Tag Archives: SNApps4kids

Timing is Everything, by Reji Mathew, Ph.D., Writer

The outpouring of emotion for the recent passing of tech genius, Steve Jobs, is validation of how much the magic of digital devices has become a central part of our daily lives.  Phones and tablets are lifestyle managers, offering apps that help with organization, planning for dinner or checking one’s budget. Jobs will be remembered as a central inspiration for the digital age, but how people continue to make creative use of digital technologies is the post-Jobs story.

SNApps 4 Kids is a cutting edge web community of parents and professionals who seek to share information on ways to use educational/therapy apps on the latest technology devices—iPad, iPhone, iPod, Android and others—to support the developmental learning goals for children of all abilities.

Cristen Reat and Sami Rahman co-founded SNApps 4 Kids after meeting at a weekly parenting support group that explores the use of digital tools for children with special needs in Houston, Texas.”SNApps started out of a need for an organizational structure. There are over 40,000 apps out in the market now. Just because an app says it’s designed for grades 2-3 does not provide much  info on how it can be helpful,” said Rahman.

SNApps 4 kids is parent-driven, offering detailed reviews on apps by skill, not diagnosis, such as color recognition, social inter-action, and language arts. “We wanted to keep the focus on skills, as we know that each child is unique in his or her strengths and needed areas of support. Many of the apps can be downloaded on Apple and Android tablets.  Devices will keep changing over time, but not the skills,” said Reat.

Rahman and Reat are believers in the benefits of apps, because they both are parents of children with special needs and seen positive results. Reat experimented with adaptive mouse pads for her son, Vincent, age 6, who has Downs Syndrome, “Vincent could not hold a pencil due to this fine and gross motor issues. We tried the iWriteWords app on the iPad. He began to trace letters with his fingers; it had an immediate cause-and-effect response with musical rewards. After a few weeks, he became  motivated to us his hands and transferred to using a pencil.” Rahman had similar success with his son, Noah, age 2, who has Cerebral Palsy. “Noah made gains in his speech through one of his favorite apps, Monkey Preschool Lunchbox. He also responded to the interactive nature of the app, and in addition, it also helped with this finger isolation skills.”

While Rahman and Reat are passionate about how apps can enhance earning, they have their caveats. “There are no magic bullets when your child has special needs”, said Rahman,”Progress is accomplished by 1,000 little tasks; digital tools alone are not the solution. We view apps as one part of the therapeutic team approach on behalf of your child.”

Reat cautioned, “We also don’t encourage parents to run out and by a device. Take a step back, ask a few questions: What do you want a device for? What skills are you trying to improve? What goals do you have? Once you find answers to these questions, then decide on the best device for your child.” Reat added that it is critical to have client buy-in. “You can’t hand a device to a child and leave; there needs to be support for the child around that device.”

Just over a year old, SNApps 4 Kids has undergone impressive growth. The community has partnered with Easter Seals
of Greater Houston and the web-site is accessible in multiple languages. SNApps 4 Kids offers a directory of funding sources for devices, a Facebook page, and a forthcoming checklist on goals and expectations to use when deciding what type of device to purchase.

If you are interested in joining the SNApps community, you can register with the site, which allows access to community boards and forums. You will be able to start your own group, share a success story or get further tips. SNApps 4 Kids continues to build momentum.  Rahman and Reat hope to expand to SNApps 4 Teens and Adults as the next ventures.

By Reji Mathew, Ph.D., Writer, http://rejimathewwriter.com/

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Maggie’s Story

For as long as mankind has known the trauma of the diagnosis of a disease, and the daily barriers of children with disabilities and their families, we have restlessly searched for a way to connect our world with theirs, to provide a way through which the voices of both can be heard and understood. I believe we are on the brink of reaching this achievement. I would like to share with you a story, a story where I believe there is proof that we have indeed found to the answer of all our hopes and all of our prayers.

Maggie’s story began just like any other little girl’s. She was born in the arms of devoted parents who always held a great level of faith in the well-being of their daughter’s future. The hopes and dreams of her parents were suddenly eclipsed when doctors arrived with news that would forever alter their family’s life. Maggie was diagnosed with leukemia and barely over three years of age. What should have been a week-long stay in the hospital, for her induction to chemotherapy, turned into a 2 month stay. After many complications Maggie suffered kidney failure, cardiac arrest then lapsed into a coma. While in the coma doctors advised that Maggie’s brain had suffered catastrophic damage due to high blood pressure, chemotherapy, and multiple drug interactions. The family was urged to sign a DNR (do not resuscitate) order in case she went into cardiac arrest again. At that time Maggie was labeled as being in a “vegetative state”. During the next few years Maggie would have more than a few more brushes with death. Maggie was sight and hearing impaired but after six weeks her vision returned and she was walking again with help. But the mystery of her hearing had just started. The doctor’s diagnosis – Cortically Deaf , which means her ears work but the part of the brain that interprets sound is dead – it also means that legally she does not qualify for any services for the hearing impaired.

Her parents would experience dark days and difficult times. In spite of all that had happened, Maggie’s parents continued to have faith. Maggie managed to beat the odds, but at a great cost. The therapy and medical treatments that provided the only escape from her leukemia diagnosis also caused a dramatic amount of damage to her brain. The damage was so great that most doctors thought she would not be able to perform the slightest of tasks without constant assistance. In spite of everything the doctors told them, Maggie’s parents would adamantly continue wielding faith. For faith was the only weapon they could use against this intrusion that had so altered their once peaceful life. Maggie herself wielded unfading hope as well as most of her family and the doctors that saved her believe that she had and has a will and a fight like no other.

