Janice Yeung

Top Extracurricular Activities for Special Needs Children

June 13, 2014 in All Blogs, Education and Parenting, Our Blog

child play 3

Special needs children seem to have a harder time finding extracurricular activities. Not only are there fewer activities catered to them, they also constantly face seclusion or discrimination from their peers even at after-school activities.


We set out to find suitable extracurricular activities for children with special needs. There are in fact many that would encourage and empower special needs children specifically


child play 4Children faced with learning disabilities have a harder time participating in mainstream athletics. Sports such as baseball, football, basketball and soccer are team sports where children have to be chosen to play. Having to stay on the bench all the time defeats self-esteem and emotional health.


However, gymnastics is a sport free for all children; coaches also tend to spend time with the children one-on-one. The Discover Fitness Foundation in Houston, Texas offers gymnastics classes for children with special needs.


child playing

Other than gymnastics, music therapy is also an established and proven-successful therapy that helps children with special needs physically, emotionally, cognitively and socially. It is also a lot of fun! Music therapy can improve children’s motor skills, balance, social skills, self-expression, stress management and memory. Music intervention could be especially helpful for children’s growth from six months to six years of age. The American Association of Music Therapy offers list of music therapists in the United States.


Other types of art, such as drama, is a great emotional outlet for creative children with special needs. Given the chance to creatively express themselves in different characters could help children communicate better. There are also opportunities for children in drama to cooperate in completing a production. It encourages children to work together and to develop friendships.


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADrawing also helps children who are still learning to express themselves. Children’s art should not be judged upon their skills, but upon their efforts. There is a lot of satisfaction that comes from completing a piece of artwork, which could be proudly displayed in the child’s own home. The city of Ottawa, Canada has a Special Needs Arts Initiative where hands-on visual arts programs are offered to anyone with physical, developmental and mental disabilities.


One more activity that children with special needs could try out is dance. Through dance, children discover what they can do with their body’s movements. Children interact with each other and express themselves with dance moves. The vibrant spirit of dance keeps children constantly active and having fun. Dance allows children to discover their potential and creativity. If you are in Canada, check out Halifax Dance that started a Special Needs Inclusive Movement, which embraces each child’s unique needs and creates a community for children with disabilities.


Could you think of any other after-school programs that are great for special needs children? Share with us in the COMMENTS section below! 

Janice Yeung

Study Shows Parents’ Teaching Infants to Read Does Not Work

June 4, 2014 in All Blogs, Education and Parenting, Living, Our Blog


Nowadays, a lot of parents use DVDs, word flashcards, flip books and games to teach their babies to read.  However, researchers at New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development have found that parents’ attempts to teach their infants to read are not working.


toddlerreadThe study was published in the Journal of Educational Psychology based on a study group of 117 babies aged nine to 18 months. One group of babies were provided with DVDs, word flashcards and flip books to be used daily over a seven-month period. The other group did not receive any materials.


The tests to determine the babies’ ability to “recognize letter names, letter sounds, vocabulary, words identified on sight, and comprehension” afterwards showed no difference between the two groups.


Parents who still put their faith in infant educational DVDs and similar products might want to rethink their educational efforts.


While babies may not read any faster, it is still possible to improve cognitive development through external stimulation. A study by North Dakota State University and Texas A&M University found that babies who sit up (either alone or with assistance) will learn the most from educational toys and videos.


While teaching your infant vocabulary with flashcards might not work, there are still some activities to try out with your baby that would help his/her cognitive development. You can try dancing with your infant with upbeat tunes: this will induce your baby to actively try out different motions.


You can show your baby different household objects like spoons, spatulas, picture books, bottles, CDs, colorful clothes or fruits. This will create curiosity in your baby and teach him/her to recognize shapes and colors.


baby with duck

When your baby starts crawling, you can create obstacles in the house so that he/she can learn motor skills through moving over things. Pillows, phone books, laundry, even you yourself can be the blockage to your baby’s way across the room.


