Inspiring, Differently Abled Singaporeans

Welcome to Irisada‘s blog. We focus on solutions and awareness for families living with differently-abled loved ones so they can live life to the fullest.

At Irisada, we meet a lot of differently-abled Singaporeans. Few of them make it into the public eye and the lack of representativity of differently-abled individuals means we sometimes forget how successful they can be. So we wanted to take the time to write about successful, differently abled Singaporeans.

Singaporean Olympians and Para-Athletes

When we were brainstorming, the first group that really stood out was the Olympians. In a few minutes, we had totalised no less than six amazing athletes, most of whom you’ve probably already heard of.

Singapore’s Paralympic Team for Rio 2016 (Photo Credit: Sport Singapore)

Two names often pop to mind: swimmers Yip Pin Xiu and Theresa Goh. Both are wheelchair users (muscular dystrophy and spina bifida), but both make us look slow in a swimming pool. Theresa Goh’s weekly swimming distance is no less than 41km, which is probably as far as some of us will ever swim in our lifetime.

When they aren’t in the pool, they continue to surprise and impress us. Yip Pin Xiu co-authored and published a children’s book in 2017, called The Mermaid who Became a Champion. The story recounts her own life in a cute, relatable way and can inspire kids everywhere to reach for excellence.

Meanwhile, Theresa Goh has become a vocal activist for the LGBTQ+ community in Singapore. Her very open and honest portrayal of her own journey out of the closet can help all types of abled and disabled Singaporeans in the process of figuring out their own identities. Here’s a great video interview she did for Dear Strait People in 2017 and you can check out her Instagram account for more updated posts.

Photo Credit: Pink Dot SG

Other Athletes You May Know

Of course, Singapore boasts many Para-athletes. A few examples:

  • Laurentia Tan was the first Singaporean to earn a Paralympic medal (and the first Asian to win equestrian medals at the Paralympics). She initially took up horse riding as a form of physiotherapy for cerebral palsy.
  • Tan Hun Boon, who learned to peddle with one leg after an accident left him amputated, has become more and more open about sharing his story.
  • Jason Chee, a navy serviceman who suffered a major accident, leading to the amputation of both his legs and one arm. Less than one year after the accident he was already winning medals in para table-tennis. With his non-dominant hand.
  • There’s also Shariff Abdullah, also known as “Blade Runner”. He regularly raises money for Club Rainbow, an organisation dedicated to children suffering from long-term illnesses.
Artists, Entrepreneurs and More

Of course, Singapore isn’t just all about sports. Differently-abled Singaporeans can be harder to find because no one’s pinning gold medals on their t-shirts. Most of them are living what they consider to be pretty ordinary lives. Some don’t even mention their disabilities. Here are a few Singaporeans you might not have heard of.

Lily Goh, who founded Extraordinary Horizons, is a deaf Singaporean who set up her social enterprise to help deaf and hard of hearing children discover and interpret music as well as other art forms. She was awarded the 2014 Singapore Woman Award and continues to develop links between deaf and non-deaf cultures. Here’s a song that that Singaporean indie band Black Forest wrote and performed with Extraordinary Horizons.

Chng Seok Tin is a renowned and acclaimed artist, who continued to produce art after a severe accident and multiple surgeries led her to lose most of her vision. She paints, sculpts, writes and much much more. Her very personal artform continues to engage with audiences worldwide. She has held no less than 30 solo exhibitions and has received several awards in her lifetime. Check out her website to see her beautiful artwork.

Jim Bek, whose incredible life-tale of losing his sight and his family members will leave you speechless, has now become a renowned counsellor. He’s one of the unsung heroes of Singapore, helping others grow and thrive around him. He also takes an active stance in denouncing a form of “anti-disabled” prejudice he perceives in Singaporean culture.

It’s Not Over

Of course, these are famous Singaporeans. At least famous enough to have become part of popular culture or be featured in the media every now and again. There are plenty of others around you, working hard and doing things they love.

Everyone’s out on their own journey (Photo credit: PIRO4D, Pixabay)

So-called “disabled” Singaporeans contribute to making Singapore the vibrant city it is. We wanted to sign off with an organisation that helps some of them express themselves as artists.  The Mouth and Foot Painting Artists is an international organisation that believes in “self-help, not charity.” The fact that the artists don’t paint with their hands brings them together, but when you look at their artwork, that’s not what you’ll be thinking about. You may also remember Kenny, an autistic teenager from one of our previous articles, who sells his artwork on The Everyday Revolution. These differently-abled artists are already sharing their vision of the world. And that’s what makes society stronger and richer.

If you know of people we should feature, don’t forget to shout out!

Adaptive Fashion: How to Find Clothes That Reflect Who You Are

Welcome to Irisada‘s blog. We focus on solutions and awareness for families living with differently-abled loved ones so they can live life to the fullest.

Adaptive fashion is a subject we’ve wanted to write about for months. The fashion industry constantly seems on the cusp of taking a big leap. We thought we’d soon have a “one size fits all” set of solutions to cover. Unfortunately, it seems the market is still fragmented and complicated. As we wait for the fashion industry to develop more offers, let’s have a look at what’s out there already.

