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.

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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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How to Keep Hearing Devices on Kids

This series is designed to help parents manage specific aspects of bringing up a child with a different learning path. We’ll be looking at what parents and specialists have to say on raising children who are deaf or are hard-of-hearing. The previous articles in this series can be found here (on diagnosis) and here (on playing sports).

Finding Helpful Solutions to Keep those Devices on Kids

Today’s area of focus is the logistics around hearing devices. Some of the ideas and products listed below are available on our platform, all have been tried and tested in the community. Reach out and comment if you have more to add.

Solution 1 – Babies: Scarves and Headbands

The first difficulty parents of kids with hearing devices run into, is the size and bulkiness of the aids compared with their bambino‘s head. For very young babies, this can be an issue during breastfeeding especially. As hearing aids can make very loud noises when they are shifted, some parents decide to avoid any discomfort for their child and remove the aids completely at feeding times. Another option can be to use baby sized scarves on their heads to prevent rubbing against the devices, such as these baby buffs.

As children grow, the very delicate and expensive pieces of equipment continue to sit awkwardly on a toddler. In many instances they are prone to flapping or even falling. Hence many parents’ nightmares about their kids losing them in sand pits or the neighbour’s garden. One solution that seems to work well is headbands, especially for babies and girls. Ai Sin Soh, mother to a profoundly deaf little girl, started making her own headbands.

Lynne's Collection

As you can see, not only are they snazzy and pretty, they perfectly hold the hearing devices into place. There are also options out there for all tastes and styles – yes even kids who hate bright and delicate apparel. A recurring comment we hear from parents is that the right kind of headband makes it easier for kids to accept their hearing devices, as they are less physically annoying and even cool.

Several of Ai Sin’s headbands are on sale on Irisada, including models with flowers and others without, glitter elastic versions as well as safety clips. We also have a second vendor called It’s raining bows and if none of our selection works for you, check out Etsy or other vendors like Hearing Aid Headbands (UK).

Solution 2 – Ear Gear, Protection for All Hearing Instruments

Mark Rosal founded Ear Gear in 2005, after many frustrating attempts to keep his little girl’s hearing aids in place. He designed sleeves that could protect hearing instruments from sweat, dirt, moisture, loss and wind noise, as well as protect the wearer from chafing and discomfort often associated with aids.

Interestingly, Mark says “the most popular choice of color has stayed consistent with beige which matches many skin tones. For people who want to conceal their hearing aid, beige is the best choice.” However, never fear, fashionistas, as he adds “for those wanting to make a fashion statement, we’ve got bright, fun colors and custom options to mix and match cords, clips, sleeves and more.”

irisida-product-photo

Ear Gear donates products to many groups around the world, like camps, hearing loss awareness walks or charities. Mark encourages organisations to get in touch at info@gearforears.com. His parting words were for parents: “it’s imperative that parents are persistent when keeping the hearing aids on the child. Hearing is an integral part of a child’s development and taking the hearing instruments off or losing them for extended periods of time can directly affect the success of your child.”

Ear Gear is available on Irisada.

Solution 3 – Time for a Swim

As mentioned in a previous post, there have been quite a few deaf olympic swimmers. Deaf and hard of hearing kids and adults can now swim more easily thanks to ListenLid. This short video perfectly sums up how ListenLid make pools more fun for their wearers (turn the sound up).

Alana Triscott designed ListenLid so her son would “enjoy his swimming school lessons and be able to blend in.” She recalls that “there were a few options, but they were either pretty unusual, blocked the acoustics or involved the device being housed in a shirt.” ListenLid is the exact opposite. As you can see below, the swim caps look pretty much the same as regular swimming caps. What’s more, Alana’s son even uses these caps under helmets when he goes skateboarding or biking.

Photo taken from the ListenLid look book on Facebook.

Photo taken from the ListenLid look book on Facebook.

These caps are to be used for the following devices: iPod®; MP3; Advanced Bionics® Neptune® cochlear implant (up to two devices can be accommodated) and the Naída cochlear implant with AquaCase® (one AquaCase® can be accommodated). ListenLid is also available on Irisada.

Parting Words

Irisada is always on the lookout for other products that could help parents, kids and adults lead their lives to the fullest, no matter their abilities Regarding deaf and hard of hearing needs, we also have batteries and Dry Briks, as well as a selection of toys and games. If you have suggestions, we’d love to hear them and see if we can add them to our inventory!

