Therapy Putty: Fun with Function by Fun and Function

Photo Courtesy of Fun and Function
Photo Courtesy of Fun and Function

Therapy putty can be used by people of all ages. It is used as a therapeutic tool during rehabilitation and for those with special needs who may need assistance with manual dexterity. There are many benefits to therapy putty such as stress reduction, increased hand strength and fine motor skills, better coordination and flexibility. The benefits of therapy putty goes beyond the hand. Since it is good for reducing stress, it is an effective anger management tool. The brain is stimulated increasing word and color recognition and creativity juices get flowing as well.

Photo Courtesy of Fun and Function
Photo Courtesy of Fun and Function

Fun and Function is a company that began in 2007 by an occupational therapist, Aviva Weiss, who has a daughter with sensory processing difficulties. It was her daughter who was the inspiration for Fun and Function because of the lack of quality or style of items with high costs that Weiss would purchase for her. Weiss says, “we create and sell affordable and cool therapeutic toys, educational resources and clothing to facilitate each child’s development and fullest potential”.

The site offers skill-building toys such as therapy putty. There are several different variations such as Emotions Putty, Putty Elements and Discovery Putty. Emotions Putty comes in Calming Putty which is soft resistance putty that changes color from purple to blue and Energizing Putty is firm resistance putty loaded with sparkles. Putty Elements comes in different colors with associated resistances and is a mix of modeling dough and therapy putty in one. Discovery Putty is the ultimate in fun. You can choose Grab the Goodies or Animal Rescue option; both contain 15 hidden surprises waiting to be discovered.

Photo Courtesy of Fun and Function
Photo Courtesy of Fun and Function

The putties are packed in tins and cans ranging from two to four ounces making them perfect travel companions. Larger sizes are available in different putty variations. Fun and Function’s therapy putty is also non-toxic, gluten-free, latex-free, soy-free and casein-free.

They have a product-packed website. Visit Fun and Function at Products are also available in stores across the US.

NBC NEWS Reports that Gene Known as Xist can Silence the Extra Chromosome in Down Syndrome

Could it be a ‘cure’? Breakthrough prompts Down syndrome soul-searching

By: JoNel Aleccia, NBC News

In the 14 years since her daughter, Rachel, was born with Down syndrome, Jawanda Mast has always been clear that she’d change the condition if she could.

Image Source: NBC News
Image Source: NBC News

“I couldn’t love her more, but I would give almost anything to take away that extra chromosome,” the Olathe, Kansas, mom wrote on her blog. “While I may know she’s perfect, the world doesn’t.”

But when Massachusetts scientists announced recently that they’ve found a way to silence the chromosome that causes trisomy 21, also known as Down syndrome, it rocked Mast – and the rest of the disability community.

“It’s so hard to imagine you could actually do that,” Mast told NBC News. “Yes, I would take away the challenges, I would take away the health risks. But now I also stop and say, ‘Oh my goodness, how would that impact the rest of her?’”

Hailed as a “cure in a Petri dish,” the research by scientists at the University of Massachusetts Medical School is the first to find that it may be possible to switch off the genetic material responsible for the condition that causes cognitive delays, heart defects and shortened lifespans.

The development is expected to help create new treatments for problems caused by Down syndrome — but it also raises the prospect of eliminating the condition entirely.

Since it became public last month, the breakthrough has sparked a firestorm of reaction among parents, advocates, ethicists and people with the condition, said Dr. Brian Skotko, a medical geneticist and co-director of the Down Syndrome Program at Massachusetts General Hospital.

To read the full article, visit NBC News Health

The study has been recently published online and is available at

Video courtesy of YouTube

Canine Companions for Independence

Canine Companion doesn’t believe you can put a price on independence. Founded in 1975 as a non-profit organization, they’ve made it their mission to enhance the lives of people with disabilities by providing highly trained service dogs. They’re headquartered in Santa, Rosa, CA, and are the largest non-profit provider of assistance dogs.

The dogs start off in CCI’s unique breeding program. Breeder dogs are carefully selected and breed from Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, and crosses of the two.  The breeders are given to volunteer breeder caretakers, a diverse group of people ranging from stay at home moms to working professionals and retirees. The caretakers receive extensive support from CCI staff, volunteers, and the Breeder Caretaker Council.

After they’ve they’re born, the volunteer puppy raisers provide the specially bred puppies a safe home. They provide them with socialization, a healthy diet, and obedience classes. This is one of the most crucial times in the dog’s life. Without proper care they are unable to learn the proper commands and behavior that is required for a service dog. The puppy raisers set aside time for daily training and attend obedience classes. In some areas the puppy classes are free of charge where there is a Canine Companions puppy class available. Primary puppy raisers are at least 18 years of age or older, and some minors are allowed to with an adult co-raiser living in the same home. Canine Companions for Independence has a special prison puppy raising program that was originally introduced 13 years ago at the Coffee Creek Correctional Center in Wilsonville, Oregon. The Potential Puppy Raiser inmates are selected by the facility and must go through a rigorous selection process prior to admission into the puppy raising program. Inmates who have had the opportunity to raise a puppy have explained how being a puppy raiser gives them purpose, and transforms their lives.