What is Adaptive Fashion?

One of the reasons this one size fits all solution isn’t forthcoming is the sheer number of variations in body types. Are we talking about physically disabled wheelchair users or kids with heightened sensory perception who can’t stand the contact of certain materials on their skin? Elderly people with Parkinson’s who struggle to close shirt buttons? Adults who wear diapers? People in wheelchairs? Blind people, who can’t tell whether their clothes are the right way up or not? People who live with feeding tubes? Adults and children with missing limbs? Small people?

And the answer is: potentially, all of these and more. Recent estimates consider that 15% of the world’s population has a physical or mental disability. That’s 1.2 billion adults and kids. So next time you’re looking for adaptive clothing, remember, you are NOT alone. Combined, all these people have $2.1 trillion in spending power. The fashion industry is starting to take note.

Great! Who sells Adaptive Fashion

That being said, very few brands have launched full-blown collections. An online search will pull up mostly medical looking clothes designed by well-meaning professionals who think about convenience before style. But differently-abled kids and adults want more. They want to look and feel good. They want their clothes to express who they are. And they are sick of sweat-pants.

Before giving you a few brands and tips for choosing adapted clothing, we’d like to share Mindy Scheier’s inspiring TED talk about what lead her to research and prototype adaptive clothing, and ultimately founding The Runway of Dreams Foundation. She’s approached the fashion industry with her revolutionary ideas and has already had considerable impact.

 

Where can I Buy Adaptive Fashion?

If you’re looking for something related to physical differences, one well-established brand with an adaptive fashion collection exists: Tommy Hilfiger. The Spring 2018 Adaptive Collection should cater to your needs. But if you don’t live in the United States, you might have trouble coming by these specific clothes.

Sometimes adaptive clothing is “hidden” in the mainstream sections, like Nike’s FlyEase shoes. The brand designed them after a teenager with cerebral palsy wrote, explaining that shoelaces were a real struggle with his condition.

Tommy Hilfiger is making a colourful splash in the adaptive wear industry (Photo Credit: Tommy Hilfiger)

If your needs are more specifically for issues linked to neurologically atypical kids (and adults), you’ll want to look at a brand like Special Kids Company. They sell body suits (with or without gastric tube access), as well as adapted bibs (for older kids) and special socks with adorable hoops to help pull them up. As for adults with similar needs, ABLDenim has a few trousers and shorts catering to kids and adults with sensory issues.

What About Smaller Brands and One-Off products?

Some of the things to look out for are products that have any of the following features:

  • Clothing with magnetic closures rather than zips and buttons as they are usually easier to manoeuvre. A famous pioneer is MagnaReady, founded by Maura Horton after looking for solutions to her husband’s advancing Parkinson’s disease.
  • Adjusted materials and cuts, especially for wheelchair users. ABLDenim‘s jeans are a good place to start shopping.
  • Waistbands and internal hemming systems that allow for trousers legs to be adjustable to the shape of the body (especially for people with missing limbs or in wheelchairs). This is one of the focus points Mindy Scheier worked on.
  • Alternative ways to put the piece of clothing on (forwards rather than backwards, for example).
  • Slip-on shoes. Many lace-ups can become almost slip-on thanks to add-ons like Quick Shoelace (Hervé, who we spoke to a few months ago, loves them)
  • On a more specific note: if you’re looking to keep hearing devices on kids, here is a previous article we wrote on the subject.
Some last thoughts

While we were researching this subject we came across so many smart, funny and articulate people, here’s another video we wanted to share. Sinéad Burke is a 105 centimetres (or three foot five inches) tall, Dublin-based teacher, PhD student and fashion blogger. She spoke at the 2017 VOICES convention, a yearly fashion industry gathering.

In Conclusion

We tried to keep this article practical and mainstream. There are many designers out there, like Camila Chiriboga and Izzy Camilleri, and Parson’s School of Design has an Open Style Lab specialised in developing trendy fashion for specific adaptive needs. But most of us can’t get a tailored made piece of clothing or don’t aspire to wear high fashion. So let’s hope more options will continue to develop so everyone can shop according to their tastes.

Thanks for reading and keep reaching out with questions and comments.

New On The Block: Elf Centre and Knoctify

Welcome to Irisada‘s blog. We focus on solutions and awareness for families living with differently-abled loved ones so they can live life to the fullest.

At Irisada, we love discovering new initiatives in Singapore. Today we want to share promising new organisations dedicated to responding to needs in the deaf and hard of hearing world. The first is the Elf Care Centre, an after-school daycare programme catering to deaf and hard of hearing children. They are brand new and unique in Singapore. On a different subject, Embodied Sensing is a tech start-up that has developed products specially adapted to deaf and hard of hearing adults.

We spoke to Christina Lim, founder of the Elf Centre and Kian Peen, co-founder of Embodied Sensing, to find out more about their goals and approach.

The Elf Centre: Giving Deaf and Hard of Hearing Kids the same Support 

Christina’s daughter was born deaf and finding the best way to help her learn was an uphill struggle. “Deaf kids usually have the same cognitive ability to learn,” says Christina. But they often accumulate delays, due to difficulties interacting during their early learning years.

