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  • Happy 100th Birthday Occupational Therapy!

    by Dr. Raymond Heipp

    Hero-AOTA2017Any birthday is a cause for celebration. But a 100th birthday, that is a cause for ceremonial jubilee! I was honored to attend the 100th birthday celebration for occupational therapy at the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) Conference this past weekend in Philadelphia. It was an amazing time that highlighted the role occupational therapy has played in our lives during the past millennium.

    Occupational Therapy is often misunderstood by the public at large because it is lumped into categories which contain other types of therapy. By its very definition, occupational therapy is a therapy which “helps people across the lifespan participate in the things they want and need to do through the therapeutic use of everyday activities (occupations).” (AOTA Website)

    It is a therapy that is good for everyone and can assist in daily life practices. As a former school administrator, I am a big proponent of OT/Sensory breaks in classrooms every day. It is amazing how a brief exercise can increase focus and attention for all of our students, let alone those with differing abilities.

    I had the opportunity to speak at length to a highly-respected OT, Susan Wilkerson, or “Miss Sue” as her clients refer to her. We spoke about some of the changes that had occurred in OT over the years. These changes are partially due to a better understanding of the ways in which the human body processes sensory input, and partially due to a stronger level of respect being placed upon the field. OTs have a strong focus on making sure that individuals are able to handle the daily tasks which are encountered each day. During our discussion, I focused on the sensory side of things with her. This is an area which is often overlooked in our classrooms.

    “Miss Sue” has recently developed a series of kits that really bring occupational therapy to a new level of engagement in the classroom. Although all of them are extremely well-designed and thought out for the classroom, I wanted to focus on three that made an impression on me. All three of these kits would be items I would encourage my teachers to use, no matter the grade level or the course.

     

    BBBreaksI was amazed at the School Health Bilateral Brain Breaks Kit. This kit includes items that one would normally see out on a playground. For example, the “Skip-a-Long” is a toy placed on the ankle that encourages jumping and coordination. I remember seeing similar items on playgrounds as far back as the 1960s. And, here they are again playing an important role in getting both sides of the brain to “talk” to each other. I watched in awe as a few of the younger OTs and a couple of children visiting the conference immediately began using it and had fun.

    I did not try the Skip-a-Long for fear of a hospital visit, but I did try the “Bungee Jumper” from the same kit. It is basically a foam base and bungee version of a pogo stick. That concept, again, is something that has been around for a long time. Sue shared with me some of the research behind that particular item and one of the ways that this kit can be effective in the classroom. The research demonstrates that a student fighting with attention issues who uses the “Bungee Jumper” for five minutes will bring focus back to their minds for upwards of two hours! Those of us who have worked with students facing attention issues know that five minutes of focus is difficult, but two hours of focus is amazing!

     

    Yucky LunchAnother kit that fascinated me was the School Health Yucky Lunch Kit. The small plastic “Lunchbox” holds a piece of “Cheese” with “Mice” crawling through it, a “Banana” with “Banana slugs” in it, “Pasta,” and a few other “Creatures” that would make any adult cringe! But how it captures the attention of students! The activities include pushing the mice through the cheese and placing the slugs in various locations on the banana. While these activities may seem “gross,” they are actually “fine” when it comes to motor activities. (Okay, sorry to my OTs who got that lame joke!) Finger dexterity, motor planning, fine-motor skills, and varied sensory input are just some of the actions occurring while children play with this kit.

     

     

    Sensi-DesertThe last kit I want to speak of here is the School Health Sensi-Desert Kit. This kit was a hit with almost every OT who stopped by to visit Miss Sue. The specialized sand along with the lizards and snakes who “live” in the sand create a unique feel for those sticking their hands into it. The sand is not the kinetic sand or even real sand as some might expect. It is actually a specialized sand that feels more like soft earth or wet sand without as much coarseness. It was amazing to see so many of the therapists who did not want to stop playing in this sand as it gave positive sensory feedback. With all of these kits, School Health has included the EdTeam Action Guide™. This guide contains creative educational and therapy ideas in language, fine motor strength, coordination, gross motor movement, balance, early concepts, and more - all written by Miss Sue. The goal is to create an environment where anyone can use the kit to its greatest advantage with the students.

