Special Education

Working with Our Exceptional Students during the COVID-19 Pandemic

by Raymond T. Heipp. Ph.D.


In 1951, a short story appeared in a children’s magazine, Boys and Girls Page, called, “The Fun They Had.” It was written by an author named Isaac Asimov who would later become one of the most distinguished science fiction writers of the 20th century. The premise of the story was that by the year 2157, all schooling would be done in the homes by computerized teachers. The young protagonists of the story find a real book in their attic and begin to wonder about what it must have been like to attend school with other students. Almost seventy years later, the idea of schooling done at home through a computer has come to the forefront due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

I write this to you during the first day of “lockdown” in Ohio. We have already seen our schools move to an online format. Many districts and almost all universities have already begun to announce that the semester will continue without further face-to-face classes. Other states, like Kansas, are moving towards this same online-teaching format for all schools. In speaking with educational leaders throughout the country, the conservative expectation is that over 80% of schooling during the 2019-2020 school year will be completed as such.

What does this mean for our exceptional students? It means that there is going to be a change in routine which may create some issues for them. The first thing to remember is that scheduling is very important in a student’s routine. It’s a good idea to take a look at the structure of their day and try to keep it as similar to their regular school day as possible. The second thing is to realize that services must continue for them in a differentiated format. The Office of Civil Rights put out a letter describing this mandate here: https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/newsroom.html. On that page, they also have a link to the US Department of Education’s Information page regarding coronavirus here: https://www.ed.gov/coronavirus?src=feature. Please stay abreast of the fact that we must continue the education of our students and that this situation is dictating changes in our sharing of information with all students.

As many of you teachers are moving into online teaching, I understand you are not sure where to start.  Right now, I have seen everything from teachers sending notes and quizzes via email, to those who have taken advantage of products like Zoom, Skype, Google Classroom, and Blackboard to keep learning going in as close to a typical situation as possible.  For those of you who do not know where to start, Dr. Kelly Grillo from the Council for Exceptional Children conducted a fantastic webinar last Thursday. You can check it out here: https://www.cec.sped.org/Tools-and-Resources/Resources-for-Teaching-Remotely.  Please also check out their resource listing as they have the most up-to-date listings of resources, especially those which are at no cost now to you or the schools.

I have also done several things in order to best assist us through this transition.  First, if you are on Twitter, please feel free to follow me @DrSmartEd as I am reviewing and retweeting ideas and other resources as I find and review them. I am also creating a video series on “Working with Our Exceptional Individuals During the COVID-19 Pandemic” on the School Health YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL1hxoeTdARrPewCfsKbJ2IpDU_OZYqd73. This video series discusses what we can be doing at home and during preparation. It highlights activities that can be done with household items as well as items which may either be lying around the school and accessible to parents or guardians in the home environment. I am discussing what others have shared with me and trying to give an overall view of how we can make this as effective as possible for all of our students. I am also going to be adding to my blog output which you have linked to here at: https://www.schoolhealth.com/blog/addressing-the-coronavirus-with-our-exceptional-individuals/.

Two things are of the utmost importance to remember when you are designing online lessons. First, communication is critical! You must be overly explicit in directions to the students and to the parents/guardians who are working with the students. This is important for two reasons. The first reason is what one might expect, clear communication will lead to the lesson or activity being done correctly the first time. It will be able to be completed without the need for continued questioning during any of the parts of the activity. The second reason is to create a structure around the lesson or activity, thereby creating a sense of security in the minds of both the student and the guide. We are all highly anxious and stressed right now. Explicit communication helps! If it is permitted by your district, phone calls or even video connections add another layer of psychological comfort to this situation.

Second, you want to be as understanding and caring as possible. Many of our exceptional students will be overly needy and seeking attention during this time. Many people are exuding feelings of stress and those feelings are not easily understood by those with exceptionalities. As we work with our exceptional individuals, it is important to be patient during this unique and difficult situation. The first person to be patient with is yourself! We are in uncharted territory here and there is no absolute right or wrong way of doing things. Have faith in your own teaching abilities and interact with your students how you believe it is best to interact with them, following the health guidelines designed by your state and educational guidelines set up by your district.