Additional Links

Some additional links for parents looking for more information. 

  • For more tips on head gear, check out this post on BC Hands and Voice.
  • Recently, books featuring deaf or hard of hearing kids, some with implants, have started coming out. Liam the Superhero is available on Irisada, and explains how cochlear implants works in fun rhyming ways. You may remember Bianca from previous posts, she co-authored Benjamin’s Girl, a four book series about the life of a little deaf girl through the eyes of her teddy bear. To find out more, contact her directly.
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Sports for Kids with Hearing Loss: Keys to Success

This series is designed to help parents manage specific aspects of bringing up a child with a different learning path. This month we’ll be looking at what parents and specialists have to say on raising children who are deaf or are hard-of-hearing. The previous article in this series can be found here.

“Deaf kids can do anything but hear well”

But apparently some with aided hearing do hear amazingly more than a regular hearing person. But we digress. When we asked Bianca Birdsey, a medical doctor and mother to deaf twins, about extracurricular activities she immediately enumerated her kid’s hobbies. Her children really can do anything: from karate to dancing, including team sports, they are busy!

Duck-hee Lee is an South Korean Teenage tennis sensation

Duck-hee Lee is a deaf South Korean Teenage tennis sensation

Tips for helping kids do sport fall under two main categories. On the one hand, adapting social behaviour and communication patterns, and on the other, finding equipment and technical adjustments. Furthermore, “the challenge is more around socialising,” says Bianca, “especially if people see implants or aids and assume they won’t need to accommodate.”

Adjusting to Deaf or Hard of Hearing Team Members

Listening to Bianca talk about her experience, it seems that many of the adjustments are minor. For example, Bianca explains to coaches that her children will need more eye contact, and lips should not be hidden. These adjustments meet the child halfway, as she learns how to adapt too. As a result, her kids have developed “special powers”, and she marvels at how they can now lip read backwards in a mirror during ballet class.

Tamika Catchings was the star player of the Indiana Fever WNBA team and an Olympic gold medalist. Image courtesy of lovewomensbasketball.com

Tamika Catchings was the star player of the Indiana Fever WNBA team and an Olympic gold medalist.

A good way to make the sports environment more inclusive is to teach coaches, teachers and fellow team members a few words in sign language. Involving the team, by giving them 10 new signs is a great way for them to bond. What’s more, we suspect being able to sign a little might even give them an edge over competitors if they want to share secret information during a match!

Use these Adjustments to teach your Child to Advocate for Themselves

Bianca is very aware that her children will need to learn to advocate for themselves in the future. “What’s important for me is their confidence,” she says, “and I want to model how to advocate in a nice, calm way.” In this respect, a sports environment is a great place for children with hearing loss to realise that asking for accommodations is normal.

In rare instances where coaches put up resistance, Bianca wants her children to see that they are worth fighting for. More than just sports, her children need to know “they are loved unconditionally,” and should not take no for an answer when it comes to their social needs.

Equipment and Technical Adaptations

In some cases, technical gear might be required. Swimming comes to mind, as kids with implants might have a difficult time keeping them dry. Solutions do exist, like the ListenLid Swim Cap, so these children can develop their full athletic potential. In other sports, bigger helmets might be the answer, as well as headbands to hold aids and implants in place. We even saw some creative braiding while surfing for ideas, by the mother of a very athletic teenager.

Terrence Parkin is a deaf olympian swimmer

Terrence Parkin is a deaf Olympic medal winning swimmer

Sometimes technical adaptations are easy for schools and training centres. For example, the dance school Bianca’s children attend turns the base to the floor so they can feel the beats. We bet the experience is also enriching for the hearing kids, who are getting a different approach to dancing.

All Worth the Effort…

Most of all, Bianca is really proud of her dancing deaf children. “They absolutely love their dance concerts, they seem confident and happy. And they have the biggest smiles!” she says. Which goes to show deaf children really can – and should – do anything.

Additional Links

Some additional links for parents looking for more information. Please also suggest more to us, which we can add to the list.