And says Christina, “there are no structures that give them the specific support they need.” Christina had noticed that even in the best of cases, deaf and hard of hearing children would be mixed with other special needs kids. This didn’t seem like the best environment considering their challenges were essentially around communication.

A fun outing to Kidzania with kids at Elf. Everything was explained to them in sign language.

What’s more, Christina had noticed two other needs regarding homework-related activities. First, these kids often have a backlog of delays to struggle with if they are to catch up with their peers. So they need a safe place where they can put in the extra work. But very few places are capable of accompanying oral kids and none cater to those who sign.

This brings us to the second point. Not all parents of deaf kids can sign well enough to help them with their homework. Considering most deaf and hard of hearing kids are born into hearing families, some of them don’t have fluent signers at home to interact with. And that’s a huge difference compared to their hearing peers, who can easily access adults who use the same (oral) language.

Helping them Learn How to Learn

This is what Elf is all about. Opening up a centre that can help all these kids “build a firm pre-primary and primary school foundation to prepare them for the academic and social requirements of adulthood in Singapore”. The after-school is modelled on the bilingual Mayflower School, where two teachers simultaneously work with kids in sign and oral languages.

At Elf, children can get both oral and sign language support to learn in the best possible way and at their own pace. Christina says “we stress that each child learns differently, so academic performance is not our top priority.

After a kite-flying outing in April. The adult on the right is the sign language teacher at Elf.

So what is their top priority? “We aim to build the confidence level of each individual child so that they are able to grow up independent learners as they progress,” says Christina.

At the moment, the centre can accommodate 8-10 students. Elf is looking to expand, with a Kindergarten/ Pre-school program in the morning and Family Sign Classes (July 2018). If you or someone you know is interested in finding out more, you can contact them here: 8202 7065.

Knoctify: Adaptive Technology for Deaf Households

Embodied Sensing is launching Knoctify, a new product, specially designed to help deaf and hard of hearing people know when important sounds require their attention. The idea is simple: replace common sounds (like a doorbell or someone knocking on the door), with light or vibrations. In fact, the name Knoctify comes from the merger between the words “knock” and “notify”.

So how does it work? The doorbell sensor includes a physical button and a sensor that recognizes door knocks. When this sensor is triggered, it wirelessly sends a signal to a Knoctify receiver which provides multiple feedback outputs in the form of light, sound and/or vibration to the user.

Kian Peen concludes: “when someone knocks on the door, a LED light on the receiver flashes brightly to help capture the attention of a person who may be deaf, heard of hearing, or even someone who is in a loud and noisy environment.” And should you want to be alerted at night, you can use the vibrating receiver under your pillow. Knoctify is completely wireless and runs on batteries, making it easy to deploy anywhere in the house.

Knoctify: Beta Testing and Production

Kian Peen has been working on this project since 2016. He has beta tested it within the deaf and hard of hearing community in Singapore and adapted many elements according to their feedback. For example, users can customise output for each type of situation and the device is palm-sized, making it small enough for travelling.

The purple light flashes when someone knocks on the door (photo credit: Isabelle Lim)

The next steps once this first sensor will be on the market is to develop additional sensors. “We are planning for other sensors to add to the Knoctify product family, like a sound sensor which can be placed near a fire/smoke alarm, an alarm clock sensor, a telephone sensor etc.” So it seems Knoctify is just the beginning of the adventure.

Manufacturing has started and the first shipments arrive in July. Preorders start in June, so keep your eyes peeled. You can sign up to be informed when sales start on their official website.

 

We hope this article was useful to our Singapore based readers. Let us know if you think we should feature other initiatives and products relevant to specific communities.

 

Tips and Practical Objects when Flying with A Sensory Child

Welcome to Irisada‘s blog. We focus on solutions and awareness for families living with differently-abled loved ones so they can live life to the fullest.

The summer vacations are upon us and many families will be travelling. Taking planes – or trains and cars – with kids is always exhausting. But if your kids happen to have heightened sensory needs, it might feel impossible. So we dug up some tips and handy accessories to help you. Some of these things might even be useful for your neuro-typical kids too. After all, even rational, sensible adults can get overwhelmed in an airport or a long-distance flight.

Tip 1: Factor in Rest and Extra Time

Sometimes when travelling, we want to get it all over as soon as possible. How many of us book absurdly early flights and tell ourselves we’ll sleep on the flight or deal with the added fatigue? Be kind to yourself. If you know each trip is going to be difficult for you and your child, factor this in.

Try to choose flight times that fit into your daily schedule. Make sure your child has had time to nap the days preceding the flight. And keep a few days to relax and rest after the flight. You don’t need to head straight out on adventures before your little one has had time to regain their bearings in their new environment.

Tip 2: Prepare them by Visualising the Trip

Many children get over-excited, stressed or stimulated in environments they are not familiar with. Why not walk your child through the experience the day before heading out to the airport? You could use online images to explain what an airport looks like, all the stages you’ll have to go through and what the final destination will be.