Use any and all resources at your disposal.  If you have questions, please reach out to me at rheipp@schoolhealth.com and I will respond. Don’t forget to check out the video series too.

We will get through this together and be even stronger in our educational ways!

We Are a Crocus in this World

by Raymond T. Heipp. Ph.D.


CrocusWorking with individuals with differing abilities stands out as one of those occupations that is considered more of a vocation than a job. The role one plays does not matter in this consideration. There is no such thing as a hierarchy outside of any structures created so that “personnel evaluations” can be conducted and managed, along with rewarding those who have helped shape the lives of so many. Thus, the title one has; teacher, therapist, administrator, aide, nurse, parent, guardian, etc.; does not diminish the energy one puts into this role.

This role can be one of the most draining roles of any in the world. It is most draining on one’s emotions! Every day, we go out and work with individuals knowing that they bring a strong message to this world. Yet, to the rest of the world, these individuals are seen as either someone to simply be pitied or someone who is “a burden to society.” In both of those cases, the rest of the world has no clue about that individual. This external push back can also be a drain on those of us working with these individuals daily. We also become emotionally drained when our expectations for progress need to be tempered with the challenges that each individual faces.  We do see regression and struggle. We work extremely hard at finding solutions or techniques that might help only to sometimes find that the individual does not react well to them. We look at them almost like our own children (even if they are adults!) and seek to protect them and give them the greatest chance to succeed. Between the struggles, the outside perceptions, the stress and emotional duress, and the demands on our lives, the question must be asked; “Why do we do this?”

The answer is simple. We do this out of hope. Hope, that characteristic which remained in Pandora’s box, forms the reason we do what we do. Hope is that voice inside of us pushing us to go one step further with that individual. Hope is that feeling we get that says we will make a difference; and we do every day! Hope presents us with the ability to look in an individual’s eyes and see what they bring to this world. Hope is a life-giving force for us, even on those days where we feel spent.

We feel the true essence of hope. Many look at hope as something akin to wishes. “I hope I win the lottery” or "I hope to find true love” are statements that detract from the depth that hope should bring to any individual. “I hope spring arrives soon” is what I am hearing as I write this at the end of an 18 day trip working with individuals in multiple states. That is a concrete example of equating hope to a wish. We know that spring will arrive at some point and it is more of a wish that we stop having snow, colder temperatures, or inconsistent weather. That is not the real meaning of hope.

Hope is learning that the beautiful young lady with severe CP and verbal apraxia is able to complete a significant amount of high school classwork independently and carry a 3.0 average. Hope is seeing the smile come from a non-verbal child because you are talking to them and then having them guide your hand as they try to communicate to you. Hope is watching the young woman with Spina Bifida and other physical issues compete in the Para-Olympics. Hope is watching a young man who was non-verbal as a child and is on the autism spectrum be accepted into the honors program at a major university. In all these cases, hope is not some wish. Hope is the driving force that keeps us focused on why we do what we do. It is the belief that the outside world is incorrect in their suppositions about individuals with differing abilities and that we can assist those individuals in overcoming their obstacles and live a vibrant life. Hope places within us the understanding that our actions do make a difference and the faith to know that we might not be there to see what difference we made, but know that we made it.

In nature, hope exists in the essence of the crocus. The crocus is a beautiful little flower that blossoms each spring. It does not wish that spring will come soon. It knows what its role is and will push through to bloom no matter what the weather might be. Those of us in the Midwest have seen (too many times, unfortunately) snows in March and April. Yet, the crocus comes out knowing that spring is coming. It is filled with the hope that says “Take Action” and it has no doubt about what it is doing. Those of us who work with those with differing abilities have that same hope. It is a hope which says “Take Action” to us and pushes us to understand that the snows and bad weather of life cannot hold us back. The other neat thing about the crocus is that it has the ability to naturalize even in grass. That means it can grow and increase its numbers even in areas where growth might not be expected. We are that crocus; naturalizing by working with each other and recruiting others to understand that “Ableism” is another of the “isms” which must be removed from our existence. We all have something amazing and beautiful to bring to this world. Thank you for what you are doing and know that you are not alone in this venture!

