying to get the others in the game to miss the ball, purposefully have them catch it and come up with a word that starts with the letter on the ball.  Every player must use different words until a person cannot think of any.  That person is then out.

Another game that inspires interaction is tag.  Adjust tag though to make it more accessible, even for those in wheelchairs or walkers.  Use pool noodles as the tagging agents.  Adjust the lengths for those who might be more mobile versus those who are less mobile.  Now, many more individuals can feel a part of the game.  You have also created a game that has some social distancing occurring naturally.

Some of our individuals may enjoy traveling to parks or campgrounds so that they can simply relax.  They might wish to read some books for enjoyment.  The problem arises when their reading skills are hindered by conditions like dyslexia or reading processing issues.  Look to borrow tools like the C-Pen Reader pen from the school so that reading can still be independent and fun.  If the text is online, make sure you have good text-to-speech software or a device like the OrCam Read to read whatever digital content is in front of them.  Reading can be another way for individuals to relax and still maintain literacy skills, no matter how they access the material.

The summer months can also be a highly charged time from a sensory feedback view.  So much excitement surrounds what is happening in the summer.  Be sure no matter what type of an adventure you might be embarking upon to have sensory fidgets that will be socially acceptable as well as easily transportable.  I am a big fan of the Tangle Jr for the reason that it can go anywhere, including a soccer game, summer concert, family reunion, or fireworks show and provide that sensory release when things become somewhat overwhelming.  At the pool or on the beach, I also recommend using a pool noodle or a piece of a pool noodle for that sensory feedback.  When you are around water, you want to make sure that the sensory tools make sense. 

Whatever type of sensory tool you are using, be sure to test it out first.  If it works for an individual in a home setting, it will have a higher probability of working outside of the home as well.  Never just pick something up without testing it first.  That could lead to further escalations while you are at the event.  Because you may also be in the heat, look to those items which are plastic or foam as opposed to metal or sand.  My good friend Gabe Ryan has suggested to me as well as to the groups with whom he speaks that when you have found a fidget which works, always have two when on the road.  In case one becomes lost, you immediately have a back-up!

Summer can be a wonderful time to relax and recharge!  Take a little time to make sure that every individual can also do the same and may need some simple accommodations along the way.  I wish you a wonderful, healthy, and relaxing summer!

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