Access Angle Segment

Volunteering Throughout the Year

Gabriel Ryan, School Health Blog Writer and Contributor 

 

 “The broadest, and maybe the most meaningful definition of volunteering:  Doing more than you have to because you want to, in a cause you consider good.” Ivan H. Scheier ~ One of the true American pioneers of the field of volunteerism.

 

There are many reasons people volunteer their time and talents for what they consider a good cause. Volunteering, by definition, is a voluntary act of an individual or group freely giving time and labor for community service. There are so many opportunities to contribute within your local community and beyond. It may be hard to decide which organization or project you want to lead or participate in. Ultimately, gravitating toward a topic area of interest, or simply where an extra pair of hands are needed, allows you to connect with your community, network with others, and make a meaningful impact. A quick internet search on volunteering will bring up local, state, national, and international opportunities that are in-person or virtual. Time constraints or physical limitations for some people may mean the activity has to be modified in order to participate, but with an open mind and a creative spirit, there are volunteer opportunities out there for everyone.

 

I've enjoyed volunteering and helping others as far back as I can remember. I know how much I have benefitted in my life from receiving assistance from others. Generally, around the holidays I choose a larger volunteer activity to participate in. The holiday seasons bring additional events and activities looking for volunteers. A few years ago, I assembled 130 small candy bags to be shipped to active-duty military and veterans for a non-profit group called Soldiers’ Angels in San Antonio, TX. This was quite a task for me given my physical disability, but what a great occupational therapy workout for both hand dexterity and hand-eye coordination. One-by-one, I placed each piece of candy into a treat bag knowing that someone serving our country would find a little joy in receiving a small token of gratitude. My grandfather and great grandfather served in the military, and I am honored to find ways to support our men and women in service.

School Health Blog Writer and Contributor, Gabe Ryan

SCOE Turkey Drive 2022–Sacramento County Office of Education, Superintendent Dave Gordon and School Health Corporation, Blog Writer and Contributor, Gabe Ryan

One of the inspirations for this November article topic was my recent participation in the Sacramento County Office of Education (SCOE) Annual Turkey Drive. This drive is in partnership with the Friends of Folsom non-profit in support of the goal of feeding 10,000 families in our community through local food bank and distribution efforts. This is my sixth year participating. I really enjoy helping in organizing the event. Greeting the SCOE staff dropping off their turkeys is something I look forward to each year. More than two decades ago, I received early education services from the SCOE, Infant Development Program- some of the teachers that worked with me still work there today! Having the opportunity to represent School Health and our SH Cares committee and assist alongside SCOE staff on this community event is one of the ways I can give back and help others. This year we broke our record of the most turkeys received for this SCOE event!

I share my experience to hopefully encourage others to lend a hand where needed. We can all find ways to work together more. As Margaret Mead said: "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."

Keeping Warm on the Go: Fall is Here – Time for Winter Gear

Gabriel Ryan, School Health Blog Writer and Contributor

Fall is here and that means the weather is getting colder as we head into the winter months. It’s time to talk about some of my favorite winter apparel items that help keep you warm and dry.

If you or someone you know uses a wheelchair, scooter, stroller, or something similar, you probably also know that finding a way to keep the upper and lower extremities warm and dry can take some additional planning. I have used a wheelchair for a very long time and often found that I’ll be warm and cozy in a flannel shirt or winter jacket, but my legs become very cold. It is difficult sometimes to keep my entire body warm as my temperature fluctuates. If I am participating in an outside activity, I must take along a blanket or wear a few layers of pants. These methods work well, but can be bulky, take extra time to put on, or become too hot.

Several years ago, I was introduced to a couple of great products that I really like. These are worth checking into if you are looking for solutions to this same challenge for your child, student, family member, friend, or yourself.

X-Ability Bodycoats:

A couple of years ago, my Aunt Katherine saw the following news story about these specially designed jackets for people that use wheelchairs: 9&10 News WWTY Parents Invent Coat to Keep Kids, Adults in Wheelchairs Warm and Dry. This coat was designed by a mom for her daughter with Cerebral Palsy that uses a wheelchair. She created a prototype attaching two jackets together, making a full bodycoat. My Aunt surprised me that Christmas and purchased one for me. I was very excited; I have never seen anything like this jacket before. It is like wearing a sleeping bag with arms and a hood! Very warm and the zipper runs the length of the coat so I can have it all zipped up, half, or fully open in the front, without having to completely take the coat off. This bodycoat is great for use year-round for kids or adults as they come in different sizes. I have had the opportunity to use this bodycoat on a sailing trip in San Francisco Bay, it was perfect. I could enjoy my time and not be concerned about feeling uncomfortable due to tight muscles from the cold weather.

