Saturday, March 28, 2015

OTMommy spOTlight on: IZ Adaptive, Where Fashion Meets Function

In the world of fashion, the needs of those with disabilities are overlooked.   But IZ Adaptive is working to change that.  
I was recently drawn to an advertisement for IZ Adaptive on social media.  It is a fashion line that focuses on the unique needs of those using wheelchairs, taking into consideration comfort, function and current fashion trends.   
One of my favorite pieces is the Separating Biker Jacket for Men retailed at $449.   The way the cuts accentuate the shoulders while ensuring the ease of donning and doffing is gorgeous! 
Founder Izzy Camilleri is a well-established Canadian fashion designer, whose designs have been photographed on the likes of Meryl Streep, Kirsten Dunst, and Fergie.  But after meeting with Journalist Barbara Turnbull, who happened to be a high level quadripalegic, she began on a new venture that took her creativity rolling in a different direction. In 2009, she began to focus her talents on addressing and dressing men and women with disabilities.  In an email based interview, Ms. Camilleri took analysis of the unique needs of her new clients stating,"I had no idea that someone who used a wheelchair had different clothing needs.  It was a very eye opening experience on many levels."
Women's Tear Away Pant retail $59 offer a a higher back and bulk-free front.
She had to consider topics that traditional fashion designers and people in general take for granted.  For example, skin integrity is an important issue for people with decreased or absent sensory awareness, such as in spinal cord injuries, multiple sclerosis, and Lou Gehrig Disease.  When fabric bunches and moisture build up, friction, heat, and sores can occur.   She also had to consider how the act of getting dressed and undressed can be helped or hinder by the type and placement of fasteners.
Open Back Jeans retail $79 offer easy donning wrap around panel with velcro strip.
With ideas in hand, IZ Adaptive was born. Ms. Camilleri uses fabrics that are soft to the touch and that have stretch to them allow for ease of donning and breathability.  In some of her designs she made zippers longer or used magnets instead of traditional buttons since standard buttons and zippers can be a significant struggle for those with fine motor difficulties.
Men's Casual Magnet Shirt, currently on sale $29.99 uses magnets for easy fastening and an A line cut for a flattering fit.
There are pieces to fit every budget and need.  Her line includes informal apparel, work apparel and evening wear with prices ranging from $9.00 Knees Together Strap to a $650 Wedding gown.   Dress shopping in itself can be difficult, for any woman, physically and emotionally.  Women who use wheelchairs can visit the website and discover pieces in which they can feel beautiful and comfortable for the upcoming prom and wedding season.  Ms. Camilleri hopes to further expand the evening wear selection. Even browsing is made easier because each item is detailed with information tabs on fabric choices, care, and function.
Grace Strapless Gown retail $375
At this time, expanding the line to include other cut designs so that people with other physical impairments such as limited range of motion and limited strength is not in the works.  But that's ok since IZ Adaptive offers specific alterations through their website.  Custom designing is also available to those in the Toronto area and is priced according to the project and level of difficulty. 

Many of her other designs have been featured in international magazines like Vogue and Flare.  When asked about ever seeing IZ Adaptive designs in the spotlight, Ms. Camierelli said, "We have had our IZ pieces used in Fashion Magazines on high fashion models.  They were used in a different context of high fashion on able bodies models.  We are already seeing alternative models on runways during this past Fashion Week in NY, so I think we will see more and more exposure for fashion going to the next level."

So if you know someone who happens to use a wheelchair and is looking for clothing that fits their style and budget, as well as their seated posture, consider looking into IZ Adaptive, where fashion meets function.


Saturday, March 21, 2015

'Appy Hour Review: Mod Math

Gotta love social media for the free, fun, and functional finds.  I came across ModMath via Twitter and immediately downloaded it for my iPad to try it out.  This app may be a game changer for children who have difficulty writing and organizing basic math problems.
Available only on iPad, ModMath was created by a family whose son has dysgraphia and dyslexia.  He was struggling to his represent his math work on paper.  Now they are sharing their app for free on iTunes.

ModMath is fairly customizable.  You have the option to change the contrast, color of number font, and provide alternative row/column contrast.
When you open a new page, you are presented with a graph paper style grid.  Once you tap on a space, a number and symbol keyboard will appear.  But don't be fooled.  This is NOT a calculator.  It only provides the user with a means to clearly type numerals and symbols.
It took only a few tries to get how to use it.  For example, if you have to do long division, you first have to touch the paper, select the long division symbol, then touch the grid again where you want your numbers to create your equation, continuing this process as you solve the problem.
 As for carrying and cross outs, they have that covered too; they also included fractions.

The lines that differentiate between steps appear automatically if you place them in the box just prior to the number that you want to add, subtract, multiply or divide.

