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Disability gadgets and products that are useful to help disabled children, children with learning disabilities, autism or other illness and impairments.

Real Greepers shoelaces could have the edge on elastics

New research has struck a blow for “real” shoelaces in the battle against elastic laces.

The report, published in the Journal of Sports Sciences, looked at different lacing patterns in sports shoes, and found that a firm “foot-to-shoe coupling” (FTSC) could be beneficial to athletes and less sporty folk alike.

It’s not just professional athletes who will benefit from the security of Greepers laces

Real shoelaces, such as those used by the revolutionary “always tied” Greepers laces, provide that secure attachment.

The research went on to say: “A firm foot-to-shoe coupling… leads to a more effective use of running shoe features and is likely to reduce the risk of lower limb injury.”

Researchers at Sheffield University are investigating the benefits of running performance using real laces, and have uncovered some promising findings that should make all runners  – and non-runners alike – think about how they lace their shoes.

Why choose real shoelaces?

The right shoes – and laces – can make a world of difference to runners. A firm FTSC helps stop excessive movement of the foot and lower leg, reducing the risk of injury by eliminating unnecessary bends, pulls and twists.

Think about how your foot moves when you plant it on the ground. Do you want it firmly anchored, or able to stretch on elastic? Opinions vary among professional athletes and occupational therapists alike, and sometimes it’s a matter of personal taste and preference.

champion triathlete running through the rain with greeper laces

Silver winning Jacqui Allen at the ITU Cross Triathlon World Championships.
Greeper laces are used by top athletes.

But, with research indicating that injuries could be reduced with less stretchy laces, the debate is sure to intensify.

And, unlike elastic laces that allow extra movement of the foot as you pound the pavements, “real” shoelaces such as Greepers provide minimal movement, aiming to lessen the impact of every step.

review of greeper laces

Greeper review in Triathon Magazine

Security with every step

It’s not just athletes who will find a benefit in having shoelaces that are firmly attached. It’s easy to see how disabled athletes, people with joint pain or bone weakness and  those of us with reduced mobility need security and stability with every single step.

Greepers provide a simple and accessible solution. Once they’re tied once, you don’t need to tie them again – meaning they can be loosened and tightened but not undone. If you find it a pain to reach down and tie shoelaces, or need a shoelacing solution for someone who needs to know they won’t have to keep tying and untying at school, these sturdy and stylish laces offer the perfect package.gif showing how to tie greeper laces

Greepers are available in a range of different styles

Many parents find the Greepers laces the perfect choice for children who have a range of needs, for example if children regularly take off their shoes at unwanted times or if they have difficulty in tying them and don’t like the feel of Velcro fastenings.

There’s also the Greeper fastening device for people who can only use one hand, to help get the laces snug.

 

 

 

 

Greepers are available at Equ4l.com

The joy of fidgeting: how fidget spinners took over the world

Do Fidget Spinners help Children Learn?

You see them everywhere, a colourful blur right across the country, wherever there are children. Where once it was marbles or loom bands or bottle flips, the fidget spinner has become the craze of 2017. But how did this toy, designed to help children who have issues with concentrating, become the go-to gadget of our times? And have we lost sight of what they’re really meant to be used for?

The classroom can be a daunting experience for some of us. A number of conditions, including Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), attachment behaviour disorder (ABD), and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), mean that it’s harder to be “ready to learn” than your peers.

While most children (and adults) find it possible, if not always desirable, to sit in silence and focus on one other person talking, for others it’s more of a challenge. The sensory deprivation can leave some of us feeling agitated, on edge, with nervous energy that’s hard to keep in check. In a classroom environment this can manifest itself in all kinds of (for the educator) unwanted behaviour which are (for the learner) an aid to concentration. From calling out and interrupting to flipping rulers on desks or folding paper, educators find that learners’ self-therapy can be distracting and take away from the flow of a lesson. So is there another way of coping?

The theory of fidget toys is simple: if you have difficulty concentrating, it gives you something to occupy your senses. The pleasant whirr of the spinner as its outer spokes whirl around the central hub creates a light vibration. Watching the spokes slowly come to a halt – they run on ceramic or steel bearings – is a strangely satisfying experience, as it takes just that little bit longer than your brain expects.

In a classroom environment it can be easy for an educator to mistake this behaviour for disruption, whereas it is in fact an expression of unfocused energy or repetitive behaviour that the child finds useful in order to concentrate and be ready to learn, particular when around others. While some children with special educational needs find it more stressful to be in a noisy classroom, others find the silent “teacher talk, you listen” sections of a lesson to be the most challenging.

