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How the Pandemic Has Hurt Early Intervention

For many special needs students, early intervention is a key part of providing assistance. By giving children accommodations and therapy at an early age, they get the tools they need to continue growing and advancing. Unfortunately, many child therapists worry that the COVID-19 crisis may make early intervention more challenging. There are a few unique factors that may keep children from getting the diagnosis and care they need.

Teletherapy Doesn’t Address Unique Needs of Many Families

Most therapists have had to put an end to in-person visits for the time being. Early intervention experts are continuing to help their clients with the use of teletherapy, however, this can be challenging. Some children do not respond well to voice instructions and televised body language. Instead, they need physical contact and hands-on therapy to be engaged. Without their regular therapy sessions, many therapists worry that patients are regressing or falling behind in progress.

Professionals Who Can Spot Warning Signs Are Not Seeing Children Now

In many cases, it is not a parent who first decides a child needs testing and treatment. Parents are often not trained to recognize early warning signs, which can be very subtle. Often, symptoms go away when a child is in a familiar environment, so it may be hard for a parent to notice things like the socializing challenges present in autism spectrum disorders. Instead, it is often pediatricians and school teachers who recommend that a parent see a specialist. With many families staying at home, they are not interacting with experts who could refer them to get help. Brighton, an Early Childhood Intervention agency reports that their number of monthly referrals has dropped from around 350 to below 100.

Government Funding May Be on the Decline

Most early intervention programs are at least partially funded by the government. However, most departments calculate the amount of funding a clinic receives by looking at the number of patients in the previous year. With 2020 referrals so low, many therapists are left worrying their budget will be slashed in the upcoming year. Furthermore, available funds may be used for COVID-19 business relief efforts instead of childhood care. This may make it even harder to provide care to at-risk families.

Originally published on Russ Ewell’s website.

NAVIGATING VIRTUAL COLLEGE AS A STUDENT WITH DISABILITIES

Virtual College for Disabled Learners: A Need for Advocacy

Virtual education has quickly become a part of the “new normal” as many colleges and universities in the United States have made the tough decision to forego face-to-face classes this semester. Many students have been impacted by the decision to hold classes in an online environment. However, perhaps the most negatively affected group consists of students who have disabilities.

Though disabilities are commonly accommodated on campus, it can be difficult to ensure that those students’ needs are being met while they are at home. Now, more than ever, it is important that students with disabilities advocate for themselves. While student accessibility offices are legally and morally responsible for ensuring that all students have a fair opportunity to learn, students share in that responsibility and are expected to be proactive in order to obtain the appropriate accommodations.

The education of students with disabilities is often handled on a case-by-case basis. Every individual is unique so the educational plans must differ so that everyone’s personal accommodations are suited for their needs. While some students require only minimal adjustments to succeed, others may require special tools that will help them to complete course objectives. Although the virtual classroom may not come with the special learning technologies that are often available in college labs, the student accessibility office should still be notified of any difficulty.

The institution may have to make the appropriate technology available in the students’ home, or the instructors may have to create lessons with alternate methods of delivery. By advocating for themselves, students with disabilities can ensure that they are able to learn in the ways that are most effective for them despite the lack of face-to-face contact with professors and peers.

Though virtual college may seem like a challenging setback for students with disabilities, it doesn’t have to be. With the proper communication to university faculty and staff, these students have a chance to perform just as well virtually as they do in the live classroom. In order for students with disabilities to do well, institutional personnel must work with them and not only support but ensure that those who have disabilities are advocating for themselves because they truly do need assistance. Now is the time to pull together and show young people that we do not define them by their ability, but rather support them so that we can provide everyone with the same opportunities to succeed and begin their careers.

Originally published on Russ Ewell’s website.

