Saturday, January 12, 2008

The Greatest Adaptive Equipment

What you see below is the greatest piece of adaptive equipment that we have ever purchased. It is a Rubbermaid 2-step step stool. No, we didn't buy it from an adaptive products store, we bought it from Home Depot.

This tool, which I could probably purchase a therapist-approved version called the "therapeutic stepping and sitting enabler" (and at twice the price I paid for this one), has been useful for giving my daughters different levels for sitting to put on a prosthetic leg, learning how to stand on knees, learning how to climb, and, also, obviously, reaching things that are normally out of reach. The really cool thing is that this is a tool our whole family can use (for Christmas lights, changing light bulbs, etc.)

For one daughter, this adaptive tool helps her reach the cabinets so she can make herself her favorite breakfast: oatmeal.

For another daughter, this adaptive device helps her get onto the piano bench and play the piano.

Yet, according to some people, it's not enough. We should pay thousands of dollars in co-pays and van work, move to a new house, and, I guess, get rid of our other children, so that she can use a $30,000 300lb wheelchair to drive up to it, push a button and slide to the right height.

Actually, I wish I could do that with the piano bench, because with 6 people using the same bench, it's never at the right height and it takes me a while to turn the knobs to get it there. Perhaps I need a power chair.

Another great use I found for this beautiful adaptive device is that my youngest can use it to put on her shirt! Two therapy sessions for troubleshooting how to put on her shirt, and no help. However, input from a soon-to-be mom who hasn't even adopted her limb different kid yet, she's just thought alot about how to help him dress, helped us come up with this idea.

She puts her hands on the back of the step stool like so:

And sticks her head in the hole, pushes up, brings her arms down, and wiggles.

Another one of my favorites is the "adaptive spoon" we were offered to help our youngest daughter eat (even though she has no problem eating). I figured out that I could purchase 1 regular spoon (at the cost of $1-5 as opposed to the $28 for the adaptive spoon) and then slightly bend the end of it. Voila! An adaptive spoon.

One time my oldest son made an adaptive spoon by placing a plastic spoon in the dishwasher near the heating element. It melted the spoon, and caused the handle to curve for an easy grip. I told him he should sell it on eBay, but he just looked at me like I thought people would buy anything. (Note: people will buy anything -- someone bought the grilled cheese with the Virgin Mary's face).

Any how, even more importantly, I realized that unless she wanted to carry a utensil pack with her where ever she went, that she needed to learn how to eat with a regular spoon. So, she did.

We joked that we got a deal on our oldest daughter's, "Therapeutic Reclining and Sitting Device" -- otherwise known as a bean bag chair--- that she used to prop herself up while in a body cast. We bought it from Meijer.

I have also been amazed at how we can put our oldest into therapeutic swimming or swim lessons , and she can learn to play an instrument or take "music therapy" . Which would you rather do? In fact, how would you like it if you asked someone about taking music lessons from them and they said, "You might want to look into music therapy instead." I bet you'd be as offended as I was about that conversation. (She doesn't want therapy, she wants to swim faster than everyone else and play musical instruments. Duh.)

Needless to say, we have run screaming from from the therapeutic swimming and music therapy.

I'm sure that there are good uses for the more complex adaptive tools and therapeutic interventions out there, we just haven't found them. In the meantime, to quote Kevin Connelly, the man with no legs who traveled the world on a skateboard,
"My parents made the decision to not put me in a wheelchair or a hospital. They just took me home."


Felix said...


I thought I would write to you and let you know that Music Therapists also teach regular music lessons. They can teach children to play the piano just as regular music teachers can, but they have experience and knowledge of working around disabilities to increase the student's abilities to the best they can be.

You shouldn't be scared about the word "therapy" in the Music Therapy name. There's really nothing scary about it, it's just a term for teaching kids skills using music as a tool and also includes adaptive music lessons.

Deb said...

Hi Felix,

Thanks for commenting!

I know that Music Therapists also teach music lessons. I am actually a professional musician (with conservatory training), and over 15 years of music education experience with people preschool age through college.

My point is that my daughter doesn't want therapy. She wants to learn to play. She doesn't want to be lumped in with other kids who have disabilities, she wants to be an individual. She doesn't need someone with extra experience and knowledge of disabilities -- someone who,most likely has never worked with a kid with a body like hers because hers is so unique. Just because she only has one arm, it's offensive to imply that she needs therapy rather than instruction.

Would you like to be told that you need therapy instead of instruction on something you want to learn?

For a kid with cognitive issues (which she doesn't have), serious muscular issues (which she doesn't have, and even then it would be questionable), or serious communication issues (which she doesn't have), it would be an option.

She's a normal kid who happens to be missing a couple limbs. She should be treated as such.

Thanks,again, for commenting.

Judy said...

Another point is the cost doubles even triples because it is "therapy". Big deal! Not worth it to me. I have learned over the years, the non-professionals are usiually better at helping me with my disability anyways.


A 22 year old normal girl in a chair.