Airport hustle and bustle are easier to cope with if your kid understands what’s going on (photo credit: Skitterphoto on Pixabay)

The more your child understand why each step is necessary, the better their coping skills. Many parents just use search engines to find images, but some airports have special programs to allow kids to discover an airport before actually flying.

Tip 3: Noise Cancelling Headphones

If your child is sensitive to noise, you’ll probably want to bring along noise cancelling headphones. Other kids might also feel better with them on: they won’t get stressed out by all the hubbub and announcements and chances are they will sleep more on the flight.

If you’re looking for a pair, we have two different sets, the Califone’s traditional red noise-cancelling headphones, and their cute animal headphones.

Tip 4: Bring All Your Calming Gear and Habits

Helping your child find his or her bearings will help keep them calm. If your child is soothed by heavy objects, pack one into your carry-on. A heavy book might be enough, or a weighted blanket might do the trick. Other kids enjoy vibrating objects or pillows. You might want to look into something like the Senseez pillows, like these cute, plush, vibrating pillows.

Senseez Pillows are a good example of handy objects for sensory kids (photo credit: Senseez)

Don’t forget to use good old fashioned hugs, hand presses and joint compressions. Small things and physical contact can help reassure your child while passing on your calm energy.

Tip 5: Find Ways to Keep Them Active

It might not feel like there are many opportunities to keep kids active in an airport setting, but simple games can do the trick. Once you’ve passed security, you can play games in the seating area. Count how many times your child can stand up and sit down in one minute. Count the cracks and the lines on the floor. Keep repeating these kinds of games until you’ve had enough.

Also, take as many stairs as you can. The more you move, the more your child will be tired and occupied. This varies for each child of course, but many children get fidgety in airport settings.

Speaking of fidgeting, if you bring along your fidget toys, your little ones will have their hands occupied. We have quite a few for sale, our favourites are this Tangle Therapy fidget, this multi-side fidget ring and these spikey sensory bracelets. Find whatever works for your kids.

Last but not least in this section: you can, of course, bring along games and colouring books and screens and any type of distraction your child enjoys. 

Tip 6: Food and Chewing

If your child has chewing needs or gets peckish (sometimes these are related, sometimes not!), make sure to have food in your carry on luggage. We have cool chewelry and chew sticks you can check out. Most kids, even those without specific sensory needs, love a lollypop or a sweet during take-off and it’s a good way to relieve ear pressure. Some prefer chewing gum, which is another alternative.

There are many chewable toys out there, like this Chew Stixx (Credit: Chew Stixx)

Tip 7: Try to Enjoy Your Flight Too

Don’t forget to also take care of yourself. Many kids mimic or mirror their parents because they empathise with adults around them. Remember, you can’t plan for everything and try to make the most of your vacations.

 

We hope these tips will help. Don’t foget to comment below with additional ideas and experience.

What Happens When Neuro-Typical and Neuro-Atypical Kids Mix

Welcome to Irisada‘s blog. We focus on solutions and awareness for families living with differently-abled loved ones so they can live life to the fullest.

When a neuro-atypical kid enters a room full of neuro-typical peers, most parents hold their breath. We worry that somehow, their differences will make getting along difficult. As parents of either type of child, we definitely want them to make friends. So how can we, as adults and parents, help?

When we started out on this post, we were hoping for powerful one-liners we could say to our neuro-typical or neuro-atypical kids. We contacted Niamh Daniels, mother to Essie, a 6-year-old child with Down Syndrome, and Wei Ling Lee, a teacher at Kindle Garden, an inclusive pre-school in Singapore. The more they answered our questions, the more we realised the answers are usually simpler than we expected.

See the World Through the Eyes of a Child

When Niamh talks about Essie’s relationships with her peers, she admits that she’s often more worried than is necessary. As a toddler, Essie blended in well with other children, none of them seemed to notice anything different about her. “Now she is 6 and differences are more obvious to them,” she says, before adding “I have realized, however, that I sometimes project this difference onto both Essie and her peers.

Niamh tells a story that we can all empathise with: during Essie’s first week at school, Niamh felt a kind of trepidation. She wanted to see how other kids would react to Essie in a school setting. When a boy approached Essie, Niamh was subconsciously holding her breath, wondering what would happen next. And he just asked her to play tag. Simple as that.

“It was a moment I will never forget as it reminded me to stop putting Down Syndrome first,” she says. The two children still play together every morning. “He has asked me how old Essie is, but other than he has never ever brought up anything about Essie being different – it is obviously not something that interests him!” she concludes. 

Kids are more interested in playing than knowing if one of them is different. Photo credit: HaiRobe on Pixabay

Wei Ling shares similar insight, describing neuro-typical kids interacting with differently abled pupils at school. “They do not treat them any differently than their peers but they do seem a bit lost at times when interacting with them for the first few times as some of them might be unable to respond appropriately to social interactions.”

So it seems the first conclusion is: let kids be kids, and you’ll notice they don’t care about these differences as long as they can play together.