CEC 2019 – Braving the Polar Vortex for Our Friends

CEC Recap ImageCEC 2019 saw some unusual weather in the Indianapolis area. The arrival of the polar vortex was not what most attendees were expecting when they were planning their trip this year! I happened to be speaking to a group recruiting teachers to Alaska and they were using the tagline “Alaska is the Hawaii of the North!” as on the first full day of CEC, Anchorage, Alaska was 25 degrees warmer than we were in Indianapolis and that doesn’t even count the wind chill!

Yet, inside the building, there were excellent ideas and presentations going on. As I prepared for the conference by reviewing the sessions, I was not surprised by the number of research-focused sessions. However, I was pleasantly surprised that the next three most prolific topics there were: Autism Spectrum Disorder/Intellectual Disability; Collaboration and Inclusive Practices; and Personnel Preparation. We are at a point in time where the ideas of inclusivity and awareness of how to support students with differing abilities are at the forefront of Special Education.

Within the context of inclusivity, there were a myriad of sessions describing how the simplest adjustments can bring about high levels of success for all students. The critical piece though in any movement toward true inclusivity is to ensure that the teachers and paraprofessionals are properly supported and trained in approaches which work for all students. Even when I was heading up a Special Needs Program in the 1990s, I remember the concern of teachers being “how can I help these students when I know nothing about their issues?” Back in the 1990s, we were mainly dealing with issues of ADD and physical issues like CP. Today, we see that there are more differing abilities which are not restricting our students from succeeding in classrooms. It is the lack of funding for holistic preparation for our teachers which is slowing us down. The irony is that the techniques which best support our students with differing abilities also are supportive of our neuro-typical students too.

How do we continue to move toward more inclusivity and a transparency in technology for students in the classroom. Teacher preparation is the first step. I am seeing many universities already moving toward courses which focus on inclusive pedagogies within their general education classes. This is not to say that there should not be Special Education classes. However, the awareness of how to work with a student on the autism spectrum is also good for working with the neuro-typical population. Simple things like pacing, verbiage, sensory awareness, and approaches to assignments are supportive of all students. We also need to recognize that there are students with differing abilities who may not be diagnosed. Understanding a variety of teaching techniques is important for those students too.

Another important take-away from the conference was the message that there is not a one-size-fits-all approach for working with students with differing abilities. The more we share approaches which work, the more we are able to adapt to the specific needs of our students. Using approaches which incorporate multi-modal learning along with including opportunities for sensory feedback better meet the needs of our students, but require proper training and support to be used effectively.

Due to the timing of this year’s conference, vendors found themselves with a decision as to whether to attend CEC or ATIA. Only about 5 vendors sent groups to both conferences. On account of that, I was not able to see the “Sidekick” from Ablenet in action. Thanks to my colleagues, Terri Griffin and Gabe Ryan, I was able to get some firsthand feedback. It seems like an amazing device which permits any user to use devices like a trackball or a standard mouse with an iPad. Thanks to the good folks at Ablenet, I will have one when it officially comes out later in the year and will be able to feature it in some of my AT Seminars. So look for a review of that in the coming months. While at CEC, I was impressed with the Talking Pen. I am doing a little more research with this device, but see many potential applications for our classrooms, including adding to making reading a more inclusive process.

If you were not able to attend either CEC or ATIA and would like to have me stop out and talk more to you and your staff, please let me know. I am back out on the road bringing AT Seminars and other sessions to districts throughout the country. By sharing what is working for us in the classroom, we are able to come closer to creating highly inclusive environments for our students.

Adaptive Seating: Things to Consider

by Raymond T. Heipp. Ph.D.