     

    Snug VestsThere were many more amazing insights taken away from this conference. However, those are for another blog! I do have to say that the prototype version of the new Snug Vest and some of the other items coming down the road from them are very impressive. Those of you who have attended my seminars know how much I appreciate what Lisa Fraser has done in the creation of the Snug Vest and how it is used in a multitude of ways.

    As I left the AOTA Conference and Philadelphia, I was definitely on sensory overload! It is good that so many of the tools there though allowed me to get my focus back quickly and drive safely. Happy Birthday, Occupational Therapy! May you continue to grow and expand your reach over the next 100 years!

    And thank you too to all of you OTs out there! You make a significant difference in our world and your work is appreciated!

    Raymond T. Heipp, Ph.D. is a 25+ year veteran of administrations and classrooms for students with differing abilities. He has designed many support programs for various schools and facilities. And, his expertise in assistive technology has enabled him to create updated approaches when working with students and educators. Dr. Heipp firmly believes that everyone, no matter what their ability, has a voice (or spirit) and deserves a chance to succeed. He suggests that we never doubt their abilities! 

  • ATIA 2017 Recap: Accessibility and ATIA

    by Dr. Raymond Heipp

    The annual Assistive Technology Industry Association (ATIA) conference is an event that always reinvigorates my support for those with differing abilities. Each year I try to focus on areas in which I have the most questions. This year, my focus was accessibility. It was so wonderful to see old accessibility products that have been updated, and new products which cover areas that may not have been previously addressed.

    Although any blog post cannot do full justice to the impact of devices, let me do my best to give you a view of accessibility at ATIA this year!

    TAPitAccessibility and Established Products

    This year, I found several products that had been updated to bring accessibility to even more people.  The first of those items was the TAPit Interactive Platform. Already known for its ability to adjust and adapt, the manufacturers have taken it a step further. The device has always been able to differentiate between intended and that unintended touch.

    Now, it is a native multi-touch device that can still have that differentiated ability in two ways:

    1. It relies on conductive properties of the hand or conductive material to interact. Hence, anyone who leans on the screen using sleeves or gloves is not going to affect the touch at all.
    2. The firmware allows the device to recognize that stationary conductive touch as unintended touch – in just one second. This eliminates some of the delays that might have been encountered with the older version of the TAPit.

    In all, the changes to the TAPit permit much greater access for all students and adults!

    Candy CornI also spent time looking at access for those who need to use a switch, but may not have the capability to effectively use a standard type of switch. Those who know me know that I highly recommend proximity switches to create greater accessibility.

    There are really only two proximity switches which I feel comfortable recommending to individuals and those were both present at the show. First, the Candy Corn offers accessibility by proximity with the added benefit of visual and auditory cuing when the switch is activated.

     

    Movement Sensor SwitchThe second switch is another great one and it is the Movement Sensor Switch.  This switch has an amazing amount of flexibility and is able to activate upon detecting the slightest movement. I think that this device offers so much flexibility for personal accessibility!

     

     

     

    ultimateswitchAccessibility and Differentiated Approaches

    It was wonderful to meet and speak with the team from Enabling Devices.  Seth, Vincent, and Bill have such a strong knowledge of devices and how to make them work for each individual. My favorite device of theirs is listed above and is the Movement Sensor Switch. My next favorite device from them is the Ultimate Switch. This device can be mounted anywhere and needs limited force to be activated. I could have played with it all day.

