NFTA RIDER ALERTS
TTY/Relay 711 or 1-800-662-1220
For accessible formats or accommodations
please call 716-855-7286
For additional information call:
Erie & Niagara County
Post Immediately Remove 11/30/15
Metro Rail Passengers
METRO RAIL SHUTDOWN
TWO WEEKS IN A ROW:
Midnight Friday, Nov. 20 - Sunday, Nov. 22
Midnight Friday, Nov. 27 - Sunday, Nov. 29
from Lafayette Station to Erie Canal Harbor Station
Free shuttle buses will run Court and Main to Scott using
Pearl inbound and Washington outbound.
Thur., Nov. 26,Thanksgiving Day, Metro Bus/Rail
will operate Sunday service.
Fri., Nov. 27, Metro Bus/Rail will operate regular service.
Metro is developing ‘stored value’ cards for bus and rail fare. They are like gift cards, but you can add money to them when needed. Stored value cards would be available at many locations. Money could be added to cards at ticket
machines, participating stores, agencies and over the Internet. As we work on this, we’d like your input to help make this system work for you.
Link to NFTA Fare Survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/FareSurvey
2-1-1WNY is happy to announce
Toy Assistance Program serving Erie & Niagara Counties
Families can make applications for assistance
October 27th – December 4th**
** some sites will have different dates
For information on application sites, hours, and eligibility requirements
please call 2-1-1WNY, anytime, 24/7 at
2-1-1 or 888-696-9211.
Click here for a printable Holiday Partnership flyer to share with the families you work with.
Applications for & distribution of toys is handled by The Western New York Holiday Partnership and includes the following partners:
The Buffalo News
City Reach Church
Community Action Organization of Erie County
Fellowship Hill Ministries/Trading Post Community Care & Springville Crossing Church
Hamburg Youth Bureau
Ladies of Charity& Catholic Charities
Lancaster Youth Bureau
Lt. Col. Matt Urban Human Services Center TJ Dulski Food Pantry & Hope Center
Martha Mitchell Community Center
New Creation Fellowship
Niagara Community Action Program Inc.
Northtowns Boys& Girls Clubs
Olivencia Community Center
Olmsted Center for Sight & 2-1-1WNY
Response to Love Center
Resurrection Food Pantry
The Salvation Army (Buffalo, Lockport, Niagara Falls, Tonawanda & Rural Service Units)
St. John de la Salle Community Care
St. Lawrence RC Church
The USMC Toys for Tots program
United Ways of Buffalo & Erie County and Greater Niagara
Donations of new unwrapped toys and gifts, especially for older children 8-12 years, can be dropped off at The Buffalo News, Wegmans, Basil Dealerships and any Marine Corp Toys for Tots collection location.
The WNY Holiday Partnership is administered by the Olmsted Center for Sight.
Held each October, National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) is a time to celebrate the many and varied contributions of America's workers with disabilities. The theme for this year — which marks 70 years since the first observance — is "My Disability is One Part of Who I Am." This year's NDEAM theme comes from the Campaign for Disability Employment's Who I Am" PSA, which features nine people with disabilities sharing the many ways they describe themselves, including their occupations. Check out the blog post NDEAM 2015: My Disability Is One Part of Who I Am by Jennifer Sheehy, Deputy Assistant Secretary, U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Disability Employment Policy.
From the Office of the Commissioner of Health, Dr. Gale R. Burstein
Date September 29, 2015
Erie County Recognizes National Preparedness Month
Don’t Wait. Communicate. Make Your Emergency Plan Today!
ERIE COUNTY, NY— The Erie County Departments of Health and Emergency Services and the Office for Disabled Persons recognizes September as National Preparedness Month. This year we are asking you to take action now before the storms hit – make a plan with your community, your family, and for your pets. Plan how to stay safe and communicate during the disasters that can affect your community.
Erie County residents are encouraged to participate in the national day of action, National PrepareAthon! Day, which culminates the National Preparedness Month on September 30. Knowing what to do before, during and after an emergency is a critical part of being prepared and may make all the difference when seconds count. An emergency or disaster could be anything from a natural disaster, technological & accidental hazards, terrorist hazards, pandemics and home fires.