What I really like about this app is that you can see the work, the process, as well as the result, without it automatically giving the student the answer.  The ability to visually organize the numbers in clear columns and rows is a skill with which so many children struggle.  Bonus feature, the student can email the teacher, parent, tutor his/her work, or himself in case he wanted to print out a copy.  Just select how you would like to send it and it will create a PDF of each work session.  When the recipient receives the PDF file, it comes without grid lines.
A few things options I hope they consider in the next update: 1. to a direct print option and 2. the ability to type name and date at the top of the paper. (You can name the session/file).

ModMath creators are currently working on a KickStarter Campaign for an algebra version of this product too.  If you want to discover more about ModMath or its campaign, check out www.Modmath.com.



Saturday, March 14, 2015

Adventures in Assistive Technology: Adapting the Power Wheels

I had been dying to do this project for over a year, since I had first heard about the Go Baby Go through the University of Delaware.  It was an AH HA moment.  I could totally do that. Adapting a powered toy car so my kiddos could have access to play with their peers as well as build other skills such as switch use, or head and trunk strength, or language, upper extremity strength... you name it, I could justify it.  It is my magic, as an OT, ya know to justify ANYTHING!
So a few weeks ago I finally resparked the flame of innovation and started asking for donations of used power toys.  And to my joy, my nieces and nephews donated their John Deer truck because they weren't using it anymore and they wanted to help my kids.  There I was, John Deer in hand. Now to get the rest of the supplies.
Ratcheting PVC cutter
Cuts through pipe like buttah'

Switch. Check.  (ablenet.com)
PVC piping. Check.  (local neighborhood hardware store)
Nuts and Bolts. Check.  (local neighborhood hardware store)
Kill Switch. Check.  (amazon.com)
A husband to help me rewire. Check.

Once my Mr. Fix-It helped to rewire and solder the gas pedal to the switch, I got my Ratcheting PVC cutters out.  These are a necessary tool if you work with PVC.  Worth every penny.  I also got to steal Mr. Fix-Its Dremel tool and new Milwaukee Power Drill to perforate the holes in the piping and the truck to install the support frame.

Finishing touches included good ole pipe insulation,  duct tape to provide a softer support to the bracing, and industrial Velcro for a lap belt and shoulder support.  And voila, Pimp My Ride: John Deer Power Wheels edition was complete.

My son testing it out
When I envisioned the outcome, I primarily had my students with significant physical disabilities in mind, but the benefits of the project spread beyond that group.  Students with autism found it quite intriguing and motivating.  Those that were non-verbal, vocalized and expressed words such as "Cool!" "Go!" "4 by 4" and "Deer".  It gave others a chance for parallel play and structured communicative play by incorporating voice out put switches with phrases like "Do you want to go for a ride with me?" and "GO!"  Driving also encouraged bilateral hand use and intrinsic hand strengthening, as the children have to use push the switch while holding the steering wheel as they drive.  For my more involved students, I steer while they activate the switch.


Though not 100% complete, I still need to set a secondary switch for a right cheek activation site, this project is well on its way to fulfilling its purpose: increasing participation amongst children with multiple disabilities during free time play.  I actually wish that I had considered completing a research study on its effects on social participation.  Maybe next year....

Overall, I would consider this an advanced project due to the nature of adaptation and tools needed.  If I didn't have my husband's support, I don't think it would have made it out of my basement.  Also, there are a significant amount of obstacles.  First, logistics.  The size of the vehicle is big.  It's a two-seater.  And even though we removed the dump bed from the truck, it is still large to store (ask my co workers).  So if you are considering doing a project like this, you need to examine your storage capacity.  You also have to respect administration for your building.  I am lucky to work with educators and facility managers that don't mind my therapeutic antics.  Second, cost.  Though the power wheels was donated, I purchased most of the materials.  PVC is cheap; foam insulation is cheap; switches can be costly.  I completed this for under $50 but I had a lot of materials and tools already.  Third, overall understanding of positioning and access sites.  Position of the body is key to accessing life, including switches.  If a child is not supported appropriately and safely, the participation in motorized play will not be successful.

Sea Choice Universal Kill Switch
Available through amazon.com
So if you are interested in researching a project like this, check out Cole Galloway and his team at the University of Delaware.  I downloaded their instructions, and then modified it to fit my needs.  For example, the kill switch they used is a single throw switch; my Mr. Fix It recommended the coil based like ones used on boats. Since it attaches to me while the children are driving, I don't have to worry about them driving off.  Go Baby Go project developers recently published new directions which are clearer and more organized.  And if you want to help me make another adapted car, you can visit my Donor's Choose site.

Special Thanks to Maddie and Patrick for donating their toy! Without it, my students would not be having nearly as much fun!