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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7 Things Not to Say to a Parent with Deaf or Hard of Hearing Children

This series is designed to help parents manage specific aspects of bringing up a child with a different learning path. The next few months we’ll be focusing on parents of deaf and hard of hearing kids. Previous articles include: diagnosis, choosing a language to communicate in (part I and part II), whether or not to choose CIs for your kid, keeping devices on kids, sports and activities.

It can happen to anyone. Your cousin just found out her son is deaf, or you meet a dad outside school whose daughter wears hearing aids, and you say something awkward. You didn’t mean to, but you did. There’s that short silence while you try and figure out what went wrong. It’s okay, here are some tips for next time you talk about their child. You’ll see, it’s quite simple!
1 – “So is he deaf and dumb?”

Okay, now this one can go both ways. Maybe you meant he is mute, as in if he can’t hear then he can’t talk either. Being deaf does not mean being unable to speak and communicate.  Many deaf and hard of hearing people speak several languages. Some of those languages might be signed languages, others oral languages you can hear. It all depends on their families and personal choices. There are several ways of giving these children access to language.

Young Thomas Edison

And in case you were referring to “dumb”, the colloquial term for “stupid”, you’ll find that deaf and hard of hearing people have exactly the same IQ averages as others. One even invented electric light, motion picture and sound recording, so you have a lot to thank American deaf inventor Thomas Edison for.

So what should you say? Nothing regarding IQ. Possibly ask: “What’s the best way to communicate with him?”

2 – “So this hearing thing?” or ” what’s this headphone?”

Right, back to basics: what you (sometimes) see behind a deaf or hard of hearing person’s ear is typically called a hearing aid. Note that elaborate ones can be a CI (cochlear implant) or bone conduction hearing devices and that some deaf and hard of hearing people get by just fine without aids, either by using residual hearing or by simply not hearing.

Where you’re not completely wrong is that some of these devices can act as headphones. For example, many CIs/ HAs can pick up calls directly, which means some deaf and hard of hearing people can hear phone conversation directly in their ears. I know, cool, right?

So what should you say?  If you really are into tech: “What kind of device is this and how does it work?”
3 – “Don’t worry, your next kid will be fine, I had a friend who’s neighbour’s friend’s aunt’s daughter…”

Hem hem hem! Our child is not broken, neither is she less than a hearing child. She just occasionally requires some additional help and accommodation. For example, she might be cranky or tired in noisy places or she might sometimes not reply, not because she is rude, but she might not have heard you. That’s alright. Sometimes our hearing kids don’t either.

So what should you say? Hmmm, anything, literally anything else! The above is pretty epically insulting.

4 – “So he can hear normally now?”

Define normal because as a hearing person, I don’t know what you actually hear and vice versa. We all know of a friend with “normal” hearing who can’t sing to save her life, yet Mandy Harvey here, she sings beautifully despite being deaf. And remember, Beethoven? Many of his most admired works come from the last 15 years of his life, as he progressively lost all hearing.

America’s Got Talent Deaf Contestant, Mandy Harvey sang the world to silence (Photo by: Vivian Zink/NBC)

Another important point: everyone is different. So some deaf or hard of hearing people can hear even very minute sounds with their CIs while others don’t. It really depends. And some people will turn their devices off sometimes, or not wear them.

So what should you say? If you are a well-intentioned friend, family member or teacher who wants to know how to make sure the child understands you, try this: “What should I do to make sure Daniel understands clearly what I’m trying to say?  Does he needs a sign interpreter or do I just speak as usual?”
5 – “Does your child need special help?”

Technically this is not a bad question but some parents do get offended as sometimes the word ‘special’ might lead them to think that you think there is something wrong with the child, and parents being parents, they might get snappy on this subject.

So what should you say? If you need to understand the child’s current or future needs, as their teacher or helper, try this: “What tools or skillsets do the teachers need to ensure your child’s potential is maximised?”
6 – “So will she need this thing after she grows up?”

Again, the “thing” as we have said earlier is a hearing aid and unless she’s a bird and can regenerate her hearing (yes birds do that, scientists are quite excited about this), she will need her hearing aid forever. Really, forever? Yes forever, and it’s actually a pretty cool fashion accessory (or should become one) and you know what? She can take it off and go into her own quiet space. But now we’re digressing…

So what should you say? Do you really need this a piece of information? How about trying “When is a good age to teach her how to care for her devices?”

7 – “So did something go wrong during the pregnancy or was it after birth?”