Challenges of Online Schooling for Special Needs Families That are Less Fortunate

The dire warnings began early this year as the COVID-19 pandemic impacted everyone around the world. Schools closed and hastily threw together remote or virtual learning alternatives in the face of explosive outbreaks. Some have predicted a “wasted” school year for all students, most of all those already at high-risk of falling through the cracks: low-income and special needs students. Often these two high-risk groups overlap and normally have inherent obstacles to educational achievement. These challenges make virtual learning especially difficult for them.

One initial and terminating obstacle is lack of access to high-speed internet services. Poor families may only have cell phones with hotspots and probably cannot afford devices for completing online lessons.

Working parents, especially single parents working multiple jobs, means less support at home. Since virtual learning often necessitates some caregiver-led learning, less affluent children will suffer from the roster of sitters, daycare workers, or family members — including siblings — looking after the children. Revolving caregivers and sibling minders introduce a lack of continuity that disrupts learning.

Financial difficulties limit the effectiveness of the virtual school by decreasing class time, too. Alhambra, California teacher Tamya Daly can attest to this, and to the sibling minders. Daly has had to record lessons because parents advised her that childcare schedules and device-sharing needs made it impossible to do more than one hour of live virtual lessons.

Special needs students have the added need for accommodations as outlined in their Individualized Education Plans, or IEPs. These plans are developed to support learning objectives. Examples could be hearing or sight aides, special classroom professionals, and classrooms with fewer distractions for those with learning disabilities. to require special needs kids to manage on their own from an electronic device, away from their designated support, is a recipe for failure. In fact, Governor Gavin Newsom asserted that accommodations are impossible to provide in virtual learning when he outlined a new waiver application program. Schools may apply for a quarantine waiver so that certain high-risk students can receive in-school instruction in small groups.

It’s a tough choice, given fears of outbreaks. Some students cannot accept the opportunity due to underlying health conditions of themselves or their family members. Those who can accept the risks, however, just may have a workable solution.

Originally published on Russ Ewell’s website.

Assistive Technology Empowering Students

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Stepping Into the Future: How Assistive Technology is Transforming Teaching Students with Disabilities

When considering technology, the first thing that comes to mind might not be the assistive tools used in classrooms, but these innovative instruments are revolutionizing the way teachers conduct their classroom business, especially Special Education classrooms. With a variety of different apps, organizers, and special technologies, students with disabilities and their families can rest assured that teachers have a large group of resources at their disposal.

 

Consider the Academy of Whole Learning, a K-12, private Minnesota school for students with learning disabilities including Autism. The academy introduced virtual reality technology to their classrooms, which is just one example of the many assistive technologies teachers can implement in their teaching. According to Kade Dreschler, a teacher at the Academy of Whole Learning, the immersive VR experience was a wonderful experience for the students. Using the VR technology, the students were able to block out classroom distractions and focus on the environment on the screen in front of them, leading to improvements in their social and friendship experiences. These technologies, too, are helpful for students with a range of disabilities, including those who are blind or visually compared, those who are deaf or hard of hearing, or those with other learning, cognitive, or developmental disabilities.

 

The types of assistive technology used by teachers is incredibly varied, especially depending on their students’ disabilities. For students who are visually compared, have dyslexia, or are blind, teachers can use text-to-speech technology to allow these students to listen to things on a printed page. It works by scanning words on a page and reading them allowed in a robotic voice, allowing students who cannot easily read to still enjoy the text!

 

Perhaps a lesser-known type of assistive technology is called the sip-and-puff system and works to assist students and people with paralysis or other motor skill difficulties. Using this system, students can use a joystick in order to control their technological applications, moving the cursor with their heads and clicking with a sip or puff. While this system is new and still needs some refinement, it has already become a pivotal part of special education classrooms.

 

Clearly, assistive technologies for students with disabilities are quickly becoming a necessity. With the emergence of these technologies, and the tireless plight of teachers to teach their students to the best of their ability, it’s safe to say that students with disabilities are in good educational hands.

This blog was originally published on Russ Ewell’s website.