There are important differences among potential emergencies that impact the decisions you make and the actions you take depending upon the type of disaster. Each household should develop a plan that incorporates the following:
- How to plan with your household and prepare in advance so you are ready
- How to recognize signs of hazardous events that come with very little warning
- How to protect your household during the disaster
- How to begin recovery following the initial disaster
“We encourage everyone to take part, make a plan or review your existing strategy, and know what to do during an emergency or disaster. Update your contact list, develop a notification and reunification plan, and think about essential supplies including, food, water and medications,” said Daniel J. Neaverth, Jr., Commissioner, Erie County Department of Emergency Services. “The best way to start is to ask yourself: What will my family and I need to survive if we are on our own for 72 hours?”
“Everyone remembers the October Surprise storm in 2006 and the “Snovember” storm last year,” said Gale Burstein, Commissioner, Erie County Department of Health. “Many people were caught with insufficient medical supplies, including both prescription and over-the-counter medications. If you rely on medication and medical supplies, be aware of your current supplies and the possibility of adverse winter weather. Take precautionary steps to ensure you do not run out should you be unable to leave your home. This includes an accessible list of pharmacies in your area in case your usual pharmacy is closed. A plan is crucial for individuals with diabetes who are dependent on insulin or other essential medications.”
Disaster preparedness is even more critical to the disabled community. “It’s especially important for people with disabilities to be prepared for both man-made and weather-related disasters,” stated Frank Cammarata, Executive Director, Erie County Office for Disabled. “That is why we plan year-round to be prepared, no matter what type of emergency we face.” Preparedness planning is a collaborative effort in Erie County with involvement from Emergency Services, Health, Public Health Emergency Preparedness, Senior Services, Veterans Affairs and the Office for the Disabled.
For More Information:
Erie County Department of Health
NY State Department of Health
This group is open to all women who care for a child with special needs. The group is facilitated by the Bornhava Social Worker (a LCSW). This group meets one time a month, on a Thursday evening during the school-year at 6:30 p.m. (usually the first Thursday of the month). If you have any questions about this Women Caregivers・ Group, please contact Ann at Bornhava (839-1655 ext. 309).
To receive notices on upcoming meetings, please complete the information below and either send the form to Bornhava, c/o WOW MOMs, 25 Chateau Terrace, Amherst, NY 14226, or give to a Bornhava staff person.
There is no cost or fee to participate in the group. Attendance is not required monthly・ participants may attend when they are able. Childcare is offered.
25 Chateau Terrace
Amherst, NY 14226
Fax (716) 839-1656
A place for male caregivers of children with special needs
This group has ongoing discussions about coping as a male caregiver facing so many additional challenges or obstacles in today's world. The group is also a great place to share the rewards of being a father/male caregiver of a child with special needs.
Contact E. Crawford
25 Chateau Terrace
Amherst, NY 14226
716-839-1655 ext. 303
OPEN TO FATHERS AND MALE CAREGIVERS OF CHILDREN WITH SPECIAL NEEDS.
Meets one Tuesday each month at 7:30pm.
Diabetes Self-Management Workshops Coming to Erie County
Starting in September, Western New York Independent Living (WNYIL) is offering a six session FREE “Living Well with Type 2 Diabetes” workshop in Erie County, one in Buffalo and another in Clarence. This is a peer-led health education program for people dealing with Type 2 Diabetes, (once known as “adult-onset”). Workshops are designed to complement the participants’ existing health care regimens. Specific program content includes: decision making and problem-solving skills; developing and maintaining a safe, long-term physical activity program; preventing complications; dealing with anger, depression and difficult emotions; communicating effectively with family, friends and health professionals; using prescribed medication appropriately; healthy eating; monitoring blood sugar levels; skin and foot care; and planning for future health care.
- In Clarence, the workshop will take place at The Claremount, a Senior Residence at 10338 Main Street 14031, east of Strickler Road, from 1:00 PM to 3:30 PM on Sept. 16 and 25, Oct. 1, 7, 15, and 21, 2015.
- In Buffalo, the workshop will be held at the Salvation Army of Buffalo, 960 Main Street 14202, north of Allen Street, from 9:00 AM to 11:30 AM on Sept. 28, Oct. 6, 14, 19, 26, and Nov. 2, 2015.
Participants in the free workshops are required to pre-register by calling Patricia McAllister at (716) 836-0822, ext. 402.
The Western New York Independent Living, Inc. family of agencies offers an expanding array of services to aid individuals with disabilities to take control of their own lives.--
Ernest K. Churchwell
Public Information Officer-Writer
Office of Community Engagement
Western New York Independent Living
3108 Main Street
Buffalo, New York 14214
716-836-0822, ext. 181
visit our website at: www.wnyil.org
Last year, the WNYIL Family of Agencies' work in assisting individuals to leave or avoid institutionalization saved New York State taxpayers over $60 million, for a two-year total of over $80 million.