Bundle Bean:

I’ve been in search of a lap blanket, but not just any lap blanket. I used to have a waterproof lap cover with elastic sewn into the lower part that fits snug around my feet. It was originally part of a stroller used when I was a toddler. I kept that piece for a few decades, but it was misplaced in a move a few years back. This was one of the best tools for guarding against rain and wind. Earlier this year, I was thrilled to find an adult version of this similar item. The company Bundle Bean has a product called Adult fleece-lined wheelchair cosy. Woo hoo! One of my favorite winter apparel items, but made even better – it’s fleece lined! They offer a variety of patterns and colors for kids and adults. I chose black so it would match whatever jacket I decide to wear. What makes this type of item handy is that it is easily folded up and fits in a backpack. It features an elastic that hugs around the foot area, and elastic and Velcro straps on the reverse side keep it from dragging on the ground or getting caught in wheels. It’s very warm and waterproof. In the summer, I participated in a local 5K race to support Shriners Children’s Hospital. This wheelchair cosy was perfect for the early morning race start temperatures. I wear mine covering just my legs, but I can pull it up higher; mine is long enough to cover my feet all the way up to my chest while seated.

These are a few great options to consider for students waiting for a school bus, participating in recess, outdoor physical education classes, sports, and so much more!

Stay warm out there this fall and winter!

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

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:

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/

Access Angle: One Spoonful of Independence at a Time

Gabriel Ryan, School Health Blog Writer and Contributor 

 

One Spoonful of Independence at a Time

Adaptive eating utensils are designed to assist people with limited arm, hand, and finger mobility or difficulty with fine motor skills to feed themselves as independently as possible. What makes these utensils different than typical silverware is that the handles may be larger or have more of a grip, they may be weighted, made from bendable material, or they could also have straps or attach to a glove, and some are even automated! There are a variety of options of these types of utensils which are sold mostly through rehabilitation or medical supply companies.

 

Occupational therapists, feeding specialists, hand therapists and others can be very helpful to assist with figuring out the best option to try. It can take a while to find the most user friendly utensil. The only way to know what will work is to try a variety of utensils and see what feels the most comfortable.

 

I’ve started exploring adaptive utensils from a very young age. I have difficulty with hand grip and grasp, arm and hand mobility, and simply coordinating the process of eating especially if it involves using a fork or spoon. Finding an adapted eating utensil which I can consistently and independently use, took a little over 20 years!  

 

Here are some of the utensils I’ve tried over the years and a few thoughts on them.

 

The Maroon Spoons feature a shallow small spoon bowl so I didn’t end up with too much food in my mouth. These also helped with working on lip closure.

 

I moved on to trying spoons that had an angle such as the Easie Eaters Curved Utensils. These were still small and lightweight, but having the curve allowed me to bring the food from the food dish, directly to my mouth versus trying to turn my wrist or neck, which was difficult for me to do all at the same time.

 

I also explored utensils with built up handles, similar to the Good Grips Bendable Coated Spoons and Good Grips Adaptive Utensils. These types offered a much more stable handgrip especially as I got older and my hands grew larger. This non-slip material and larger grip were easier for my fingers to wrap around and control the utensil.

 

I was able to check out eating aides that wrap around the hand as an alternate to spoons that require a grip, such as the Utensil Holder Hand Clip or that have a Velcro attachment like the Universal Cuff Utensil Holder. These were helpful tools since eating can be a lot of hard work when it is physically difficult. Not having to worry about gripping the spoon or having it fall out of my hand allowed me to focus on the other steps involved in eating.

 

Over time, what became more difficult for me was keeping the spoon balanced in order to keep the food on the utensil. I tried a few options that have features to address this issue. The Plastic Handle Swivel Utensil which has a special swivel designed to keep food from spilling when turned at any angle. Also, the Steady Spoon which has the built-up handgrip, hook and loop strap, and an active counter balance/weight that keeps the head of the spoon in a level position.

 

Learn more about adaptive feeding utensils mentioned in this blog by visiting the School Health website. If you are looking for a teachable, robotic feeding device, check out the Obi Robotic Feeding Device. The Obi accommodates a spectrum of people who have difficulty feeding themselves. It works by automating the motion of a human arm and becomes an extension of the diner, allowing them to select the food of their choice and dictating the pace at which the food is fed to them.

