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Low-tech and no tech ways to increase participation.

"Can I play, too?" "Can I help?" "Can I try that now?" The need to join in a shared experience with others is fundamental. Preschool children enthusiastically "help" Mom or Dad with chores because the sense of acceptance and accomplishment from working together is so rewarding. As children get older, friends, school programs and social organizations provide camaraderie and challenge for personal growth. We never outgrow the need to be accepted by others, to participate in group activities and to be recognized and respected for our efforts.

For children with severe disabilities, these basic psychological needs may be overshadowed by the enormity of their physical and/or medical needs. Yet, with a little creative effort, parents and teachers can give these children what they need and deserve -- active and productive lives.

A number of excellent books (see Sources below) contain imaginative ideas and practical how-to information on the use of switches, interfaces and adaptive devices to involve children with disabilities in everyday activities. As a speech/language pathologist, I have seen children successfully use a number of these "high-tech" ideas in our functional communication program. In response to budget constraints and parents' requests, I've also discovered a number of "1ow-tech" and "no tech" ways to allow our students to participate in domestic, recreational and social activities at home, using materials that are inexpensive and easy to find.

Even if your child requires total hand-over-hand assistance in the activities listed below, he or she will enjoy your attention, encouragement and praise as you work as a "team" to complete a chore or dabble in crafts. In addition, the activities can provide your child with benefits relating to IEP, OT and PT goals: increasing awareness of self and others; recognizing cause-and-effect; strengthening visual skills and attention; making choices; following directions; increasing receptive and expressive communication; strengthening grasp; extending reach; and working on such pre-vocational tasks as matching and sorting. Here are some fun ways for your child to become a "helper" around the house.

Wish you had personalized stationery? A file-folder "jig" and a self-inking stamper will help your child stamp envelopes and stationery in the right place. To make the "jig," put an envelope inside a folder against the crease; mark on the folder where the address should go, then use an X-acto blade to cut a "window" in the front of the folder. Your child, alone or with help, will insert an envelope into the folder, close it, then stamp in the "window." Markings inside the file folder may help your child place the envelope properly. A similar "jig" can be made for personalizing writing paper.

Do you like to give gifts with the personal touch?

1. Slice raw fruits and vegetables in half, stick in a fork or pencil (builtup if needed) to serve as a handle, and provide colorful washable-ink stamp pads so your child can make stamped greeting cards, gift tags, wrapping paper, paper place mats or book covers. A mushroom, apple or onion can make some neat designs ! 2. Try stenciling. Use rubber bands to attach thin sponge rubber to the ends of a thick dowel. Tape a stencil in place; cover the design areas not being stenciled with masking tape. Dip a sponge end in acrylic paint, dab off excess on a thick paper towel, then stencil the design. A small fan or hair dryer with a switch and appropriate interface can be used to dry these projects.

Both activities provide numerous opportunities for choice-making and following oral directions.

Need help setting the table? Your child can carry a flatware caddy and napkin holder to the table, or might hand you the items you need as you name them or point to a picture on a "mini" language board (see "Mini" Communication Boards, EP, July/August 1992). A good socializing activity: Ask your child to give a napkin to Dad, brother, etc. You can increase awareness of others and elicit a yes or no response by asking your child, "Does Dad have a fork?," etc.

And the list goes on and on ...

Page through discount mail order catalogs such as Lillian Vernon, Miles Kimball and Harriet Carter (see Sources below). Browse through the housewares department of your local discount department store. Take a look through your own closets, cabinets and basement. You'll be surprised what potentially useful items are lurking right under your nose. Don't be discouraged if something about an item isn't quite right. Handles can be made longer or wider with dowels or sawed-off broom handles. Objects can be stabilized with C-damps, wooden bases, modeling clay or vinyl place mats. And never underestimate the amazing versatility of VELCROTM.


For books published by AbleNet, order by mail or call: AbleNet Inc., 1081 10th Avenue SE, Minneapolis, MN 55414, (800) 322-0956.

* Selection and Use of Simple Technology in Home, School, Work, and Community Settings by Jackie Levin, M .A., and Lynn Scherfenberg, RPT, $24.00.

* Fun for Everyone by Jackie Levin, M.A., and Kathy Enselein, B.S., $24.00.

* Video: Growing Up Capable, $24.00. (All prices include $4.00 s/h.)

To order books by Linda J. Burkhart, write 6201 Candle Court, Eldersburg, MD 21784 or call (401) 795-4561.

* Homemade Battery-Powered Toys and Educational Devices for Severely Handicapped Children, $7.50.

* More Homemade Battery Devices for Severely Handicapped Children with Suggested Activities, $14.00.

* Using Computers and Speech Synthesis to Facilitate Communicative Interaction with Young and/or Severely Handicapped Children, $24.95 (plus $4.00 s/h).

Useful equipment available from these and other mail-order sources:

* Harriet Carter, Dept. 31, North Wales, PA 19455. Call (215) 361-5151 for a free catalog.

* Miles Kimball, 41 West Eighth Ave., Oshkosh, WI 54906. Write for a free catalog.

* Lillian Vernon, Virginia Beach, VA 23479. Call (914) 633-6300 for a free catalog.

Patricia L. Mervine is a speech/language pathologist in Bucks County, Pa. She lives in Langhorne, Pa., with her husband, Lance, and son, Gregg, 10. She has had two articles published in EP (June & July/August 1992).
COPYRIGHT 1992 EP Global Communications, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Technology Bulletin Board; ways to let your handicapped child help around the house
Author:Mervine, Patricia L.
Publication:The Exceptional Parent
Date:Sep 1, 1992
Previous Article:She ain't broke!
Next Article:I Wish ... Dreams and Realities of Parenting a Special Needs Child.

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