Information transmitted is intended only for the person or entity to
which it is addressed and may contain confidential and/or privileged
material. Any review, retransmission, dissemination or other use of, or
taking of any action in reliance upon, this information by persons or
entities other than the intended recipient is prohibited. If you received
this in error, please contact the sender and delete the material from any
**SCENT-FREE POLICY: WNY Independent Living, Inc. respects the health and
safety of persons with chemical sensitivities. The ingredients in many
fragrances and scents are known to irritate the respiratory tract, nervous
system, and eyes; lower immunity to disease; and trigger allergies and other
severe health reactions. In the case of asthma and epilepsy, reactions
triggered by exposure to scented products can be life-threatening. Thank
you for your consideration of others in providing an environment in which
everyone can feel safe and comfortable by not wearing such products.
New on Disability.Blog:
By Guest Blogger Marcie Roth, Director, Office of Disability Integration and Coordination, Federal Emergency Management Agency
Every day has the potential to bring the unexpected. That’s why it’s critical to raise awareness about the importance of being prepared for emergencies.
I’m delighted to share that as part of the 25th anniversary celebration of the historic Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), FEMA’s Ready Campaign and The Ad Council partnered on a public service announcement (PSA) titled We Prepare Every Day. The PSA shows people, including those with disabilities, preparing themselves, their family and their community for emergencies by assembling a disaster supply kit that meets their specific needs, making a communication plan to stay connected to family and friends following a disaster, and taking steps to help their community prepare to accommodate the access and functional needs of the whole community. The video provides equal access and includes open captioning, a certified deaf interpreter, and audio description for viewers who are blind or have low vision.
Statler Center is a New York State proprietary business school, certified by the state department of education and a program of the Olmsted Center for Sight.
Who we serve...
Blind and Visually Impaired Adults
*On-going admissions and application process for our programs which are run three times a year in Buffalo, NY - Winter, Spring and Fall
*Classes are limited to 15 students; because of this and because we are drawing applicants from all fifty states we must operate on a first come, first served basis.
*Statler offers a comprehensive curriculum adapted for persons with disabilities, industry specific software and presenters, a modern instructional facility with state of the art tech and hands on real life experience
Business Fundamentals (five weeks)
Builds upon computer literacy
Incorporates the use of adaptive technology if needed
Enhances skills in regards to written and electronic communication
Assists with the development and creation of Employment documents
Develops the ability to search job opportunities and build their professional network
using web based programs
Instructs on how to exude confidence on job interviews
Reviews business math to prepare people for assessments administered during the job search process
Contact Call Center (four weeks)
Instructs telephone courtesy and techniques
Technology: multi-line phone systems, note taking, multi-tasking,
incoming/outgoing calls with a variety of contact center contracts
Ability to utilize Assistive/adaptive software including dual headsets if applicable
Hospitality (five weeks)
Standards of the hospitality industry
Front and back of the house service and operations
Exposure to property management software
Externships at local hotels
Our job doesn’t end when the program does: Placement Assistance Post Graduation
82% placement rate
Placement assistance- job leads, assistance completing applications if needed, resume and Cover letter retrieval
For more information:
Elizabeth Schmidt, Admission Coordinator
Address: 1170 Main St
Buffalo, NY 14209
25 years after landmark Americans With Disabilities Act, efforts to aid the disabled continue
Changes sought in employment, independent living
Families in Crisis/Residential Needs.
Designed for Young People with Developmental Disabilities
Now Accepting Participants!
Western New York’s leading organization helping individuals with developmental disabilities and special needs lead more heathy, independent and productive lives currently has openings for its afterschool respite programs in Buffalo.
- For young people, ages 4 to 21
- Free to families, pending eligibility
After the Belle Program
104 Maryland Street
Buffalo Afternoon Respite
2635 Delaware Avenue
- Assistance with homework
- Arts and crafts
- Peer socialization
- Community outings
To enroll or for more information, call 716.817.9215
Looking for a job you’ll love?
What is Afternoon Respite?
After school care for young people with developmental disabilities, ages 5 to 21.
Program instructors assist with a number of enriching activities, such as homework, arts and crafts, peer socialization, community outings and more!