Once the puppy raiser returns the dog to CCI at approximately 15 months of age, the dog attends a six to nine month training course with professional instructors. The dogs learn over 40 commands and practice working in different environments, and are eventually paired with their recipient. Once they finish the professional training they attend a graduation ceremony in which the puppy raiser passes the leash to the Graduate, the person who will receive the service dog, and the Graduate officially receives the dog.

Canine Companions trains four different types of dogs to help many disabilities. Service dogs help assist with not only physical tasks, but also provides social support. These dogs are able help with daily tasks and help increase independence by reducing the reliance on other people.

Skilled companion dogs assist people with disabilities that might give them trouble reaching a light switch or reaching a fallen object. They are trained to work with an adult or child with the disability under the guidance of a facilitator. A CCI Skilled Companion is bred to be calm and affectionate, and are able to help people with disabilities such as cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, autism, and down syndrome. They can also serve as a social bridge to people who aren’t used to relating with a person with disability.

Facility dogs are expertly trained dogs who are usually partnered with a facilitator working in a health care, visitation, or education setting. A Facility Dog offers unconditional love and attention to the clients and patients with whom they interact. They encourage calm feelings and a feeling of security for clients.

Hearing dogs are specially bred Labrador and Golden Retrievers who alert partners to key sounds by making physical contact. They are able to recognize many different sounds, anywhere from a doorbell to someone calling a name.

Canine Companions maintains ownership of the assistance dog even after placement is made. The Graduate is personally and financially responsible for the assistance dog’s care and maintenance. CCI provides follow up services in order to stay committed to the ongoing success of its graduate teams. The application process for a Canine Companion lasts between 3-6 months, and if accepted the candidate moves to the waiting list, which can last anywhere from 6 months to 2 ½ years. The long waiting time is due to a number of reasons. Although all puppies are trained, only about 40% are accepted for further training to become a CCI dog. The dogs are free of charge, although students must pay for their transportation to and from the center where they participate in Team Training.

‘Mainstreaming’ Special-Ed Students Needs Debate – Wall Street Journal

‘Mainstreaming’ Special-Ed Students Needs Debate

What has been the law’s impact on students who are not disabled? The matter at least merits discussion.

  • By

Americans tend to be a vocal people, sharing their views about almost any issue in the public sphere loudly and frequently. Yet on the question of how to provide special-education services to students who need them—while not compromising the interests of children who don’t—many parents of regular-education students have opted out of any public discourse.

Associated Press

Nationwide, about 60% of students with disabilities spend at least 80% of their instructional time in regular classrooms. Many parents of other children in public schools understand that when teachers focus on students who need more attention, their kids may get shortchanged. Yet most parents opt out of any discussion and don’t complain.

The special-education system in the U.S. is highly regulated by law, expensive, and sometimes marked by litigiousness. Those working to reform the system are almost exclusively people with a direct stake in it—including school representatives, parents of students with disabilities, advocates, lawyers, special educators, academics and government officials. Since members of the general public and parents of regular-education students (who account for 86% of students) rarely weigh in, the interests of regular-education school-age students are not sufficiently explored.

It’s time to think about what we are doing, rather than simply to continue with the current broken system. That’s the only way to help all students succeed.

Before 1975, more than a million students with disabilities were excluded from schools and some 3.5 million did not receive appropriate services. That year, Congress passed the Education for All Handicapped Children Act, now called the Individuals With Disabilities Act of 1990. Students identified as disabled have since been guaranteed access to what the law calls a “free appropriate public education,” and their parents have the right to participate in (and dispute) the school’s development of an annual “individualized education program” for their child. No other group of students or parents enjoys such rights.

Today, six million students with disabilities (about 14% of all students) have the right to a free appropriate public education and an individualized education program. Between 70% and 80% of these students have mild or moderate disabilities, including learning disabilities, speech or language impairments, social and emotional disabilities, and other conditions, such as ADHD. Only 20% to 30% have more severe disabilities, such as cognitive impairments, multihandicapping conditions, deafness or blindness.

Special education is expensive. Estimates of its cost nationwide range between $80 billion and $110 billion per year, and the spending continues to rise faster than regular-education spending. The burden falls mostly on state and local governments. Federal law drives special education, but the federal contribution is less than 20%. The law has spawned an industry of parent attorneys and advocates, school attorneys (of which I am one), experts, mediators, hearing officers, administrative law judges and other dispute-resolution professionals. This is in addition to educators and service providers in schools, and the many federal, state and local officials, evaluators and consultants who manage the system.