 

It may be a quick find or a long journey to discover what will work best for each individual exploring adaptive utensils. Take your time and be patient with yourself, or those you may be supporting. Try and try again or maybe design something, there is certainly a continued need for more flexible options. Once I found the right utensil for me, I was able to feed myself my own dinner, and the next morning another first, I ate a bowl of cereal, by myself…. one spoonful of independence at a time!

 

 

Did you know that March is National Cerebral Palsy Awareness month?

Gabriel Ryan, School Health Blog Writer and Contributor

Did you know that March is National Cerebral Palsy Awareness month?

In 2006 an initiative was started by a Cerebral Palsy advocacy group with a goal to push for positive change in education programs, the healthcare system, and the job market, to give opportunities to those with Cerebral Palsy. This awareness effort started from a group of parent volunteers that realized there were days celebrated for other disabilities and initiatives, but there was not a month or day that celebrated Cerebral Palsy. The hope through this awareness day is to bring attention to Cerebral Palsy and raise money for research that could benefit the lives of those with Cerebral Palsy.

The designated color for Cerebral Palsy awareness is green. Why the color green? According to an article posted by PRC-Saltillo, “the color green was chosen to reflect youthfulness and new growth, as well as hope for advancements in treatment and acceptance.” The #GoGreen4CP hashtag was created to engage communities on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to become more aware of this effort.

A brief definition of Cerebral Palsy offered by CerebralPalsyGuide.com includes the following informative information. “Cerebral Palsy is a group of disorders that affect normal movement in different parts of the body. This condition can cause problems with posture, manner of walking (gait), muscle tone, and coordination of movement. The word “cerebral” refers to the brain’s cerebrum, which is the part of the brain that regulates motor function. “Palsy” describes the paralysis of voluntary movement in certain parts of the body. There are several types of cerebral palsy that are characterized by the location of the brain injury. Symptoms can vary depending on where and how badly the brain was damaged.”

 

National Today, shares 5 Important Facts About Cerebral Palsy on their website:

 

1.      It is not a disease or sickness: This condition is not a disease or sickness — it is not contagious and cannot be reversed, although some symptoms can be lessened with physiotherapy, speech therapy, or occupational therapy.
2.      Everyone with cerebral palsy is unique: No two people with cerebral palsy are the same and they are equally deserving of love and care as those who do not [have] this condition.
3.      There is a special awareness day: In addition to having an entire month dedicated to Cerebral Palsy, March 25th is an annual day to recognize and support those living with cerebral palsy.
4.      17 million are affected around the world: 17 million people are living with cerebral palsy, which is equal to the entire population of the Netherlands.
5.      Opportunities are needed: People with cerebral palsy do not need sympathy — they need opportunities to live their lives as independently as possible.
 

You can complete a google search about Cerebral Palsy and find resources and supports in your state and in your community. A long-standing national resource is the United Cerebral Palsy: www.ucp.org. The important thing to keep in mind is that Cerebral Palsy is different for everyone. Many of the articles about Cerebral Palsy  and the related awareness month describe it as a campaign to express support for those “suffering” from Cerebral Palsy. Perhaps some out there feel this way, however my friends with Cerebral Palsy and myself included, do not label ourselves as “suffering” from Cerebral Palsy. We work hard to live our lives like anyone else, going places, having friends, seeking meaningful and gainful employment, etc.

 

Through these initiatives of awareness and advocacy, it is my hope that more research and advancements in technology will continue  to improve the lives of people with Cerebral Palsy and other disabilities.

 

Remember - Wear your green, March 25th to show your support for children and adults diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy!

 

Access Angle: OrCam Read Handheld Reading Device

Gabriel Ryan, School Health Blog Writer and Contributor 

The Orcam Read Handheld Reading Device

If you have difficulty reading text, never fear, the OrCam Read is here! The OrCam Read 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. This small portable assistive reading device uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Optical Character Recognition (OCR).

 Key features of this product include:

  • Handheld reader about the size of a marker at 4.8” x 0.98” x 0.51”, 1.55 oz
  • Easy to use for either right or left hand users.
  • Reads text from any printed surface like magazines or books and digital screens such as a computer.
  • Bluetooth enabled allowing pairing with earphones or speakers.
  • Adjustable user settings, such as volume, reading speed, and choice of voice.
  • Bright LED light for dimly lit environments.
  • Two lasers to capture the full page or a specific block of text with the press of a button.
  • Artificial Intelligence, 13 megapixel sensor to capture fine details such as fine print.
  • Four physical tactile buttons; power, volume up, volume down, and the trigger button
  • “Smart Reading” - simply ask and listen. Retrieve and read only the text that interests you.