SE Today-blog badgeThroughout my travels here in the US, I am constantly being asked questions about adaptive seating. There are so many questions and almost as many assumptions being made about these various types of seating. In the blog written by Andrea Simpson, she speaks of how an SLP can use a “Bitty Bottom” to assist in language activities. She adeptly discusses that as one of the manners in which to include the sensory and movement pieces into speech therapy.

In that idea, she hits upon the key point for any type of sensory feedback or, in this case, adaptive seating, there is no one-size-fits-all! That is the foundation from which I suggest we all operate. I recently was called by a principal who was absolutely frustrated. He had ordered chairs with moving seats for all of his third through fifth grade classrooms. He explained to me that he had read the stories and heard from colleagues as well as the manufacturer how wonderful these seats were for students with attention issues. Yet, after the implementation at the beginning of the school year, he found those classes were the least focused on studies and the hardest to control. We had a great talk and he came to better understand that while those seats may have been working well for some of the students with attention issues, they are not going to work for all students in the same way. Plus, for those students who were not demonstrating any attention issues, those seats became an excellent distraction. I simply gave him this analogy; imagine the seats being fidget spinners. Students who need the spinner and have been properly trained how to use it for their own benefit will use it well. However, it becomes a toy and distraction for all of the students who do not need it.  He understood that immediately.

So, what do recommend to schools? First, I suggest that they analyze specific student needs. You will have some students who need specific types of seating. There is plenty of research out there which supports how some students can actually increase their activity engagement when they are properly supported and comfortable; thereby deceasing environmental factors which limit engagement. If you are looking for specific research, you may want to involve your OT or PT as much of the research comes out of their realm. I remember the first article I used was Rigby et al in 1995 looking for ways to help those with CP and other physical health issues. The one point which is fairly consistent is that adaptive seating can be effective, but it must be geared toward the individual and cannot simply be assigned to everyone.

Special Tomato Extended Small MPSBy knowing the needs of the students, schools can then begin to look at what they have and what they might wish to have available. We will see products like Tumbleforms and Special Tomato seating which have their roots in assisting those with CP as well as being able to be applied to many more individuals. We also see Rifton chairs and other types of chairs which are meant to be a support as well as allow individuals to interact with classroom materials and others. Those are the types of adaptive seating which are recommended for specific individuals through the work of therapists. These are some of the easier decisions to make when it comes to seating.

The more difficult decisions come when the seating enhances focus and attention and does not carry with it ways to analyze exactly what a student might need. For these cases, I recommend a variety of tools for classrooms and therapy rooms to offer choice. Let’s face it, in our inclusive classrooms, students with differing abilities do not want to stand out from their neuro-typical peers. So, we need to think about these classrooms as an ability-friendly way of approaching education.

Those who have heard me speak know that I am a big proponent of using inflatable cushions as a support for a variety of students. It is ironic that Ms. Simpson referred to “Bitty Bottoms” as many realize I love this product and see it as a benefit for students who need it at the middle school and high school levels. These cushions are small, easily customizable, and can be carried in a backpack from location to location. I am always amazed too at the number of classrooms which use CoreDisk cushions with the teacher having one for herself, providing a wonderful model for the students, while sitting more comfortably at the desk.

Exercise balls are another common manner of adaptive seating. Please remember the following guidelines though if they are being used in a classroom. First, have a stand in which the exercise ball can be placed. It helps to limit the rolling that may not be easily controlled by some students. Second, make sure the exercise ball is the appropriate size for the students. If the students cannot place their feet flat on the floor while using the exercise ball, it is too large. Balance plays an essential role in using the exercise ball. Thus, being able to place one’s feet on the floor while sitting on the ball is important to the effects of the ball on learning. Third, make sure that the students have enough of a sense of balance and core strength to maintain a position on the ball. I have heard stories of students sitting down and going right over on to their heads because they did not have enough core strength to use the ball properly.

