Monday 22 October 2012

Playworks Special Needs Toys

I've just come across this great online shop for sen toys and resources. It is based in California but I suppose at a push you could have goods shipped over to the UK.

You'll find it here:

Special Needs Toys are separated into seven sub-categories to facilitate finding toys that address specific special needs and situations. All Special Needs Toys enhance child development, allowing children with diverse abilities to experience a variety of sensory feedback and stimulation. Distraction Toys also provide relief from stress and enhance a child's ability to cope.
Distraction Toys enable children to turn their attention away from stressful situations and immerse themselves in play. These toys invite children of all ages to escape and explore, enabling them to cope. Meteor Storm is our most popular distraction toy. To activate a countinuously changing light display, a child must press and hold down the button. Letting go turns off the light. The child must focus on the act of play itself. Now available in two sizes. The larger globe of the original prevents young children from sticking the light in their mouths while the mini, with its breakaway cord, can be worn around the neck for instant gratification.
Light Toys provide visual feedback and stimulation to both low vision and sighted children. Although lighting up is the primary function of these toys, all provide multi- sensory experiences. Meteor Storm, with its press and hold switch, engages the sense of touch and invites children to experiment with on/off and to track the continuously changing color patterns of the spinning globe. This spinning causes the globe to vibrate, stimulating "feel" when the child places his hand on the globe, enabling blind children to enjoy Meteor Storm too.
Sound Toys offer auditory feedback, enhance language and motor skills, develop spatial intelligence and understanding of cause and effect.Sound Peg Puzzles are Sound Toys that provide varied visual, tactile, and auditory experiences and enhance motor and language skills. Fitting each puzzle piece in its proper place enhances motor development and rewards success with the appropriate sound. The pieces and their sounds enhance communication skills as the child identifies each piece and mimics the sound. Sharing the experience with an adult or older child provides further opportunity to hone cognitive and language skills, as the two engage in conversation about the puzzle and its components.
Sound & Light Toys offer both auditory and visual feedback. Although producing sound and light is the primary function of these toys, each requires the child to perform a task to elicit these responses, re-enforcing understanding of cause and effect and refining motor skills. Both Baby Buzz'r and the newer Busy Bee Baby Buzz'r are multi-sensory toys that not only light-up and sound off but also vibrate and provide phthalate-free teethable textured surfaces. Blinking lights, music, and vibration activate individually by easy on/easy off push buttons, allowing the child to experiment and figure out what happens when he presses the buttons. Eventually he will discover that he can control the functions, choosing a favorite, then adding another and another as he explores possibilities. The visual, auditory, and vibratory responses are gentle, and the vibrations cycle on and off to keep the child engaged.
Texture Toys provide opportunities to use touch to explore similarities and differences and to learn words to describe these characterisitics. Developing tactile discrimination skills enriches sighted children and lays the foundation for blind children to learn braille. Tangles, the ultimate universal playthings, feature a series of 90 degree curves interconnected to pivot 180 degrees at each joint. Just as a Tangle has no beginning and no end, there is no end to the pure delight children and adults alike experience when turning, twisting, bending and coiling a lightweight, portable Tangle. Playworks offers a variety of Tangles with texture, from the hard plastic Original with Texture to the Tangle Therapy with its soft, pliable coating and distinctive raised nodes. Their low impact motion relieves stress, strengthens finger muscles, and restores motion to joints. Teachers who use Tangles as a reward for children with autism report improved behavior: an increased calm and ability to cope with stressors that usually send them "over the edge" as well as increases in skill acquisition. Tangles invite manipulation and reward play with improved concentration and spatial relations and problem solving skills.
Children learn through play. Communications Toys enable children to develop cognitive and language skills, and foster creativity, planning and problem-solving. Quality play builds confidence and re-enforces a child's desire to explore and learn. Being able to communicate well enhances the play experience. The better a child is able to express his thoughts and feelings, the more likely he is to get along well with others. Acquiring social skills and becoming effective communicators are essential components of successful human development.
Emotional intelligence leads to more effective communications. The game Eggspressions helps children identify their feelings and develop problem solving skills while having fun. By sharing their feelings and working together, children figure out a happy solution to a challenge.
Oral motor skills are essential for eating and speech. Tooting, humming, whistling, and blowing toys exercise facial and oral muscles and encourage deep breathing and controlled blowing. Facial and oral massagers provide oral stimulation. Their low-intensity vibration calms and organizes sensory input. Jigglers, the only continuously "on" chewable oral facial massagers, turn on and off with a twist and come in two playful styles: a purple elephant and a green alligator.
The versatility of Multi-Purpose Toys enhances motor, language, and cognitive development. Bilibo is one such toy. Its unique shape and bright colors arouse curiosity and encourage experimentation. Children sit in and on, rock and spin, stand on top of, and hop and jump from one to another. One Bilibo can cradle a doll; a row of them can become a train or anything else a creative mind can imagine. Delightful to all,Bilibo is a favorite for special needs play. Low to the ground, Bilibo allows children to experiment safely with the effects of gravity, a feature particularly valuable to the blind and visually impaired.
Special Note Regarding Toy Safety
No two children are alike in their development, abilities, limitations, or personalities, and all these factors must be taken into account when choosing toys. What is appropriate and safe for one child may not be for another. Manufacturers label toys with small parts that pose potential choking hazards to children as being "not for children under 3 years old;" however, that does not mean the toy is, therefore, appropriate and safe for all children over the age of three. Those children, of any age, who continue to put everything in their mouths require special consideration. We urge you to consider carefully the children for whom you are purchasing and to purchase with their needs in mind.

