Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Lego Land Discovery Center Boston

During April vacation of this year, the boys and I ventured up to Somerville, Massachusetts for a brick-building good time at Lego Land Discovery Center.  The boys had a great time, BUT make sure you do your research first before heading up.  There were quite a few things I found less than perfect for the experience.
My two boys standing under the giant Lego giraffe
Cost
Purchase online for discounts and guaranteed entry.  If you go on a whim, chances are you will not get in at your desired time.  I saw quite a few families have to be turned down or told come back at 3:45 pm (it was 10 am!).

Food
You cannot bring your own food, except for infant formula. There is a SMALL food court with a minimal selection of moderately healthy choices.  But unless you and your kids like lunch meat, you are out of luck.  There were a few salads, a few wrap choices, and a few plain sandwich options, but no peanut or soy nut butter options.  There are baked chips, fruit cup and veggie cups with hummus.  But not all kids *like mine* eat them.  Either eat before you get there or after.  And if you leave, you cannot reenter without having to purchase another set of tickets.
Giant Lego Ice Cream Sundae
Activities
Activity Pack- You can purchase a $5 lanyard activity packet that acts as a stamp collector pad.  You are supposed to go through  the site and find 5 press stamps to fill.  I have always liked this idea because it helps provide a goal for some children, like a treasure hunt.  Problem was, three of the embossers were broken.  This was really annoying and disappointing for my boys.  If an embosser isn't working, why can't they just make a rub mark or an ink stamp to compensate?

Store
Damn you, Lego, for the attached store that you can browse before and after. It includes a small selection of Lego Sets and make your own dude, but ultimately you can get the same products at stores or online for a heck of a lot cheaper.

Don't get me wrong; it wasn't all disappointing.  There were also quite a bit of fun to be had...
Laying in the Lego Pit
Lego-licious Play- There were plenty of stations to enjoy building and creating.  There was a race car test track station.  Even the columns had Lego pits from which to build and destroy colorful architecture.  There is an indoor gross motor center, a Lego movie short playing every 15 minutes, and two amusement rides.  Even the bathrooms are decorated in everything Lego!
Lego Racers Build and Test Station
Penny Squisher
Yeah! for 2 quarters and 1 penny you can add to your collection of squished pennies!!!

Parking
So Lego Land Discovery Center Boston is located in Assembly Row which is a large shopping center with a variety of high end shops. You can find free and cost parking available dependeing on the time you get there.

Accessibility Note
This is a very stimulating place.  It is noisy and colorful.  If anyone in your group has sensitivity to external stimuli, you may want to plan your trip on less busy days and times.  Also, if anyone in the group uses an adaptive mobility device (wheelchair, walker, etc), call ahead and check on the accessibility of the rides.  I don't remember seeing any particularly easy to enter accessible units, but they may be available.  For the most part, there is plenty of space to maneuver and access the play stations.

Bottom line, yes, go.  Have fun.  Enjoy the day.  It does make a nice day trip and is totally appropriate for your Lego lovers.   But keep in mind some of the issues we encountered so you can have a succeessful trip.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Mushed Brain.....

I am definitely starting my summer vacation 
with a completely 
empty brain. 
It has 
turned 
to 
mush.

Once I have put the mushed brain into a jello mold and let it solidify into what I would consider adequate for creative postings, I will start writing again.  Until then, I am going to work on some much needed work-play balance. Read, go outside, color, clean, etc.   Hopefully my brain will recharge shortly  In the meantime, check out some of the awesome blog posts from other therapy bloggers like Handwriting with Katherine,  Miss Jamie OT, CanDo Kiddo, Your Kids OT, Therapy Fun Zone and Your Therapy Source.  If you would like to add any others to the list, please do so in the comment section!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

AT in the Classroom: Supporting Communication for Students with Complex Needs with Switch Access

If you work with children with complex medical backgrounds, then you know supporting communication needs can be daunting at times.  Cognition, vision, hearing, musculature and more can impact the way in which the child is trying to communicate.  Switch access can be a viable option to increase communication, but it takes a team to make it work.

