29 July 2008

Cool Bits of News About 2008 Beijing Paralympics and Olympians With Disabilities

The Paralympic Games in Beijing will start on September 6th. Learn about the twenty Summer Paralympic Sports at this website! Did you know that this year Rowing is a new event at the Paralympic Games? Do you know how to play goalball? Brush up there. Do you know about the different classifications for different events? Lots of great info on that site. Did you know the Summer Paralympic mascot is a cow? Neither did I. Apparently,

Cows, symbolic of a down-to-earth, diligent, staunch and never-say-die spirit, are adopted to show the unremitting spirit of athletes with a disability in being the best they can be. It dovetails with the upbeat spirit of Paralympians and the concept of "Transcendence, Equality, Integration" of the Beijing Paralympic Games.

The determined, optimistic and diligent spirit of cows reflects a positive attitude to life. The Paralympic Games calls for people with a disability to enjoy the same rights to compete in sports as anyone else, and to achieve sporting excellence and inspire and excite the World, and thus develop their strength to add vigor and vitality to social progress.

Yes, those cows and their never-say-die spirits...Hmm. The Olympic mascots are: a fish girl, a panda boy, a fire boy, an antelope boy, and a swallow girl.

Watch the Paralympics

This site, Paralympic Sport TV, will show news and events from the Paralympic Games, which start on September 6th, 2008. It is run by the International Paralympic Committee. Watch a cool trailer here. I don't know how much coverage they will feature.

If you live in the UK, details of Paralympics coverage on TV can be found here. They will air over six hours of Paralympic sport per day for twelve days.

In Australia, the ABC will broadcast over one hundred hours of Paralympic coverage. That's the most Paralympic coverage of any country. The schedule is here.

As far as I can tell, there will be little to no coverage of the Paralympic Games in the United States. A nice person from the US Paralympic Team website informed me that hopefully there would be news about some Paralympic coverage. I will keep you posted! I'm guessing there should at least be some televised specials. If anyone knows of any scheduled coverage, leave me a comment!

And finally! This year marks (I believe) the first time that an athlete will compete in the both Paralympics and the Olympics. South African swimmer Natalie du Toit, who I wrote about before, will compete in the Olympic 10 km open water swim ( a new event) as well as six different Paralympic swim events.

Unfortunately, Oscar Pistorius did not qualify for the SA Olympic team in either the individual or relay competitions. He will represent South Africa in the Paralympics and he plans to continue training in hopes of qualifying for the 2012 London Olympics.

In addition, Polish table tennis champ Natalia Partyka will compete in both the Olympic and Paralympic table tennis events. She is missing her right forearm and she competes left handed.

Images: Top: A cute little brightly-colored cartoon cow is the 2008 Paralympic mascot. A caption states her name in English and Chinese as Fu Niu Lele.
Bottom: Natalia Partyka, a young white woman missing her right forearm, strikes an athletic pose as she prepares to return the ball in a table tennis match.

17 July 2008

Great NY Times Article on Restraining Kids at School

This week the New York Times had a very interesting article on restraining in school, called "Calm Down Or Else." Before reading this story, I actually thought that the use of restraint on children in school was reserved for situations in which someone's safety was at risk (i.e. a student attempting to injure himself or another student). In fact, schools use restraining as a disciplinary measure for behavior problems as minor as "noncompliance." Restraining is primarily used on students with disabilities that affect their behavior (for example autism, ADD, ADHD, cognitive impairment, psychiatric disorders).

Some examples of these disciplinary measures included in the article are a twelve year old held "face down on the floor, straddling him at his hips, and holding his hands behind his back," a 'takedown' holding a preteen with Asperger Syndrome on the floor "prone for 20 minutes until he stopped struggling," and "an 8-year-old with a diagnosis of attention deficit disorder and mild mental retardation repeatedly locked in a 'seclusion room' alone, adjacent to the classroom." Students have actually been killed while being restrained by adults at school responsible for their care. I have personally known parents who have gone to court to try and prevent the school district from using physical restraining on their child.

The article tries to explain why these incidents are occurring. Compared to a decade ago, there are many more children identified as 'special education' students. Staff aren't trained to manage severe behavior situations, and yet they have to maintain safety in the classroom and teach their students. The use of physical restraint in schools has very little oversight, unlike nursing homes or psychiatric facilities, so most of these incidents of abuse are going unnoticed. The author concluded that school districts and state authorities need to provide adequate training and guidance on what disciplinary techniques are appropriate and safe in order to provide for students with special needs.

It pretty much goes without saying that using physical aggression on elementary age kids, some of whom can't even talk, is barbaric. This is coming from someone who has been kicked, punched, slapped, bitten, head-butted, chased, spat on, screamed at, intentionally urinated on, called every insult you know and probably a few you don't, and had the contents of my desk flung across my office, by kids and adults with developmental disabilities while at work. The job is hard, sometimes frustrating, and often low-paying. There will always be people with developmental disabilities who get frustrated and use aggression.

But. I have never put my hands on a person entrusted to my care with the intent to physically dominate them, frighten them, or perform a "takedown." There are almost always better or gentler solutions.

When I was just a little sprout (in the eighties!), in Indiana the local schools were just coming to the end of an era where paddling in schools was considered appropriate and encouraged. It's still legal in that state, but currently banned in the majority of US states. My elementary principal kept a paddle conspicuously visible in her office and, though it was rarely used, just the thought of it terrified us. Even the kids whose parents used corporal punishment at home were afraid of her. I can't imagine the fear that a child with a cognitive disability who doesn't understand the situation would feel for a large adult pinning them face down on a gym mat for up to twenty minutes at a time. Then every day at school the child must face the person who did that to them and try to have trust in that person, or face yet more physical punishment.