You can also encourage bathtub fun by bringing in toys. Even plastic cups, yogurt containers, funnels, squeeze bottles or a plastic watering can could be placed within your baby’s reach while him/her is bathing. Do not forget the rubber ducky!


Even though you cannot make your infant learn words too early on, there are still tons of ways to help them develop cognitive skills. LIKE this article? SHARE it with your Facebook, Twitter friends! Let us know if you have any COMMENTS below!

Shannon Lochwood

Guest Post- The Importance of Inclusion in the Classroom for Children with Special Needs

April 28, 2014 in All Blogs, Education and Parenting, Guest Posts, Our Blog

The Importance of Inclusion in the Classroom for Children with Special Needs

In June 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson said, “Education is the key to opportunity in our society, and the equality of educational opportunity must be the birthright of every citizen.” While Johnson was not referring specifically to children with special needs, he very well could have been.

In the decades before Johnson’s statement, care for special needs children did not focus on education. In most cases, these children were taught in separate classrooms if not separate institutions. In the decades since, it has become difficult to ignore the importance and benefits of inclusion–the integration of special needs students in traditional classrooms.


No (Special Needs) Child Left Behind

A fair playing field for all students has long been a legislative and educational goal. The Education for All Handicapped Children Act (EAHCA), which was enacted in 1975 and which expanded on the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, required that states provide a “free appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment.”

In 1990, EAHCA became the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). IDEA emphasized the latter part of the previous quote: “least restrictive environment.” In conjunction with the No Child Left Behind Act of 2002, inclusion became an increasingly viable practice in special education.

A Benefit to All

Beyond the legal rhetoric, inclusion is an important and, some say, necessary practice. Benefits can be realized as much by students with special needs as those without.

Inclusive classrooms help special needs children develop stronger social skills, confidence in learning and self-esteem. This mode of learning can better prepare them for life beyond the classroom, helping them build communication skills and fostering a sense of belonging that might not have been possible in a non-inclusive setting. For those without special needs, inclusion can help them to:

  • Understand diversity
  • Develop patience
  • Respect the needs of others
  • Accept one’s differences

Like their special needs peers, students without disabilities who learn in an inclusive classroom can also better prepare for adult life. It is highly likely that at some point in their lives, they will interact with a disabled individual or individuals: in college, in the workplace or other environments. In these instances, those who learned in an inclusive classroom could be better prepared to accept, communicate with and support their disabled classmate or co-worker.

Further, research has shown that inclusion can even improve the academic performance and outcomes of students without special needs. That in itself adds an exclamation point to the importance of inclusive classrooms.

All for One

By its very name, inclusion denotes positivity. All children, regardless of race, social status or disability, have a fear of exclusion. No child wants to be that one who is not chosen to participate in recess games or who is not invited to someone’s birthday party.


Or who is singled out in a class picture, as was the case with 7-year-old Canadian student Miles Ambridge. Ambridge has muscular dystrophy and is confined to a wheelchair; a class picture taken in June 2013 shows Ambridge far off to one side of the frame, leaning almost desperately toward the other children as if by doing so he will be that much closer, that much more a part of the class.

That much more included.

No child wants to stand out in a negative way. To be excluded or, as Miles’s mother put it when referencing her son’s placement in the class picture, “ostracized”.

These are among the reasons that inclusion in the classroom started. Removing these words when it comes to children with special needs could be the chief reason that inclusion in the classroom is most important.


Shannon Lochwood is a writer who lives in California. She contributes to California Special Needs Law Group’s Blog and enjoys writing about health and education. In her free time she loves to help people and animals any way she can. She just started volunteering at her local animal shelter on the weekends.


Janice Yeung

Top Five Ways to Encourage a Special Needs Parent

January 9, 2014 in All Blogs, Education and Parenting, Our Blog

If you are a special needs parent, you know what I am talking about. While you love your child dearly, accommodating to their one-of-a-kind manners in functioning, learning and playing can be a challenge. While trying to figure out your child’s diagnosis and special needs in parental care, you might be frustrated with the lack of social support mechanisms and groups.