 Final Takeaway

deaf-champions2

 

Photo credits: Duck-hee Lee (L’Equipe), Tamika Catchings (lovewomensbasketball.com), Terrence Parkin (Michael Steele/Allsport/Getty)

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Playing with Children on the Spectrum: Developing Faculties and Playtime

This series is designed to help parents manage specific aspects of bringing up a child with a different learning path. This month we’ll be looking at what parents and specialists have to say on raising children on the autism spectrum. Previously we wrote about the diagnosis stage here and helping parents here.

All parents know that play is fundamental in a child’s development, be they neuro-typical or facing specific challenges. But playtime is also a unique moment to interact with your child and create bonds. We spoke to Delia Yeo, a speech and language therapist, and Ladislas de Toldi, co-founder of Leka, to know more about how play can help children on the autism spectrum develop skills and bond.

Playing and Engaging with People

Games stimulate and motivate children, through fun and the desire to win. Yet both experts stress that children on the spectrum often have difficulty engaging with playmates, remembering  rules or using all the concepts necessary to win.

Therapists like Delia “look at several aspects of how the child plays to understand how he or she understands the world”. Like an alternative mapping, Delia is able to identify what types of play are easy, which ones are hard. She chooses specific types of games accordingly centred on internal feelings, external sensations, sitting, physical activity, etc.

In some cases, Delia has to teach a child to play before she can teach them skills through play. She starts with simpler games, ensuring she can interact and engage, before moving on to complex games. Most importantly, she has to look for what the child enjoys. “I choose the game depending on the child’s interest, [so] they [will] have a gleam in their eye and connect”.

Games and Technology

Traditional games like hide and seek, puzzles, swings or anything another child might play are used to help autistic children learn skills. Nowadays, thanks to technology, new games have emerged, some of which are more high-tech than anything a neuro-typical child will use.

Take Leka, for example, a small, round, ball shaped robot developed by a French start-up with specialists in several countries. The robot uses artificial intelligence and is designed to help children progress on their cognitive, motor, social and communications skills. Less intimidating than a human, the robot interacts directly with children, setting the rules and congratulating them when they succeed. They get a real sense of accomplishment when they are able to crack the game. Amongst other games, Leka plays hide and seek and Simon Says, and new games are added every week.

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Leka, the robot, happy face

“The most important thing”, says Ladislas “is figuring out what each child enjoys. It’s the only way to open the door. And if they only like Dreamworks animated movies, then so be it.” In fact, Leka are very humble in their approach. They advise parents and organisations consider all their options before investing in Leka, because at the end of the day, their objective is to make sure the robot is bringing out the best in children.

“There are so many incredible new ways of interacting with children on the spectrum now. I’m impressed by some apps on the iPad, that have non verbal children interacting with the world, and I’m stunned by how apps like Sidekicks are helping people with autism communicate with their families.” Children on the spectrum can greatly benefit from technological playthings, which unlock new opportunities to learn and communicate.

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A child plays with Leka the robot

Is All Play Work Disguised as Fun?

Delia recommends that “parents should always play without a teaching goal in mind”. The tendency to test their child might take all the fun out of playing. Just the act of spending quality time together and fostering engagement is valuable. As they play together, the child will learn some things naturally from them, in a softer, less goal oriented way.

family-harmony

Family play time, in this case with Leka the robot

“My advice is to simply follow your child’s lead. Join and imitate her at first, and as your play grows, her ideas will grow too. You’ll be “teaching” by supporting her experience in play”. As you do so, Delia suggests introducing your ideas and small challenges into games. They will encourage your child to problem solve around them, or create unity in a scattered game.

Delia recalls an autistic teen who was brought up with very little play. “He was very compliant and would carry out tasks, but seemed robotic and detached.” Recently, as she has worked around discovering what he likes and doesn’t like, and developing his ideas through play, she has seen the teen grow in confidence and become a real playmate. “He used to interact because he was supposed to, not because he wanted to. Now he’s pulling his weight in our interaction!”

Happy playtime!

Additional Links

Some additional links for parents looking for more information. Please also suggest more to us, which we can add to the list.

  • For more about Leka you can also visit here. Leka is currently looking for financial partners. Contact Ladislas at ladislas@leka.io for any inquiries,
  • An example of a sidekick app,
  • A review of Ron Suskind’s book on using Disney sidekicks at home to communicate with their son Owen,
  • Link to the film about using Disney sidekicks. 
  • Autism Speaks has a very long list of apps here

Note: all photos in this article are curtesy of Leka

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Assistive Tech Fair in Norway

This week, we were at an assistive tech fair in the far north of the world. So what is interesting over there (or here)?