MUSIC THERAPY FOR CHILDREN WITH SPECIAL NEEDS

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Modern research has been demonstrating many positive effects of music for children with special needs. Some therapists are specially trained in utilizing these tools to help their clients increase focus, regulate emotions, increase social abilities, and improve motor skills.

 

Benefits of music

 

Improved social interaction

 

Music therapy or music classes often include collaboration and exchanging instruments and melodies. This type of interaction can be beneficial for children trying to improve social skills. It can also provide positive self-expression and encourage experiences that improve self-worth. For children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, musical therapy and group music lessons have been shown to produce more diverse emotional expression and social interaction than similar experiences that were non-musical.

 

Benefits for emotional regulation

 

For students with ADD or ADHD, music can alleviate symptoms like loss of attention and difficult impulse control. In addition, music has been shown to reduce stress levels which can be a significant factor for many students with special needs.

 

Sensory-motor skills

 

Any kind of music creation includes precise movements coordinated with accurate listening. These activities can promote motor skills and sensory-motor coordination. In addition, music can have significant benefits for people with cerebral palsy including reduced muscular tension and increased alertness and dexterity.

 

Musical therapy types

 

Music education

 

While not formally a type of musical therapy, music education can have many of the above-listed benefits. Musical education comes in two main forms: one-on-one music lessons and music classes in a group. Music lessons tend to be focused on teaching musical skills with an instrument and may provide fewer therapeutic benefits than other options. Music classes are offered at most public or private schools as well as many non-profits. These classes can have many social benefits but tend to have less quality musical instruction than one-on-one lessons and may have less therapeutic benefits than working with someone specially trained in the field.

 

Musical therapists

 

Musical therapists are specially trained in musical interventions with demonstrated therapeutic benefits. They can work with you to identify specific objectives for your child and develop a plan to achieve those results. They often work with school systems or other childcare programs or in client homes.

This blog was originally published on Russ Ewell’s website.

Pros and Cons of Remote Learning for Special Needs Students

RE - Pros and Cons of Remote Learning for Special Needs Students

Remote learning can be helpful for some kids with sensory issues, health issues or social challenges. Such students may be more comfortable relating to their classmates and teachers via the internet than in person.

 

One of the big pros of remote learning is having control over the learner’s environment. This can be especially helpful for special-needs students. However, it also implicitly assumes that there is a certain level of material wealth and family cooperation. This isn’t always the case.

 

In fact, families with special-needs members tend to be financially stressed. The very existence of special needs tends to simultaneously create high expenses while impairing family earning capacity.

 

One way to mitigate such issues is to arm oneself with information. On the upside, the internet is a great place to find lists of tips for just about any personal challenge you may be facing in life.

 

Families can learn better methods to accommodate each other’s needs while sharing the same space. Parents can take it upon themselves to make it a priority to find low-cost methods to make this work better for all parties.

 

Remote learning inherently involves a certain amount of screen time. Especially for younger kids, there is always the worry that they will be getting too much screen time.

 

If the student in question is a child and is doing remote learning through a public school, there may be little that can be done to mitigate this issue. However, in many situations, this can be mitigated by using printed books, hands-on learning, and other activities to supplement computer-based learning.

 

Remote learning tends to go over better when it was freely chosen as an option. Currently, this is not the case for a great many students. It was thrust upon them and people are having trouble adapting.

 

It can help to keep in mind that everyone needs time to adjust to new situations, especially when it was introduced suddenly and without warning. All the lead-up time one normally gets to think about it and make small changes in anticipation has been skipped.

 

Human beings are quick to focus on the negative. This can be protective, but can also lead to a bad attitude. Looking for the pros is the antidote.

 

This blog was originally published on Russ Ewell’s website.

Work From Home Opportunities for People With Disabilities

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With the outbreak of the novel Covid-19 coronavirus, more people than ever are working from home. This provides more opportunities for the disabled if they can find jobs that fit their skill levels and capabilities. With that in mind, the following are some jobs that disabled people can work from the comfort of their homes.