Position, Position, Position
It is always a priority to address positioning for children with significant physical challenges when assessing communication needs for a multitude of reasons.  First, breathing.  If a child's posture is not in best alignment, with or without support, lung capacity is going to be diminished.  It will be more difficult to produce sounds without proper air supply.  Second, if tone, strength or coordination is an issue, it will be difficult to assess an access point for alternative means of communicating.  The old therapeutic statement "Proximal stability before distal mobility" is just as important to communication as it is to ambulation.   Physical Therapists and Occupational Therapists are both educated in positioning.  Sometimes it takes just a few modifications such as a changing to a chair with arm rests or making foot rest adjustments to improve alignment.  Other times, it is more complicated.

There are a variety of seating and standing systems available on the market like Special Tomato Seats, Leckey, or Rifton Seats, but low cost accommodations can be created with many things that can found at the dollar store, like pool noodles to use as bolsters.  But if you are not sure, refer.  Talk with the parent and determine if the child is followed by anyone already for wheelchairs, strollers and other seating systems.  If they are, you may want to consider requesting permission to speak with outside providers to voice concerns or recommendations.

Once a child is successfully positioned in a functional system, then you can look at the switch based options available in specialty markets and even on Amazon.

Switching it Up
Switches can be a good option for children with a combination of physical and cognitive needs.  They come in a variety of styles, shapes, contours, sizes and sensitivities to fit the unique strengths of a student.  Many styles can be easily plugged into a variety of Cause and Effect toys allow children interact with intent and independence.  Others provide alternative and augmentative communication options to generate single or multiple recordable messages.  Single speech generating switches like the BigMack and multiple message generators like the Step by Step, provide a vocal outlet for requests and comments.

The selection available toys are on the market has left much to be desired, which is why battery device switch adapters, like those found on Enablemart, make battery operated toys available to those with limited mobility.  The copper disk insert has an attached outlet to plug in a standard switch.  Sometime you do have to hack the battery cover to make sure everything fits but now the child has access to turn a toy on and off.  Getting a child to understand and use cause and effect is a powerful tool towards communication.

iPad and Switch Access
There are now Bluetooth Switch Interfaces for the iPad.  I have had good luck with the Pretorian APPlicator.  It provides 4 channels, each with a multitudes of modes.  But just because you have a interface AND a switch, doesn't mean you will be able to use it.  Not all apps are switch accessible.  However, developers are becoming more and more aware of complex needs.  Some of my favorites are from Inclusive Tech.  Also, some augmentative alternative communication apps are more accessible, like Go Talk Now.

Mounting Systems
Now that you have an iPad with usable apps, how do you make sure the child has access to it?  Well, there are a variety of mounting systems.  If the child will be primarily in a wheelchair, Mount'N Movers offers systems and support to walk through the assessment.  What I really liked about them was their adjustability.  Some set ups have swing arm action which comes in handy when a child needs to be transferred.  Other options like AbleNet's Goose Neck Mount and Friction Knob Mounts offer different levels of stability and flexibility, and the cost is much less in comparison to the Mount'N Mover.  Loc Line, a modular hose system originally made for piping needs, created non-traditional, but awesome, do-it-yourself mounting kits too.

Looking at the child's strengths and needs from all angles takes many sets of eyes.  Working as a team to best support the student with complex communication needs is the key.  It ensures all areas of  facilitating communication are addressed.  If you are not sure, refer.  Once you have exhausted your expertise and techniques, follow your district's protocol to request for an Assistive Technology Evaluation.  They may be able to provide insight to strategies and tools available to help enable your student to speak what's on their mind.


For More information about Supporting Communication, check out the amazing insights of more therapy bloggers by clicking on the listing below....
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