Easter Seals Presentation at CHOP Developmental Disabilities Conference

by Sandy Masayko

CHOP DD 5.12.17

Parent Laura Murphy and Easter Seals staff members Melissa Spada, Sandy Masayko and Joy McGowan (pictured in the photo) presented information about eye gaze technology for young children at the 41st Annual Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Developmental Disabilities Conference on May 12, 2017.

Laura gave a parent’s perspective on how using eye gaze technology promotes her daughter’s participation in an inclusive public educational program as well as in her family life.  Over the years Laura has seen her daughter Sara progress from using just a few symbols, to phrases, to a system with over 100 locations on the screen and the ability to use spelling and word prediction to write and communicate using a computer.

Melissa, Joy and Sandy have presented information on eye gaze technology previously, but the presentation is evolving as they work with more children and add children to their study. Including a parent in the presentation added a valuable long term perspective to consideration of eye gaze technology and how students can progress with this technology.

Easter Seals Joins Other Philly Agencies to Learn About Low Cost Adaptations

by Sandy Masayko

With support from a grant from the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, Temple University’s Institute on Disabilities has partnered with the Adaptive Design Association and community agencies in fabrication of adaptive equipment (seats, slant boards, wheel chair trays, mobility devices, etc.) from tri-wall cardboard.  Easter Seals supported the grant and is very pleased that three of our staff members are participating in the program.

Assistive Technology Specialist Laurie G. McGowan and Occupational Therapist Adrienne Krysiuk traveled to New York City in March for a one day introduction to the processes of making adaptive equipment. Cathleen Thompson, Occupational Therapist, completed the introductory training on another day. Now the three Easter Seals staff members are ready to participate in six additional training days in May and June to become expert at using this low cost material to fabricate adaptive equipment. The May and June sessions will take place at Philadelphia Woodworks in Manayunk.

We will have the opportunity to train another team in the summer.

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 From left: Rochelle Mendonca, Temple University Occupational Therapy Program, Deb DeVito, Elwyn and Laurie G. McGowan of Easter Seals worked together to learn how to assemble triwall into a seat.

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Adrienne Krysiuk checking out the Tippy Chair that she created with her team

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Example of a customized and personalized chair made by a team at the Adaptive Design Association.

For more information about the Adaptive Design Association, visit http://www.adaptivedesign.org/

Cinnamon-Scented Ornaments

by Alyssa Brief MS, OTR/L & Rachel Rosenblum MS OTR/L

Occupational Therapy activities can multiple therapeutic benefits…in addition to being fun! Below is wonderful activity that is sure to be a hit!

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Materials:

  1. 3/4 cup Applesauce
  2. 2 bottles of ground cinnamon (2.37 oz each)
  3. Parchment paper
  4. Ribbon or yarn
  5. Cookie cutters
  6. Toothpick

Directions:

Mix applesauce and cinnamon into a mixing bowl, stirring or kneading until material reaches dough consistency. Scoop out a handful of dough and place onto parchment paper on flat surface. Place another sheet of parchment paper over dough and flatten until dough is about 1/4″ thick. Peel top sheet off of dough and stamp cookie cutter into dough, peeling away the excess dough around the border. Use a toothpick to make a hole in dough towards top of ornament. Depending on thickness of dough, ornament will need at least 24 hours to dry into hardened ornament. Once dry, thread ribbon through the hole and tie a double knot at desired length.

Sensory benefits of activity: Using the spice of cinnamon stimulates the olfactory sense, or sense of smell. Kneading and flattening the dough provides tactile input through the sense of touch. It also provides opportunity to explore and discuss the texture if it feels sticky, smooth, wet, mushy, etc. Interacting with the dough provides a sensory-rich play experience.

Motor benefits of activity: Pouring in the ingredients works on using graded movements, or knowing how much force is needed to complete a task, to avoid spilling. Kneading and flattening the dough promotes fine motor hand and finger strengthening. Mixing the dough and stamping cookie cutters provide opportunities to use a variety of grasp patterns during functional tool use. Stabilizing the mixing bowl with one hand while stirring with the other encourages bilateral coordination, or using both hands to complete a task.