 

Customer Service

Anyone, including the disabled, can be successful working from home with the proper accommodations and equipment, according to USA Today. For a customer service job, disabled applicants will need a computer, internet connection and a phone. Customer service jobs usually entail answering incoming calls from people who have questions or need to resolve issues. Some customer service representatives also take orders over the phone. A few companies that hire customer service reps to work from home include Amazon, Apple, Working Solutions, and LiveOps, according to FlexJobs.

 

Technical Support

Any disabled person who has expertise with computers, software, or other technical issues can work a technical support job from home. To find these jobs, it’s best to see if some of the larger companies, like Amazon, hire people in the local area for technical support. Disabled workers can also try calling the local cable company.

 

Telecommute on Present Job

When a disabled person has a job but needs more suitable accommodations, he or she can ask his or her boss to work from home. That’s because telecommuting is a reasonable request under the American Disabilities Act. The best way to initiate this type of move is to talk with both a superior and the human resources department. This better ensures a disabled individual is following the proper communication channels.

 

Become a Freelancer

Today’s disabled folks have a wide variety of skills, which can easily be converted into freelancing careers. The types of jobs that can be done on a freelancing basis include writing, graphic design, bookkeeping, teaching, tutoring, and even virtual assistant. One way to find these jobs is to conduct an online search. There are also some sites that cater to freelancers, including Fiverr, Upwork, Guru, and Moonlighting. Linked-In may also have some freelance opportunities available for those who are qualified.

 

The key to being successful as a work-at-home disabled person is to select the right type of job. This means a job for which the individual has the proper skills and education. The disabled person should also have a penchant for what he or she is doing. From there, the individual just needs to work hard and become indispensable.

 

This blog was originally published on Russ Ewell’s website.

The Importance of Adaptive Clothing

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Disabled representation in the fashion industry has been practically non-existent until now. Despite the fact they comprise the third-largest market segment in America, people with disabilities are largely excluded from contemporary fashion design.

 

In order to make daily tasks easier, disabled clothing should feature “adaptive” features such as magnetic closures in place of traditional buttons and snaps. Allowing neurodivergent people to access modern clothing does far more than simply expand their fashion options – it opens the door for greater inclusivity that bridges the gap between “accommodation” and universal acceptance.

 

Innovating adaptive clothing will not only profit companies but better society as a whole. A brand’s reputation will naturally begin to evolve as it begins to incorporate adaptive design into its apparel; people will become more accustomed to adaptive fashion, and those with disabilities will no longer have to feel excluded from something as basic as personal style because of their condition.

 

HOW FASHION AFFECTS SPECIAL NEEDS INDIVIDUALS

 

People with autism, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, and other neurodivergent conditions are often impacted by other health conditions that can make contemporary clothing inaccessible. Those who wear diapers have a hard time fitting into traditional form-fitting garments, and many special needs people have heightened sensory sensitivity that can make typical styles extremely uncomfortable and distressing to wear.

 

Target has become the first major retailer to begin selling adaptive clothing for people of all ages. The adaptive lines feature sensory-friendly and ease-of-dressing features while maintaining the look of the store’s typical clothes.

 

For too long, people with disabilities – either physical or intellectual – have been ignored by the mainstream. Rather than forcing them to tolerate products that do not meet their needs, it is instead the responsibility of designers to consider the diversity of the world’s population and expand their own mindset when it comes to the type of clothes they create.

 

LOOKING AHEAD

 

Fashion and style are not concepts exclusive to neurotypical communities; everyone deserves the chance to express themselves through their clothing choices and feel confident about their appearance with respect to any of their limitations or special needs. Comfort is always something that has been regarded in the fashion world, but with the rise of adaptive clothing, it will begin to take on a new meaning.