Western NY's leading human services agency is now seeking program instructors for our Southtowns Afternoon Respite program!
Apply today at www.people-inc.org
• At least 18 years of age
• High school diploma or GED
• NYS driver’s license that meets agency policy
• Pre-employment drug test
Special Needs Parent
Gather with other moms and dads who understand what you’re experiencing, regardless of your child’s diagnosis. We’ll support and encourage one another as we pray together and share resources. We’ll also look at what the Bible has to say about our kids and our role in their lives.
2nd Thursday every month, 6:15 - 7:45 pm
Kenmore Alliance Church, Room 303, 175 Bonnett Ave.,Tonawanda, NY 14150
For information, contact:
Phil & Shannon Welty at 417-3042 (text/call) or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Be Part of an Exciting NEW Project!
** Family Driven Planning ***
Collaboration of Hillside Family of Agencies & School of Social Work,
University at Buffalo
→ Do you have a child with a developmental/intellectual disability?
→ Do you feel like you or your child could use more support?
Family Driven Planning is to help increase the support network for children and youth with developmental disabilities and their caregivers. Hillside staff have been doing Family Driven Planning with youth to:
(1) strengthen their circle of support
(2) identify & engage family members/other caring adults to increase support to the youth and their caregivers
(3) increase youth’s quality of life, support their interests and dreams
The project is for children and youth who:
- Have a developmental or intellectual disability
- Currently eligible for but not yet receiving residential services
- Between the ages of 8 to 25 years
- Receive Medicaid or are eligible for Medicaid
The first 35 youth/families to enroll will participate in the Family Driven Planning with Hillside. The next 35 will be placed on a waiting list to be a comparison group for the project. A representative from the School of Social Work will talk with participants about relationships, quality of life, and Medicaid services at the start of Family Driven Planning and again 6 months later in a location convenient to the family. Youth will receive $5 gift cards at both times and there is no cost to the family.
Annette Semanchin Jones, PhD, Assistant Professor, School of Social Work at the University at Buffalo
716-645-1862 or email@example.com
For more information on Family Driven Planning at Hillside:
Michelle Belge, Director of Hillside Institute for Family Connections, 315-935-6701 or
Dan Lesinski, Hillside’s Director of Disability Services at 585-654-1465
Thank you for your time and consideration!
Early Childhood Direction Center
Special Needs Outreach Liaison
716 880-3875 ( main number)
Please like us on facebook www.facebook.com/ECDCWNY1
Join our email list firstname.lastname@example.org
Vickie Rubin, M.S. Ed. Phone - 716-880-3880
Early Childhood Direction Center
3131 SHERIDAN DRIVE, People Inc Building
AMHERST, NEW YORK 14226
(PEOPLE INC. BUILDING)
The only acceptable R-word is “respect”.
7 Things Parents of a Child with Special Needs Should Know
The Learning Disabilities Association of WNY (LDA of WNY) provides support for parents and guardians who need assistance in getting the right services to help their child and pave their way for future success.
If your child is struggling in school it can be extremely stressful. The special education process can be a very trying time, because it may be unfamiliar to you. There may be things you are unaware of and school districts don’t always provide this information.
The LDA of WNY offers the following information to help you gain a basic understanding of what is involved in the special education process:
1) As a resident of a school district, your child is entitled to be evaluated at the school district’s expense and receive services at no additional cost to you. This is due to Federal laws that all school districts are bound under called FAPE and IDEA, which stand for Free and Public Education and the Individual with Disabilities Education Act. These laws have existed since 1975.
2) It is important to request to have your child evaluated in writing to your school district’s Committee on Special Education (not the principal) and state the reason why you would like to have your child evaluated. The Committee on Special Education (CSE) office or Pupil Services office will reply to your correspondence and request that you sign a consent form giving them permission to evaluate your child.
TIP: It is a good idea to start a folder for your child beginning with a copy of your letter (referral) and the consent form. Once this consent form is received by the school district, they have 60 school days to complete a psychological evaluation, speech, occupational therapy, physical therapy testing and hold a CSE (committee on special education) meeting.
3) You are a very important member of the CSE meeting. The district may have gotten to know your child through the evaluations, but you spend valuable time and know your child best. You are the one who can provide the information on your child’s likes and dislikes, how your child reacts to and completes homework, how they handle school projects. This information is valuable to your child’s success in school.
