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Archive for September 2012

Flying with a Disabled Child.

Travelling with Disabled Children

Having a disabled child or children shouldn’t inhibit your family’s opportunities to holiday and get away from it all. More often than not though, people do find it difficult to travel when they have a child who is living with a disability. Whether your child is a wheelchair user or has a learning disability that is considered ‘invisible’ travelling for holiday purposes can be really difficult and in some instances seem like more trouble than its worth.

This doesn’t need to be the case and we’ve got together some tips which you should consider if planning to travel in the UK or abroad with your whole family.

Before you Travel

Before you travel there are many preparations you can make. You could consider booking your trip through an agency who specialises in disabled travel, this is an option most suitable to those travelling with wheelchair users. In most instances regular travel agencies have little or no experience of disability travel and won’t be able to think of everything. The planning stage of your trip will take a lot of research and your holiday itinerary will need to be detailed and specific. It may seem like a military operation but it will result in a smoother journey in the long run.

Before you travel you should also talk to any medical professionals involved in your children’s care. They will be able to advise to a point if they believe your child is ready for such a break and can give you specialist advice relating to their condition if needed. You can also top up on any prescription medication required.

Preparing your child is another point to consider. Every child and their condition is obviously different and only you know how your child will react. Children on the autistic spectrum for example may need a lot of notice and reminders so they are able to handle the change and enjoy the experience.

Key Considerations

You will need to consider a wide range of things which could impact on your ability to travel. Consider the assistance you may need and ensure you contact your airline or travel provider. Cover all specialised elements of your child’s condition such as dietary requirements and medications.

You will also need to think about specialist equipment you may need upon a flight and below we’re looking more closely at the MERU TravelChair and how this can revolutionise travelling with young wheelchair users.

Thinking again of medical information – you should double check the locations of the nearest emergency medical facilities from your holiday home to ensure easy access if the worst were to happen. Not knowing will only cause more panic and make the holiday much more stressful.

Depending upon the disabilities of your child or children you may need to check your travel insurance covers you all adequately. In some instances you may need to purchase specialist insurance to cover all of your child’s needs.

Meru TravelChair for Wheelchairs Users

At Trabasack, we realise the worry of booking a flight when you have a disabled child. We also like to highlight the work of others to create a more inclusive and accessible world and with that in mind, we’d like to introduce the TravelChair.

Flying with a disabled child the travelchair

TravelChair Logo

Tackling the Worry of Flying with a Disabled Child

The TravelChair is a product developed by the children’s charity MERU, who campaign and work towards improving the lives of children and young adults with disabilities by designing and producing custom-made equipment that can aid independent living and support daily activities at home, at school and in the community. The TravelChair is just one product from MERU and it’s a development which could make a huge change to air travel for children with disabilities, making it both more accessible and more enjoyable.

At present, very few children with disabilities in the UK have had the opportunity to travel abroad due to what MERU describe as ‘perceived limited options of additional support in the chair when travelling on planes’. To combat this problem, MERU have developed and created the one-of-a-kind chair for supporting children with disabilities during a flight. The TravelChair fits easily into a standard airline seat and in the past few years, MERU say it has meant over 1,000 children with severe disabilities have been able to experience the holidays of a lifetime. The TravelChair (formerly known as the AirChair) is currently available on Virgin Atlantic and Monarch Airways flights and was developed with advice and input from parents of children with disabilities, airlines themselves and also the Civil Aviation Authority.

Travel chair for flying with a child with special needs

The TravelChair installed in an airline seat

The TravelChair itself is a very lightweight and easy to carry design which fits easily into all airline seats and if you were to travel with Virgin Atlantic, the cabin crew are also trained to fit the sit for you if you need assistance. It is designed for children around three to nine and provides full postural support. Some of its main features include both waist and head support, shoulder restraints, optional pommel strap and an adjustable height leg rest. Despite being extremely robust and secure, the it is also comfortable and is designed specifically for children, providing them with the full body support they may require. Other aeroplane support options are often ‘one size fits all’ which is often unsuitable for children, being too large or small, the TravelChair is different.

It is a brilliant development that is making a huge difference to childrens’ lives and giving children with severe disabilities a chance to experience foreign travel like everybody else.