Mobility and Sports

So the Scandinavians are big on getting out there and nothing can quite get in the way, definitely not a disability. The first section were different types of mobility equipment. There were a lot of unusual ones such as the ones in the picture below. They are much nearer to the ground, good for outdoors and skiing.

Outdoor wheelchairs

A picture with three outdoor purposed wheelchairs. Behind the wheelchairs, there are banners and a screen illustrating the use of the wheelchairs

This can be used on the beach. When not in use, it can float on water. This video shows how a man transferred from it quickly onto a canoe on a beach. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iShrnJOTDTg

Hippocampe

An outdoor 3-wheelchair with 2 big balloon rear wheels and a smaller front wheel. The seat is nearer to the ground than a regular wheelchair.

The outdoor wheelchair on the right is interesting as it is highly modifiable for different outdoor needs. A detachable shaft with a waist sling can be used so a parent can pull a child while hiking. Or parts of the frame can be removed and skis can be added to the base.

Fjellgiet

A picture with two outdoor wheelchairs. The one on the left has skis on. The one on the right is much bigger and has two fat bike wheels and a slightly smaller front wheel. The back of the larger wheelchair has two handlebars and what seem like brakes similar to bicycles.

Luis Gran is the first wheelchair user that crossed Besseggen. We have been there and we know that it is not an easy route, some parts of this ridge are pretty steep.

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A picture in the mountains. In the foreground, three persons are helping a person sitting on a outdoor wheelchair along the ridge. One person is in front with waist slings attached to the wheelchair. Two other persons are behind pushing or lifting.

Photo credits: Taken from Aktiv Hjelpemidler AS website

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Picture of a child sized doll standing in an exercise machine with full body support. There are gliders at the base of the foot, braces at the knee level and supports around the hips, waist, chest and head. There is a handlebar above the waist level with a tabletop mounted on it.

A children’s tricycle with a larger seat and supports around. There is a back bar (for mounting different supports), a push handlebar and a basket at the back of the tricycle.

 

The left picture is a children’s bike that has extra support on the back and neck. The picture beside it is an exercise machine with full body support.
The bottom left picture shows a stroller with additional back and neck support. The bottom right picture is a light weight frame that allows kids with severe physical disability to stand and walk. We asked if it can potentially be uncomfortable or not good physically for the person to be on this for long hours. The sales person said that it should not but not enough research has been done in this area but there are some undergoing right now.

img_7157

A stroller with supports on the seat and a inclined footpad.

A picture of a child sized doll standing support by a frame with 4 wheels. There are braces and supports around the child, a handlebar attached to the supports at the back of the child and what looks like brakes on the wheels.

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The device on the left is a frame used to support a child during swimming.

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A tripod frame with a seat in the middle and 3 black buoy like objects around it.

The is an ergonomic wheelchair.

A children’s wheel chair with rounded cushions on the back and seat and foot pads on both sides of the seat.

This amazing bike allows parents to bring their kids out and get a work out too. It is roomy and provides ample support for the child’s head and neck.

img_7164

A tricycle with a big rounded cart at the front which can sit 2 children. One side of the cart has a child seat with supports.

Occupational/ Speech Therapy and Communication

These pads are a training system that responds to the touch of hands and feet. The light responds to the force or weight, allowing therapists to design a custom program to train the child’s motor skills and body awareness.

A lady standing on two different coloured pads that have lights in the front of the pads. Beside and in front of the pads, there are other similar pads of different colours placed near to them.

I like this wallet which has felt pages and symbol cards with velcro can be attached to it. Easy to bring around.

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There is a poster of symbols at the background of the picture. The foreground shows a ring note book with a symbol showing a person pointing to himself and words that says ‘meg selv’. Beside the notebook is a fabric wallet with fabric pages. On each page are cardboards of signs.

This is a beautiful series of books that talk about feelings and include symbols.

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6 colourful ring bounded books placed in a row overlapping. The first book is titled ‘forelskelse’ with a cartoon of a man with two hearts for eyes and smiling showing teeth

A ring bound book that is opened. The left page shows a heart with a man and a woman looking at each other with a heart between them. The right page shows a broken heart with a girl in tears. Below both pages there is a sentence and above the sentences there are symbols.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Caregivers’ Aids    /  Household Aids
Support arms. The white ones are feeding robots while the black one, though is powered, requires one to use one’s own hand and it provides the additional push.