4) Not all children evaluated will be found to need special education. Upon evaluation, your child may only need few accommodations to succeed. This may fall under the category of 504. Maybe your child is having a lot of difficulty in math and the evaluation determines your child would benefit from extended time on tests and a smaller location to take tests in. These accommodations can be fulfilled with a 504 plan.
6) If your child is found eligible for special education, an IEP (individualized education plan) will be developed. To create an effective IEP, parents, teachers, and other school staff must come together to look closely at the student’s unique needs. The purpose of your child having an IEP is to give your child a “level playing field” in the educational arena. There are a couple of things about this statement that deserve specific attention. First of all, the CSE is only concerned with the things that affect your child at school. Maybe your child’s bedroom is a disaster; this does not affect the school. However, if your child’s desk is just as disorganized as their bedroom, this becomes a school problem. The inability to be organized is having a negative effect on your child’s education. Secondly, the plan needs to be individualized to your child. Your child may have similar needs and may have an accommodation that is the same as another child; however their IEP should not look the same as someone else’s. The reward for turning in their homework needs to be something that motivates your child personally. Passing the class may be enough for some, other children may need something additional. Lastly, the IEP is not meant to allow your child to do better than the other children. What an IEP is meant to do is give your child as much of a chance as the other children in their class or grade. If your child is receiving a sticker for turning in their homework, the rest of the class probably is not. Chances are this is only a short-term solution for your child, but will be in place long enough for your child to complete their homework and remember to turn it in. The reinforcement of this behavior will slowly be phased out until the sticker is no longer needed and the IEP can be amended.
7) Whatever is determined necessary for your child to succeed and is written in the IEP has to be done. An IEP is a legally binding contract that must be upheld by the teachers and the school. Things put in writing to assist your child need to be completed. Even when there is substitute teacher, the IEP needs to be followed. The IEP cannot be changed without the parents’ consent and the parent does have the right to disagree. The parent is an equal member of the IEP team. The information provided here is only meant to give you an idea of your rights as a parent. If you would like more information, please contact LDA at 716-874-7200 and request the educational advocacy department.
In today’s technological society we like to think we have all the answers at our fingertips. The truth is, sometimes it takes another person to see us through a stressful situation. The LDA of WNY educational advocacy team is available to assist you in the special education process. They will listen to your concerns and provide suggestions as to what may help in the future. There is no charge for this service.
Association of WNY
2555 Elmwood Avenue
Kenmore, NY 14217
1-888-250-5031 Outside of Erie County
April 8, 2015
POLONCARZ, GLASCOTT INTRODUCE “TEXT TO 9-1-1” TO ERIE COUNTY
New Service to Benefit Residents with Speech, Hearing Impairments; Traditional Telephone Calls to 911 System Still Preferred Communication Method
ERIE COUNTY, NY— Today, Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz was joined by Commissioner of Central Police Services John Glascott, Emergency Services Commissioner Dan Neaverth, Jr., and Executive Director of the Erie County Office for the Disabled Frank Cammarata to announce that “text to 9-1-1” is now available to Erie County residents seeking assistance during an emergency. While traditional telephone calls to the system remain the preferred method of communication in an emergency, the alternative “texting” form of communication will be beneficial to individuals with speech or hearing impairments, as well as for use in situations where a telephone call is not possible such as when a crime is in progress or when the caller is facing domestic violence or abuse.
“Adding a texting component to the 9-1-1 system allows individuals who may not be able to speak into a telephone for whatever reason to access emergency help when it is needed, without ever speaking a word. In accidents with injuries, in domestic violence situations, or whenever a person can’t speak but needs help, a text to 9-1-1 will get assistance on the way,” said Poloncarz. “However, everyone should be aware that use of the text to 9-1-1 service carries the same responsibilities as the traditional phone 9-1-1 system, and that this is not something to be abused. This is a life-saving resource, and frivolous or non-serious usage of the system could result in critical resources being diverted away from an individual who really needs help. The system is there to be used when it is needed, and as with the traditional 9-1-1 phone system, abuse of the system carries penalties.”
Over the past several months, Erie County’s E-9-1-1 Emergency Communications Center received major equipment upgrades to provide these enhanced 9-1-1 capabilities. Text messages to 9-1-1 follow the same parameters as other texted wireless messages; callers are limited to 160 characters and reception and service will be limited if cell phone service is interrupted.
“We have been working with the mobile carriers in the area such as Sprint, Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile to make sure this system is operational for our citizens,” said Erie County Central Police Services Commissioner John Glascott. “All of the public safety telecommunicator call takers at the 9-1-1 center have been trained to respond to text-to-9-1-1 calls. After a vigorous testing period we are pleased to activate it and offer it as another life-saving tool for the public.””