Woah. Seriously? Think before you speak. It is virtually impossible these parents damaged their child’s ear(s) themselves (unless you saw them with the newborn at a hardcore rock concert standing by the speakers and pouring a deadly potion into the baby’s ears).

You’d never tell someone their child was short-sighted because of something they did! And before you ask: sometimes there’s no point in understanding exactly why a person has different hearing. Assessing what they can and cannot hear is the priority.

So what should you say? Maybe what you meant was: “When did you find out?” I don’t know.

Thanks for reading! Of course, this was meant to be humorous and some of these are a tad over the top. Though you’d be surprised what awkward situations can arise!

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Cochlear Implants on Small Kids: Is This Our Best Option?

This series is designed to help parents manage specific aspects of bringing up a child with a different learning path. The next few months we’ll be focusing on parents of deaf and hard of hearing kids. Previous articles include: diagnosis, choosing a language to communicate in (part I and part II), keeping devices on kids, sports and activities.

If you’ve recently found out your child qualifies for a cochlear implant, you’ve probably got a lot on your mind. Parents like you have to make tough decisions for their little ones. The stakes and costs can be high, so we spoke with a doctor and a parent to highlight different aspects of the decision process. Dr Lynne Lim HY from the Lynne Lim Ear Nose Throat & Hearing Centre in Singapore gave us key points from a medical standpoint, and Damien Wee shared his family’s experience with his 4-year-old daughter.

How Do Cochlear Implants Work?

The simplest way to describe cochlear implants (CI) is as a replacement part for a non-functioning ear. In terms of sound processing, there are two parts to a cochlear implant, one external and one internal. The external processor picks up sounds and transforms them into electronic signals which are transmitted to the internal electronic device connected to the cochlear nerve. Thus sound is transmitted to the brain, bypassing many ear pathologies. For a diagram and more, check out this video and article at KidsHealth.

When is the Best Time to Undergo the Operation?

Technically the operation can be done as soon as your child is able to withstand general anaesthesia. “The youngest patient I operated was 6 months old, and the oldest 83 years old,” says Dr Lynne. She sometimes admits waiting until children weigh at least 10 kilogrammes, for medical reasons. But the main time constraint is actually linked to language acquisition.

As mentioned in previous articles, a child’s brain soaks up language from 0-3 years. If children aren’t exposed to an accessible language during that time, they will find picking up any language difficult. The so-called “accessible language” doesn’t have to be speech, it can be signed. But that requires the family and extended social network being fluent enough in sign language for the child to develop diversified and structured language patterns. For a glimpse into what this could mean, read Phoebe Tay’s perspective here (as well as additional links).

Many families can’t commit to signing and want their child access to the hearing world as soon as possible. This was the case for Damien’s family. “We are not familiar with sign language so our initial focus was for our daughter to gain access to sound and be able to communicate using speech,” he says. “As she was born profoundly deaf, she would never have access to sound without the implants,” he explained. In their case, the operation was carried out when their little one was 10 months old.

My Child Isn’t Profoundly Deaf: Is this my Only Option?

This is often the trickiest case, as the operation will usually destroy any residual hearing your child may have (for exceptions, read here). If their residual hearing is good enough, methods might be better suited to developing language. This could entail using hearing aids rather than cochlear implants. To see more, you can revert to these previous articles (part I and part II).

The main difficulty is asserting what your child can really hear. In the words of Dr Lynne, “hearing beeps in a soundproof room with good headphones is much easier than listening in real life situations with competing demands for attention, background noise and poor environmental acoustics. So hearing tests can also underestimate the difficulty a patient has with hearing in the real world.”

Another concern is your child’s ability to communicate what they hear, especially when only a few months old. In Damien’s daughter’s case, they had additional hearing evaluation tests (the Auditory Brainstem Response tests) conducted at two different hospitals. “Doctors put probes into her ear,” he recalls, “and adjusted the volume and frequency of the sounds to evaluate the level of sounds her nerves registered. Both tests showed that the level of sound registered was not enough for her to develop speech with regular hearing aids, hence cochlear implants were the best chance for her to be able to hear.”

Photo credit: gfpeck on Flickr

Last but not least, some types of hearing loss can evolve over time. So it might turn out that your child’s form of hearing loss was mild enough for hearing aids in the beginning but not anymore. Staying watchful during those critical years of language acquisition will ensure you’re able to react fast and adapt.

Are there any Long Term Negatives I Should Know About?

