So, after worrying that I'd gotten too sucked into Special Needs World, what do I do? I spend the better part of a day at Abilities Expo, which is all about services for kids with special needs and gear for kids with special needs. No matter what sort of inclusionary activities I end up doing for Max, he needs certain help and equipment to better his life—and I got some great ideas there.
The expo's being happening for decades around the country, but this was my first one. It featured 160-plus exhibitors, with every resource you can think of except an extra pair of hands, which I could really use. Besides companies selling products and services, there were organizations that promoted disability rights and awareness, reps from the state's disability group, even lawyers who specialized in disability discrimination.
Ripley, an assistance dog from Canine Partners for Life. His owner told me about a little boy whose parents had never heard him laugh until the day he met his assistance dog. They currently have prisoners training some of the dogs, a good thing. I think?
Freedom bike (rubber ducky included!)
Booster seats from Special Tomato, for your child's fine dining pleasure. That's their Soft-Touch Sitter in the photo on top (child not included).
A Kidwalk Dynamic Mobility System that should come with a license tag that reads "Outta My Way!"
The Honda Odyssey Entervan—a conversion by BraunAbility.
A Toyota Sienna with an Auto Access Seat. I am not sure the gentleman was entirely amused by my question but I was loopy after visiting so many booths (as if you couldn't tell by my maniacal laugh). Our Sienna is three years old; if this were an option when we bought the car, I would have considered it. Right now, we can lift Max up into the car, but that boy is getting big (thank you, chocolate ice-cream).
A bath seat from Otto Bock Kids. I think these are actually a cool idea for any human being, no? Couldn't you use one, a soak in the tub, and a glass of Pinot Grigio right about now?
Chaz the Pinball Wizard at a wheelchair-height adapted machine from U Can Do. How cool is that? If we ever got one, there is a risk Max might never again emerge from our basement.
A new Rifton chair, out in July.
There was a gigantic assistive technology area where people could try out devices—ipads, Dynavoxes, you name it—and get advice.
There was even a pavilion for free wheelchair tune-ups. Some people took their chairs directly to the manufacturers' booths for tinkering.
This expo is free; there are several held around the country every year (New York Metro, Chicago, Houston, San Jose, Atlanta and Los Angeles). The attendees were a mix of parents and their kids and adults who have disabilities. I didn't take Max because of his issues with crowds, which was a good thing because I would have ended up with a pinball machine in my trunk. Besides all the great info you'll walk away with, there's also discounts on stuff, with some companies continuing them for a set period of time after the fair.
If there's not an Abilities Expo near you, why not email the Expo peeps and suggest it? The president of the company is David Korse, and his email is email@example.com. Or ask your school if they'd be up for hosting a similar fair with local therapists and vendors
What sort of stuff are you in the market for these days? I'm looking to get Max more waterproof (aka drool-proof) shirts; there was a booth selling some and I may be trying them out, I'll let you know. I'm also looking for a device that will keep Max from walking into our room at 3:00 a.m. and insisting on crashing in our bed. I believe that device is known as "willpower" but I lack it at that hour. We've ruled out a bouncer, as that could get costly. Pinball machine?!