“This system provides better access to the 9-1-1 system for the deaf and hard of hearing community and will also help people who may be non-verbal,” added Executive Director Cammarata. “Assistive technologies for people with a disability have greatly increased in the past few years, allowing them greater access to services. This is another terrific and helpful example.”
“Erie County will be one of the few counties in Western New York capable of handling text-to-9-1-1 calls,” said Michelle Kerr, Erie County’s Deputy Director of Law Enforcement Communications. “The 9-1-1 text message rings in similar to a normal phone call. The incoming text message will appear on all of our equipment. Once we answer the call, a text screen will open, at which point text dialogue with the caller can begin.”
In most cases Erie County’s equipment will be able to see the general location of the caller/texter. If for some reason text to 9-1-1 service is found to be unavailable, the caller will receive a text message instructing them to make a phone call because there is no text service available to 9-1-1 at that time. When the call is over, the caller will receive a text message confirming that the dialogue has closed.
County officials remind everyone that calling 9-1-1 remains the fastest and most efficient way to communicate with emergency personnel.
The following steps must be taken in order to text to 9-1-1 during an emergency:
• Enter the numbers “911” in the “To” field.
• The first text message to 9-1-1 should be brief and contain the location of the emergency and type of help that is needed.
• Push the “send” button.
• Be prepared to answer questions and follow all instructions.
• Text in simple words and do not use abbreviations.
Below are a few things to know about the text to 9-1-1 service:
• Text location information may not be equal to current location technology.
• As with all text messages, 9-1-1 messages can take longer to receive, can get out of order, or may not be received.
• Text-to-9-1-1 is not available if you are roaming.
• A text plan is required to place a text to 9-1-1.
• If texting to 9-1-1 is not available in your area, or is temporarily unavailable, you will receive a message indicating that texting 9-1-1 is not available and to contact 9-1-1 by other means.
• Photos and videos can’t be sent to 9-1-1.
• Text to 9-1-1 cannot include more than one person. Do not send an emergency text to anyone other than 9-1-1.
• Don’t text and drive.
EARLY CHILDHOOD DIRECTION CENTER
Looking for support? There's help available! Our group is dual-purposed, and serves as both a parent/guardian support group in addition to a child play group. Children with visual impairments ages birth - 5 are who our group primarily serves, however; this group also welcomes children with any developmental delays or disabilities in that age range. We meet once a month to talk about concerns, obstacles, and successes you may be encountering with your child, in addition to allowing free play time for our children. The overall purpose of this group is to provide support and allow for new connections to be fostered among a community of parents, caregivers, and children
You can contact ECDC Staff at ECDC@kaleidahealth.org
Creating a Sensory Friendly Home Environment for Children on the Autism Spectrum - National Autism Network
Individuals with autism often experience sensory difficulties that can make everyday interaction painstaking. Noises that typically go without notice to the general public can be a huge challenge for an individual with autism, and prevent them from being able to focus on a given task or possibly even lead to a meltdown.
Although not considered core features of autism, sensory issues, which can impact all 5 senses, have been found to affect nearly 90 percent of children on the spectrum in some way or another. While it is impossible to control others out in public, there are steps you can take as parents to make your home more sensory-friendly for your child. A child's sensory needs could involve the reduction of stimuli or an increase of stimulation depending on the situation.2 This article will discuss features you can add in your home to make it more comfortable for your child experiencing sensory sensitivities.
Children with autism have sensory needs that may be viewed as odd to the layman individual unfamiliar with the disorder. Actions like lining objects in a row or stimming can seem peculiar, but may offer therapeutic value for that individual. Below are some examples of household features that can assist these sensory needs as well as items that can transform your home into a living space that is more sensory friendly:
Design: When planning a sensory-friendly environment it is important to envision how the design or the layout of the area will affect the child's abilities. You are going to want to design a room to be sensory-friendly by constructing it so that it cuts down on outside stimuli, is organized (and can be easily reorganized). Plan as much out in the design phase as possible including furniture arrangement, color schemes, child's needs, how much sunlight is getting in, the type of theme you desire, if any, outlet placement, what your budget is, the types of sensory devices/activities you would like to include, etc. This is most important in rooms in where your child spends the majority of their time, such as their room, the living room, kitchen, and bathroom.