For more info about the Travelchair visit MERU website here

special chair insert for fyling with disabled children

The Travel Chair pictured at Naidex

We also have a free guide available containing information about grants, holidays and agencies for travelling with a disabled person. If you would like a copy, please sign up here and it will be sent by email.

UPDATE from OT Expert Site and NAIDEX SOUTH 2012

The Travel Chair was seen at Naidex South 2012 and Meru’s Anna-Stina was interviewed about the flight chair by the OT Expert site. The interview can be heard on the link, but an edited transcript follows:

“Meru is launching a ‘try before you fly’ service so that parents of disabled children who need postural support can try the Travel Chair before flying.  We are hoping that the airlines will buy them and Virgin has already ordered them. Parents can also buy them. We are offering a service where parents can try out the chair in situ in a fuselage that looks like an aeroplane and you can walk between the aisles and experience the tightness of the seats. You can actually find out “will this chair suit my child?”.

We were approached at Meru by Virgin, Monarch and British Airways one and a half years ago to design a seat that suit disabled children. They wanted a seat that would provide postural support to disabled children while flying.  10 years ago, Meru had created a seat for British Airways, the Travel Chair Mk1, so it was a good opportunity to revisit it. It has been carefully redesigned and we have done extensive research, finding out from disabled children what their requirements and needs are, we now have the finished product for sale to individuals and charities for £2500.

Civil Aviation Authority Safety Notice

You will also find some more useful facts about the use, weight and storage information of the chair on the CAA website. There is a safety document from the Civil Aviation Authority for aircraft companies and passengers about the chair here.

Video about the Meru Travel Chair

Below you can see Graham Race (TravelChair Designer – MERU) speaking at the Hamburg Aircraft Interiors Expo about the TravelChair.

As you Travel

When you’re travelling the equipment you keep on you needs to be minimal to make the journey as easy as possible. Keep all your regular travel information on your person including tickets, passports and relevant paraphernalia. Also keep a copy of the most pertinent information about your child’s condition to hand in case of emergencies and the same goes for any emergency medications.

Travel isn’t all about the admin though, be prepared to enjoy it. Stock up your child’s travel bag with their favourite snacks and games and ensure reminders of home are present to keep them comfortable.

If you’re travelling by car you should also factor in breaks to ensure no one gets overwhelmed and you are able to enjoy your journey as much as possible.

Holidays for Children with Autism

Preparing for a holiday with children on the autistic spectrum takes considerable effort and as well as all the above points you may need to be discerning with your choice of destination. There are several holidays across Europe which have been adapted especially for Autism families to ensure the whole family have a fantastic experience.

Happy Kids Holidays for example rents ASD-friendly cottages in France and the chance to prepare for the break with personalised social stories and online chats so your child can get to know their environment before they arrive.

There are also breaks in the UK which include specialised Autism-friendly sessions such as horse riding lessons at Coworth Park in Berkshire which also incorporates sensory play.

Have a Happy Holiday

Travelling with children with disabilities can be hard-going and even arriving at your destination can be difficult with children who find change hard to cope with. There are ways and means though and we hope our points give you a further opportunity to explore what’s available and take the step to introducing your child to new experiences. It’s great for the family as a whole too.

Kindle Fire for Special Education

Kindle Fire for Special Education

The Kindle Fire Tablet comes to the UK

Kindle Fire for Special Education

Kindle Fire Tablet

We have discussed the launch of the Kindle Fire in the past and how it can be used in a special educational environment. The newest incarnation of the top Amazon product has now been announced on the UK version of the site and is due to be released on October 25th 2012.

Amazon has brought their Kindle a long way from a simple eReading device. Now, it stands out amongst the competitors such as the Barnes and Noble Nook and the Kobo. Its product range is further advanced and their Kindle Fire HD Tablet is described as the most advanced tablet of its size. Kindles are for more than just readers now; they can help in many environments including the special educational needs classroom. What’s also encouraging is that they’re extremely affordable compared to other devices on the market such as the Apple iPad.

