• Technology
  • When the Diagnosis Comes

    A disability diagnosis for your child is not a tragic event. It may feel like that, absolutely.And yes, it may change the expectations that you will have for your child as they grow and develop into an adult.The important thing is that it is still your child that the doctor or specialist is talking about. Remember that having a diagnosis does not change the fact that he or she is still the same little person who had your heart from the moment you laid eyes on them.

    You have a job now that you have a diagnosis. Your job is to educate yourself on what it is, and how best you can assist your child.A diagnosis can actually be a helpful thing.It can alleviate parents of the burden of feeling responsible for issues actually out of their control when their child is lagging behind in school or in other developmental areas. It can point to an actual problem that needs to be addressed. It may offer new strategies or a different plan of attack that will be more likely to succeed. Finally, once you understand what has been going on with your child, you can be proactive and move forward.There are so many things that having a diagnosis can open up for you. Therapies, accommodations, and services may now accessible that may not have been optionsbefore, simply because there was not a known cause.

    I highly recommend searching for grants for any adaptive equipment necessary to help your child along. If your child will need a wheelchair or a walker, there might be funds available for you to make modifications to your home to make them safer for your child;there may be medical advances that can help; there may training available for teachers and other staff at your child’s school so that they will be better able to accommodate them in a classroom setting.Again, there are so many options out there.Use the internet, talk to your physicians or specialists, read articles.Find something that you can put your energy into instead of wallowing in something that you likely cannot change or make go away.The only thing that you can do is find out what treatments and accommodations can help your child move forward.

    Remember you cannot put your child on the same developmental timeline as other children anymore. You have to accept the progress that they make as real honest progress whether it be simply saying,“Mommy,” learning the alphabet, or being able to spell their name using technology.Whatever moving forward looks like for your child is something that you need to cherish. Even if, once you hear the diagnosis, you think there won’t be progress—and sometimes there will be plateaus, unfortunately—but there will be progress. Keep looking for resources, keep fighting for your child, and you will help them reach their full potential.

  • Technology
  • Tips on Applying for Grants

    There are many opportunities out there to help you on your journey to make things easier and safer for your child as well as helping them to become more independent. However, most of these things cost money, and the more severe the needs, the more costs you will incur. We are fortunate that our schedules as teachers allow us to be home on the days Mary has off from school, but it wasn’t always that way. There were times where one, or both of us, were unable to work because of challenging behaviors or illness that could not be handled any other way.

    It makes applying for grants critical. Grants can be an answer to your prayers. They may partially or fully fund all kinds of things. In our searching, we have found grants that cover everything from treatmentsand medical equipment for home or school use, adaptive equipment to aid in their independence, any safety remodels necessary for your house, or tracking devices if your child is an elopement risk. As you can imagine, these grants can save you a lot of money. Unfortunately, it also makes some of them highly competitive. There’s only so much funding. While ideally everyone who applies will receive what they are asking for, that is not always the case. Know before you apply what the ratio of applicants to funding is. Some are at 100%, some are close. Others have the ability to only pay out one or two at a time.

    One thing you really don’t want to be denied for is not following the directions of the grant. Sometimes the application process can be tricky or unclear. Here are some things to look at during the application process:

    • Read the description and be sure you are eligible to apply. Some grants have geographic restrictions, others have diagnosis eligibility issues, and others have age requirements. You don’t want to waste your time or that of the benefactors by applying for a grant where you don’t actually meet the qualifications. Make sure you fit the criteria or keep looking.
    • Read the directions. Every grant process is different. Trust us on this one. Some require letters from professionals stating that the requested item is necessary, others require an evaluation done by a specific organization or on a specific form. Take your time and read it over and over until you understand it. If you can’t figure it out, see if the benefactors have informational meetings or can answer questions over the phone. Sometimes they have FAQ on their website. Take the help if you need it.
    • Know how you will be receiving the grant. Some places will reimburse you for purchases already made, others will not. Some places pay the vendor directly while others will give you the money so that you can pay the vendor yourself. Some places donate the requested item directly to you. This kind of information is especially important if you have to lay out the money first and hope to be reimbursed later—make sure you know what going in.
    • Turn your application in on time. Some will only accept applications at certain times of the year, others have a cut off where they limit the amount of people who can apply. Make sure you can have it done by then. Some of these take a lot of time, and it’ll be wasted if you can’t get it in by the deadline. Some places will allow you to send your application online or via fax, others are mail in only. That plays a factor in how long you have to get it completed, so be sure you take that into consideration.

    Good luck and take your time. It will be worth it in the end when you are getting help for your child!