Cognitive benefits of activity: This activity requires completing steps in a certain order, or a sequence, in order to be complete. This can promote understanding of how a task can be completed start to finish, and can reinforce the concept of “first ___, then ____” while having fun!

Self-Care benefits of activity: A hand-washing routine can be incorporated in this activity such as before and after to work on this skill. Also the clean-up process provides an opportunity to practice cleaning up after oneself such as wiping the table or making a trip to the garbage.

Hope you enjoy!

Last Day in Australia

by Sandy Masayko

This is the final post from Australia and Sandy’s exploration and sharing of assistive technology

1332 stairs! That’s how many stairs my son and I climbed today on the Harbour Bridge Climb. It was a wonderful way to end my study tour in Australia: I now have the broad view of Australian services for people with disabilities! I treasure my many new acquaintances and I’ve seen a wide range of programs that have made me think about how we can adapt some of our programs in Pennsylvania.

  • Thank you to the National Office of Easterseals for selecting me for the study tour.
  • Thank you to Easterseals of SEPA for supporting my trip.
  • And thanks most of all to the hosts during my trip: Northcott, Rocky Bay and Ability Centre, affiliates of Ability First Australia.
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Special thanks to Northcott for the gift of the Bridge Climb passes.

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The Harbour Bridge is 134 meters (440 feet) high. We climbed through intermittent rain today for beautiful views of Sydney.

Sandy has shared her journey through a series of blog posts. You can read the first one here, the second here, the third here, the fourth here, the fifth here, the sixth here, the seventh here, the eighth here, the ninth here and the tenth here.

Finishing Up My Study Tour at Ability Centre in Perth

by Sandy Masayko

This is the tenth post in a series about assistive technology in Australia.

Ability Centre, as with the other two sites I visited, provides an extensive array of services for people with disabilities. My last day on my study tour included learning about a mix of supportive services: CP Tech, a workshop that constructs customized adapted equipment; Goodwill Engineering, an industrial workshop that employs people with disabilities; a meeting with Scott Langmead, a seating specialist in mobility for young children; and a meeting with Hillary Brand, principal of Sir David Brand School, an independent school that serves children with multiple disabilities. The school is not a part of Ability Centre, but the therapy services are provided by Ability Centre.

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Fraser Clarke showed me a computer-controlled drill that can form customized seating from a block of foam at CP Tech.

I climbed up into Fraser Clarke’s SUV for the 15 minute drive to Malaga, north of the Ability Centre’s location, where both CP Tech and Goodwill Engineering are housed in an industrial site. Fraser guided me on a tour of CP Tech, a facility that can fabricate all kinds of adapted equipment and seating. I saw a computer-controlled drill that is capable of forming a customized wheelchair cushion from a block of foam as well as the upholstery workshop and wheelchair repair stations. Goodwill Engineering is attached to CP Tech and looks like any factory although when you look closely you can see many people in wheelchairs at their workstations. The company produces building supplies such as the wires that stabilize brick walls.

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Goodwill Engineering is an industrial site run by Ability Centre that provides employment for people with disabilities.

Back at Ability Centre, I met with Scott Langmead and learned about his development of the Ability Centre’s Wizzy Bug fleet through grant funding. Scott came up with the idea to obtain the little powerchairs after taking a worldwide study tour several years ago and learning about these mobility devices on his trip. Scott has offered to share his paper describing his visits with mobility and seating experts from around the world. I shared some of our Go Baby Go resources with him.