A Closer Look at the Kindle Fire for Special Education

The Kindle Fire has been the most popular item on Amazon.com for a long time and it has been further developed and brought to the UK. A small, handheld tablet device available for less than £150, the Kindle Fire
can be packed full of tons of apps and run all manner of games, educational support apps and more. The Fire is also easy to handle for users with disabilities which affect their dexterity and grip.

It incorporates a touch screen and Android operating system. It has been equipped with a new 1.2GHz processor to improve performance and incorporates all the qualities of an Amazon reading device, so you can access many books and stories and also a high-spec tablet device. The Amazon Kindle Fire is ideal for the special learning environment because of its affordability and quality. The price is fantastic for what you get and all users can benefit from different features within the device.

There is also the HD Version which is even further enhanced with Dolby sound and a choice of both 16GB and 32GB versions.

Apps for the Kindle Fire

Amazon Kindle Fire for Special Education AppStore

Amazon AppStore

The full range of apps available for the Kindle Fire in the UK is only accessible via the UK Amazon Appstore. However, we’ve been able to take a look a few currently available in the US and are sure similar options will be available through the UK store. Popular apps for the Kindle Fire for Special Education include:

TapToTalk : an innovative AAC app which promotes communication and learning

iStoryBooks : interactive audio story books, ideal for the bookworm of the class

Calm Counter : a behavioural management app for children with challenging behaviours and difficulty expressing their needs verbally.

Autism iHelp Series: a range of specifically designed apps for those with an Autistic Spectrum Disorder. Encouraging speech and learning in several categories including: Home, Animals and Food.

Please note, many of these apps are available for other tablets and via Android and Apple so we’re sure they’ll come to the UK Amazon Appstore too.

Amazon Fire in the UK

We can’t wait to enjoy all the apps on offer from Amazon.com and are sure users looking for an affordable tablet option will be considering the Kindle Fire for Special Education as a great value version of more expensive, higher-spec competitors. There are so many tablets on the market, it is clear there is a lot of choice but the Amazon Fire has already taken the US by storm, so maybe the UK is next?

Here’s a look at an original review of the Fire, before it was launched in the UK:

New Amazon Kindle Fire Launched in the UK

New Amazon Kindle Fire Launched in the UK

A Closer Look at Amazon’s Exciting New Product Range

We’re excited to announce that the new Kindle Fire Tablet has finally reached the UK, with its release date scheduled for next month. As the biggest selling product on Amazon.com, we’re sure it will be a huge success in the UK too and we’ve been waiting for its launch for a long time now. We initially discussed the Amazon Kindle Fire back in June and are now excited to see it here in the UK. Let’s take a look at the full range of new products from Amazon.

Amazon Kindle Fire

Amazon Kindle Fire

New Kindle Fire

The original, most desired product. The highest seller on Amazon.com and soon to be the same in the UK we don’t doubt. With a brand new processor promising 40% faster performance than the original design, if you’re looking for high spec without the high price, this is definitely an option to consider. Amazon highlight the simplicity of use and portability as the highlights of the their original Fire and we have to agree but also rate it’s super value when compared to other leading products from Apple and Blackberry for example. It features an intuitive 7″ Touchscreen and a 1.2GHz processor.

Amazon Kindle Fire HD

Kindle Fire HD

Kindle Fire HD

If high spec is really important to you, the HD model is another top consideration. Available in 16GB and 32GB models, both for under £200, the HD features Dolby sound and super-fast Wi-Fi. Ideal for use in a learning or entertainment environment, games and apps can be accessed easily and enjoyed in the highest quality. It’s hard to believe Amazon are able to offer such high quality products at such an affordable price.

Amazon Kindle Touch eReader

Kindle eReaders have taken the world by storm. Most people don’t even use the word eReader anymore; simply Kindle which shows their domination of the market place. The original design featured just keypad buttons but it has been developed and now has an integrated, intuitive touchscreen. Ideal for users with motor skills disabilities, the Kindle Touch responds efficiently to light touches and is also equipped with text-to-speech capabilities so it can read aloud to you.

We’re looking forward to the arrival of the Kindle Fire and Kindle Fire HD in the UK on 25th October and are sure you are too. If you have any doubts about the product at all, check out this review video:

In our next post we will be looking at the Kindle Fire for use in Special Education whether it will be an alternative to the ipad.