The bed on the left is a shower trolley, the middle equipment is a multipurpose hygiene chair and the one on the right is also a hygiene chair.

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The sales person is demonstrating how this equipment helps a person get up from a chair and be transferred somewhere else.

This is a simple share on the different solutions out there and is not an endorsement by Irisada on any of the products.

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Financial assistance schemes for disability in Singapore

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Having a disability, or caring for a loved one with a disability can be challenging. Physical, mental and emotional challenges aside, having a disability or caring for a loved one with an impairment can be a real financial strain.

Thankfully, in the last decade or so, as Singapore takes significant steps toward creating a more inclusive society where persons with disabilities (PWDs) can truly become empowered and recognised, more funding has been funnelled into helping children with special needs and persons with disabilities.

If you are searching for avenues of financial assistance for PWDs, look no further as we have compiled a list of grants and subsidies you could apply for. The list has been broken down into several categories, namely:

  • Support for Early Education, Study/ Training Bursaries and Grants
  • Transport Cost Subsidies, Assistive Technology
  • Support for the Elderly
  • Saving Schemes
  • Activity Centres and Disability Homes

This list is in no way exhaustive, so if anyone reading this would like to share more information regarding grants, subsidies, or whatever financial assistance schemes that has not been covered here, please let us know in the comments section below so we could update the list to make it as comprehensive as possible.

Support for Early Education by SG Enable

Development Support Programme

The Development Support Programme (DSP) helps kids with mild developmental needs to improve and overcome their language, literacy and social skills when they are in preschool (before six) to prepare them for primary education. On top of the monthly base subsidy of $300 that all Singaporean children are entitled to, parents will also receive further subsidies based on their income per capita.

*Children who are enrolled in an Early Intervention Programme for Infants and Children (EIPIC) are not eligible for DSP.<Link here>

Early Intervention Programme for Infants & Children (EIPIC)

The Early Intervention Programme for Infants & Children (EIPIC) provides social, educational and therapy services for children below the age of 6 who are diagnosed with moderate to severe disabilities. Through this programme, the kids will be able to participate freely in activities that will help with their development growth potential and also help minimise the development of their secondary disabilities. The fees at these EIPIC centres are means-tested, so families will be entitled to subsidies according to their income per capita.

*Applicants will undergo an initial screening before admittance to the programme.

<Link here>

Integrated Childcare Programme (ICCP)

The Integrated Childcare Programme (ICCP) caters to children with mild to moderate disabilities, aged between 2 and 6 years old, by providing them with a conducive environment to learn alongside their peers in an inclusive programme offered in existing childcare centres. The programme aims to better prepare children for integration into primary education. Working mothers will be eligible for subsidies of up to $300, and non-working mothers, up to $150.

<Link here>

Study/ Training Bursaries and Grants

Caregivers Training Grant (CTG)

The Caregivers Training Grant (CTG) is a $200 annual subsidy that helps defray the cost of training caregivers who need to acquire to better care for and cope with the physical and socio-emotional needs of the person with disability whom they are caring for. The caregiver must be a person in charge of the care recipient, who in turn has to be at least 65 years of age or has a disability as assessed by a doctor.

*This grant also falls under Support of the Elderly.

<Link here>

Microsoft Unlimited Potential Professional Certification Training Grant

The Microsoft Unlimited Potential Professional Certification Training Grant enables PWDs with a PCI< $700 or less, based on means-testing, to undergo Microsoft professional training for employment opportunities in IT-related work. The grant funds 50% of the total course fee and other fees relating to the course or up to $3,000 per year, whichever is lower. Applicant is allowed one grant per every two years.

<Link here><Link here>

SPD Bursary Award

The SPD Bursary Award is offered to students with physical or sensory disability, i.e. hearing or visual impairment, from low-income families with a PCI of less than $950, studying in mainstream schools. The quantum of the grant ranges from $300 per year for primary level to $6,000 per year for university level.