One of the newest features of OrCam Read is that it can be activated with voice commands by saying “Hey OrCam” followed by the command. Now, let’s talk about what is in the box! Inside you'll receive the OrCam Read device, User Guide, charger box, wired earphones, cleaning cloth, and lanyard.

The Dr. Phil show featured the OrCam Read with special guest, Schools Health’s very own Dr. Ray Heipp. Dr. Ray also created a few informational videos about the OrCam Read, such as this one, Talkin’ Tech: OrCam Read Handheld Reading Device. You can visit the School Health website to learn more about this product and to purchase the OrCam Read. Plus, for a limited time, you can try the OrCam Read for FREE! Check out this link to register for a two-week trial. 

A Fitness Focus: The First Step to Get Started is to START

Gabriel Ryan,

School Health Blog Writer and Contributor

 

A Fitness Focus: The First Step to Get Started is to START

The new year often brings new fitness goals for people of all ages. People tend to create fitness goals for a variety of reasons. Many popular reasons include a focus on losing weight, gaining weight, increasing muscle mass or flexibility, taking on a new hobby, creating a change in lifestyle or routine, and so many more. Getting started and maintaining motivation can be hard and often, the grand fitness plan fails before it even gets started. There are so many reasons that just getting going can be difficult, depending on an individual’s situation. This includes not knowing the “why” behind an individuals’ fitness goals in the first place, setting too many goals at once, setting unrealistic expectations, relying on fitness equipment one may not have access too, not having the social/emotional/mental support to accomplish the goals, caving in to the not-so-healthy favorite snack too often, etc.. In this fitness-focused Access Angle segment, I’ve included a few resources full of ideas to learn more about fitness and creating realistic goals for yourself, your children, or those whom you provide support and services to.

 

The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd edition provides evidence-based guidance to help maintain or improve health through physical activity. This 2018 guide includes suggestions for all and specifically includes information for people with disabilities. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025 provides advice on what to eat and drink to meet nutritional needs, promote health, and help prevent chronic disease. This guide includes suggestions for infants through older adults.

 

There are several websites with sections dedicated to promoting a healthy lifestyle for people with disabilities, here are a few examples:

One of my fitness goals this year is to increase my activity level with Cardio Drumming. This activity involves aerobic movements with the beat of a drum using just an exercise ball and drumsticks. I use a small 12-inch exercise ball with a set of lightweight drumsticks. Having a square of non-skid material under the ball and placed into a bowl helps to keep it stable. I also use my trusty GRIP Activity Pad. This is one of my favorite activities, I love the energy and music! Exercise bands are also another favorite of mine. Check out this Access Angle post related to exercise bands, Stretch Yourself to the Limit: CanDo Muti-Grip Exerciser.

School Health has numerous fitness resources and supports. Browse through the School Health website under categories such as Sports Medicine, Special Education, Early Childhood, and Physical Education to find products and ideas to support a variety of fitness goals. You’ll find fitness related products such as Exercise Buddy Pro which incorporates evidence-based practices to create success for individuals in the classroom: technology aided instruction and intervention, visual supports, video modeling, social narratives, and positive reinforcement for all individuals no matter their age, motor skills, or cognitive ability. You can also learn more about software and equipment with Focused Fitness and Palos Sports.

Focused Fitness offers unique curricula, instructional materials, professional development and software. The programs include Five for Life®, FAB 5®, WELNET® and Health READY®. WELNET® software provides the ability to collect and report student data related to fitness and health. Not only do these programs help kids stay active, but they also aim to teach key concepts like managing fitness, how fitness relates to overall health, and the role of good nutrition. Visit the website or contact a representative to learn more about how these programs can be adapted for students you serve.

Palos Sports supplies physical educators, fitness professionals, coaches and recreation directors with a variety of innovative sports and fitness equipment, activities and knowledge that will make their programs both impacting and successful. Their website includes an Adapted Physical Education section highlighting some adapted products which are great for all to use. Free resources for PE teachers or those looking for some innovative ideas, check out PE with Palos.

One important thing to incorporate as part of your fitness goals is hydration! I’ve shared in previous posts about the Giraffe Bottle Handsfree Drinking System which I use. No matter how you hydrate, keep in mind you may need to increase your intake as you increase your activity.

 

The first step to get started, is to START!

 

“You’ve got to figure out how to use what you’ve got to maximize your potential,

which in a way, is the story of all of us.” ~Unknown Author