Show Them By Example

Of course, this doesn’t mean they have nothing to learn. Wei Ling goes on to explain that the neuro-typical kids do notice the differences. At Kindle Garden,  “the teachers and staff play a big role and have to be conscious of how they speak and interact with children with added needs as the other children often take them as role models.” When all the adults treat these children with respect, their neuro-typical peers do the same.

A good way of nurturing the right kinds of attitudes is to develop empathy. This mindset is a powerful tool, that teachers use, not just to help kids with different abilities get along better, but even among neuro-typical children. “We highlight strengths and teach children that all of them have different areas they are stronger at and there are areas that each of them might need help with.” She also adds that discussions and collective problem solving helps promote a “growth mindset”.

This doesn’t mean everything’s always easy. “We do have some instances where children with Down Syndrome get frustrated,” she concedes. But the other kids are well equipped to react. “They learn how to communicate with them or how to seek help, like approaching a teacher or leaving them to calm down.”

Sometimes we project our own fears onto kids. Photo credit Free-Photos and Pixabay

Essie is also in a school with neuro-typical kids. Niamh thinks that one of the reasons she has been able to adapt so well is that she has always been used to routines. As the youngest of three, “she has had to learn to share from a very young age.” Today, “if Essie is told it is her turn next, or in 2 minutes, she understands – she may stomp her feet and get a bit huffy – but she doesn’t melt down and collapse in a tantrum.”

Give Everyone a Chance to Succeed

Niamh wants Essie to achieve her full potential. That’s one of the reasons she wanted her daughter to be in a mixed school setting. And with two other daughters, she has to cater to everyone’s needs and abilities.

When she first told her eldest daughter that Essie had Down Syndrome, they had a very striking exchange. Her daughter said “Oh, well I’m not going to help you,” to which Niamh replied, “You don’t have to help, that’s my job as her Mummy.” At the time, of course, Niamh was crushed, but she had actually managed to reassure her eldest daughter. Knowing she would have her own space to grow, she started asking her teachers about Down Syndrome and came to view it as “something that made her sister special, in a good way.”

At Kindle Garden, each child has their own learning path. No one has to wait for another child to understand something before the whole class can move on. This is positive both for the kids, who know that doing well doesn’t mean conforming and for their parents. “They are often reassured when we tell them that each child is always at their own pace.”

Giving each child the space to grow at their pace is key. Photo credit: Bess-Hamiti and Pixabay

The pre-school works to create a sense of community. “We have lots of family-school events where parents are invited to showcases or family school activities into their child’s classroom and this helps parents understand other children with needs -and also their abilities,” says Wei.

Kids First, Disability Second

For Wei, after working with children on a one to one basis, she loves seeing all these children in an inclusive environment, learning and playing together. She adds: “it is truly enriching and I feel very fortunate to witness growth in all of them daily!”

And when Niamh’s second daughter recently explained Down Syndrome to her class, she ended the presentation with the words: “at the end of the day, she is just my annoying little sister.” Her message was that Essie is her sister, who happens to have Down Syndrome, and not a child with Down Syndrome who happens to be her sister.

Says Niamh, “the wonderful thing about all children is that they rarely notice differences – kids are looking for other kids to connect with, make friends and have fun.” This is her biggest takeaway as a parent of a child that is different.

 

When to Opt For Cochlear Implants As A Deaf or HOH Adult

Irisada is an online platform dedicated to solutions for differently abled people. We also strive to build awareness in our communities and encourage discussion. Previous articles on hearing loss have been aimed at (hearing) parents of hard of hearing and deaf children. Articles have included: diagnosis, choosing a language to communicate in (part I and part II), keeping devices on kids, sports and activities and cochlear implants on children.

After doing a piece on the tough decision parents face when deciding whether or not to go forward with CI surgery, we wanted to take some time to address the same question for adults. So we spoke with Celeste Torres from Costa Rica, who got her cochlear implants aged 22, and Naama Tsach, PhD, from the American Cochlear Implant Alliance. We asked them about their experience with CI.

When is a Time to Consider CIs?

If you’ve come to this article, you probably have reason to believe CIs are the next step for you. Either because your hearing aids just aren’t strong enough or because you want to experience the hearing world as close as possible to a hearing person. If it’s getting harder and harder to partake in social events and you can’t hear your family in intimate settings, then maybe you’re considering cochlear implants.

As you discuss this with your doctors, you’ll want to ask about success rates in relation to your type of hearing loss and your geographical area, operation risks, (we mentioned some of them here), insurance and how long you’ll need to be operational at work again.

I’m About To Buy the Most Powerful Hearing Aid on the Market

In that case, Naama advises also checking if you are eligible for CI. She says some patients are continually readjusting hearing aids, which can be very frustrating, without realising that a more powerful option is available to them.

 Also, as technology evolves, people who didn’t qualify a couple of years ago might now be eligible. “If you were rejected from being approved as a CI candidate two years ago, you may find out that today you would be a perfect candidate”, she says.

Many people decide to get CIs to better interact with their families (photo credit: Pixabay)

Does Late Implantation Mean I will not be able to Benefit from CIs? 