 

As more fashion brands become aware of the need to serve the disabled population, a new era of style can begin to emerge, one that reflects the progressive nature of modern society.

This blog was originally published on Russ Ewell’s website.

Podcasts That Are Promoting Inclusivity

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If you think the world of podcasts is all true crime and political commentary, think again. Among the millions of podcasts available that promise to entertain and educate, listeners will find various podcasts, including the following, that tackle the complex, inspiring, and sometimes difficult topic of disabled life in an inclusive way.

 

AccessPoint

 

Liz Malone started AccessPoint without focusing on a target demographic. Instead, she focuses on her message that disability should be spoken of in an open and honest way. Malone relies on her experience as a legally-blind woman as she interviews guests from the disabled community through eight episodes. Malone promises not just to entertain or educate the listener but to make them feel. Those who cannot get enough of Malone can also check out her longterm podcast Breaking Dishes.

 

Disability Visibility

 

Part of The Disability Visibility Project, this podcast gives listeners a view of life through a disabled lens. Every week, host Alice Wong and her wide array of guests discuss culture, politics, and media as they pertain to disability. Wong’s drive to be intersectional ensures she speaks to people of color, making this one of the most inclusive podcasts around.

 

Special Parents Confidential

 

Parents of disabled children of any age might find this podcast to be especially useful. John Pellegrini started this podcast as a parent of a disabled child himself with the hopes that he could reach out to others like himself and show that everyone is in this together. Pellegrini, who has a background in radio production, struggled to connect with others through in-person support groups during the process of having his son diagnosed, talks with experts on the Special Parents Confidential. The show both provides an outlet for him to express his thoughts and feelings while creating a sense of community through the Internet.

 

Disability After Dark

 

This podcast diverges from the content of others, but it’s wonderful to listen for those who want inclusivity and sex-positivity in their podcasts! Host Andrew Gurza is a Disability Awareness Consultant and speaks to listeners as a disabled gay man. Gurza aims to bring sexuality out of the shadows, especially when it pertains to a disability, and the podcast touches on all facets of sexuality.

This blog was originally published on Russ Ewell’s website.

Teaching Students with Disabilities

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Every type of teacher plays a crucial role in their students’ lives and should consider it an opportunity to instruct all different types of people. When working with children with disabilities, there is a unique set of challenges that come with the job. It might be worthwhile to learn about certain accommodations and modifications that can be used to make things smoother and more understood all-around.

 

Please always keep in mind that the differences and discrepancies in learning or general comprehension between students are not indicators of overall intelligence. People have various types of strengths that aren’t always adequately measured by the standardized testing process and the general public school grading system. Every student has a unique learning potential, and a teacher’s job is to find the best way to communicate individually.

 

In general, here are a few overall tips that are helpful for all teachers having the opportunity to educate children with disabilities:

  • Provide Oral Instructions.
    Written instructions may be difficult to understand in some cases and can lead to difficulty. Oral instructions are easier for those who have low reading comprehension.
  • Give Frequent and Specific Feedback.
    Students with disabilities respond well to feedback and progress checks. Check-in and let them know how they are doing with specific praise. Instead of general “good work” comments, try to make them apply directly to the activities at hand, such as: “Good work following instructions and placing all the green tiles together.”
  • Keep Activities and Lessons Short and Concise.
    It can be frustrating for students with disabilities to follow along through multiple levels of instructions and actions. Take breaks when needed by following their cues.
  • Keep it Simple.
    Refrain from using abstract examples and terms. Keep concepts literal whenever possible. When in doubt, focus on the senses, and bring it back to things they can see, touch, hear, smell or taste.
  • Plan for Cooperative Activities.
    Students with disabilities, and in fact all students, benefit from practicing activities where everyone comes together for a common goal or outcome.

There are lots of resources online and via the Education Department to gather, learn and utilize even more tips and strategies for your classroom. Good luck, and happy teaching!

This blog was originally published on Russ Ewell’s website.