My final visit was to the Sir David Brand School adjacent to the Ability Centre, but not a part of the Centre. Principal Hillary Palmer met with me and gave me a tour of the facilities. We enjoyed comparing and contrasting educational practices of Australia and the US. It seems that parents in Australia are less litigious than parents can be in the US. The school is identified as an independent school, similar to our charter schools in Pennsylvania. It is exclusively for students with multiple disabilities. Contracting with the Ability Centre for therapy services gives the school consistency in therapy staff, unlike some other schools that rely on numerous contractors.

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OT Maria White arranged for me to meet at the Ability Centre with a group of therapists interested in eye gaze technology for young children.

Two weeks can fly by. And that is what has happened with my study tour. It’s been an intense two weeks to meet so many generous people carrying out an amazing array of programs. I am very thankful to Easterseals National Office and Southeastern Pennsylvania for this opportunity. I would especially like to thank Maria White, Scott Langmead, Fraser Clarke, Catherine Greenway and Suzie Cowcher at the Ability Centre for the program that they arranged for me in the past two days, and I’d like to thank the clients for sharing their programs with me also. I hope that we will be able to keep in touch to continue to exchange ideas about programs to support people with disabilities

If you would like to read Sandy’s previous posts, you can find the first one here, the second here, the third here, the fourth here, the fifth here, the sixth here, the seventh here, the eighth here and the ninth here.

Ability Centre in Perth

by Sandy Masayko

This is Sandy’s ninth post in a series about assistive technology in Australia

Ability Centre in North Perth is the last site on my study tour of Ability First Australia affiliates. I continue to be warmly welcomed by my Australian colleagues. Each center that I have visited has had a broad range of programs and each has had some unique programs. At Ability Center, as with Rocky Bay and Northcott, accommodation for people with disabilities is a focus. The living arrangements vary but the old fashioned nursing home for people with disabilities is thing of the past here, having been replaced by small apartments and shared housing with support.

The unique programs at Ability Centre include access to an early mobility device call a Wizzybug. This is a powerchair designed for 1-4 year old children. Not available in the US, the Wizzy comes from the U.K. Ability Centre imports the mini powerchairs for Australians and maintains a fleet that children can trial and borrow. Here is what they look like:

Another unique program developed by Ability Centre therapists is a program to address sleep issues including temperature regulation and positioning during sleep. Using custom-designed bolsters and temperature control fabrics, the Sleep Solution teams can help their clients achieve restful sleep.

OT Maria White was very interested in Easterseals of SEPA’s work with eye gaze technology with young children. She invited a group of therapists from Ability Centre and from community agencies including the Independent Living Center in Perth and Edith Cowan University to hear my presentation of our AT Department study of eye gaze technology with young children. Some therapists participated from remote sites. The therapists asked many pertinent questions and shared their own experiences with implementing eye gaze technology.

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Maria White, in dark blue shirt on the right, organized a group to hear my presentation on eye gaze technology with young children.

I was very pleased to complete the day with therapists at Ability Centre by carrying out client observation and visits. We considered issues around teaching eye gaze technology to a child, adapting access for an adult eye gaze user, and adjusting environmental controls through a phone used by an adult with cerebral palsy and visual impairment. The clients were kind to let me participate in observing them work with their therapists, and all of us discussed alternatives that might make participating in their home and schools easier and more efficient for the clients.

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Speech Therapist Charlene Freedman coaching her young student in using eye gaze technology to select a song that she wants to hear.

Thank you to CEO Suzie Cowcher and Catherine Greenway, General Manager of Therapy and Health Services, for sharing with me their strategies for dealing with the changes in the marketplace, funding and customer relations through implementing prototypes of new systems. There is an Innovation Hub at Ability Centre that is providing leadership in change in the organization.

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Catherine Greenway and Suzie Cowcher

You can read Sandy’s first post in this series here, her second here, the third here, the fourth here, the fifth here, the sixth here, the seventh here and the eighth here.

Innovative Programs at Rocky Bay

by Sandy Masayko

This is the eighth post in a series about assistive technology in Australia

Rocky Bay has several innovative and unique programs. Today, February 21, I spent the day learning about the Community Refurbished Equipment services, Posture Tech, Assistive Technology & Milo, a talking robot who teaches children about emotions and feelings. Expansion of awareness and access to AT through development of AT Mentors in the state is another unique program at Rocky Bay that I heard about.