Educational Level Quantum of Subsidy
University $6,000 per year
Polytechnic $2500 per year
ITE $850 per year
Pre‐U/Junior College $500 per year
Secondary $400 per year
Primary $300 per year

<Link here>

Wan Boo Sow Charity Fund

The Wan Boo Sow Charity Fund aims to provide financial assistance to needy students studying in polytechnics, PWDs, and homebound elderly. Financial assistance is provided for PWDs for their expenses on education, medical needs, therapy, transport, and purchase of assistive equipment. The percentage of subsidy is tiered based on monthly per capita household income (not more than PCI =$1300) and capped at a maximum of $5,000 per annum.

*This grant also falls under Support for the Elderly

<Link here> 

Transport Costs Subsidies

Taxi Subsidy Scheme

The Taxi Subsidy Scheme aims to defray transportation costs of PWDs by providing taxi subsidies for those of whom are only able to travel by taxi for school and work. Subsidy rates are means-tested, allowing significant subsidies based on monthly household income.

Per Capita Monthly

Household Income

Subsidy Rate
Singapore Citizen Permanent Resident
$0 to $700 50% 25%
$701 to $1,100 40% 20%
$1,101 to $1,600 30% 15%
$1,601 to $1,800 20% 10%
$1,801 to $2,600 0% 0%
$2,601 and above 0% 0%

<Link here>

VWO Transport Subsidy for Persons with Disabilities

The VWO Transport Subsidy for Persons with Disabilities provides subsidised transport options for PWDs for those of whom who regularly use dedicated transport services provided by VWOs to attend their school and care service. Like the Taxi Subsidy Scheme, the VWO Transport Subsidy is provided based on PCI.

Per Capita Monthly Household Income Subsidy Rate

 (Singapore Citizen)

Subsidy Rate

(Permanent Resident)

$0 to $700 80% 55%
$701 to $1,100 75% 55%
$1,101 to $1,600 60% 40%
$1,601 to $1,800 50% 30%
$1,801 to $2,600 30% 0%
$2,601 and above 0% 0%

<Link here>

 

 

Assistive Technology Grants

SG Enable’s Assistive Technology Fund (ATF)/ Special Assistance Fund (SAF)

The Assistive Technology Fund (ATF) provides subsidies for PWDs to acquire, replace, upgrade or repair assistive technology devices that aid in daily living. Successful applicants qualify for a means-tested subsidy of up to 90% of the cost of the required equipment, subject to a lifetime cap of $40,000.

<Link here>

For adults who are unemployed, application is made to Special Assistance Fund SAF. The per capita net monthly household income is ≤$1,300.

* Any other fund administered by NCSS, SG Enable, or Agency for Integrated Care (AIC) for the same purpose would disqualify an applicant from the SAF.

<Link here>

 

SPD’s Assistive Technology Loan Library

The Assistive Technology Loan Library (AT Loan Library) has a wide range of AT devices available for loan or for the purpose of trial use, training and temporary accommodation. Loans are extended to people with disabilities as well as professionals working with people with disabilities. Deposit and nominal renting fees apply.

<Link here>

 

Support for the Elderly

HDB’s Enhancement for Active Seniors (EASE)

The Enhancement for Active Seniors (EASE) programme, part of the Home Improvement Programme (HIP), was rolled out separately and offered to all towns in March 2013. Catered to the elderly, especially those who require assistance for one or more of the Activities of Daily Living (ADL) with  improvement items such as slip-resistant treated tiles, or grab bars, to make flats more elder-friendly and improve mobility and comfort for elderly residents. The programme is greatly subsidised, and depending on the type of flat you live in (as per table below), can cover up to 95% of the total cost.

Per Capita Monthly

Household Income

Subsidy Rate
Singapore Citizen Permanent Resident
$0 to $700 90% 65%
$701 to $1,100 65% 50%
$1,101 to $1,800 40% 30%
$ $1,801 and above 0% 0%

Figures are estimates and subject to change

<link here>

Singapore Silver Pages is a one-stop resource on Community Care information to help you make informed care choices by making it easier to find the information you need. SSP is the first portal to integrate social care, healthcare, mental health and caregiving resources under one roof for seniors, caregivers and care decision makers. The following are some schemes listed in SSP’s portal.

Pioneer Generation Disability Assistance Scheme (PioneerDAS)

The Pioneer Generation Disability Assistance Scheme (PioneerDAS) is part of the Pioneer Generation Package, which honours the contributions of Singapore’s pioneers towards  the development of the country. Under this scheme, pioneers with disabilities can receive $100 a month, which they can use for expenses.  The care recipient must be a pioneer living in Singapore and require permanent help in at least three ADL.