Fidget toys provide an outlet for the energy these learners – adults as well as children – need to dissipate, in such a way as to be a minimal distraction for those around them, and teachers too. It allows a child to express their needs and be as stress-free as possible, without hindering the learning of others.

Educators, learning mentors, learning support assistants and play therapists will be familiar with “busy boxes” and sensory equipment for children who have special educational needs. Traditionally, sensory toys have been cobbled together from other toys and ordinary household items, for example – but the fidget spinner, and its cousin the fidget cube, were specifically designed to help learning.

Whether that means they are more effective than what professionals have been using for years is up for debate. And whether it’s more helpful to have fidget toys to be used in the classroom, rather than during specially timetabled sensory breaks, is another issue. But there’s no debating how popular these toys have become among all kinds of children – and their purpose has changed, from their original mission to all-round craze and, as we see them now, a phenomenon.

Now you can find not just three-pronged spinners but two and four-pronged specimins, glittering colours, even with LEDs to sparkle underneath a desk or in a dim room. And so have come the tricks that have elevated these toys from their purpose to something entirely different: as the hula hoop of our times. With that popularity has come cheap imitation, of course, leading to German authorities seizing millions of potentially lethal spinners and planning to crush them.

The prevalence of spinners has led to some schools banning them outright, and others making them disappear from the classroom, allowed during breaktimes. This policy, while understandable, might be a little hasty, since the benefits of these toys are not yet fully understood. As an educator, I have seen them being used effectively already with children who have additional learning needs, to give them something to keep their hands busy and their minds occupied during teacher input. So while it might be irritating to see that blur out of the corner of our eyes, it might be best to consider they really might have a positive value to learning after all.

 

Helpful Aids for Hearing Loss

This blog is in two parts – the first part is a guest post by trained audiologist Melanie Lewis, the second part is some suggestions of our own:

Who does hearing loss affect?

Hearing impairment affects over 9 million individuals in the UK (source: RNID 2005 survey). The two most common reasons contributing to diminished hearing are age related (though slightly misleading as affects start in a person’s 40’s) and noise induced. In both cases, the level of hearing will not improve naturally and individuals depend on a growing number of sophisticated devices designed to overcome the hearing impairment using modern technology.

 

Hearing Loss Tech Gadget Ideas

 

What Goes Wrong Leading To Hearing Loss:

There are a number of organs and processes that must work to their potential in order for us to hear, see or smell. In the case of hearing, sound needs to be captured, then funneled to the brain where it is made into ‘tangible’ information that we can comprehend. Our inner ear includes tiny hair cells that are only visible under a microscope. These cells capture waves in the air (which we call ‘sound’) that are funneled via the hearing nerve to the brain. As the body matures, the quality and quantity of the hair cells is reduced leading to a challenging inability to hear certain sound frequencies. The hair cells can also become damaged (often more easily than people might believe) through exposure to harmful noise leading to noise induced hearing loss. The body is unable to repair or regrow the tiny hair cells so any management of hearing disability must depend on technological advances in science.

Digital Hearing Aids:

Image of the HD450 digital hearing aid

Today’s digital hearing aids are lighter, small and slimmer than ever before.

These digital amplification aids are available at no cost from the NHS and from private service providers offering digital hearing aids. Leading brands include Oticon, Phonak, Resound, Siemens, Starkey and Widex. The device is housed in a small lightweight plastic structure and sits inside or outside the wearer’s ear. It works by capturing waves in the air using a sensitive microphone that are then amplified using a powerful microchip. The amplified sound is transmitted directly into the ear using the receiver.

Differentiating factors between the various brands of digital hearing aids include size (with ‘discreet’ sizes normally commanding higher prices), wireless connection, Bluetooth connectivity and complexity of sound processing algorithms. While NHS hearing aids are free, model choice is limited and a waiting list may apply.

Amplified Phones:

Image of the Amplicon Big Tel 280 amplified telephone

Amplified cordless phones offer high quality, loud, distortion-free sound. They also offer a hands-free mode.

These are desk, cordless and mobile phones that have been specifically tailored for the hard of hearing. Leading brands include Doro, Geemarc and Amplicomms. The devices differ from normal phones in that they can amplify the ringer level often 10 times louder than that of a normal phone and amplify the voice of the caller to a suitable level. Differentiating factors between the various phones include caller voice amplification level, ringer volume in dB (can reach 60dB vs. 4 to 6dB on normal phones), telecoil compatibly to digital hearing aids, visual indicators and type of buttons (backlit, big button etc). Amplified phones are not usually available from the NHS, but can be bought at a reasonable price.