Color: Colors have the power to incite specific emotions and feelings inside of us. For example, red, which triggers stimulation, appetite, and hunger, and yellow, which triggers feelings of happiness and friendliness, are often used by fast food companies to get you to subconsciously desire their food.
When it comes to colors for children on the autism spectrum, less is more, as some research has found that children with autism see color more intensely than their neurotypical peers.
One of the cornerstones of making a room sensory-friendly is to cut down on overstimulation. To stay true to this concept, colors should be low-toned, or muted, patterns should be minimal, and colors should be chosen wisely. For example, blue has been found to be the most calming, while reds were found to be the most arousing in children with autism. No matter how you plan your room's colors, you can always add sensory stimuli to them according to your child's needs.
Lighting: This is where you get to really be creative, especially for your child's room. A calming environment will naturally be void of intense lighting from fluorescent bulbs, but in their place a number of different lighting techniques can be used. Bright or fluorescent lights can be disorienting for those on the spectrum, causing them to seek refuge or isolate themselves in a more controlled environment. Every room in your house should have a dimmer switch so that the lighting can be adjusted according to your child's needs. For your child's room, you can introduce lighting in a variety of ways. Black lights, Christmas lights, bubble tubes, projectors, LED lights, fiber optics, night lights etc. are all viable ways to provide lighting in your child's room. Putting a piece of fabric safely around a lighting fixture can also reduce light. While there is a consensus within the autism community that fluorescent lighting should be avoided, the jury is still out on natural light. Some argue that natural light aids cognitive abilities and overall health. However, there are others who believe that natural lighting is detrimental to an individual with autism because distractions like glare, shifting sunlight patterns, and outside visual stimuli are too great. However, for a home setting natural light is encouraged, and there is nothing stopping you from drawing a curtain if it becomes too big of a distraction. Blackout curtains can be helpful, especially for children who often experience sleep issues.
Organization/Structure: Let's face it, kids will be kids, and that means they will be messy. However, keeping rooms structured and organized is important for maintaining routine. Play things do not only need to be organized in a logical manner, but able to be easily accessed by your child whenever he/she pleases. Of the utmost importance is safety. Be sure to arrange furniture and your electronic devices so that there aren't any exposed wiring or outlet holes. Your structure and organization doesn't need to end in your child's room or even have to involve their possessions. Other organization tips include a toy bin on wheels, a sensory "sweet spot" full of pillows and other sensory-friendly items, simple routines, and anything that will make your child feel more comfortable.
Furniture: The type of furniture you have in your house can go a long way to providing structure and organization, as well as ensuring your child's safety. Children tend to be rough on furniture, especially their own, so make sure to purchase durable items. In the dining room, cushioned, heavy chairs with long backs provide the most support and security. For children who have poor motor skills, a low-rise table may be suitable to prevent from tipping or falling out of chairs.
In their room, arrange furniture so your child can easily transition from activity to activity without breaking routine. Also, arrange the furniture in such a way that they are away from shelves or other places where the child may climb. It is also important to keep in mind that doorknobs and hooks can be viewed as invitations for climbing in the eyes of a child who views the entire world as their personal play palace. For children who have the motor skills and the desire, there are sensory room designs that include rock climbing walls. Labels on the furniture can be helpful at not only assisting a child with identifying an object, but also its purpose. For example, if you label a bed as "for sleeping", then your child will be less likely to use it as a trampoline. Your furniture can take on the same principles of other sensory items, and that is to either calm or stimulate the senses depending on the situation.
Sensory Items: While it may seem impractical to introduce some of the items you might see at an Occupational Therapy session, such as a ball pit (although, one can be easily created using an empty child's pool and plastic balls) , many of the therapeutic tools utilized during OT can be affordable and easily applied in the home. Big pillows, rope ladders, tactile paths/discs, OT therapy tunnels, swings, and many other variations on these themes are essential for enhancing and calming your child's sensory needs. Your child's mattress is another item that warrants careful consideration as sleeping problems are common for children with autism, not to mention potential bed wetting scenarios. Like the rest of the furniture your child uses, your bed frame should be heavy and durable. Weighted blankets, although not entirely without controversy, have been used by some to help children with autism conquer sleep issues or for the calming effect. As for the mattress itself, you want it to be firm, soft, and durable, which is why memory foam or latex mattresses work best, but take your child to the store for a test drive, if possible. For themed rooms, your child's bed frame can make bedtime feel like more of an adventure than a chore. Some families have installed curtain rods in the ceiling above the bed so the child can block out excess light and have more privacy.