Refurbished Equipment & Posture Tech

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AT Manager Cheryl Lockland discusses inventory with Ken, the warehouse manager of Community Refurbished Equipment.

Have you ever wondered what happens with used equipment once a person no longer needs it? At Rocky Bay, wheelchairs, bath seats, walking devices and more are refurbished so that they look like new. The devices are available for purchase at about half the cost of what a new item might cost. Look at the photo above to see just a portion of the equipment that is available for people to purchase.

At another Rocky Bay program, Posture Tech, technicians and upholstery specialists can customize and repair equipment to meet individual needs as recommended by therapists. Posture Tech has a complete workshop including a robotically controlled saw that can cut out cushions to match the postural needs of individuals. Posture Tech even has a van and can make calls in the community for repairs and adaptations.

New AT in Australia

Acquiring new Assistive Technology can be challenging for Australians because some items are not released in Australia when they are released in the US. Two examples are the Google Home and the Liftware Steady spoon. At the request of Rocky Bay OT Kelvin Kong, I brought these two devices to Perth so that Kelvin could get a head start in trying them out to be prepared when they are available in the Australian market.

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Kelvin Kong investigates his new AT from the United States at a team meeting.

After presenting the items to Kelvin and the Rocky Bay therapists, I had a discussion with the therapists about the challenges of funding for equipment and services in the US. The therapists are curious about ways to manage funding requests, which may be similar to insurance proposals in the US with the implementation of the National Disability Insurance Scheme in Australia.

Milo the Talking Robot

Another unique program at Rocky Bay is the use of Milo, a talking robot who has the ability to demonstrate facial expressions and to teach children how to interpret emotions. He also can provide strategies for appropriate responses in social situations. Milo is used in conjunction with speech therapy sessions twice a week for a period of 10 weeks. Rocky Bay is researching the effectiveness of this tool. The pilot study indicates that the outcomes are positive.

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Speech Therapist Lauren Constantine and Children’s Program Manager Mai Welsh demonstrated Milo’s ability to teach the meaning of facial expressions and appropriate behavioral responses.

AT Mentors

An additional innovative program at Rocky Bay is a training program for community members to become AT mentors in a nationally accredited certificate programs. The eight participants are being coached by Rocky Bay AT Specialists to provide guidance to community members on the wide array of AT that is available to enhance function. Because the state of Western Australia is about a third of the size of the US, with a population about the size of Chicago, serving people in remote areas is a challenge. By establishing community liaisons who can mentor people who might benefit from technology, Rocky Bay is increasing access to AT for residents of Western Australia.

Sharing with Colleagues

One of the most important aspects of this study tour has been sharing ideas and strategies with other managers of AT Services. Cheryl Lockwood, Manager of AT, and Linda Chiu, Director of Clinical Services have been generous with their time and expertise.

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Cheryl Lockwood, Sandy Masayko & Linda Chiu at a restaurant overlooking the Indian Ocean.

Finishing Up at Rocky Bay

After two days at Rocky Bay, I will finish up in the morning by visiting community living arrangements with Kylie Murphy, Director of Leisure and Independence. Rocky Bay has a wide range of accommodation options for people with disabilities in new apartments and shared housing. It appears that people with disabilities have many more options for accommodations in Australia compared to the US.

Thank You Rocky Bay!

Thank you for the well-planned visit, tours and discussions. I am especially grateful to CEO Michael Tait, Executive Assistant Sally Connor, AT Manager Cheryl Lockwood, Clinical Services Director Linda Chiu, and Leisure and Independence Director Kylie Murphy. I will not forget your kindness and your generosity.

You can read Sandy’s first post here, her second post here, her third post here, the fourth post here, the fifth here, sixth here and finally the seventh here.