Specialty types of seating for sensory feedback like Beanbag Chairs and Scallop Seats may be quite appropriate for students too. Those of us who lived through the 1970s have had experience with Beanbag Chairs. The irony is the flexibility within those chairs is perfect for some of our students who need feedback at multiple points throughout the body. Although associated with being a calming and relaxing method of seating, these chairs have also proven themselves to give enough proprioceptive feedback to the body allowing the students to read or review information with limited distractibility. Scallop Seats are great for positioning students, whether on a floor or on a chair. Although some might look at them as a modified booster seat, they are actually an excellent way to add some texture, upper body parameters, and posture support for students.

There are many more types of adaptive seating out there, so the process of determining what is best can be overwhelming. By starting with a review of the school’s students and a cataloguing of what is already at the school, one can begin to piece together a plan for seating support in all classrooms. Remember that there is no such thing as one-size-fits-all. Speak to your vendors and see who is willing to let you try products before you buy. That way, you get a better sense of what will work along with having a great return on your investment.

As always, if you have any further questions, please feel free to reach out to me at rheipp@schoolhealth.com. We are all in this to help individuals with differing abilities, so I am here for you. We know that everyone has a voice and sometimes that voice is stronger when we do not have the distraction of an uncomfortable seating arrangement!

Happy 100th Birthday Occupational Therapy!

by Dr. Raymond Heipp

Hero-AOTA2017Any birthday is a cause for celebration. But a 100th birthday, that is a cause for ceremonial jubilee! I was honored to attend the 100th birthday celebration for occupational therapy at the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) Conference this past weekend in Philadelphia. It was an amazing time that highlighted the role occupational therapy has played in our lives during the past millennium.

Occupational Therapy is often misunderstood by the public at large because it is lumped into categories which contain other types of therapy. By its very definition, occupational therapy is a therapy which “helps people across the lifespan participate in the things they want and need to do through the therapeutic use of everyday activities (occupations).” (AOTA Website)

It is a therapy that is good for everyone and can assist in daily life practices. As a former school administrator, I am a big proponent of OT/Sensory breaks in classrooms every day. It is amazing how a brief exercise can increase focus and attention for all of our students, let alone those with differing abilities.

I had the opportunity to speak at length to a highly-respected OT, Susan Wilkerson, or “Miss Sue” as her clients refer to her. We spoke about some of the changes that had occurred in OT over the years. These changes are partially due to a better understanding of the ways in which the human body processes sensory input, and partially due to a stronger level of respect being placed upon the field. OTs have a strong focus on making sure that individuals are able to handle the daily tasks which are encountered each day. During our discussion, I focused on the sensory side of things with her. This is an area which is often overlooked in our classrooms.

“Miss Sue” has recently developed a series of kits that really bring occupational therapy to a new level of engagement in the classroom. Although all of them are extremely well-designed and thought out for the classroom, I wanted to focus on three that made an impression on me. All three of these kits would be items I would encourage my teachers to use, no matter the grade level or the course.

 

BBBreaksI was amazed at the School Health Bilateral Brain Breaks Kit. This kit includes items that one would normally see out on a playground. For example, the “Skip-a-Long” is a toy placed on the ankle that encourages jumping and coordination. I remember seeing similar items on playgrounds as far back as the 1960s. And, here they are again playing an important role in getting both sides of the brain to “talk” to each other. I watched in awe as a few of the younger OTs and a couple of children visiting the conference immediately began using it and had fun.

I did not try the Skip-a-Long for fear of a hospital visit, but I did try the “Bungee Jumper” from the same kit. It is basically a foam base and bungee version of a pogo stick. That concept, again, is something that has been around for a long time. Sue shared with me some of the research behind that particular item and one of the ways that this kit can be effective in the classroom. The research demonstrates that a student fighting with attention issues who uses the “Bungee Jumper” for five minutes will bring focus back to their minds for upwards of two hours! Those of us who have worked with students facing attention issues know that five minutes of focus is difficult, but two hours of focus is amazing!

