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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.

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.

Greeper Laces featured in Your Autism Magazine

Greepers featured in Your Autism Magazine

An endorsement of Greepers shoelaces has appeared in Your Autism Magazine. A brand new review of a top product for children with autism.

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Your Autism Magazine

At Living with Disability we have some products we consider our absolute favourites. One of these is Greepers shoelaces. This innovative product range should be celebrated and that’s why we’re glad to see them featured in Your Autism Magazine. We believe in this product and we’re glad to see others do.

Greeper Shoelaces for Autism

Greepers Laces Review

Greepers Laces Review

Your Autism Magazine is the quarterly publication of The National Autistic Society for their members. Their latest issue includes a fantastic, helpful review of Greepers. We firmly agree they are a great investment for children and even adults living with an Autistic Spectrum Disorder.

Your Autimsn Magazine’s review shows off the funky red Greepers Laces but the range is much wider than that. All colours from black to purple to neon green are available. Wearers can match their laces to their personality or simply choose those that complement their outfit best.

The review in the magazine highlights how beneficial Greepers can be for children with autism. It explains that, “one parent said,these laces are absolutely invaluable, especially as my son – who has autism – gets older. They mean we can choose any shoes he likes and can be confident that he can manage them.”

The review also says “Greeper is a special type of shoelace, it looks like a regular bow-type shoelace, but will never come undone. The laces are threaded through a central aperture with four stoppers positioned in strategic places. They can easily be loosened or tightened by the wearer or their parents”.

With glowing reviews it’s clear that Greepers are on the up. Hopefully this feature in Your Autism Magazine will further their uptake and widen their appeal.

Benefits of Greepers for Children

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Greepers Laces Full Page

Greepers Laces can be great for children who have difficulty getting to grips with regular laces. They appear identical so there’s no stigma and they give children with disabilities much-needed independence when choosing footwear.

Greepers are universal as the parent above said, they can be used with any shoes of your choosing. They’re also a great solution for children who have that annoying habit of repeatedly untying their shoes. With Greepers it simply isn’t possible.

Your morning routine rush will be halved as the stress of shoelaces is removed. They are a better option than Velcro or elastic-laced shoes as the level of support is much better. We’ve looked previously at the differences between Greepers and Elastic Laces and it is pretty clear which comes out on top.

We’re always pleased when one of our favourite brands receives media coverage. Therefore we are really happy for Greepers and their appearance in Your Autism Magazine.

These are fantastic I bought them for my son who is partially sighted and has Asperger’s syndrome so getting dressed can be tricky for him but tying laces impossible! Now I have found these he had more choice for shoes and trainers and these were for his beloved boots he wears to Uni all through the winter! Fantastic invention thank-you x

Recent feedback for Greepers Hikers Laces.

Inventor of Greeper Laces gets Facebook Feedback for how useful they are for children

Peter Greedy who originally invented Greepers for his own children, gets regular feedback from parents with children with autism.

Just got this note from a customer... "I just want to say that the product is a god send, I have ordered them for my son who has Autism and just can not get the hang of tying shoes laces. As he is tall for his age, he is now in Adult shoes sizes, even though he is primary school. I have been unable to find velcro PE trainers in his size and these laces now mean he will be able to do his own shoes at PE time, without the other children noticing he can not do his laces and he will now not need to have an adult help." Love it!

 

Having just posted the note below ,within about 10 mins I also got this note... "ps Just noticed your job title - fantastic invention - so thank you on behalf of all those like my son who have impaired motor skills and can't tie laces!" Feeling very appreciated!

Two customers giving great feedback today... "ps Just noticed your job title - fantastic invention - so thank you on behalf of all those like my son who have impaired motor skills and can't tie laces! "I just want to say that the product is a god send, I have ordered them for my son who has Autism and just can not get the hang of tying shoes laces. As he is tall for his age, he is now in Adult shoes sizes, even though he is primary school. I have been unable to find velcro PE trainers in his size and these laces now mean he will be able to do his own shoes at PE time, without the other children noticing he can not do his laces and he will now not need to have an adult help."

 

The wider appeal of Greeper Laces

As we have said before, the great thing about Greepers is that they are also used by top sports people, so children can emulate their heroes too! This month also saw Greepers worn by Lucy Gossage winning Ironman UK in a pair of purple ones! This is such a fab pic we had to share it here!

Athlete Lucy Gossage celebrates the winning of the Ironman UK competiton.

Lucy Gossage winning Ironman UK wearing a pair of purple greeper laces!

UPDATE: Greepers Still in the Lead Triathlon 220 Magazine

As we mentioned above, Greepers are the best laces for athletes and have just been recommended again in the 220 Triathlon Magazine’s new edition (April 2014). They have a feature “Race Day Kit” essentials and Greeper Laces are one of the chosen products and given the top rating and the award BEST ON TEST.

laces shown with toggle that keeps them tight

Greeper Laces in Triathalon 220 Magazine

'Race day kit' showing vairous products for triathletes

Greeper Review BEST on TEST feature in Triathalon 220 magazine

The review reads:

“We’ve tested Greeper Laces before and, despite fierce competition from French outfit Xtenex and their bobbly efforts, in our eyes – and on our feet – the UK product continues to lead the way.For those new to tri or 220, the traditional lacing system is replaced with a brilliant mechanism that requires no tying. Simply guide the Greeper through eyelets in reverse before clamping in place at the toe end via a miniature plastic connector. Back at the tongue end the ingenious toggle requires a gentle tug of its protruding loops to tighten. Pull the toggle to ease pressure.
Sprinkling your shoe with talc and a modicum of practice will have you T2-ing faster than ever before. But, more importantly, your foot feels secure – unlike other systems that can leave your foot slipping about like Bambi on ice.
Verdict: Still the leader of the triathlon lacing pack. 93%.”