<link here>

Seniors’ Mobility and Enabling Fund (SMF)

The Seniors’ Mobility and Enabling Fund (SMF) provides holistic support for seniors on low income by extending three different subsidies to Singaporean seniors with different needs.

  • The SMF subsidy for Assistive Devices provides financial assistance to those requiring mobility and assistive devices for daily independent living. To qualify for the subsidy, the elderly has to be a Singaporean citizen aged 60 or older, assessed by a medical professional, and making claims for the device in its category for the first time.
  • The SMF subsidy for Transport aids seniors’ transportation cost for attending any day services at the Ministry of Health-funded Eldercare Centres, Dialysis Centres or Day Hospices. The elderly must be assessed to require a wheelchair, any form of special transport, walking aides, or assistance when travelling, and must not be already getting subsidies for the same transport service.
  • The SMF subsidy for Home Healthcare Items alleviates the costs of healthcare items by providing subsidies for products such as milk supplements, adult diapers, and wound dressing. The elderly must be receiving healthcare services at home or at the Singapore Programme for Integrated Care for the Elderly (SPICE) Centre, and must be assessed to determine the type of healthcare items required.

<link here>

 

Caregivers Training Grant (CTG)

The Caregivers Training Grant (CTG) is a $200 annual subsidy that helps defray the cost of training caregivers who need to acquire capabilities  to better care for and cope with the physical and socio-emotional needs of the person with disability whom they are caring for. The caregiver must be a person in charge of the care recipient, who in turn has to be at least 65 years of age or has a disability as assessed by a doctor.

*This grant also falls under Study/Training Bursaries and Grants.

<link here>

Wan Boo Sow Charity Fund

The Wan Boo Sow Charity Fund aims to provide financial assistance to needy students studying in polytechnics, PWDs, and homebound elderly. Financial assistance is provided for homebound frail seniors who require help with expenses ranging from personal care to meals, and even escort services. The percentage of subsidy is tiered based on monthly per capita household income (not more than PCI =$1300) and capped at maximum of $5,000 per annum.

*This grant also falls under Study/ Training Bursaries and Grants.

<Link here>

 

Savings Schemes

Special Needs Savings Scheme

The Special Needs Savings Scheme is a way for parents to set aside funds from their CPF savings by nominating their child with special needs to be entitled to their savings so the child can receive a regular stream of fixed payouts upon their demise.

<link here>

Activity Centres and Disability Homes

Residential Care Services At Children Disability Homes

The Residential Care Services At Children Disability Homes are for children under 16, diagnosed with congenital disabilities, and without caretakers. Not only do these homes provide the children with the option of staying for short or long periods of time, they also enable the children to undergo therapy and training, as well as participate in recreational activities that will help to maximise their abilities. There are four different centres providing different services, so it is important to choose one that best suits the child’s needs. The fees at these disability homes are means-tested, entitling families to subsidies according to their income per capita.

<link here>

Metta Day Activity Centre for the Intellectually Disabled

The Metta Day Activity Centre for the Intellectually Disabled caters to beneficiaries aged between 18 and 55 who are diagnosed with intellectual impairment such as Down’s Syndrome, Autism and developmental delay. Programmes at the activity centre are individually designed to help each person achieve maximum gains in his/ her abilities. Like Residential Care Services at Children Disability Homes, the Metta Day Activity Centre for the Intellectually Disabled is also means-tested for fees, providing families with substantial subsidies.

<link here>

 


We hope this list of financial assistance and/or related schemes PWDs can apply for would be useful. Once again, we recognise that the list is not exhaustive and there might have been updates since our research. We have made deliberate attempts to look for schemes spanning a wide categorical spectrum so as to hopefully provide you with help in the area you are looking for.

Stay up to date  with the Singapore disabilities community

There is a large community of people with disabilities here in Singapore, and they are not always visible to the rest of the population. So if you would like to be to be a part of a community that openly celebrates the beautiful gift and unlimited potential of persons with disabilities and stay up to date with the community, sign up for the newsletter in the link below. Together, we can connect entire communities of people to a world of colours.

Sign up for the Irisada newsletter here.

*This article is written for Irisada in hopes of providing information on financial solutions for PWDs who might need financial assistance.

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