Like all invasive operations, there are risks associated with implanting the devices. Some are related to how the body accepts the implants, to others are linked to the fact that the inner ear is affected over the following days. And parents are sometimes advised to have their child vaccinated against meningitis before the operation, as people with cochlear implants have higher risks of contracting the illness in their lifetime. “Once we had made up our minds, we didn’t think about it too much,” admits Damien. “We concentrated on researching and choosing which cochlear implants would be best.”

Another long-term negative that could affect people with CIs is potentially being unable to benefit from future drugs that might “cure” certain forms of deafness. At this stage, it’s difficult to do more than speculate, but you can read more here.

What’s the Future of CIs?

Dr Lynne says “technology is so advanced, CIs can only get better.” This means smaller, thinner implants and processors, fewer wires, better technology for filtering noise,  and longer battery lifespans. In many cases, accessories for activities like swimming. , are already available. Current innovations are even very high tech and somewhat savvy, like the ability to pick up phone calls. Future CIs may not even need an external component or might be able to deliver medication directly into the ear.

Remember these from a recent post? ListenLid also helps keep CIs dry!

Sometimes parents can be tempted to wait for newer innovations instead of opting for cochlear implants. “It’s difficult to find information on the development of these newer innovations, aside from CIs. Even within the CI industry, the three main producers of Cochlear Implants are competitors, so they aren’t always keen to publicize their development plans and results.” Damien was quite pragmatic: “ We do not know when these newer innovations will be commercially available and how reliable they will be. Cochlear implants have proved to work for many people. We needed to make a decision fast so as not to lose the important first few years of language acquisition for our child.”

What Comes Right After the Operation?

We’ve all seen videos of “wow moments” when a child hears for the first time as their implants are turned on. Each kid’s reaction is different, from wonder to fear at this new sense. We compiled a playlist to give you a glimpse.

It’s important to stress that the implants alone are not enough to fully understand sounds. Following the operation, a lot of hard work goes into training the brain to recognise different types of sound.  “Parents should be aware that all kids have different outcomes,” underlines Dr Lynne, citing other physical factors (like cognitive delay and autonomy of the cochlear nerve), medical history (early or late diagnosis) and psychological aspects, particularly motivation.

Every patient Dr Lynne works with has had their own “wow” moment. There are many highs and lows after the operation, but she’s impressed by the hard work and courage her patients display. Some, like the baby she performed her first simultaneous bilateral cochlear implant on, grow up to become top students in their schools. Meanwhile, Damien remembers how four months after the implants were turned on, his daughter was finally doing really well on the Ling Six Sound test: “I was so moved to see her developing her hearing capabilities.”

Other Takeaways

Damien advises getting more than one medical opinion and also speaking with parents whose children have undergone cochlear implant operations. “Getting another professional evaluation helps verify the hearing test results and makes you more confident with your decision. In addition, talking with parents whose children have cochlear implants will give you a better understanding of the social, emotional aspects of the operation or other hearing options,” he says.

Remember, some of the world’s greatest athletes, like Duck-hee Lee, are born deaf.

At the end of the day, you’re going to be teaching your child to reach their full potential and be confident, so you need to be convinced you are making the best choice possible. His little one now speaks three languages she learned living in a multicultural setting, and thanks to the hard work they have all put in, she’s now thriving in a mainstream kindergarten).

For comments or questions, get in touch!

Disclaimer: these blog posts are intended as exploratory articles for parents of recently diagnosed children. They do not constitute medical advice and cannot replace a medical opinion.

Parenting Deaf and Hard of Hearing Kids: Choosing a Language (Part II)

This series is designed to help parents manage specific aspects of bringing up a child with a different learning path. The next few months we’ll be focusing on parents of deaf and hard of hearing kids. This article follows a previous article here.  Last time we spoke about deaf kids was here: Diagnosis, Keeping Devices on Kids, Sports and Activities.

Part I focussed on the importance of early language acquisition and briefly reviewed different methods. This article will draw on the experience of three people with different perspectives, to give you more informal insight.

We were very lucky to have input from three experts and parents. Phoebe Tay is a Deaf teacher from Singapore. She speaks of her journey growing up oral in a predominantly hearing society to discovering the Deaf community, where she learned about Deaf culture and Deaf identity. Toshiko Clausen-Yan shares experience as a hearing mother to a multilingual oral son. We also spoke to Joyce Lew, a speech-language therapist and certified auditory-verbal therapist who migrated from teaching using the auditory-oral method to concentrating on auditory-verbal.