Have you heard of Steps Charity?

Have you heard of Steps Charity?

Steps Logo

Steps Charity loans sensory toys to children of all ages and abilities. They have a postal lending library and also adapt toys by request for switch use.

Steps Charity is a registered UK organisation that believes that every day can be a play day for children with additional needs who cannot play independently. They work with mainstream toys to adapt them to individual children’s needs, creating uniquely designed toys perfect for your child. These toys are generally operated by an external switch that the Steps team personally develop to meet your child’s needs. For example, for a child with limited dexterity, they may create a switch that only needs to be lightly touched or perhaps one that can be blown or sucked.

The best thing about the work at Steps do is that they try to adapt any toy you want. If your child is a mad Rory the Racing Car fan, you can tell the Steps Charity the details of the toy you have in mind and they can find out whether it’s something that can actually adapt and then begin working for you, once you send them the toy of course. Steps are committed to focussing on what your child CAN DO and working with their skills to create a toy which they can fully enjoy and develop with. Every day can be play day with the help of Steps.

Sensory Toy Lending Library

A Steps Charity Sensory Switch

As well as regular switches, Steps can provide special sensory switches which are known to be great for offering multi-sensory stimulation for children with PMLD and also children who have significant hearing or visual impairments. As the picture shows, these switches are extremely bright and tactile, with music, lights and vibrations. They are designed as sensory toys in their own right but can also be linked to a specific external toy and used separately when required. The technology involved really is special and is something that many children already have benefitted from.

Steps Charity has a Facebook page and they are always looks for membership support to back up their campaign because they believe that every child deserves play time and we agree. The Trabasack team have a personal debt to Steps Charity. The co-founder’s son, Joe, has Dravet Syndrome and PMLD and has benefited from many years membership of the library, he has enjoyed many different toys that have been adapted for switch use.

 Visit the Steps Charity website


The Kindle Fire: a revolution for special educational needs?

The Kindle Fire: a revolution for special educational needs?

New Kindle Fire Tablet

The much awaited Kindle Fire tablet has been on the market across the pond for awhile now and it’s astonishingly low price is potentially going to rock the tablet market. If the Kindle Fire can live up to its reviews and is as great as people say, for such an affordable price, then perhaps we’re a step closer to revolutionising the educational environments of children with additional needs.

Although there is no release date or price set for the UK Kindle Fire, it’s bound to happen eventually. In the US, the Kindle Fire is retailing at $199 which is under £150 and an absolute steal compared to other tablets on the market, most notably Apple favourites the iPad and iPad2.

We have previously discussed at length the value of tablet technology for enhancing and encouraging the learning of children with special educational needs and the use of the iPad in the classroom is becoming more widespread but because of its large cost, some children are still missing out. With the launch of the reasonably priced Kindle Fire, perhaps there’ll be a change across the board and classrooms will be able to provide tablet technology for every child who needs it?

Now the Kindle Fire boasts impressive specs. It is smaller than an iPad with a 7-inch colour display but it can access all the apps and technology you may require to educate and further enhance the learning for your child. It’s very light weight so easy to handle and is a very basic tablet design which could be perfect for the classroom. The Kindle Fire has been designed for media usage, not for communication so you can enjoy all the chosen media types you need.

Can the Kindle Fire deliver?

However, despite all the potential in this first generation Kindle Fire, it is missing many essential features which would make it ideal for the additional needs classroom. Over at Assistive Technology Blog they have discussed in depth the features that the Kindle Fire is missing which means it is unfortunately not accessibly designed. Most notably, it is missing both text-to-speech and Braille display support.

Amazon is a company who have the ability to produce high quality, fantastic devices but they seem to be missing a trick when it comes to providing items which are accessible to all. There is hope that eventually, their great quality products including the new Fire and their eReaders will be designed in a way which makes them suitable for use in the special educational needs classroom. The price tag is great but the functionality doesn’t add up.

Here’s a full video review of the Kindle Fire’s features:

POST UPDATED LAUNCH DATE ANNOUNCED We look at the UK launch of the Kindle fire in the next post.

UPDATED and our newest post is about using the Kindle fire for Special Education Apps.