Smooth Back To School With A Disability!

All across the United States, teachers, kids and their families are getting ready for the new school year. If you don’t believe me, check your FB feed – first day of school pictures are the best and I love them all! For the most part, kids are excited to see old and new friends, meet their new teachers, and of course, enter their new grade. However, when it comes to children with disabilities, this time of the year can be full of anxiety and stress. And to help with that, it may require a unique set of preparations. So here are some basic reminders for parents to ensure that your kiddos have a smooth Back to School, too.

Bugsley-ProstheticLegFirst and foremost, talk to your kiddo! It is important that you understand their emotional and physical state. Make sure you give your child talking points about their prosthesis or orthotic devices, so they can feel confident, which will allow them to be social, comfortable, and able to educate their peers about their devices.

ALWAYS visit your child’s prosthetist or orthotist before school starts! As we always say, kids grow up so fast! That is why it is important that you make an appointment with your child’s practitioner a few weeks before school starts. During this time, your doctor can go over helpful tips with you and your child for back to school preparation. Don’t forget to stock up on new prosthetic socks or AFO/KAFO socks. Pack an extra in your child’s backpack for just in case.

But what if your child feels like they stand out and not in a good way? As a parent, you have to make sure your child understands that everyone is different and awesome — some people have glasses, some have freckles, some have curly hair, and some have prostheses or orthotic braces. It’s these differences that make people special. Even if your child performs daily tasks differently, make sure they understand that this does not make them less valuable.

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Let’s not forget about educating others! Usually, a new school year means your child will have a new teacher that might not understand the ins and outs of being differently abled. Make sure you take the time to educate the teacher and staff on your child’s devices, and that they are comfortable enough to answer questions other children may have. 

Finally, the ugly topic of bullying. Let your child know that it is never okay if they are bullied or made fun of because of their disability – or any reason. That leads me to mention another topic – be an advocate for your child. Speak up for them if you feel they are not receiving the care he or she needs. Remember to include your son or daughter in different clubs and after-school activities. The school year is about learning and continuing to grow with new experiences, including educating your child and their peers about disability and acceptance.

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Continue sharing on FB those cute photos of you kiddos going back to school. And remember, we are all in this together. We are here to lift our kids up, help them have good experiences, and grow into the adults they will someday become.

 

 

Happy Back To School 2019!

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How To Love My “Disabled” Body!

Having spoken about loving my “disabled” body for the last 5 years of my life, a common first question I get is always “How did you do it? How did you learn to love your body?”

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I am going to tell you a secret: I’m still working on it – every single day. I don’t have all the answers. I don’t even have most of them, and you shouldn’t trust anyone who says they do. However, here are five things I’ve learned both as a mentor and as a student that might work for you too.

1. Be your own best buddy!

I’ll admit – I have this problem, and I have found that most everyone else does, too. I’m great at mothering and loving up on other folks, but terrible when it comes to myself. When I’m fighting with my body, I think, “What would I tell a friend who felt this way? How about a child or a student?” Somewhere among these possibilities, I usually find a place to start.

2. Find happy spaces.

How we feel is hugely influenced by who we surround ourselves with. Finding a space full of people we love being with makes us happier. It also allows us to be more comfortable to be ourselves and to be in our bodies. This can be a community that directly focuses on these issues or something less direct. Do you love your body because it lets you run? Join a running club. If you feel best when you’re moving, you can take a class in dance, yoga, swimming, or whatever you and your body enjoy. Maybe it’s cooking or painting! So many possibilities. 🙂

3. Associate value with joy.

So often we associate our bodies’ value with ability/inability to meet expectations. On days when it is hard to see our body as beautiful, remember that bodies are made to be lived in. What can we do with our body that brings us joy? This may change day to day, and that’s okay. On the really bad days, when I’ve walked too far, and my legs hurt, I might say, “at least my hands are for writing.” When I’m beating myself up for my inability to do much of anything on a random Tuesday, I might say: “Today my body is for drinking tea and staying in bed.” When we make joy the value in which we measure ourselves, it is easier to find something to like.

4. Learn a history lesson of your body.

Look back at the recent past and ask yourself, “When was I getting along with my body best? What is different between now and then? Was I eating differently? Was I being more social? Was I getting more sleep? Was I in therapy, either physical or psychological?” Don’t use this as an excuse to judge your current body. This isn’t about looking different. It is about a time when you felt better in your body. How can you apply that to the body you have today?

5. Share what you learn.

We can all be life students and mentors. But, we are all at different stages and with different goals. No matter how little you think you know about loving yourself and your body, you probably know something someone else needs. If there is one thing I’ve learned from writing and mentoring, it is that making people feel loved in their bodies is the best thing I’ve ever done. How can I not love a body that serves that purpose?