 

Yucky LunchAnother kit that fascinated me was the School Health Yucky Lunch Kit. The small plastic “Lunchbox” holds a piece of “Cheese” with “Mice” crawling through it, a “Banana” with “Banana slugs” in it, “Pasta,” and a few other “Creatures” that would make any adult cringe! But how it captures the attention of students! The activities include pushing the mice through the cheese and placing the slugs in various locations on the banana. While these activities may seem “gross,” they are actually “fine” when it comes to motor activities. (Okay, sorry to my OTs who got that lame joke!) Finger dexterity, motor planning, fine-motor skills, and varied sensory input are just some of the actions occurring while children play with this kit.

 

 

Sensi-DesertThe last kit I want to speak of here is the School Health Sensi-Desert Kit. This kit was a hit with almost every OT who stopped by to visit Miss Sue. The specialized sand along with the lizards and snakes who “live” in the sand create a unique feel for those sticking their hands into it. The sand is not the kinetic sand or even real sand as some might expect. It is actually a specialized sand that feels more like soft earth or wet sand without as much coarseness. It was amazing to see so many of the therapists who did not want to stop playing in this sand as it gave positive sensory feedback. With all of these kits, School Health has included the EdTeam Action Guide™. This guide contains creative educational and therapy ideas in language, fine motor strength, coordination, gross motor movement, balance, early concepts, and more - all written by Miss Sue. The goal is to create an environment where anyone can use the kit to its greatest advantage with the students.

 

Snug VestsThere were many more amazing insights taken away from this conference. However, those are for another blog! I do have to say that the prototype version of the new Snug Vest and some of the other items coming down the road from them are very impressive. Those of you who have attended my seminars know how much I appreciate what Lisa Fraser has done in the creation of the Snug Vest and how it is used in a multitude of ways.

As I left the AOTA Conference and Philadelphia, I was definitely on sensory overload! It is good that so many of the tools there though allowed me to get my focus back quickly and drive safely. Happy Birthday, Occupational Therapy! May you continue to grow and expand your reach over the next 100 years!

And thank you too to all of you OTs out there! You make a significant difference in our world and your work is appreciated!

Raymond T. Heipp, Ph.D. is a 25+ year veteran of administrations and classrooms for students with differing abilities. He has designed many support programs for various schools and facilities. And, his expertise in assistive technology has enabled him to create updated approaches when working with students and educators. Dr. Heipp firmly believes that everyone, no matter what their ability, has a voice (or spirit) and deserves a chance to succeed. He suggests that we never doubt their abilities! 

ATIA 2017 Recap: Accessibility and ATIA

by Dr. Raymond Heipp

The annual Assistive Technology Industry Association (ATIA) conference is an event that always reinvigorates my support for those with differing abilities. Each year I try to focus on areas in which I have the most questions. This year, my focus was accessibility. It was so wonderful to see old accessibility products that have been updated, and new products which cover areas that may not have been previously addressed.

Although any blog post cannot do full justice to the impact of devices, let me do my best to give you a view of accessibility at ATIA this year!

TAPitAccessibility and Established Products

This year, I found several products that had been updated to bring accessibility to even more people.  The first of those items was the TAPit Interactive Platform. Already known for its ability to adjust and adapt, the manufacturers have taken it a step further. The device has always been able to differentiate between intended and that unintended touch.

Now, it is a native multi-touch device that can still have that differentiated ability in two ways:

  1. It relies on conductive properties of the hand or conductive material to interact. Hence, anyone who leans on the screen using sleeves or gloves is not going to affect the touch at all.

  2. The firmware allows the device to recognize that stationary conductive touch as unintended touch – in just one second. This eliminates some of the delays that might have been encountered with the older version of the TAPit.


In all, the changes to the TAPit permit much greater access for all students and adults!

Candy CornI also spent time looking at access for those who need to use a switch, but may not have the capability to effectively use a standard type of switch. Those who know me know that I highly recommend proximity switches to create greater accessibility.

There are really only two proximity switches which I feel comfortable recommending to individuals and those were both present at the show. First, the Candy Corn offers accessibility by proximity with the added benefit of visual and auditory cuing when the switch is activated.