Shelves: This may seem like a small feature to be given its own section, but shelf placement and use can help keep your child engaged. First of all, arrange shelves horizontally as to suppress any notion of climbing. Secondly, children with autism tend have a proclivity for lining things up or stacking items (the latter of which can come in handy when deciding upon organizational tactics). According to The Sensory Hippo, which provides idea for sensory living, "creating a play space in your home that appeals to their desire to line things up can be calming for them."
These long shelves should be placed just below eye level and be installed in multiple rooms in the house. These shelves can be therapeutic as a calming strategy, but can also work as a new coping strategy. For example, if a child with autism isolates themselves when strangers come over, then you can give them a new toy or special item they find comforting for them to line up and play with in the living room or family room. The new coping strategy can work to help get them through the visit as opposed to running into their room.
Bathroom: The bathroom is likely anything but a haven for your child on the autism spectrum. The bathroom can cause a number of sensory sensitivities such as the ringing of echoes on tile surfaces, cold floors, hard/cold toilet seats, loud toilets, running water, and bright lights reflected on mirrors can all be disorienting for individuals on the spectrum.
The first thing you should consider when trying to make your bathroom more sensory-friendly is safety. Some safety issues to install would be a bath rail and a rail next to the toilet, a toilet lock, non-slip surfaces on tiles and in the tub, non-slip stools, etc. In terms of comfort, non-slip rugs and mats next to the tub and sink, cushioned potty cover, shelves and hooks for towels to decrease the echoes in the room, night lights over bright lights (natural lighting during the day if possible), and a towel warmer to cut down on the anxiety shivering can cause children. Other features you may want to consider is a removable, handheld shower head, a shower head with LED lights, portable bath jets that can reduce pain and induce relaxation through massage, a waterproof pillow, bath toys (naturally), music in the bathroom, and be sure to utilize non-toxic cleaners. Glass mirrors frequently used by your child should be replaced with a reflective acrylic surface to avoid breaking.
There are infinite possibilities out there when it comes to constructing a more sensory-friendly environment in your home that cover a wide range of expenses. You do not have to break the bank to create an effective sensory-friendly environment and some sensory items you can even create myself. Include your child in the planning, decision making, and creation process as much as possible. Tailor their sensory-friendly environments to their favorite subjects because after all they will be spending a lot of time there. Have fun with the process and remember it doesn't have to be perfect.
We would love to hear about some sensory activities or objects you have installed in your home in the comment section below. We have also included some resources relating to sensory-friendly environments below.
The Learning Center (TLC) has open spots for Adult Education classes for adults with a learning disability. TLC provides individualized educational instruction to adults who do not have a high school diploma. TLC offers small group instruction to those interested in obtaining their GED, as well as classes to improve basic literacy in reading, writing and math. For more information, contact the Learning Disabilities Association of WNY by emailing email@example.com or calling (716) 874-7200.
Director of Community Relations
Learning Disabilities Association of WNY
Family Support Services
Family Support Services Coordinators are available at each of OPWDD's Developmental Disabilities Regional Offices (DDROs) to help families access Family Support Services. Each DDRO also has a Family Support Services Advisory Council to represent the interests of family members and people with developmental disabilities. The councils work in partnership with the DDROs to make decisions supporting families and loved ones.
Family Support Services can help in times of crisis when a family member or loved one becomes ill, or when things get difficult at home for other reasons. With assistance and support, families can often work these situations out and stay together. Find out more information about these services and supports by calling the Family Support Services Coordinator at the DDRO representing the county in which the individual/family lives.
DDROs continually work with local community agencies to ensure that other family support services for people with developmental disabilities and their loved ones are available when and where they are needed. These family support services may include:
- information and referral
- family and individual counseling
- family-member training
- camps (Adult Overnight Summer Camp Information )
- after-school programs
- sibling services
- support groups
- service coordination
DDROs can also arrange for specialized equipment and home modifications. For information about these types of FSS supports and services, please contact the Family Support Services Coordinators Listing of the Developmental Disabilities Regional Office (DDRO) representing the county in which the individual/family lives.
Vickie Rubin, M.S. Ed. Phone - 716-880-3880
Early Childhood Direction Center
3131 SHERIDAN DRIVE, People Inc Building
AMHERST, NEW YORK 14226
(PEOPLE INC. BUILDING)
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