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I recently heard Mary Schmich’s monologue “Wear Sunscreen,” where she gives the advice, “Enjoy your body, use it every way you can… Don’t be afraid of it, or what other people think of it. It’s the greatest instrument you’ll ever own.” This is awesome advice for learning to love your body – a very hard task that should be so easy for us. I hope you enjoy her advice as much as I did, and use it as your life motto.

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The 2019 Amputee Coalition Annual Conference Was A Success!

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Photo courtesy of amputee-coalition.org

 

More than a thousand people attended in San Antonio, Texas, between July 25-27, 2019, for a conference focused on the limb loss and limb difference communities.  The gathering took place at the Marriott Rivercenter located on the famous Riverwalk.

National Conference attendees chose from nearly 100 educational and motivational sessions, participated in hands-on clinics, and browsed dozens of exhibits featuring useful, innovative and modern products designs for amputees. Members of the community shared personal stories, while doctors and experts revealed the latest technologies and treatments.

It is my third year travelling to this show as a Knit-Rite exhibitor. I visited with lots of people I’ve known, met new people, heard great stories and introduced the community to more of our Knit-Rite products!

Below are some photo’s from the conference.

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Already looking forward to the 2020 show! See you there!

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Tips And Tricks For An AFO User!

An ankle foot orthosis (AFO) is a custom-made brace used to support muscles, immobilize joints, and/or correct the position of your foot and ankle. It may be made of metal, thermoplastic, or a combination of materials.

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Below are some basic tips and tricks for an AFO user!

Choosing a shoe!

There are many companies now that make shoes specifically for children with AFOs. However, if you are on a budget, there are several popular brands that make wide and extra wide shoes in children’s sizes. After doing some research, I stumbled upon Stride Rite. I learned that for clients who wear AFOs, they actually offer a buy one, get one 50 percent off deal. Nordstrom also allows customers to buy two separate sizes of shoes as long as they are no more than one and half sizes different. This is a big money saver for AFO customers.

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Some helpful tips to finding a shoe to fit over an AFO.

  1. First and foremost, make sure you bring the AFO to the store with you. This is not the time for guesswork!
  2. Look for a wide or extra wide shoe, particularly with a wide and deep toe box.
  3. Hold the AFO up to the back of the shoe before you ask your child to try it on to see if it is a possible fit.
  4. Remove the insole of the shoe to make more room, if necessary.

 

Selecting high-quality socks:

A pair of good quality socks is crucial for AFO wearers. You need to protect your child’s skin from the brace rubbing against it throughout the day. You want to look for socks that are moisture-wicking and seamless, as well as wrinkle-resistant. The socks need to be long enough to cover the height of the brace and fold over the top. The socks cannot be too baggy because you don’t want them to fall down. Our SmartKnit socks are excellent for kiddos who wear AFOs. They are seamless, moisture wicking and they fit nice and snuggly, helping them not to slide down.  We even make them in cute patterns now! Check them out on our website www.knitritedirect.com or find them on Amazon.

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Choosing pants that fit over an AFO.

Honestly, wider leg pants work well over the brace, and most leggings are stretchy enough to stretch over the AFO.

AFOs shouldn’t stop your kiddos from enjoying life! I hope these useful tips can help you and your kiddo successfully navigate the world of AFOs!

Note: All of these tips are also great for wearers of KAFOs (Knee Ankle Foot Orthosis).

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Opening Up About My Disability

A couple of days ago, I received a message on my personal Instagram. A beautiful young lady who is an arm amputee, was wondering how she can overcome a fear of showing her arm, which is not fully developed from birth. Wow! This reminds me of the old me! It is something I’ve dealt with for a very long time, and on occasion I still do. Why is it so hard to show others our “disabilities?” Why is it so hard to be yourself? Her response was that she didn’t want to be stared at! Oh girlfriend, I hear you! It broke my heart that a beautiful young lady was uncomfortable with herself because of others.

So why does the curiosity of others make us so uncomfortable? Here’s a recent story of mine. The other day, I was at Costco minding my own business, and I hear “You are my hero!” I rolled my eyes, sighed, and turned my head to see a young man addressing me. Yes, it’s a compliment, but I immediately felt uncomfortable. Is it really a compliment or a way for someone to compare their life to mine? I wasn’t at my nicest that day, and asked if it’s because of my legs, and he said yes. He said that if he was in my position … blah, blah blah! I replied that if he was in my position, he’d be just fine!

Friends, we live in a society where we are trying to accept every race, color, religion and so on. ..and we are getting a lot better at it! J But we have a long ways to go! Which is why we have a hard time accepting disability as a “normal” thing! Why can’t we stop making each other uncomfortable? Why can’t we be ourselves? Do we need to have a “reveal of disability” parties – a big moment of calling all the attention at once on to our disabilities, so that you can see us as “normal” from that point forward?