Not just that, friends and family members sometimes let you down. They might be scared to babysit your child when you want a night out; at a gathering they might be fearful because they do not know how best to interact with your child; they might even stop inviting you to occasions because the event does not provide accessibility services. We know how you feel and we are determined to make a change. Here is a list of the top 5 ways to encourage a special needs parent in your extraordinary journey. Be encouraged!


 1. Understand the condition first.

Before you make assumptions, stop and listen to the parent explain what his/her child’s diagnosis is. You could also do your own research and educate yourself about the conditions of dyslexia, ADHD, autism, Down’s Syndrome and so on. The parent will appreciate you taking the time to understand what his/her child is challenged with.

 2. Be positive!

It is no exaggeration to say that a happy soul injects sunshine into the life of parents with special needs children. With a warm smile on your face, a batch of freshly baked cookies in your hands, you just might make their day. Be affirmative; give words of support and a warm bear hug when needed.

 3. Be accepting.

Even though a lot of children with recognizable challenges are shunned by society and face discrimination, you do not have to see them as less capable than other children. Play with special needs children just like how you would with other children! Run around, frolic, have fun! Other than giving the children opportunities to develop healthy social interactions with others, you would also be showing the parents that there are people out there who see their children as more than their diagnoses.

 4. Walk together!

An African proverb says, “If you want to walk fast, walk alone; but if you want to walk far, walk together.” It is so worth it to educate your family, friends, co-workers whenever you can of the importance of accepting those with intellectual or physical challenges. Challenge them to stop using derogatory language. Inform them that it is wrong to single out people who are more awkward or clumsy. Teach them that they should embrace values of love and equality. Generate a tidal wave of attitude and cultural change!

 5. Be the rep!

There can never be enough advocates for special needs children and their parents! Show your love for people with special needs by being their voice. Join support groups and call out schools, media and state legislators to ask for changes that you want to see in your neighbourhood. This cause is worth the fight! Show the world that children with special needs are not burdens, but rather, they bring unique gifts to the world!


Show special needs parents that they are not alone in this fight. Let them know they are included in the community and that you are walking with them in this extraordinary journey. Be a life-changer today!


Like this article? SHARE it so more people will read it and be encouraged! Do you have any opinions on whether these tips are helpful or not? COMMENT below to let us know! You can also pitch articles to us if you would like to see them posted here! Simply email janice@healthrehab.ca

The Impact of Toys on the Learning Process

December 17, 2012 in All Blogs, Education and Parenting, Guest Posts, Our Blog

block buildingVarious toys can be used to support the learning and developmental process of infants, toddlers and young children. Choosing toys that are suitable for a child’s age and cognitive abilities will support the child’s development. One of the most important aspects in the development of infants is their ability to explore their environment, and therefore, toys that promote exploration are very beneficial to young children. As infants become toddlers and preschoolers, they develop social skills, which help them play and learn with other children. However, before the child becomes a preschooler, parents and caregivers must engage in play activities with infants to help promote further exploration.

Early Exploration

Babies experience the world and learn new things through the structure of play. Young babies explore their environments by physically manipulating age-appropriate toys. Rattles, teething toys and other colorful toys grab the babies’ attention immediately. As babies develop and approach the age of one, their developmental skills are more sophisticated, and thus, many babies at the age of one have the ability to manipulate more advanced-level toys. Throughout this learning process, as infants acquire new cognitive abilities, early learning skills begin to integrate with new developmental skills.

Creating Sound

Toys that use sound teach the idea of cause and effect. As babies manipulate musical toys, they develop their cognitive and emotional skills. Musical toys can be created from simple household items, such as bottles, cooking pans and cardboard boxes similar to store-bought toys. Age-appropriate musical toys become more advanced as babies get older.