A Speech-Language and Auditory-Verbal Therapist on Oral Methods: Joyce Lew’s Experience

Joyce started her career in Singapore at a time when screening tests were rarer, and kids came into her office quite late. “They had already learned how to get by with lip-reading and mostly came from hearing families”, she recalls. Their families didn’t really have the time to learn a whole new language (like signing) to be able to stimulate them soon enough. “Parents were really just desperate to connect with their kids. They wanted activities to do that would teach their kids language, now.”

Joyce initially focussed on auditory-oral methods. “But research [at the time] suggested that if we continued teaching kids language through lip-reading, they would likely plateau in language acquisition because we read and spell based on how words sound.” So she decided to test auditory-verbal methods in her work.

At first, it was difficult for children to accept to learn relying only on their residual hearing. “It felt extremely unnatural at first,” she says “we had to think of all kinds of ideas to bring the focus away from the lips. But within a few months, there were moments of automatic listening and verbal responding while the kids were busy with their heads down in play.”

In some cases, residual hearing can be used to access language.

A few years later, as newborn screening became mainstream and more and more hard of hearing babies arrived with hearing devices, auditory-verbal became a norm. She says “some of the reasons are associated with the relative ease that babies experience in getting used to hearing devices and in learning how to listen without first learning how to lip-read.”

After a decade in her field, Joyce is convinced communication is key to developing language. And that parents tend to communicate more with their child if they are comfortable with the chosen language.

From Oral to Signing and Deaf Culture: Phoebe Tay’s Journey

 

Phoebe’s life changed when she started to use both English and Auslan

Phoebe was born deaf and diagnosed around three and half years old. At the time in Singapore, oral methods seemed to be the only option. Moreover, spoken and written English were expected to be understood by everyone. With the use of hearing aids and residual hearing, Phoebe was able to pick up English. She fared well enough in school and her language skills “started to bloom from upper primary onwards.”

 

Yet communicating wasn’t always easy. “It was okay to communicate in one to one setting”, she says “but classroom and group settings were tough.” Phoebe points out that language development is not just linked to academia, but also to social development. She felt like she couldn’t quite fit into the hearing world. Almost like language was a barrier.

Then she went to Australia, where she learned Australian Sign Language (Auslan). She suddenly discovered a language she could acquire, as well as a whole new culture. “I started to feel more confident, and signing helped me get a better sense of self-esteem.” Realising that she could use both Auslan and English changed her life.

There’s growing evidence that being part of a Deaf community and developing a Deaf identity helps build a child’s resilience. For Phoebe, this effect was palpable even as an adult. “I use aids, but they have their limitations. And they don’t make me a hearing person.” At the end of the day, “some kids will fail at oral methods no matter how hard they try because they simply can’t hear enough”. They still deserve to have a language they can succeed in naturally.

When Cochlear Implants Are Combined with Auditory-Verbal Therapy: A Mother’s Modern Tale

Toshiko’s second son was born profoundly deaf. Her family chose to give him the most mainstream life possible. This was possible according to doctors, who recommended cochlear implants at a very early age: only seven months old! Despite their natural fears regarding invasive surgery and the high cost, they chose this option.

Of course, this meant many years of intense speech therapy. “As soon as he had his cochlear implant, he got the same exposure to language as a hearing child,” she says. Sometimes it can be hard to get children that young to focus on tasks (like speech therapy) and keeping their devices in place, “but you have to keep in mind the long-term goals.”  Over time, her son has been able to learn several languages, including English, Mandarin, Japanese and Norwegian in natural settings.

Implants are getting more and more sophisticated and invisible.

For Toshiko’s son, the implants worked so well he can hear very minute sounds. “The advancement of technology has made this possible and we embrace all advancement that makes life simpler and better,” she says. In fact, he can now pick up calls directly to his implants, which he thinks is pretty neat.

She has a few words of encouragement to parents of children born deaf: surround yourself with people who are supportive and positive. “I did not allow people to cry or feel sad for him in front of him,” she remarks. “Stay positive, and keep your child feeling positive.”

As a brief conclusion

We hope these three testimonials will help you with parenting your child. Remember: each family is different. We hope yours will thrive!

Additional Links

Looking for some of our sources? We used some of these links. Send us more by commenting below!

Disclaimer: these blog posts are intended as exploratory articles for parents of recently diagnosed children. They do not constitute medical advice and cannot replace a medical opinion.

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