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The point of this blog is that we need to see “disability” as just another sub group of humanity, along the same lines as someone who is LGBTQ, a minority race or religion, or any other of a number of things that make us different. We are all amazing humans, regardless.

We live in a time where we are more accepting then we have ever been, but at the same time we are not. Now instead of negative attention directed to my disability, I am getting misdirected positivity.  Fifty years ago I probably wouldn’t have gotten that comment at Costco. I might have instead gotten something a little more negative. But, back in 2019, in Costco man’s mind, he thought he was giving me a great compliment – a compliment I wouldn’t have received fifty years ago. But in reality, it’s an uncomfortable moment because he’s highlighting my “disability” instead of who I really am. Usually, a disability is something visual, so I understand that it’s hard not to focus on it. But, if we work on educating and normalizing the disability, perhaps we’d feel more comfortable with each other.

My best advice is not to ignore disabilities, and not to draw attention to them either. It is just like any other characteristic. I may have pink hair. I may wear a hijab. I might have piercings or tattoos on my face! Or I might be missing a leg or two. Treat people with differences like you would anyone else!

Going back to my new friend from Instagram. I’ve been chatting back and forth with her hoping to encourage her to feel comfortable in her own beautiful skin! It may take her a while to “open up”, but I can’t wait for her to be herself!

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” 
― Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

Many thanks,

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Do You Know the Difference Between Orthotics and Prosthetics?

Did you know that Knit-Rite makes medical textiles for everyone? Well, pretty much! 🙂 Are you an amputee? We’ve got you covered with our comfortable soft socks! Are you pregnant? We’ve got you with our fashionable maternity leggings! Are you dealing with swelling? We’ve got you with our compression socks! Do you wear AFOs? We are here with our SmartKnit AFO socks! Are you diabetic or dealing with sensory sensitivities? We’ve still got you with our completely seamless SmartKnit diabetic socks and SmartKnitKIDS sensitivity socks.

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Knit-Rite’s major focus is on orthotics and prosthetics textiles. We see these every day, but do you know the difference between these two? The major difference between orthotics and prosthetics is that while an orthotic device is used to enhance a person’s limb, a prosthetic device is used to replace a limb entirely.

Orthotics, from the Greek word “ortho” means “to straighten.” That is exactly what it means – to correct or support the movement, shape or function of a body part, such as torso, limbs and other extremities. Some of the many types are back braces, knee and foot braces.

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Prosthetics are designed to replace a lost or missing body part.   Advanced prosthetic legs designed with carbon fiber and allow some athletes to run at nearly Olympic levels. Equipped with a prosthetic arm, a patient may return to the work, perform everyday tasks, or enjoy hobbies that would be extremely difficult or impossible without the prosthetics.

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While orthotics and prosthetics differ mainly in function, they are often constructed using some of the same materials such as advanced plastics and nylon. Strong lightweight metals like aluminum and titanium are becoming more common in these devices, taking the place of steel, which is much heavier.

As I mentioned earlier, Knit-Rite makes socks for everyone. These include KAFO and AFO socks for protecting the skin from the orthotic device. We also make Soft-Socks and other prosthetic socks for the same purpose with prosthetics.

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This blog is a short, but sweet beginning to explaining the difference between two very important products that we make. To find out more information on specific Knit-Rite products, check out our website at www.knitrite.com.

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Source: https://www.humantechpando.com/

Amputee Camps are Awesome!

Summer time means free time and fun time! For many children, they are off to camp, where they get to do a variety of things they don’t get to do the rest of the year. Who doesn’t love swimming, boating, archery, giggling in a tent all night with your friends, s’mores, ghost stories and songs around the camp fire, hikes in the woods, and of course, fun camp games.

Summer camps are an excellent way for kids to enjoy the summer and have fun! Amputee camps are a safe place for kids to learn more about living with limb loss and limb difference. Amputee camps have evolved to resemble more traditional summer camps, complete with canoes and campfires. Most importantly, the focus is on the campers.

Traditional camps are a wonderful experience for kids. However, amputee children may feel overwhelmed in a “standard” camp. Attending a specialized camp for amputees may relieve some of the pressure and allow children be themselves, have fun and meet friends just like them.

Here are some great resources for finding the right amputee camp for your child:

Retreats, Camps & Recreational Programs for Amputation

Camp No Limits

Amputee Coalition – Youth Camp

Summer Camps for Amputee Kids

Letting your child grow up is hard for many parents, but it is important for to let your child grow and develop on their own. Camps are an excellent outlet for that!

Happy camping, campers! 😉