 

Movement Sensor SwitchThe second switch is another great one and it is the Movement Sensor Switch.  This switch has an amazing amount of flexibility and is able to activate upon detecting the slightest movement. I think that this device offers so much flexibility for personal accessibility!

 

 

 

ultimateswitchAccessibility and Differentiated Approaches

It was wonderful to meet and speak with the team from Enabling Devices.  Seth, Vincent, and Bill have such a strong knowledge of devices and how to make them work for each individual. My favorite device of theirs is listed above and is the Movement Sensor Switch. My next favorite device from them is the Ultimate Switch. This device can be mounted anywhere and needs limited force to be activated. I could have played with it all day.

Ironically, as I was speaking with them, a woman stopped by to ask about it.  She had one of the original versions of it, which was still working, and wanted to see some of the updates to it. In listening to her, she described how the ease of interaction created heightened levels of access for her child. A switch should create access, not additional problems to be overcome. The Ultimate Switch offers a universal approach to creating accessibility with any device.

Accessibility is Critical in 2017

You are going to see that I am on an accessibility bandwagon in 2017! I will be travelling the country looking for how we are creating accessible environments for everyone. If you have an accessible environment you want to highlight or have questions as to how to make your location accessible, please contact me at rheipp@schoolhealth.com so that we can schedule a visit. Let’s make 2017 the Year of Accessibility for All!

Get a "GRIP" and Keep On Moving

badge_sh_gripsolutionsHave you ever been frustrated that items slip out of reach or move around when you need them to stay put? The easy-to-clean, light-weight and flexible GRIP Activity Pad may be the solution you need!


 

Having used many non-skid pads in the past, I decided to try out the 10” x 15” GRIP Activity Pad for one year to see how it would compare.

I use a custom tray that connects to the armrests of my wheelchair for eating and participating in various activities regularly. For as long as I can remember, I have always carried a rectangle of non-skid material in my bag to place on my tray to keep items from sliding or rolling away.

My Overall Conclusion:

After using the GRIP Activity Padgabe for one year, the GRIP Activity Pad is an item I will continue to use. Here are some of my favorite features of this product:

  • Non-Slip Pad. The GRIP Activity Pad kept items in place on my tray whether the tray was flat or at a slight angle. I’ve had all types of dishes placed on the pad, as well as grocery items and electronic items. Things stayed where I needed them to on the pad. If your item isn’t too heavy, the pad offers a good grip. I enjoy going to the movies and this pad fit perfectly under the cardboard popcorn container and kept it from sliding away.



  • Easy-To-Clean Material. Using soap, water, and a light scrub the GRIP Activity Pad cleans up like new. I used a small soft bristle brush and simply let the pad air-dry. Within about half an hour the pad was ready for use again and seemed to also gain back some of its grip.



  • Multi-Colored. One characteristic that was useful to me was the pad having a different color on each side; one side black and the other side yellow. Depending on the activity I was doing on my tray, I liked having the option to flip the pad over to visually increase or decrease the contrast. I also like the option to choose the color showing on my tray when going about my daily routine. Sometimes the bright yellow was helpful in situations where I wanted my tray surface to stand out. Other times I preferred the black side since it blended in with the tone of my chair.



  • Portable and Travel Friendly. Traveling with this pad was easy and convenient. I found I was able to roll the pad and place it in my bag and unroll whenever I needed a non-skid surface at my fingertips. As an added benefit, this pad did not loose shape or wrinkle.


Learn more about and purchase the GRIP Activity Pad and other non-skid related products by visiting the SchoolHealth.com website!

gabeThis blog was written by EnableMart Blog Writer Gabe Ryan from Sacramento, California. Gabe has used a wheelchair since he was 3 years old and is an experienced user of assistive technology tools. Some of these tools have been life-changing for him and he looks forward to sharing his experiences and perspectives with our blog readers. Gabe enjoys abstract paintings, is an avid music lover, and enjoys using his iPad and iPhone to connect with family, friends and the community.