Imagination and Interest

Toys help babies and young children develop imaginative skills through pretend play. Toys that represent a child’s interests, family and environment help to facilitate an environment of pretend play. Toddlers around the age of 2 and 3 years old begin to assert their independence and choose to play with toys that are more engaging to them. For instance, a toddler may prefer to play with dinosaurs rather than cars and vice versa. Promoting a child’s imagination and creative skills are effective when the child has a profound interest in the toy. Different personality traits in children influence their interests in selecting toys. Also, the child’s gender plays a huge factor in a child’s interest in selecting toys. However, in most instances, parents tend to encourage their children to select toys that conform to their gender. For example, parents may be more inclined to encourage a boy to play with cars or dinosaurs, whereas many parents tend to encourage girls to play with dolls or tea cups.

Educational Toys

Age-appropriate educational toys help babies and young children develop the ability to process information, develop problem-solving skills and symbolic thinking. Stacking blocks and creating towers with blocks are very effective methods to help young children develop problem-solving and spatial visualization skills, as well as improve hand-eye coordination. Playing with play dough increases a child’s ability to use their imagination and make shapes. Other educational store-bought toys, such as toys designed to repeat sounds of letters help babies, toddlers and preschoolers imitate the sounds and connect pictures with letter sounds and words. Puppets are also educational toys, and children use puppets to tell stories and listen to stories being told by teachers, parents, and other children. Puppet play develops a child’s imagination and helps the children bring pretend characters to life. Puzzles are great educational toys as they aid in the cognitive development of young children through matching shapes with spaces and conceptualizing an overall picture.

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A Parent’s Role in the Development of a Child

December 3, 2012 in All Blogs, Brain Injury, Cerebral Palsy, Conditions, Developmental Delay, Education and Parenting, Guest Posts, Health & Medical, Living, Our Blog, Stroke

Parents with a special needs child are always wondering if they are doing enough to help their child grow and develop.

By taking an active role in tracking the 9 important developmental milestones for your child, identifying developmental delay and finding a therapist for your special needs child, parents are well on their way to helping your child meet developmental milestones.

The next steps after choosing a therapeutic treatment program is to be present during therapy and learn the techniques being taught in order to continue treatment at home.

Here are a few things to consider when attending treatment sessions with your child.

A special needs parent’s role

A child’s development depends immensely on the joint efforts of the child, parents and therapists. While therapists are a crucial part of therapy, parents also play an integral role as they inspire, motivate, and incorporate functions taught in therapy with daily life.

When parents learn the techniques taught in therapy and practice them with their child, it aids in a child’s overall improvement. When a parent is not involved in the child’s therapy, it might take much longer for the child to improve. Family involvement is an important aspect in any child’s development.

A physiological look into things 

A child’s brain is most malleable and formative during the early years of his life. With the appropriate methods and stimulation, neuroplasticity will allow the brain to repair or reroute damaged pathways so a child can learn or re-learn to use functions.

It is then possible to develop your child and help him become more independent. If the brain receives little stimulation, the synapses will not develop and the brain will make fewer connections. In order to create new functional pathways, a child must constantly stimulate his brain with repetitive practice.

Incorporating functions in daily life

So how can this be done? Simply attending therapy sessions for a few hours per week isn’t enough to help your child meet developmental milestones. By continuing treatment at home, you will be integrating daily functions taught in therapy with the child’s daily life.

This will have great impact on your child’s improvement as functions become automatic and the child learns that these functions are something that are required through the day as opposed to simply 2-3 hours per week. For example, if a child wants to grab a toy, instead of simply getting him the toy, use the steps taught in therapy and encourage your child to obtain it himself. That way, your child will know to use the steps learned in therapy at home.

The benefits

By continuing treatment outside of the clinic, you will help break down the barrier between the therapy room and home, allowing newly learned functions to become part of the child’s everyday life. When it has become integrated in the child’s life, he will then begin to meet his developmental milestones.

It’s important to keep in mind that the therapist acts as a coach and continuing to work at home will lead to the best results. By grasping what is taught in therapy and repeating it, your child will learn, grow, and develop.

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