Absolutely not, though there are different types of cases. For adults who were born deaf, or lost their hearing at a young age, the experience will be different than adults who lost their hearing later on in life.

Celeste was not implanted as a child, because the technology wasn’t adapted to her condition at the time. Aged 19, she found out she was eligible and started considering the operation.  “I met other people, kids and adults, having success with their implants, and the idea of having one began to take root,” she says. Since the implant, her ability to interact with the hearing world has considerably improved.

How Long Will I Take to Adapt to My Implants and How Much Auditory Rehabilitation Will I need?

It all depends. People who lost their hearing later in life will learn how to use their cochlear implants faster. “People who used to hear before, have a large amount of spontaneous auditory learning based on their previous auditory experience,” says Naama. She stresses that they won’t recover “normal hearing” like they had before the implants but in general they will benefit from significantly improved hearing.

It’s important to go in knowing this, so as to not be disappointed by unrealistically high expectations. Rather, “they will be able to get sufficient auditory skills to have good communication in everyday life and to enjoy hearing.” Overall, she underlines how relieved these people are to recover their natural communication methods and hear again.

Others, like Celeste, who had pre-lingual deafness, get best results with more intensive and individualised auditory training, usually provided by Speech and Language Therapist.  A few years on, Celeste has completely changed her relationship to music and language. She’s taking singing lessons and is learning several languages besides her native Spanish.

All this, thanks to very intensive therapy: three sessions per week during the first two months following implantation, then two sessions per week for the next six months. “Besides therapy, I listened to many audiobooks in Spanish and English alongside with their written versions,” she says. “At that time, it was hard to find any apps or computer programs in Spanish, so I had the help from my family to do hearing exercises, like differentiating vowels, Ling sounds, understanding long phrases, etc.”

Naama’s blog is a great source of information for anyone looking to understand (and practice) post-operation rehabilitation. She is a staunch believer in the importance of auditory rehabilitation for all patients.

CIs can improve people’s work conditions and career prospects (Photo credit: Pixabay)

What About My Residual Hearing?

The answer used to be simple: in almost every case, people with residual hearing would lose it when they moved to CIs. This is not necessarily the case anymore. The internal device and surgical techniques have changed, and today, many patients retain a significant amount of residual hearing. Ask your specialist what your specific operation will mean.

Celeste didn’t have a choice, she knew she would lose her residual hearing, but she still decided to go through with the operation. She still thought having CIs would give her the best quality of life. However, many people no longer have to sacrifice their residual hearing when opting for CIs.

How Should I Choose Which Brand of CIs to Wear?

The first point Naama makes is that “all of the CI devices provide excellent benefits.” She adds that “there are some differences in terms of features, and sometimes there may be a medical reason to get one over another so your physician will advise on that.”

In some cases, depending on where you live and what clinic you go to, you may not have a choice. We can only advise you to get several medical opinions and meet others who have been implanted before.

If you do have a choice, consider different features: syncing with phones, water safe processors, upgradability, which ones work best with your lifestyle. You’ll find lots of information on the CI manufacturors’ sites (though presented with a sales pitch), as well as different comparison charts (like this one from Cochlear Implant Help, and this one geared at parents of eligible children).

We hope this article has helped you through some of the questions in your decision process. There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to these incredibly complex medical situations, and we hope you’ll find what suits you best.

Additional Links

Disclaimer: these blog posts are intended as exploratory articles. They do not constitute medical advice and cannot replace a medical opinion.

Independent Home Living Ideas for Your Elderly Loved Ones

Welcome to Irisada‘s blog. We focus on solutions for families living with differently abled – loved ones so they can live life to the fullest.

As our family members age, their needs can change. To help them live life to the fullest, small adaptations to their everyday surroundings can go a long way. As we recently discussed activities for independent senior citizens, today we’ll be talking about how to adapt their physical and digital surrounding to their needs.

Adapting Their Physical Surroundings

Some doctors estimate that every year, one in three senior citizens suffers a fall at home. Not only can these falls be dangerous, they are avoidable. First, you’ll want to make sure to limit risks of tripping over wires, furniture and clutter, or having to reach too high in cupboards.

Specialists also advise making sure there is enough bright lighting, as darker places, especially stairs, can become dangerous. An 85-year old typically needs three times more light to see the same thing as a 15-year old, so don’t be afraid to deck the house with lights!

Making Bathrooms Secure And Everyday Hygiene Easy

If your older family member has mobility issues, you might want to adapt some of the rooms. Bathrooms tend to be especially tricky. Simply adding grab bars or a shower seat will make their daily routine safer and more relaxed.

You can go even further by making sure the shower enclosure is easy to access (no step, for example) or considering installing a wet floor shower. Since floors are sometimes slippery, nonslip mats or treating the floor with a nonslip solution can make bathrooms (and also kitchens and porches) less risky.

An example of an accessible bathroom. Photo credit: Walk in Showers and Baths Ltd, UK

For caregivers of elderly with very reduced mobility, consider investing in accessories that allow them to avoid the bathroom entirely. For example, an inflatable hair washbasin could be a good place to start. Your loved one will get all the benefits and freshness of a hair wash, without the inconvenience of being transferred to the bathroom.

Last but not least: toilet seats. Getting up and off the toilet can be tricky, which is why it’s advisable to have a higher toilet seat with armrests. You’ll probably want professional help for those kinds of installations.

Other Solutions For Everyday Inconveniences Around the House

Steps and stairs get increasingly awkward. Perhaps your elder could benefit from adding ramps in places where there are steps. You can also install a stairlift or additional railings to stairs in the house, depending on space and feasibility.

But if mobility is a real problem, maybe living on one floor would be safer and allow your loved one to stay independent longer. And though many people dislike the idea of using a walker, having one handy at home can help move around all day with minimal risk.

Many elderly people find getting up and out of bed (or a chair) harder. You can install railings and hoists or ropes to beds to help solve morning issues and buy rising or reclining chairs for the living room. Or if rising chairs are too much of an investment, consider rising assist cushions.

An example of seating assistance in action. The portable pillow cushions the fall when sitting down and assists the lift when standing back up. (Photo credit: Carex)

Last but not least, quite a few personal care products have been adapted for older citizens: nail clippers with magnifiers, zipper aids, shoe and sock aids, to name a few. Don’t forget small adaptations can go a long way, like clocks with bigger numbers, or vibrating alarms for those who are hard of hearing.

Using Technology to Stay Safe and Enjoy Life

Not all adaptations are physical: everyday technology can come in handy since many of today’s elderly people are connected. In fact, some of them actually still have a thirst for technology. And that’s great, first and foremost to stay in touch, as avoiding social isolation is vital to stay psychologically healthy. Simply installing and explaining Skype, Facebook or Whatsapp could make a big difference.

Some of our favourite apps come connected to physical objects, like this app that comes with the Smart Pill Box and keeps track of medication.  Other great apps include Fall Detector, which has a self-explanatory name, and Sudoku or game apps.  We like them because they encompass three aspects of life: keeping track of health, alerting loved ones if something happens, and of course, having fun. 

We hope this article helps with adapting your loved ones home and phone! Remember to send us your comments and suggestions.

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Product Review: ReSound Enzo 3D Hearing Aids

Irisada is an online platform dedicated to solutions for differently abled people. We also strive to build awareness in our communities and encourage discussion. Our product reviews are typically done by actual users that are not affiliated to or sponsored by the brand (unless specified). Sometimes we might include sponsored links or links to our site if we carry the product. We hope our honest reviews help you in your daily lives.

The following article was first found on a blog called Apocalypse Later by Alvan Yap on 1 May 2018. Alvan was sponsored by ReSound to try out this product.

The ReSound Multi Mic has a whole lot of gee-whiz electronics in there and different modes for telecoils, for FM transmitters, for audio jack inputs and so on.

But you only need to know this: If and when I ask you to clip it onto your shirt or wear it around your neck (it comes with a tiny lanyard), please do.

The device weighs maybe 20 grams and is about the size of a largish thumb. (You may look like a dork with it clipped or hung upon your flawless outfit, and that’s your problem.) It also helps me hear and understand you better, especially in noisy places, in big rooms or at open spaces. Because I can then turn off the microphones in my hearing aids and boost the noise-to-signal ratio (or is it signal-to-noise?). During conversations, I don’t need to hear everything; I only need to hear you.

And as every hearing aid user will tell you (and no matter what manufacturers say about giving us super hearing), background noise remains our kryptonite.

Thanks to ReSound Singapore for the sponsorship!

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How To Spend Time with Your Loved Ones If Dementia Settles In

Welcome to Irisada‘s blog. We focus on solutions for families living with differently abled – loved ones so they can live life to the fullest.

Recently, we’ve been focussing on activities and lifestyle adaptations for elderly citizen’s. Today we’re going to talk about a more sensitive subject: how to spend time with a loved one suffering from dementia.

Warning Signs That Your Independent Elder Needs More Help

Many families struggle with this development. When an active and independent loved one shows signs of no longer being able to take care of themselves, it’s incredibly difficult to determine just how much help they need. And understandably, most elders want to stay in their own home as long as possible, which makes the subject even more sensitive.

It can be hard to figure out exactly how much help your elder needs. (photo credit: Pixabay)

Generally speaking, there’s no absolute rule, especially if your elder doesn’t suffer from a specific medical condition. We found this great guide, (provide your email to download) by Leslie Kernisan, a practising geriatrician. It helps you evaluate what part of your elder’s lifestyle or health might be problematic, and identify suitable courses of action, as well as conversation starters. Thus you can really talk about solutions to specific questions, rather than just tell your loved one that you are “worried”, which might sound too vague from their standpoint.

Calibrating Activities for Elders With Dementia Like Conditions

The important and over-arching rule is to find failure-free activities as satisfaction stems more easily from doing than from an intended outcome. Just because a person has aged and changed, doesn’t mean they don’t need to cultivate their sense of self-worth. In turn, spending time in engaging and satisfying activities limits anxiety, stress and sundowning behaviour. The virtuous cycle helps with everyday life and might even slow the progress of the illness.

Before moving on to examples of activities for people with dementia-like conditions, we’d like to share this Ted Talk by Alanna Shaikh. We like the empathetic and relatable way Shaikh explains dementia (in this case Alzheimer’s disease).

 

What stands out is how many activities have been struck off the list, and the need to find extremely simple, hands-on alternatives.

Examples of No-Fail, Fun Activities For People with Dementia-Like Conditions

Everyone is different, so you’ll want to calibrate these activities according to your elder’s tastes.

In the early stages, your elder might still enjoy playing cards, like memory games or solitaire. They might enjoy Hua Hee, a memory card game specially developed for ageing family members. If your elder still wants to play their regular games, cards with bigger numbers will be easier to read.

An example of a memory box (photo credit: Home Instead)

If they still like looking at old souvenirs or special mementoes, you could make a memory box to rummage through or try this talking photo album, which helps your loved ones recall the memories in the pictures. Jewellery boxes also often have similar functions, though sometimes the memories – or lack thereof – can be overwhelming. You’ll also find that sensory activities help bring back memories, by activating their sense of smell or touch.

Some elders derive satisfaction from activities resembling household chores. You might find they love sorting cutlery, or folding towels and clothes. They will feel like they are doing something worthwhile. And at the same time, they can’t really fail these activities. Some will even enjoy cutting out coupons, for example. This means they have to be safe with scissors, so keep an eye out!

Remember, you can stay creative with your activities: make a (simple) puzzle that represents a special place, set up arts and crafts activities, create themed boxes with fabrics or materials. You know your elder best!

More links and ideas here:

Independent Living for Your Active Elderly Loved Ones

Welcome to Irisada’s blog. We focus on solutions for families living with differently abled – loved ones so they can live life to the fullest.

Today we wanted to branch out to the older generations in our families. As our parents and grandparents age, their needs and habits change. This article will be dedicated to lifestyle changes that will help your family spend more quality time together. Watch out for our next article that will give you tips on adapting houses for better ageing in place.

Activities For our Active Elders

Often, we barely notice that our elders are ageing. Then we realise that the long hike we enjoyed together actually wore him or her out. Maybe he doesn’t react so well to heat anymore. Or she just seems worried about extended periods standing. It might be time to start changing or adapting the kinds of activities you suggest. Change doesn’t have to be drastic at first, depending on your elder’s abilities.

How fit can grans and gramps stay? (From a very fun series by photographer Dean Bradshaw)

It might seem frustrating if you think in terms of negatives – i.e. what you can’t do anymore -, so stay goal orientated. What’s so great about the hiking? Maybe it’s getting close to nature, or having time alone to chat, or a yearly pilgrimage to an important family landmark. Once you find the reason you love your activity, you can adapt. You could find less remote nature spots or bring a hiking pole to provide stability and help relieve joint stress. Or have a one-to-one dinner together. Perhaps you can drive to that special place. You’ll find new sources of enjoyment together.

You can also discover activities you’d never tried together. Introduce activities that they can comfortably enjoy throughout their golden years, also known as low impact activities. For example, petanque (a stationary version of boules invented to accommodate a former player who developed rheumatism), aqua aerobics and ballroom dancing will work for elders who like to move. Pottery or crafts activities will appeal to people who are good with their hands. And more experiential hobbies like tea appreciation keep the senses sharp.

Things To Do In Singapore

For our Singapore based readers, there are venues in town that are particularly well suited to older citizens. Nature enthusiasts will love the very cool and accessible Gardens by the Bay, the River Safari and the National Orchid Garden.  There are typically rest areas but just in case, you might want to consider one of these smart walking canes so your active elder can take breaks when they tire.

All these places have wheelchair rentals and many have discounts for seniors. The River Safari, in particular, has shaded walkways throughout the entire park, making viewing of the exhibits more comfortable. But do note that once you start the walk, the next toilet stop is a slight distance away, near  the panda enclosure.

The Gardens by the Bay host over 5,000 species of plants – and 2$ daily wheelchair rentals!

Garden lovers will also enjoy the therapeutic gardens, coupled with therapeutic horticultural programmes. The outing will be full of health benefits!

For history fans, the Asian Civilisations Museum and National Museum of Singapore are free for residents, and the galleries are wheelchair accessible and air-conditioned, of course. Generally speaking, many cultural activities are easily accessible to your ageing loved ones. A trip to the cinema or the theatre is a great bonding experience. Just remember to call up and check that they offer accessible seats if your elder is wheelchair bound, and arrive a little earlier than you normally would, so there’s no risk you’ll have to rush.

On a side note: you can still encourage your elder to stay active and practice sports on a regular basis. Singapore boasts quite a few options, including the People’s Association’s Active Aging programmes, Active SG‘s endeavours to find the right sport for each elder, and courses at the Asian Women’s Welfare Association‘s activity centres. NTUC Senior Care Centres also offer social day care and a range of care services for different needs.

We hope this article will help you with your active and independent elder. Before we leave, we’d like to finish with this inspiring video by the Institute on Aging.

Additional links

Here are some additional wheelchair friendly products that make your trip simpler:

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