Now go read the article!

14 July 2008

Bluetooth Headset Thieves Swiping Cochlear Implants from Toddlers

This morning I read this shameful story on the LA Times. It's about a deaf three year old boy who is learning to speak with the use of a cochlear implant. This sweet little pumpkin had the external portion of his cochlear implant stolen, not once, but twice! Teenage thieves swiped it right off of his ear while he was running errands with his mother. The first time, his mother chased the thieves into a parking lot where they dropped the device unharmed. The second time, the device was lost. Luckily, they had a backup device.

The article claims that thieves think the cochlear implant earpiece is a Bluetooth headset (hands-free wireless doodad for a cell phone), so cochlear implant earpiece swiping is becoming more prevalent. While a Bluetooth headset costs between $50 and $300, this little boy's cochlear implant earpiece costs $6000! Need I even bring up the question of who steals from a toddler? Ignorant teenage doofuses, apparently, because in my experience a cochlear implant looks nothing at all like a bluetooth. You be the judge:

Cochlear implant, behind the ear, plus a transmitter magnetically attached to the side of the head.

Bluetooth: stuck in the ear and pointed toward the mouth.

An unrelated gross story: This weekend I went out for sushi. I ordered a small sake because it goes perfectly with sushi. I love sake and I have tried probably one hundred different varieties. It came in a little tiny pitcher, and I poured myself a little cupful. I took a hearty sip, but it wasn't delicious sake! It was rice vinegar! Horrible, sour, and gross. I just managed to spit it back into the cup rather than all over the table. The End!

02 July 2008

Newly Approved Device To Help Paralyzed People Breath Without A Ventilator

I thought this was very cool. The FDA has just approved a new device, called the NeuRx DPS RA/4 (OK, the name's not too catchy). It is intended to help people with high-level spinal cord injuries with paralysis of the muscles used for breathing. People with paralyzed breathing muscles have to live attached to a bulky ventilator that breathes for them (think Christopher Reeve).

This device is an implantable electronic device that electrically stimulates the diaphragm to contract, allowing the user to inhale. It is intended for individuals to go up to four hours a day unhooked from their ventilators. The website claimed that half of the 50 patients in the trial achieved 100 % independence from their ventilators, and the rest could go without a ventilator for shorter periods each day.

It may not sound too impressive, but it's actually quite amazing. This implant does many things. First, the user doesn't have to lug around a big noisy ventilator with hoses coming out of it, which is awkward, attracts unwanted attention, and is a constant worry (will there be somewhere to plug it in before the battery runs out, etc). Second, unlike the ventilator, the implant lets a user take a full breath, which greatly reduces the risk of pneumonia-a huge health hazard and a common problem for quadruplegic individuals. Third, the implant can return a user's sense of taste and smell. Think back to the last time you had a cold and lost your sense of taste-this is a huge benefit as far as quality of life goes. Fourth, the device frees people up to enjoy lots of sports and recreation activities that they couldn't enjoy before. Clinical trial patients on the website state that they are now able to enjoy things like skydiving, bungee jumping, hiking, boating, and traveling that were previously out of their reach. Finally, the device helps users talk louder and breath more normally. (I think you can watch a video of one of the patients skydiving on this page!)

Right now the device is so new that only four medical centers in the US are implanting it. Hopefully everyone who can benefit from such a device will have access to it. The device is also undergoing trials for people with late stage ALS (aka Lou Gehrig's Disease)

Check out the website of the makers, Synapse Biomedical, right here.

Image: A skydiver and parachute in silhouette drift down past a setting sun in a pink sky.

01 July 2008

Excessive Busy-ness

I've kept very busy over the past week, what with a new long commute to the job and trips out of town and generally hustling and bustling. I will try to post some pics soon. In the meantime, here are some great links I have seen this week:

A post at Disability Studies, Temple U about when independence may not be the ultimate and desirable goal of everyone with disabilities. This one really got me thinking. As the author acknowledges, she is somewhat going 'against the party line' on this one. It's a very thoughtful piece that in turn gave me a lot to think about.

Dave over at Chewing the Fat always has a lot of food for thought, but this post stood out for me a lot more than usual. He writes about the way he is treated as a person with a physical disability while out shopping. (Hint: the answer isn't 'like a professional adult man doing his shopping.') The demeaning and degrading attitudes of others towards PWD are hardly believable and yet very common.

A very sweet and moving piece about Rob's daughter Schuyler gaining her 'big girl voice.' Rob always writes amazing posts, and this one is especially wonderful.

And oh yeah! The latest Disability Blog Carnival is up at Pipecleaner Dreams. The topic is 'celebrations.' Ashley's Mom has done a great job on this edition and thrown in a coconut cake recipe for good measure! There are lots of interesting posts in this one. I meant to join it but then life took off at a high speed and I didn't get to. Hopefully I will be in the next Carnival.

ETA: Go watch this great video! If you are in a sour mood, smiling is guaranteed by the end! I think it's a gum commercial. But there's no gum in it. Just one man traveling across seven continents spreading a silly dance to locals young and old. If we could get this guy into the UN I think it would put an end to wars within the week. Go! Watch it!

Have a fantastic fourth of July and be safe around barbeques and fireworks and lakes and rivers and all the other summer holiday hazards.