contact them here

Why it is important to raise awareness about visual impairment

 My job involves raising awareness, providing information. Many people are frankly ignorant about what it means to be visually impaired. Only last week in London an example of gross ignorance about the visually impaired population hit the headlines when a police officer tasered a blind man, thinking he was carrying not a cane but a ‘sword’! You might say there is no excuse for such ignorance but I would say who is to inform these people?

Mr Farmer said, 'I thought I was going to be attacked by some hooligans. The next thing they fired a Taser at me, though I didn't know it was a Taser at the time.
'I just felt this thump in my back. As soon as the Taser hit me I hit the ground. I hit my head on the floor, then this policeman came around. I said "I'm blind, I'm blind. I'm blind".
'This policeman knelt on me and dragged my arms round my back and handcuffed me so tight I've had bruises since.'
Mr Farmer went on to say: 'I said "you're hurting me, I'm blind" - and there's no way he could not have seen my stick on the floor.
'I walk at a snail's pace. They could have walked past me, driven past me in the van, or said drop your weapon.
'They wouldn't even stop when I said I'm blind. I was absolutely terrified. I thought any second I'm going to have another stroke and this one will kill me.'
Lancashire constabulary Chief Superintendent Stuart Williams said police had received reports of a man carrying a samurai sword through Chorley.
'A description of the offender was circulated to officers and patrols were sent to look for the man,' he said.
'One of the officers who arrived in Chorley believed he had located the offender. Despite asking the man to stop, he failed to do so and the officer discharged his Taser.'

Tuesday 16 October 2012

Ocular Albinism, Diagnosis, and self-correcting a Squint

With albinism comes macular hypoplasia, strabismus, and iris transillumination. Sometimes a diagnosis of albinism is not made until very late. So it was in Michelle’s case. Here she explains how some of the symptoms of albinism were identified but a label of ocular albinism was never given to her eye condition.

What is more interesting is how Michelle learnt to control her strabismus (squint) and eventually corrected it herself. Here is a lesson for many of us. Simple eye exercises can sometimes reverse what to some becomes a permanent condition. 

Macular hypoplasia: pit of the macular that gives crystal clear detailed vision is missing so details are indistinct.
Iris transillumination: too much light gets in the eye through the iris and lowers contrast and reduces details. 
Strabismus: a medical term for squint, or an eye that turns to one side. 

Monday 15 October 2012

Ocular Albinism in an infant: A Mother discovers that Early Intervention can make all the difference between a child seeing or not seeing.

Still following the theme of ocular albinism one of the families I visit has twins. Both have OA although one of the twins has it more severely, so much so that up until five months of age he did not appear to be using his vision in any meaningful way, i.e. he did not fix or follow a target; he did not appear visually interested in anything around him.  Yet within virtually one month James has already started to show signs of being visually interested in his small world. Also mum only recently realised that she has also had the same condition to a lesser degree herself from birth.  I asked mum if she would kindly share her experiences and talk a little about the condition. In this post she does just that. For anonymity lets call her Michelle and her little boy James.  It’s a fascinating story of discovery, and especially demonstrates dramatically how effective early intervention can be with a young visually impaired child. 

It was a discovery for Michelle, who understood little of her own eye condition, and was not fully aware that she also had the condition. It was a discovery more importantly of the effectiveness of intervention in the visual development of babies who have a visual impairment. Just a few simple exercises every day can make significant difference to your child’s ability to see.  For James it is the difference between seeing and not seeing.  The eyes need stimulation if they are to develop and learn to see. While the eyes have all the equipment at birth seeing is a learnt skill. It is by no means automatic. And for those little children whose vision is poor at birth regular visual stimulation can make all the difference in the world. Enjoy. 

Tuesday 2 October 2012

Trauma of Transition to Secondary School for Visually Impaired Youngsters

The transition from Primary to Secondary Education can be traumatic for young people who have a visual impairment. There are loads more adults to cope with, a variety of lessons in all kinds of rooms, navigation throughout a large building, and a much larger volume of peers to deal with. Ignorance is the  greatest enemy. But the 'postcode lottery' of access arrangements and the wide range of inclusive practices, not to mention the major cutbacks in funding make it often a matter of chance as to whether YP will get the help and support they are entitled to. This clip from YouTube demonstrates this point clearly.