  • Technology
  • AAC Tips

    We definitely recommend getting an evaluation for your child by a professional who is experienced in augmentative communication. Preferably do trials of different options to see what is best for your child’s needs.  But once you have the right device and the right setup for your child, here are some tips that we have discovered along the way:

    • Charge the device (if it needs charging) and keep it in the same location at all times when your child isn’t actively using it. We leave Mary’s on an armchair we don’t use often. It gets charged there and she knows to go there first thing in the morning if she wants to use it. Also, when we take it out of her backpack after school, we put it right back on the armchair. Our device has a strap so she can wear it when she is going from place to place at school, but she doesn’t really want to do that at home. Having the device in a centralized location makes it much easier for everyone to keep track of where it is.
    • If you can, personalize it. Small children especially have an easier time with photographs than symbols. As they get older it is easier to generalize, but we have pictures of each family member with a label on them so other people will know who is who. Mary likes to see the photos of her loved ones, especially while she is at school. We have also added symbols for her favorite foods, tv shows, and music. Once we had these things in place, Mary was much more interested in using the device.
    • Don’t use the device only for requests. Requests are great, and that is how many people learn to communicate in the first place, but it is not a request machine, it is a communication device. If you are programming it from scratch, make sure there are interactive options and not just “I want…” type things. Mary has jokes on hers, as well as pages of social interaction where she can ask people their names, what pets they have, and to clue us in on what is bothering her if she isn’t feeling well. It may be harder to teach them to use these parts of the device, as they are not as reinforcing as demands and requests, but stick with it.
    • This brings us to the next point, and we cannot stress this one enough because it is critical to your child’s success with AAC: model using the device. We usually say everything as we press the buttons, although it is not necessary to do so, but we have many conversations with Mary while using her device. It was put to us by the speech pathologist this way: you can’t learn a language if you’re the only one who speaks it. The more you interact with the device and your child, the more exposure your child gets and the more familiar everyone will be with the capabilities of the device.
    • Learn the device. As much as you can. Watch videos online. Ask the professional who recommended it to you. Read the manual. Any information that’s out there—read it. Become an expert on it. This is your child’s voice. Get as familiar with it as possible.
    • Lastly, bring it with you. Sometimes we are guilty of this one but we always regret it. If it is the only way your child can communicate, and you really want them to use the device, it has to be a part of every outing, all the time. Just accept it as part of the family and keep going. If your child needed a wheelchair or a walker, or an inhaler or something like that, you wouldn’t leave it at home when you went out, would you? Your child’s AAC device should be considered to be just as necessary.

    Well, that’s it for now. Just keep trying. Trying to find a good AAC device for your child’s ability level, trying to model and get them to use it, and trying to support your child in their desire to communicate. You’ve got this, parents!

  • Technology
  • Great Educational Apps for Kids

    If your child is anything like ours, then they are a whiz at electronic devices. Sometimes their lack of verbal skills make testing their abilities difficult, and other times their motor skills can make using things like a traditional keyboard or even a pen and paper too difficult to attempt. Many children are comfortable with a touch screen, or even an adaptive device that operates based on eye gaze. Using educational apps with these types of devices can give you, and teachers, a better assessment of what your child knows and where to go from there.

    Here are a few educational apps that are considered winners at our house, and a little about them:

    • Aussie Kids Count Coins: basically what it sounds like. Math puzzles and counting currency. This app is great for teaching children how to make correct change, how to add up the costs for multiple items, and more. We like the graphics and the money skills it teaches.
    • Toca Lab. The Toca Boca games, in general, are a lot of fun (and they have no ads or in app purchases), but Toca Lab actually familiarizes kids with the periodic table of elements without being difficult or boring. Each element has its own personality, and kids can do “experiments” on them, turning them into gasses or freezing them, magnetizing them, and more.
    • Letter School teaches writing with lots of sound effects and music. It first teaches children the correct movements to make in order to trace the letters and gets progressively harder until they are freewriting each letter on their own. Mary loves this app, especially when she gets to lay the train tracks. It was recommended to us by her Occupational Therapist. 
    • Mad Libs. You may have had these books as a kid. Now there is an app. It teaches children the parts of a sentence and grammar while also showing them the power of words and sentence structure. All while being perfectly silly! 
    • Endless Numbers. The Endless series is fantastic and they do release a lot of updates, but we like the math best. It is a giant ferris wheel of monsters riding in numbered cars. Tap one and you interact with the number, do a math problem, and then see a short and silly movie. Hands down one of our number obsessed little girl’s favorite things. 
    • I See Ewe and I Hear Ewe these games match through sound and visuals. Mary uses this with her speech pathologist to identify items and she thinks this app is super fun. It has helped with her accuracy and is a more true representation of what she actually knows because it is fun and reinforcing. 
    • Life Cycle App. Want to teach your budding scientist about the water cycle? Or how a caterpillar turns into a butterfly? This app has you covered. 
    • Monkey Preschool Lunchbox. Ok, what kid doesn’t like monkeys? This one is cute and does flips when your child gets the answer correct. It tests color, shape, size, matching, and letter knowledge. Kids get reward stickers every so often, too. The game also never ends, either, which can be good or bad. It will just keep asking you questions until you quit the app. 

    So there you have it. Some apps that are popular at our house. We use several of these with Mary’s therapists, and others are rewards after she completes non-preferred activities. Please write in the comments if you have heard of these and your experiences with them, or if you have others that we should try out!  Thanks for reading.