 

 

 

 

Alerting Devices:

Amplified doorbell

An amplified doorbell can help you hear when someone is at the door. Click the image for more information.

These aids are designed to attract the user’s attention to something that may have become inaudible and include amplified alarm clocks and amplified doorbells. They differ from normal alerting aids in their level of amplification that can reach 95dB and most importantly in the suite of other sensory triggers they offer. Devices will include visual indicators and often vibration pads that can be placed for example below the user’s pillow. Certainly in the case of most amplified doorbells, they are wireless so can be carried from room to room when the user moves around the home. Leading brands include Sonic Alert, Geemarc and Amplicomms and again, these are not usually available from the NHS.

In the case of profound hearing impairment and when ALDs (assistive listening devices featured above) are less effective, individuals will often supplement the management of their hearing loss with lip reading and British Sign Language.

If you or someone you know is concerned about their hearing ability, a visit to a local hearing centre is recommended. We hope you found this information of help.

Melanie Lewis is a trained hearing aid audiologist. She works for hearing direct, the UK’s biggest supplier deaf accessories from hearing aid batteries to personal amplification aids.

Other Hearing Aid Technology and Gadgetry

We’ve had a look around the market to find some other handy and innovative gadgets that may help if you suffer from hearing loss.

Our first interesting find was brought to our attention by a fellow Twitter user:

Apparently all digital wireless phones must now be hearing-aid compatible (HAC) and the iPhone 4 and iPhone 5 feature built-in HAC making them easy to connect hearing aids to. The iPhone 5 has a HAC rating of M3, T4. The numbers next to each letter represent the compatibility ratings on a scale of 1 to 4.

The M rating is based on reduced radio-frequency interference that enables acoustic coupling with hearing aids that do not operate in telecoil mode.

The T rating is for inductive coupling with hearing aids operating in telecoil mode.

Vibrating Reminder Watches

Image of the Pivotell Vibrating reminder watch in a lilac purple flower design

Pivotell Vibrate Mini Reminder Watch in Purple Floral

There are quite a few vibrating reminder watches available on the market, in almost every colour and style you can think of. These watches are ideal for keeping track of daily tasks such as medication intervals, gym work outs or even for use when home cooking. This Pivotell Reminder Watch emits a discreet vibration that will alert the user but will not disturb those around them. You set set up to 12 different alarms and the vibration lasts for 5 seconds each time.

 

 

 

Vibrating and Light-Up Alarm Clocks

This funky looking alarm clock would be great for teenagers or young people. The stylish black finish and bright LED

Image of the Wake 'n' Shake digital alarm clock in black, with a large, easy-to-read red LED display

The Wake ‘n’ Shake alarm includes a vibration pad and can also be connect to your phone line.

screen would look great in a kid’s bedroom or in a student den! What makes the Wake ‘n’ Shake extraordinary is the vibrating pad that is attached to the clock.

By placing the pad under your pillow or next to you, the pad will vibrate when it’s time to get up – or for any other reason you decide to set the alarm. Not only this, but the Wake ‘n’ Shake can be connected directly to your home phone line, meaning you can be notified when somebody is ringing you.

Other useful features of the Wake ‘n’ Shake include a large, easy to read LED display, and the ability to also set the clock to alert you with a strobe light or an extra-loud 95dB alarm sound.

 

Image of the Lifemax under pillow vibrating alarm clock

This handy-sized vibrating alarm can be taken with you for travel or used at home.

Alternatively, if you’re looking for something a little more subtle than the Wake ‘n’ Shake, we’ve also found the  Lifemax 331 Under Pillow Vibration Alarm Clock. This handy devise is ideal for travel or at home, and simply slips under your pillow. The vibration is strong enough to wake you, but also perfect if you need to wake without waking anybody else in the house. The compact, lightweight design means you can take it anywhere with you, and as it runs on batteries there’s no need to find a power source.

 

 

Image of the Amplicomms wireless amplified headphone headset

These trendy headphones can provide sound up to 120dB.

Wireless Amplified Headphones

For those who love their music or want to amplify their TV or radio, these futuristic-looking headphones are the ideal solution. The Amplicomms TV150 Amplified Headset can wirelessly transmit stereo sound from almost any device you have around the home. Whether it be TV, DVD or MP3, this ergonomically designed headset fits snuggly in the ears and can transmit sound up to a massive 120dB. The powerful transmitter allows a range of up to 10 meters allowing you to freely move around the home, and they also include a built-in automatic volume control, which stops increases in noise such as TV adverts, from being too loud.

 

You may also enjoy a post on our other blog “Communication aids for deaf people”

If you have a favourite gadget or even something a little unusual that helps you, please let us know in the comments below.