    Ironically, as I was speaking with them, a woman stopped by to ask about it.  She had one of the original versions of it, which was still working, and wanted to see some of the updates to it. In listening to her, she described how the ease of interaction created heightened levels of access for her child. A switch should create access, not additional problems to be overcome. The Ultimate Switch offers a universal approach to creating accessibility with any device.

    Accessibility is Critical in 2017

    You are going to see that I am on an accessibility bandwagon in 2017! I will be travelling the country looking for how we are creating accessible environments for everyone. If you have an accessible environment you want to highlight or have questions as to how to make your location accessible, please contact me at rheipp@schoolhealth.com so that we can schedule a visit. Let’s make 2017 the Year of Accessibility for All!

  • What You Need to Know About Cardiac Emergency Response

    Badge_SH_CardiacEmergencyResponseIn 2015, the American Heart Association (AHA) reported over 326,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrest events. When cardiac arrest events occur outside of the hospital, the average survival rate is just 10.3 percent.But did you know that survival rates are three times higher if the event is witnessed by a bystander? And when a victim receives assistance, even by a lay bystander, the chances of survival can double, and in some cases triple! [1]

    Take Action and Saves Lives

    The first minutes of a cardiac emergency are the most critical, and even the best emergency medical services (EMS) personnel can’t reach victims right away. A study in the Canadian Medical Association Journal showed that people who suffer cardiac arrest on the upper floors of high-rise buildings are less likely to survive than those on the lowest floors. The higher floors are associated with longer response times for EMS personnel to reach victims, and they directly correlate to lower survival rates.[2]

    But with a Cardiac Emergency Response Plan (CERP), we can help bridge the gap between a cardiac emergency and the arrival of EMS personnel. A CERP is a written document that outlines specific steps to take when a cardiac emergency occurs. According to the AHA, “A carefully orchestrated response to cardiac emergencies will reduce deaths in school settings and help ensure that chaos does not lead to an improper or inadequate response.” [3]

    Is Your Cardiac Emergency Response Plan Complete?

    Essential parts of a CERP include making sure that you have adequate staff on hand who are trained in CPR. When CPR is performed, even by a lay bystander, a victim’s chance of survival is greatly improved. Products like the AHA’s CPR in Schools Training Kit is an essential tool for training staff and students the proper way to perform CPR.

    A CERP will also include making sure your school has enough AEDs, and that your AEDs are properly located. Remember that timing immediately after a cardiac emergency is critical. The number of AEDs at your school should be sufficient to enable your response team to retrieve an AED and respond to a victim within two minutes, both inside the school and on the school grounds. AEDs should have clear signage and should always be in locations that are always accessible. School Health offers a full line of AEDs and accessories to make sure that your school has the equipment you need.

    Proper maintenance of AEDs is also critical. Imagine the nightmare scenario of investing in an AED program but not maintaining it. Suddenly a cardiac emergency occurs and your AED is retrieved only to find that the pads or batteries have expired. We hear from people who try to maintain their AED program using an Excel spreadsheet, but that is simply not enough – especially when your campus contains many AEDs or AEDs distributed across campus locations.

    School Health Brand AED Program Management helps you manage all the AEDs at your location and even across your campus.  What’s more, this system tracks all your responder certifications so you know that each person on your cardiac emergency response team has proper and continuous training. And, it keeps you compliant with local and state regulations by automatically registering your AEDs with local EMS services. You will even receive direct updates about changes to the regulations in your area.

    When you have a complete CERP and include these essential elements, you can save lives when a cardiac emergency occurs. School Health works directly with the AHA to make sure that we can provide the products and information you need to be prepared. If you would like a consultation or on-site visit to discuss your CERP or lifesaving products for your school, please contact us.

    [1] http://www.sca-aware.org/sca-news/aha-releases-2015-heart-and-stroke-statistics

    [2] http://www.cmaj.ca/content/188/6/413

    [3] http://cpr.heart.org/idc/groups/heart-public/@wcm/@ecc/documents/downloadable/ucm_477110.pdf

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