Maggie eventually recovered, but she would never regain the abilities that she once had, or the future of a young girl without severe disabilities. However, Maggie remained happy as she always had. Years passed, and the parents of a young girl who had battled leukemia and won, were beginning to feel that in spite of everything she went through, she might not reach the potential that they knew she had. But the faith that they held onto for so long seemed to repay them, because something great was about happen.

The two parents were always determined to connect the gap that isolated them from their daughter. Maggie’s brain damage and the linguistic struggles it brought along with it, made it all but impossible to connect with her in the same way people without a disability connect with one another and take for granted. Her parents began the search for a bridge that would connect their world to their daughter’s and to everyone she would meet. While many options existed within new and specialized technologies, the solution would present itself in an unlikely source.

Both the I-touches and I-pads provided a wide array of assets that were never present before. More than ever before, Maggie was able to seamlessly communicate with others about what she wanted and what she thought. Now Maggie speaks sentences through her iPad using the proloquo2go app. She is also learning how to read and write through different apps. She now can speak up to forty-five words on her own. Before anyone knew it, Maggie’s success spread to others who held similar diagnoses and who found the same level of empowerment in the solution Maggie used. To the amazement of everyone, children with disabilities especially those that are non-verbal could finally have a voice. In this, everyone realized that Maggie would become part of a future greater than any of us could ever imagine.

Recently Maggie has become the face of a new movement and of a new age for children with disabilities across the world – an age where children with disabilities will never have to live in silence. It is now a time where the prayers of thousands of parents across the planet can finally be answered. I just sit here in awe, as I continue to try and grasp the realization of my place in this historic chapter of time. My name is William Merrill, and Maggie is my sister. I believe that everyone who reads this has the opportunity to become a part of something much greater than them-selves. I hope that my sister’s story continues to inspire and that one day, every child around the world will have a voice to be heard and the ability to make a difference in the world we all live in. As our Mother says, “Because everyone deserves to be heard.”
By William Merrill, 17, Maggie’s brother

*Easter Seals , The SNApps Program and Care2Spin are dedicated to bring this technology to parents, teachers, and individuals who will benefit from it.

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Best of Times, Worst of Times

To borrow from Dickens, it is the best of times and the worst of times.  I’ll start with the worst.  We received budget cuts of over $1 million last week, and while we were fortunate that they were not deeper, they will have a profound impact on the families we serve.  As every parent, teacher, doctor or therapist (and scientific study) can tell you, early intervention in the lives of  children with developmental delays or other disabilities is by far the most effective and efficient time to receive physical, occupational, speech, vision, nutrition and other therapies.  The Centers for Disease Control issued a report this month showing that 1 in 6 children has a developmental delay.  These are our kids-and Texas just cut funding for the life-changing early intervention they need.  More children will now arrive at school needing special education, therapy and intervention because they did not get services soon enough.  It is the opposite of what any investor would do-save a penny and lose a dollar.  Unfortunately, along with a lost dollar, these cuts also mean children are losing a window of opportunity to be healthier and better prepared for school.

The second big hit our families took last week was to available community supports for people with disabilities.  Almost half of the funding was cut-meaning that the 1,300+ families we serve with our Respite Program will either lose services completely or face a big cut in what is available to them.  Community supports in general, and respite in particular, have been consistently shown to reduce stress for caregivers, reduce abuse and neglect of people with disabilities and to result in better outcomes for employers (lower absenteeism, lower drug and alcohol abuse,  etc.).  In addition to the cuts, we are seeing what you would expect when the economy is bad, when more children have delays or disabilities, when Baby Boomers hit their senior years – demand for our services has never been higher just as budget cuts hit hard.


With that said, there is good news, too.  SNApps4kids just became part of Easter Seals Houston.  The use of touch-based technologies like Droids and ipads is already changing the way parents, teachers and therapists are helping children (and adults!) achieve better therapeutic band educational outcomes.  Check out SNApps4kids and get a glimpse of the power of this technology and apps to help kids succeed.  We are confident that using these technologies will save a lot of money in therapy and educational costs because many children can make gains really quickly by using them.

Easter Seals Houston is also lucky to have people inspired to help us-they are smart, generous and passionate.  Care2Spin ™– a way anyone can help Easter Seals – is launching this week.  YOU can become a champion for Easter Seals.  You decide how much or little time, money or energy you want to give to help us address the needs of people with disabilities.  John Eagle Honda  has already stepped up and is committing $100,000!  Their CEO, Mac DeLaup, who is truly the real deal, said it best – “this is not about me-it has to be about the children.  It is on us to find solutions and I want to be part of helping fix these problems.”  If the leadership, strength and thoughtfulness had been as pervasive in Austin as it is in Houston in people like Mac-Easter Seals would not need your help.  But, we do.

Don’t let the bad news paralyze you – become part of the 60+ year tradition of Easter Seals’ excellent services by helping us now.  Because almost $.90 cents of every dollar we receive goes directly to helping our clients (the other ten cents pays for things like rent, audits, phones, etc.), you can be confident that this was a great investment in our kids and our community.  Here is what you can do.  Learn about early intervention and join us in letting legislators and other leaders know that early intervention is imperative for our kids.  Make the 1st Five Count.  You can also help in a more immediate, fun, local way by joining us in the Care2Spin solution.  If we give2gether™ Houston will be better, our kids will be healthier, and our families will be stronger.  Take a minute now by going to www.care2spin.com.  So, come on – your help will matter!!!

Elis Hough, CEO, Easter Seals Greater Houston

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