By law, students with disabilities have the right to be in the “least restrictive environment” to the maximum extent “appropriate,” with added resources such as computers, large-print or recorded books, and personal aides, if needed. The push to place these students in regular classes is called “inclusion” (or sometimes “mainstreaming”). The federal government has target indicators in state improvement plans, recording how many students with disabilities are in regular classes.

Look into the research on inclusion and you will find that this policy is generally based on notions of civil rights and social justice, not on “best education practices” for all students. The effectiveness of inclusion for students with disabilities varies—some groups and individual students benefit; others don’t. This is one reason why inclusion remains controversial in some segments of the disability community.

Very little work has been done to establish how inclusion affects regular students—whether they are average, English-language learners, advanced, poor or homeless. Studies seem to support the social benefits of mainstreaming for children with disabilities and possibly for regular-education students, but what about the effect on their academic progress?

Teachers may tell you (privately) that inclusion often leads them to slow down and simplify classroom teaching. Yet the system is entrenched and politically correct. Many parents remain silent. Some quietly remove their kids from public schools.

Can this be anything but very bad for America? Our schools thrive only with a diverse student population and engaged parents—not with the departure of those who choose to leave.

None of this is about being anti- or pro-special or regular education. The purpose is to focus on fairness and equity for all students in the nation’s classrooms. That goal can only be achieved by encouraging many more people, especially parents and educators, to come forward with their views and experiences. The time for that robust, inclusive and frank national discussion is now.

Ms. Freedman is a school attorney, of counsel to Stoneman, Chandler & Miller LLP in Boston. She is the author of, among other books, “Fixing Special Education—12 Steps to Transform a Broken System” (Park Place Publishing, 2009).

A version of this article appeared August 5, 2013, on page A13 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: ‘Mainstreaming’ Special-Ed Students Needs Debate.

The Adaptive Bike

For individuals with special needs, an adaptive bike is more than a toy; it benefits the physical, mental, and emotional growth for those individuals. At times, certain accommodations have to be met for individuals with special needs in order to find ways to keep them active and healthy. Riding a bike is a fun way to exercise, and adaptive bikes are designed to accommodate children with any range of postural support needs. The bikes can be stationary or used outdoors, and in some cases, even both. Biking allows you to work muscles all over your body and improves energy, and puts a lot less stress on knees, ankles, and the spine than walking or running.

Riding a bike is always a great way to work on your range of motion. It benefits you in the long run by making it easier to move when doing everyday activities such as dressing, bathing, or toileting. For individuals with special needs, riding a bike is not just a new activity. It opens them up to others who participate in this, allowing them to go out and ride a bicycle with peers and family members.

There are many adaptive bike companies out there, from Ambucs to Tadpole Adaptive. Each year, several of this adaptive bike companies host the Great Bike Giveaway, Special Bikes for Special Kids. The national contest is hosted every year around May and gives away adaptive bikes to children with special needs. It is hosted by Friendship Circle, and they partner with bike companies from around the U.S. to provide the best adaptive bikes to the children and young adults who need them most.

Below are links to the several companies who participate in the Great Bike Giveaway, and the bikes that were available in this past year’s competition.


Buddy Bike


MonoMano Cycling








The “cradle” may be one of few, a rocking chair that creates a safe, comfortable, and relaxing environment for the user in mind. The design was directed primarily by research into Autism and children with Rhythmic Movement Disorder (RMD). Cradle combines sustainability, function and aesthetics, making this handmade unit a useful solution for someone with Autism or RMD.

Cradle does not limit its use to just one age group, making it a perfect item for any individual with special needs, at any age. The rounded design allows people to curl into the chair where they are soothed by the natural rocking motions.   Rocking is one calming activity that allows the user to relax and escape from the overload of stimulation going on around them. This comfortable cradle becomes a home within a home for them.

The designer, Richard Clarkson, is currently studying industrial design at the Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. The cradle chair came about from collaboration with six partners; Grace Emmanual, Kalivia Russel, Eamon Moore, Brodie Cambell, Jeremy Brooker, and Joya Boerrigter. It was designed as part of a project for Victoria University of Wellington Design School, where the group looked into Rhythmic Movement Disorder. The goal was to create a safe and super comfortable space to create a  calming environment to desensitize. They spoke to a child psychologist who gave them useful incites on possible methods of how to achieve their goal. Richard Clarkson mentions that the although they weren’t able to spend as long as they would have liked on the project, they do wish to do more research and testing in the future. The idea was to create a safe, comfortable, and relaxing environment where users can dispel the overstimulation of their senses. The cradle is manufactured from sustainable materials, making this product environmentally friendly as well. Orders are custom made on Richard Clarkson’s etsy shop either pre-assembled or in a kit, and retails around $8,400: