Spinal Cord Injury Information Page: Terms and Resources

Extending from the base of the brain and all the way to the buttocks is a nerve bundle known as the spinal cord. The spinal cord relays messages from the brain to the rest of the body, through spinal nerves. The ability to walk, bend over, and wave the hand require that information be transmitted from the brain, through the spinal cord and out to the corresponding part of the body via the spinal nerves. This connection also works in reverse. Fall, hit your head, or break a toe, and spinal nerves send a pain or pressure signal back up to the brain. A group of backbones known as the vertebrae protect the spinal cord. Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) occurs when a vertebra is broken or gets forced out of alignment; causing the signal between the brain and spinal cord to become reduced or severed. No one is immune from spinal cord injuries: children, the elderly, all races, and genders are affected.

Spinal Cord Injury Terms

Anterior Spinal Artery Syndrome The anterior spinal artery rests at the base of the brain and extends downward, covering two-thirds of the surface of the spinal cord and supplying blood. If a disruption of blood flow occurs due to aortic lesions, surgery, trauma, disc herniation, or other causes, paralysis can occur at the site of injury. Symptoms include weakness, motor loss, bladder dysfunction, and decreased sensitivity to temperature. Typically, motor loss is more severe in the legs than the arms and some crude sensations may be possible. This injury is also known as Anterior Cord Syndrome.

ASIA Impairment Scale Created by the American Spinal Injury Association (AISA) this scale provides a standard method for clinicians to determine the severity of a spinal cord injury. The scale has five grades ranging from A to E. Patients with an E grade show no motor or sensory impairments from their injury. Functioning decreases along the scale and those with an A grade have no voluntary control of muscles and no perception of temperature, pain, pressure, or touch.

Brown-Sequard Syndrome In this rare neurological condition a lesion on the spinal cord results in one half of the body experiencing motor loss while the other side of the body has sensory loss. The cause of the lesion may be due to blunt trauma, spinal cord tumors, or blood vessel obstruction. Infections and inflammatory diseases such as Meningitis may also be the underlying cause.

Cauda Equina Syndrome (CES)Refers to a rare neurological nerve disorder sometimes mistakenly diagnosed as low back pain. In CES, the bundle of nerves at the base of the spine becomes compressed. The cause could be due to trauma from a car accident, gunshot, stabbing, or fall from height. A slipped vertebrae, ruptured disk, or inflammation could also be the cause. Symptoms may be most noticeable in the legs with pain, weakness, and lack of muscle control. Loss of bladder control and sexual dysfunction do occur in many cases. With CES, immediate medical surgery may be needed to prevent or reverse neural dysfunction.

Central Cord Syndrome (CCS)CCS is the most common form of Incomplete SCI. With CCS, individuals experience a type of injury where the cervical cord is damaged due to spinal trauma directed towards the central part of the cord. Due to the location of cord damage, impairment is greater in the upper exterminates and less pronounced in lower extremities.

Complete Spinal Cord Injury (CSCI)With a CSCI no motor or sensor functions exist below the level of injury. Around half of all spinal cord injuries fit this diagnosis. It is not uncommon however, for those labeled with a CSCI to have some functioning on one side of the body or to recover some functioning as time passes.

Conus Medullaris Syndrome (CMS)At the tip of the spinal cord and above the cauda equina is the conus medullaris; injuries to this nerve root can result in lower limb paralysis. Due to the proximity of the conus medullaris to the cauda equina, CES and CMS have similar causes and symptoms. Injuries responsible for causing CMS include spinal fractures, abscesses, spinal bifida, and anesthesia used on the spine. Symptoms can include urinary and fecal incontinence, leg numbness, and low back pain.

Dermatome Nerve fibers allowing for the sensation of touch or feeling pain to a corresponding sensory sector of the skin are dermatomes. These nerves originate from the spine and therefore can be useful in spinal injuries to evaluate the level of deficit. Pain, lack of sensation, or abnormal functioning of dermatomes can help pinpoint spinal nerve damage.

Incomplete Spinal Cord Injury (ISCI) Though the spinal cord is injured, those with ISCI retain some functioning below the injury level. One side of the body may have more movement than the other, or there may be feeling but not the ability to move. With an ISCI, individuals retain more freedom and motor or sensory functioning can improve depending on the cause of injury.

Motor Exam An important part of neurological examinations is the motor exam, a form of examination indicating patient ability to control voluntary motor movement. Coordination, power, and muscular tone are tested on both sides of the body in upper and lower extremities. The ability to flex the elbow, flex the hip, and extend the wrist are some of the tests used to determine muscle strength.

Myotome Spinal nerve fibers and the corresponding muscle make up a myotome. Myotomes are necessary for proper motor functioning; making it possible to bend the knee, straighten the elbow, flex fingers, and manipulate other muscle groups. Myotome charts and motor exams are useful for determining if myotome functioning is impaired.

Neurological Examination Through physical exams, physicians can classify the type of spinal cord injury, its severity, and determine neurological level. A neurological examination has several parts. A mental exam is usually done first to test a patient’s alertness, awareness of surroundings, memory, and ability to articulate. Cranial nerve testing will be done to monitor ability to hear, see, smell, and feel facial stimuli. Reflex, motor, sensory, and walking functions are also accessed.

Neurological Level of Injury Depending on the type of spinal injury suffered, the ability to feel sensations and move can be different on the left and right side of the body. A single level is determined by figuring out where motor and sensory levels are equal. In cases where this is not possible, the sensory and motor levels are recorded independently. Neurological levels range from 0 to 5; at 0 normal muscle movement is present while a patient at 5 shows no muscle movement.

Paraplegia A type of paralysis which may be complete or incomplete. Both legs, the trunk and feet may be paralyzed but the arms and upper body are not usually affected. Symptoms may vary but some bladder control issues and sexual dysfunctions are likely. Some paraplegics may be able to walk with assistance devices and drive with the aid of specially equipped vehicles.

Sensory Exam A sensory exam is the part of the neurological exam focusing on the ability to perceive sensation. The exam may check the patients’ ability to perceive pain, pressure, and temperature. The patient’s eyes are closed during the exam to avoid subjective answers and reactions are tested on both sides of the body. A toothpick can be used to perceive pain, a vibration tuning fork to perceive vibration, and a cotton tip swab to test ability to feel a light touch.

Sensory Level and Motor Level Sensory and motor nerve coordination are essential to coordination, balance, and gait. Sensory and motor level testing provides results helpful to determine neurological level. To determine sensory level, 28 sensory points on dermatomes are examined with light touch or pin prick. For determining motor level, 10 muscles within myotomes are tested.

Tetraplegia A type of spinal cord injury more commonly called quadriplegia. In tetraplegia, loss of functioning in both arms and legs, the neck, trunk, head, neck, shoulders, or upper chest can occur. Depending on the severity of the injury, breathing help may be needed with the use of a ventilator. Patients may also require wheelchairs, assistance with bathing, and help to relieve the bowels and bladder.

Zone of Partial Preservation A standard only applying to injuries with an A grade on the ASIA impairment scale. Patients with this classification retain some spinal cord functioning, either motor or sensory based. The functioning is always below the neurological level of injury occurrence.

Spinal Cord Injury Resources

Wheelchair Athletes

As society and technology has progressed, the role of wheelchairs has changed and expanded. Today, wheelchairs are used for more than just helping disabled individuals get from point A to point B. Disabled athletes are making history in the field of sports which include tennis, basketball and swimming just to name a few. Paralympics begin in 1940s in England. During World War II, soldiers who were physically and psychologically wounded were treated with sports to help motivate their recovery. In 1948, the Olympic Games in London launched the first Paralympics to recognize the talents of disabled athletes.

Basketball

Wheelchair basketball is considered to be one of the major disabled sports practiced, recognized both by the International Wheelchair Basketball Federation (IWBF) and International Paralympics Committee (ICP). The sport maintains a standard basketball court and a 10-foot basketball hoop. Some rules have been modified in consideration for the wheelchairs. “Traveling” is when a player touches his wheels more than twice while dribbling the ball. In some countries, such as England, Canada and Australia, disabled athletes compete with other athletes in mixed teams.

  • NWBA – The official website for the National Wheelchair Basketball Association (NWBA).
  • IWBF – International Wheelchair Basketball Federation World Championships website, regulations and events.
  • Wheelchair Basketball – Overview of the game, rules and competitions.

Track and Field

Wheelchair track and field, commonly known as ‘road racing’ requires a specially made racing chair that gives the heart an intense aerobic workout. Certain rules and regulations are in place for wheelchair racing that requires the wheelchair to fit certain standards provided by the IPC Athletics guidelines. Wheelchair athletes can also participate in field events such as discus, shot put and javelin. Combined events are also provided for certain athletes such as throwing and jumping events.

  • Road Racing – Wheelchair track and field (road racing) wheelchair related information.
  • Track and Field – Description, schedule, training, equipment and photo gallery of wheelchair track and field games.
  • History – The history of wheelchair athletics, benefits and the Paralympics.

Rugby

Wheelchair rugby, originally called ‘murderball’ was developed in Canada in 1977. The sport is played by two teams with up to 12 players each. Played on a standard basketball court, players score by passing the ball across the goal line. Both of the wheelchair wheels must cross the line while the athlete has the ball to count as a goal. The player with the ball must pass or bounce within ten seconds. Physical contact amongst the wheelchairs is permitted and the games consist of four-eight minute intervals.

  • USQRA – The official website for the United States Quad Rugby Association.
  • IWRF – International Wheelchair Rugby Association information and rules.
  • Paralympics – Official track and field wheelchair rugby athletes in the Paralympics games.

Swimming

Wheelchair swimming provides water resistance which can tone and strengthen muscles, reduce stress on muscles and joints and increases circulation. Swimming pools must have various lifting rehabilitative equipment or a walk-in ramp to safely exit or enter the pool. Inflatable flotation devices, life vests and waist belts are commonly used to help the individuals stay relaxed and safe while in the pool.

  • Swimming – Aqua fitness information, benefits and safety regulations for wheel swimming sports.
  • Wheelchair Sports – Official Wheelchair Sports Victoria with information about the sport, how to get involved and major events.
  • Swimming Wheelchairs – What to look for in a pool wheelchair for wheelchair swimming sports.

Tennis

Wheelchair tennis is similar to traditional tennis as it requires the same size courts, ball and rackets. Two differences are the use of special designed wheelchairs and the rule that the ball may bounce up to two times. Another rule is that the second ball may bounce outside the field. International tennis tournaments are provided by the International Tennis Federation in association with the NEC Wheelchair Tennis Tour. The sport has become increasingly popular and was introduced into the Paralympics games in 1988.

  • ITF – The International Tennis Federation official website with general information, tournaments and rules.
  • USTA – United States Tennis Association features and tournaments.
  • Wheelchair Tennis – Introduction to wheelchair tennis and athlete videos.

Winter Sports

Wheelchair winter sports include a variety of competitive games that require endurance and training. The prime objective of the Wheelchair Winter Sports Foundation is to enable people who cannot ski, skate or board due to a disability have the chance to participate in these activities. The WWSF offer an Alpine competition, ‘dry’ slope skiing, adaptive skiing, Nordic skiing, ice sled skating, ice sled racing and ice sledge hockey. Wheelchair curling is a popular sports of the winter Paralympics games with similar rules of regular curling.

  • Wheelchair Winter Sports – Wheelchair Winter Sports Foundation (WWSF) winter sports information and official games.
  • Curling – Wheelchair curling information, videos, photos and spectator guide.
  • Paralysis Resource Center – Winter sports information for individuals living with paralysis.

Computing for Those with Special Needs

Computers should be accessible to everyone. There is very little reason why a person with special needs can’t enjoy the use of a computer. When it comes to assistive technology, there are adaptations and devices that make computer use possible for people with special needs. For instance, the keyboard may be changed or the sound system may be updated to make computer use more convenient.

Vision-Impaired

Hearing-Impaired

Physical/Motor Impairment

People with physical or motor impairments can still enjoy using a computer. In fact, there are a number of devices that allow these individuals to successfully use a computer. For instance, keyboards can be adapted for use by a person with physical or motor impairment. Also, a person with a physical or motor impairment can use a computer mouse that better suits their needs.

Learning Disabilities

People with learning disabilities experience many benefits by using computers. For instance, recording ideas and writing can be made easier with the help of a word processor. Furthermore, a student with a learning disability may find it more convenient to type notes for a class on a computer instead of write them. Computers offer students with learning disabilities a number of ways to make their study time more effective.

Today, computers allow people with special needs more freedom to communicate with others. In fact, each new piece of computer technology brings people with special needs fresh and exciting opportunities.

The Life of Christopher Reeve

Christopher Reeve was a classically trained actor who is best remembered as starring as Superman in a series of hit movies. However, due to a horse riding accident, Reeve spent the later part of his life as an advocate for the disabled and pushed for developments in stem cell research.

Christopher Reeve was born on September 25, 1952 in New York City. At the age of nine, Reeve was bitten by the acting bug when he performed in the first of many school plays. At the age of fifteen, Reeve worked as an apprentice for a summer at the Williamstown Theatre Festival. This led him on his career path as an actor.

Reeve then went on to study acting at Cornell University, then to the famed Julliard School in New York City. During those early years, Reeve learned the craft of acting both on stage and behind the scenes. It was during those years that Reeve started to meet other young actors who were also looking to start careers in acting. After Julliard Reeve began to get small roles in movies such as Grey Lady Down as well as acting in some plays.

However, his first big break came in 1979 when he was cast as the new Superman. This was the first of four movies where he put on the cape and played the “Man of Steel.” In addition to the Superman series, Reeve was cast in 1979 in the time travel romance “Somewhere in Time”. Reeve also acted in several other movies including “The Bostonians”, “Deathtrap” and “Noises Off”. Reeve displayed a wide range of acting skills from comedy to drama to action.

On May 27, 1995, the life of Christopher Reeve took a dramatic and tragic turn. Reeve had been involved in horse riding and in an event in Virginia he was thrown from his horse and the impact of the landing on his head and neck caused paralysis. Upon arrival at the hospital it was determined that the injury would cause Reeve to be a quadriplegic for life.

After his physical recovery from the accident and his status stabilized, he was faced with the prospect of living the remainder of his life confined to a wheelchair. This became difficult for the actor which had been used to being an active outdoorsman. Once he overcame the psychological trauma of the accident he began to become an advocate and spokesperson for the disabled.

Christopher Reeve and his wife Dana became proponents of stem cell research as a way to help regain function for the wheelchair bound. They founded the Christopher Reeve Foundation which led in the research and development for the disabled.

Due to complications from the fall, the remainder of Reeve’s life was plagued with medical conditions. These issues contributed to his death on October 10, 2004 due to cardiac arrest.

The life of Christopher Reeve will be remembered forever as one of outstanding acting ability, physical strength and determination as a result of his accident. The life of Reeve will be remembered in the work of his foundation which will carry on the hopes and ideals of Christopher Reeve.

Complete Guide to Arthritis

Arthritis is one of the most rampant chronic health conditions and the nation’s leading cause of disability. Nearly one in five adults suffers front chronic joint symptoms, making a staggering 46 million individuals just in the United States. Arthritis can limit daily activities including bathing, dressing and walking. Although individuals of all age groups are at risk including nearly 300,000 children, the targeted age group is baby boomers with more women being affected then men.

Types of Arthritis

  • Osteoarthritis: Here you will find information on osteoarthritis, the most common type of arthritis.
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis: Learn about the long-lasting disease, rheumatoid arthritis and how it affects the joints.
  • Gout: As one of the most painful types of arthritis, gout is formed when the body is unable to eliminate excess uric acid.
  • Fibromyalgia: How fibromyalgia can affect the muscles and their attachments to the bone, causing widespread pain.
  • Ankylosing Spondylitis: Here you will learn how ankylosing spondylitis affects the spine and surrounding joints, causing inflammation.
  • Polymyalgia Rheumatica: Linked to giant cell arthritis, polymyalgia rheumatica typically affect individuals 50 years of age or older.
  • Lupus Erythematosus: Belonging to the family of rheumatic diseases, lupus erythematosus affects joints, as well as muscles, skin, kidneys, nervous system, lungs and heart.
  • Psoriatic Arthritis: Here you will learn about the type of arthritis that affects people between 30 and 50 years of age, psoriatic arthritis.
  • Reactive Arthritis: Form of arthritis that typically appears after intestinal or genitourinary infections.
  • Pseudogout: Condition that causes calcium pyrophosphate crystals to deposit in the joints.

Causes of Arthritis

Symptoms of Arthritis

Treatment

  • Arthritis Treatment Options: Here you will find information on the various arthritis treatments available to patients.
  • Arthritis Care Guide: Treatment options are discussed, such as acupuncture, surgery and stress control.
  • Hip Replacement: Learn about the arthroplasty procedure for arthritis of the hip.
  • Pain Tip Sheet: Arthritis exercise and other methods for arthritis treatment and pain management.
  • Natural Therapies: Review a number of natural therapies to help treat and manage your arthritis.
  • Autoimmune Mom:Living With Fibromyalgia and Celiac Disease

Prevention Methods

Workplace Accessibility Guide

In the modern workplace, accommodations must be made to allow all people the opportunity to be able to work. The Americans With Disabilities Act has mandated that all buildings and workplaces be accessible to those with disabilities. Many different disabilities are covered by the ADA, and various components of the Act help ensure that all people are given the same opportunities in the workplace and elsewhere.

Legal Guidelines of the Americans with Disabilities Act

Workplace Accessibility

Learning Disability Resources

A learning disability is considered a classification and includes several disorders in which a person has difficulty learning in the normal manner. Learning disabilities are caused by an unknown factor and this factor or factors affect the brain’s ability to process and receive information.

Reading Disorders

Dyslexia – A resource page on Dyslexia featuring articles, multimedia, questions and answers, and recommended books.

Reading Comprehension – An article discussing learning disabilities as they relate to reading comprehension.

Reading Disorders – An article with information on the physiology of various reading related learning disabilities

Writing Disorders

Dysgraphia – Information on the Dysgraphia, a learning disorder that affects ones writing abilities including poor handwriting and trouble getting thoughts onto paper.

Language Based Disorders – Some information and resources on language based learning disabilities which tend to manifest in writing.

Writing Disorders – A list of resources and information on various learning disabilities related to writing.

Math Disorders

Math Learning Disorders – An article about research done by the Mayo Clinic that proves math learning disorders are fairly common.

Dyscalculia Resource – A list of resources with further information on math related learning disabilities.

Dyscalculia – Information on math learning disabilities including diagnosis, remediation, research, and more.

General Learning Disability Resources

LDANATL – The website of the Learning Disabilities Association of America.

NCLD – The website of the National Center for Learning Disabilities.

Learning Disabilities in Kids – Information on learning disabilities in children including causes and how to know if you have a disability.

Disabilities in Children – Information on learning disabilities such as symptoms, types, and testing options.

Learning Disabilities – Information from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

What Are Learning Disabilities – A compilation of information on diagnosis, types, and how to cope with learning disabilities.

About Learning Disabilities – Information on learning disorders from the Child Development Institute.

Disabilities and Social Skills – An article discussing how adults social skills are affected by their learning disabilities.

Learning Styles – A learning style test along with information on how to make that style work for you.

Learning Disorders – Information and resources to help in the understanding of learning disabilities.

Learning Disorders in Adults – A list of resources for adults with learning disorders from the National Institute for Literacy.

Child Learning Disabilities – Facts for families on learning disabilities in children from the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

Learning Problems – A site specifically for children to educate themselves on learning disabilities.

Screening for LD – Provides information on screening tests for learning disabilities.

Disability Resources: Paraeducator Support

Paraeducators are a very important part of the educational system. Paraeducators are those that work with disabled students to make sure that they receive an education tailored to their needs. Paraeducators have a very specific but also very important role in the classroom and are considered an integral part of any teaching team.

Paraeducators generally work in teams which include the students that they work with as well as the student’s other teachers, parents, and special educators.

Paraeducators provide essential services while under the supervision of some type of licensed educator.

Paraeducators have unique competencies, and should be greatly valued and appreciated for their contributions and hard work.

Paraeducators receive orientation and some type of entry-level training before beginning to work directly with students.

Paraeducators continue to receive further training on the job to match their specific responsibilities.

Paraeducators need to have access to other learning opportunities in addition to any on the job experience they develop.

All schools should have practices established to hire and recruit paraeducators.

Substitute paraeducators really should also be available so students never miss out when their main paraeducator is out of the classroom.

Each school needs to have a well planned and agreed upon process for determining when paraeducator support is necessary for a student.

When support for a student by a paraeducator is deemed necessary, a written plan should be developed to state what exactly the student’s needs are.

It is a good idea to assign paraeducators not to a specific student but to a classroom where their knowledge can help multiple students.

Input should be gotten directly from paraeducators when administrators are working to make assignments to meet a certain student’s educational needs.

Paraeducators should have a specific job description that outlines all of their responsibilities.

Paraeducators should be compensated for their work based on their level of education and experience.

Paraeducators need to have constructive interpersonal skills when dealing with students as well as other staff members.

Paraeducators should always demostrate attitudes and habits that encourage the students they are working with.

Within the classroom, paraeducators should serve as a support system to students under the supervision of the classroom teacher.

Paraeducators need to be informed about the different educational needs and objectives of the students they are working with.

Paraeducators should have the opportunity to contribute to the development of lesson plans that involve the students they are working with.

Paraeducators should support the implementation of different instructional programs and help to facilitate the learning activities of the students they are helping.

Further Resources:

Paraeducator Learning Network – A wealth of information for those wanting to learn about paraeducaors and their importance in the classroom.

What Is A Paraeducator? – An in-depth definition of a paraeducator and their roles and responsibilities in the classroom.

Paraeducator Resources – The Paraeducator Resources and Learning Center, featuring some great resources for paraeducators.

Training Resources – A great list of training resources for those working as paraeductors and their supervisors.

Paraeducator Jobs – A job board for those looking to work as paraeducators, also contains some great resources.

Guide to Disability Rights in Canada

Over the course of the past century, Canadians with disabilities have had to overcome many obstacles. They have had to overcome accessibility issues in the workplace, accessibility of schools, access to public buildings and in many other manners. Persons with disabilities have had to combat difficulties because of vision, mobility, mental health and other issues.

The disabled have had to endure many physical obstacles, and also problems with the public not understanding the difficulties that the disabled have had to face. For many years, the disabled were faced with environmental obstacles such as stairs, written notices and signs, and other similar physical difficulties. In addition, because the public did not know about the disabled and the problems that they faced, the disabled were often discriminated against.

The disabled faced a number of issues through the years and in the 1970’s, the Canadian Government realized the difficulties that the disabled faced. The government enacted the first law that gave the disabled specific rights. The Canadian Human Rights Act gave all Canadians equal rights on the basis of sex, race, nationality and disability. This legislature gave all Canadians the same rights under the law, which was a needed step.

In 1977 to address the needs of all people the Canadian Human Rights Act was passed. It brought to light the need for all Canadian citizens to be treated equally, but it did not specifically address the needs of the disabled. In the 1970’s the American government started to address the needs of the disabled, and because of this, the Canadian government also began to help the disabled.

In the subsequent years, several significant developments occurred which led to positive changes for the disabled. Some of the notable developments include the formation of the Coalition of Provincial Organizations of the Handicapped, which gave the disabled a central voice in helping the disabled, and act as a spokesman with the government. Another key date was in 1981, when the International Year of the Disabled was established. This helped get the word out about the problems that are facing disabled persons. And, another key moment in the battle to get the disabled help was the creation of the Obstacles Report, which was based on an investigation into the troubles that people with disabilities faced. From the investigations a list of problem areas were identified.

Based on the findings of these reports, the Canadian Government introduced legislation aimed at helping the disabled. These include the Blind Persons Act and the Employment Equity Act among others.

While the struggles of the disabled is a continuing effort, the Canadian Government has taken steps in ensuring that the disabled are treated fairly, and that they are given every legal opportunity to have the same life as non-disabled. While the disabled still need to overcome their disabilities, the laws in effect can help them achieve their goals.

Wheelchair Basketball

Playing sports is a way to release energy, keep healthy and meet new people. The same is true whether the individual is able bodied or handicapped, young or old. Wheelchair basketball is just another way for individuals to stay active. It was developed during the mid 1940s for individuals injured from World War II. Although it is not the first of its kind, wheelchair basketball is one of the most popular sports for the handicapped. Almost all of the rules and regulations in basketball also apply to wheelchair basketball with a few exceptions. People who are handicapped have different physical and mental abilities therefore a classification process was devised to make the playing field equal. The rules are based from the international system, which makes it easier to play the same sport regardless of where the playing field is located.

The idea of wheelchair basketball was developed during the World War II. During this time, a large number of soldiers and civilians were injured because of the war. They still had a lot of energy but felt trapped and useless in their wheelchairs. Playing sports was a great outlet that made people feel that they could still be apart of something bigger than themselves. In 1946, the United States had six teams playing. By 1948, the first college based team, the University of Illinois Gizz Kids was formed. A year later, a group of students from the same university and Tim Nuggent, the Director of Rehabilitation, formed the National Wheelchair Basketball Tournament (NWBA). Within a few years, the sport had spread to various parts of the globe. In 1960, the sport was first included in the Roman Paralympic Programme, an international sporting event for the handicapped. Wheelchair basketball became one of the most popular sports. The women’s division was established in the 1970s. In 1977, the First Intercollegiate Wheelchair Basketball Tournament was held. The first NWBA Junior Division was played in 2008. Revisions to the rules of the game were made less than a year later to accommodate younger players.

Wheelchair basketball utilizes the same rules as able-bodied basketball. The size of the court and ball is the same while a second dribble is not allowed. Traveling violations involve three pushes of the wheel chair without bouncing the basketball. Compared to able-bodied basketball, defending is easier as the chair acts as an additional screen. Some regulations have been created to make the sport safer. The chair, for example, must not have anything sticking out while the footplate should be lower than 11 cm. from the floor. Standard seat heights and wheel sizes are also indicated to make it fair for all the players.

During the first years of the sport, some disabled individuals felt that the sport was too rough. A classification process was developed to make both teams play on equal footing. Before the game, each player is evaluated based on their ability to control their wheelchair, dribble, pass, shoot, rebound and how the person reacts when in contact with other players. Individual players are assigned points between 0.5 to 4.5 based on their abilities. The points of the players on the court must not exceed 14 at any time or the team receives a technical foul. Classifications are based on the rules specified by the International Wheelchair Basketball Federation (IWBF). There are four classes of athletes. Class I and II athletes are unable to control their upper body and need to use their arms to control their sitting posture. With Class III athletes, they are able to turn and lean forward but not from side to side. Class IV athletes are capable of making any movements except lean from side to side.

A moderate level of physical activity helps in improving the health of a person. It does not need to be exhausting but the individual has to do the activity regularly. There are several reasons why physical activity is good for the body. One is that it makes the body stronger, making the person less likely to die prematurely or develop diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure or even colon cancer. For people that do have high blood pressure, exercising helps lower the levels. The physical activity also helps people to lose weight and keep it at a healthier level. As a player trains and practices, they tone and strengthen various muscles in the body while increasing stamina. In older people, playing sports helps reduce any joint pain or swelling, making them less likely to experience arthritis. Playing sports also makes people feel better emotionally by making them feel less depressed and anxious. Wheelchair basketball is a type of team sport that encourages communication between the players, improving one’s social skills. Becoming better in the sport also helps increase confidence. Although wheelchair basketball has many benefits, it is suggested that people consult with a physician before starting any new routine or program.

Studies have shown that people with some form of disability tend to be less involved in physical activity even though it is important for all types of people to stay healthy. Support from loved ones such as family and friends can help in encouraging the person to start exercising or playing sports. The game of wheelchair basketball is designed to help wheelchair bound individuals stay active and remain healthy. It is also a way to meet new people and gain a more positive outlook on life. A 20 minute game each day is all it takes for a healthier, happier person, regardless of age, gender or abilities.

To find out more about wheelchair basketball and how to remain healthy, check the following links:

The History of Wheelchair Basketball

How Wheelchair Basketball Started

Rules of the Game and How to Avoid Injuries

Wheelchair Basketball Rules and Definitions

Classification of Players

Official Player Classification Manual

Benefits of Wheelchair Basketball

Benefits of Keeping Active

Advantages of Playing Sports

How to Remain Healthy and Active

Humanizing Disabilities: Personal Stories

Living with disabilities can be challenging. People who do not live with disabilities may have a difficult time understanding the plight of those who do. The personal stories of those living with disabilities can offer a refreshing perspective on the meaning of life and the triumph of enduring an entirely new way of living. The purpose of this list is to provide a closer, more personalized look at the lives of people with disabilities.

Traumatic Brain Injury

  • TBI Life TBI Life is a personal website by traumatic brain injury survivor, Dan Windheim. He has written an article in Arclight Magazine and is the author of a book titled “out of my mind”. He has used his traumatic experience to help others cope with traumatic brain injury.
  • The Fight of My Life The fight of my life is a personal blog by a traumatic brain injury survivor. The blog features her own personal thoughts about things that are going on in her life.
  • TBI Warrior TBI Warrior is a blog by a soldier who is recovering from Traumatic Brain Injury. He documents his daily feelings and struggles and does his best to help others cope with TBI.
  • TBI Army Wife This blog is written by an army wife. Her blog’s stated purpose is to “create awareness about TBI from a caregiver’s perspective”. This is an excellent resource for a spouse, partner, or family member of someone living with TBI.

Spinal Cord Injury and Paralysis

  • Not Sorry Am Happy – This website is written and maintained by Kenneth G. Webb, a survivor of spinal cord injury. Through his website, he offers his personal story of living with paralysis and has sections on his website helping survivors with life management skills such as mobility, bladder management, sexual management, equal opportunity, and accommodation.
  • Briansterberg.com – This is a personal website created by Brian Sterberg, a man who lives with spinal cord injury (SCI). The author had a bicycle accident that resulted in his injury. He shares his personal story of coping with SCI and shares his accomplishments, goals, and exercises.
  • Amanda Boxtel – Amanda Boxtel is an Australian native who developed spinal cord injury from a serious ski accident. She was told that she would never be able to walk again. However, through the miracle of stem cell research, she has been able to regain feeling in her legs. She shares her feelings and how she has learned to cope with her disability, as well as how she is healing from it.
  • Facial Palsy – Facial Palsy is a form of paralysis that affects the facial nerves. In the case of Karen, the author of this blog, her eye would not close properly. She eventually received surgery that would help her with this problem.
  • Life; Paralyzed – Life Paralyzed is a personal blog written by a woman named Chrissy. She describes her blog as a place she documents her day to day struggles of living with paralysis.
  • Caring for Someone Who’s Had a Stroke – Being a caregiver is never easy. Kathy Boncher discusses how she dealt with caring for her husband after he suffered a massive stroke.

    Developmental Disabilities

  • Victoria’s Story – Victoria is a girl who lives with cerebral palsy. Her mother shares her personal story on this website.
  • Donna’s Story – Donna is a woman who was born with cerebral palsy. She has to use a wheelchair for mobility. Right now she is fighting to get accessible public transportation. She and a man named Jim are fighting to get higher quality service from their local public transportation provider, Access Link.
  • Living With Cerebral Palsy – This blog is written and maintained by Tina Matsunaga, a woman who lives with spastic cerebral palsy. She shares her daily thoughts and struggles with anyone who is willing to read her blog.
  • Living with Scoliosis – This blog is about coping with scoliosis. The author answers frequently asked questions and provides regular updates.
  • One Patient’s Story of Living With Scoliosis – This is a personal story by a child who lives with scoliosis. She enjoys playing sports and is able to play again without worrying about her scoliosis.
  • Jennifer Wagner’s Story – This is an article by a woman who lives with scoliosis. She shares some helpful information as well as her experiences.
    Amputation
  • Living a Full and Happy Life After Amputation – This is an article about Liz Phelps – a remarkable woman who survived an amputation and went on to begin a writing career.
  • Gracie Rosenburg’s Story – This is a story about a woman who lost both of her legs due to a devastating car crash. She shares her new perspective with the world.
  • Living After an Amputation – This is a story about someone who had to have their lower left leg amputated due to a devastating motorcycle accident.
  • Living in Exile – This is a blog post about amputees in developing countries facing a great deal of challenges accessing vital medical services. The story focuses mainly on a Hispanic child named Rodrigo, who lives in Mexico with his parents and crosses the border under a humanitarian medical visa.
  • Amputees Unite – Amputees Unite is a personal website by a woman who lives with a husband who lost his lower leg in a bad car accident.
  • Living With Multiple Amputations – This article is about a woman named Karen Grace who decided to improve her quality of life by joining a health club. She lost both of her legs below the knee and nine of her fingers.


Mental Illness

  • Living With Depression – This article is about how one woman is living with and managing her clinical depression.
  • Living With Bipolar Disorder – This is the story of a person who lives with bipolar disorder.
  • Living With ADHD – This is a blog written by a woman who lives with ADHD. She lives in NYC and actively writes about the ups and downs of living with the disorder.
  • Living With Schizophrenia in Africa – This article is about an African native who struggles with schizophrenia.
  • Living With Paranoid Schizophrenia – This is a blog by a woman who lives with adult onset schizophrenia.
  • The Naked Truth – This is a blog by a woman who struggles with mental illness.

    Autism Spectrum

  • The Autism Life – This site was created by a family living with a child that has autism.
  • Life With Asperger’s – This is a blog written by a mother of two sons with Asperger’s.
  • James Autism – This blog was created and maintained by the parents of a child named James who suffers from Autism. The family lives in Austin, Texas and document their daily struggles, progress, and treatment.
  • Diary of a Mother Living With Autism– This blog is by a mother living with autism. She documents her life and the things that she deals with.
  • Living with Asperger’s – This is a blog by a 22 year old female who lives with asperger’s syndrome.
  • Autism Epicenter – This blog is written by parents of children with ASD.
    Severe Medical Limitation
  • Diabetes Mine – A helpful website for people living with diabetes. The author shares her personal stories and encourages others to do the same.
  • The Diabetic Pastry Chef – This blog is by a pastry chef who discovered that she had diabetes shortly after graduating from culinary school.
  • Freedom to Eat – This blog is for people with food allergies.
  • Lemonade Life – This is a personal blog by a girl who lives with type 1 diabetes in New York City.
  • My Life as a Type 2 Diabetic – This is about a woman who is living with type 2 diabetes.
  • A Healing Blog – This is a newsweek article about a woman with type 1 diabetes.
  • Diabetes Sisters – This is a website by women who seek to help other women dealing with diabetes.

A Guide to Assistive Technology in K-12 Schools

Individuals with disabilities may find it difficult or impossible to complete everyday tasks. Assistive technologies are devices or services that can be used to aid in functions too difficult to complete independently. Any product or equipment that can increase, stabilize and maintain function capabilities for disabled individuals are considered assistive technology. As technologies specifically geared toward children with disabilities foster more productive and positive learning environments, more k-12 schools and teachers should be prepared with assistive technologies.

Ranging from low tech to complex options, there are varied assistive technologies. Books featuring larger fonts, pencil holders, blocks, cartoon symbols and large buttons are all examples of simple technologies. Basic calculators that have been enlarged and handheld typing games are also used within classes. There are also computer accessories such as larger mouse options, touch screens and numeric keypads and keyboards. Assistive technologies at the higher technology range even include computers capable of communication on behalf of a child. From sounds with cartoons to full typing with larger keys, these computers can be invaluable to a child with special needs as they would be able to fully engage in classroom activities.

One of the most important things to consider with assistive technologies is basic lifestyle activities. These are generally taken for granted, but with a little help could make a child feel warm, welcomed and appreciated. The extra time and effort can really save energy for children with disabilities. This allows the student to fully focus in class on what they are capable of, rather than what they are not.

How to Jazz Up Your Wheelchair

If you use the same wheelchair day after day, it becomes a part of you. For this reason, you might want to use that wheelchair to help show off who you are. There are lots of ways to turn a regular wheelchair into one that shows everyone your hobbies and what you like. Simple additions include pockets, spoke guards, flags, stickers, seat covers and lights.

Pockets

If you attach a pocket to the side of a wheelchair, you can carry around all of your favorite items. A small pocket could be used to hold an action figure, doll or even a cell phone if you have one. A large one could be big enough to fit a laptop computer. Carrying each of these objects close makes sure you always have your favorite stuff around you when you want to use it.

Spoke Guards

Spoke guards not only protect one of the most important parts of your wheels, but you can also travel everywhere with style. Spoke guard art is really cool and there are all kinds of designs out there. There are tons to choose from with pictures of animals, planets and even one with the Wheel of Fortune on it! There are also optical illusions so you can hypnotize your teachers every time your tire spins.

Flags and Streamers

Flags or streamers are fun additions to any wheelchair because they wave around while you move fast. Choosing the right one can also say a lot about you. If you’re feeling patriotic, use an American flag. Or if you’re proud of your foreign heritage, fly the flag of a different country. Be careful though! If your streamers are really long they could get caught in your spokes or get shut in doorways.

Stickers

Stickers are also a great way to share your feelings and opinions with your friends and classmates. What’s great about stickers is that there are so many kinds. If you look hard enough, you can find a sticker for whatever you can imagine. Stickers can share clever jokes or they can support an organization. Everybody likes music and you can support your favorite radio station by riding around with their sticker on the seat of your wheelchair. Or you can get one with a picture of your favorite cartoon character. There are countless options. Even though you’re too young to vote, you could even sport a sticker with a political agenda.

Seat Covers

There are a few different kinds of seat covers. Lambskin ones are really comfortable and can be put in the washing machine with no problem. Another option can include a seat cover with a fun pattern on it. There are tons out there; you just need to know where to look.

Underglow

One of the newest wheelchair trends is underglow. Some cars (and more recently couches) have colored lights underneath so that they shine a cool glow on the ground below. In order to add underglow to your wheelchair, you will have to have your parents take you to Pep Boys or Autolumination and get LED lights. If you have Christmas lights laying around the house you can use those too. Just make sure to ask your parents first. Underglow isn’t only for electric wheelchairs. You can buy battery packs and strap them to the bottom of your chair.

Other Lights

Underneath the wheelchair is not the only place you can put lights. Spoke lights are blade-shaped objects that you can attach to the spokes on your wheel. When the wheel spins, the blades light up and flash. They come in a variety of colors and some even display words or designs that look like flower petals. Each blade needs 3 AA batteries, so make sure you ask mom or dad to stock up.

Of course, all of these cool wheelchair accessories aren’t as important as your safety. Be sure that you are handling your wheelchair properly before you get any of them.

Wheelchair safety tips

Wheelchair ramp safety tips

Show this one to mom or dad

Kids on Wheels

Sports and other outdoor stuff you can do in or out of your wheelchair

Some people with dystonia use wheelchairs

Spoke lights

How to Customize Your Wheelchair

Wheels of Fun – Spoke Guard Covers

Spoke Guard Art

Have some fun online with games and crafts from Joni and Friends. You can also share your story

Medical Resource: Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple Sclerosis (MS), also known as demyelinating disease, is an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system attacks the central nervous system, particularly the brain and spinal cord. Inflammation of the nerves causes damages to the myelin sheaths which surround neurons. Since myelin acts as an electrical insulator, damage to the sheaths inhibits the ability of the neurons to fire properly. MS can affect anyone, but women are more susceptible to it than men. It can occur during any stage of life, but it is most common after adolescence and before 50. While exact figures are difficult to predict, it’s estimated that 250,000 to 350,000 people in the United States have MS.

Classification

Although MS attacks the nervous system in the same way, there are different types of progression to the disease that have been observed in patients. These forms of MS progression have been categorized into 4 major categories or subtypes:

  • Relapsing-Remitting: Patients have extended periods of remission, often months to years, with little to no signs of disease progression, punctuated by sudden and unexpected relapses in the form of attacks from the disease.
  • Primary Progressive: Patients show a consistent increase in disease activity with little to no remission, nor sudden attacks from the disease.
  • Secondary Progressive: Patients show a consistent increase in disease activity without remission but with sudden attacks from the disease. Many patients who demonstrated relapsing-remitting progression have their MS convert to this type of progression when they lose periods of remission.
  • Progressive relapsing: Patients show a consistent increase in disease activity from the onset of the illness without any remission and accompanied by unexpected attacks from the disease.

There are also variants of MS, referred to as idiopathic inflammatory demyelinating diseases that do not conform to any of progression patterns above, but exhibit similar symptoms. It is not clear if they are genuine forms of MS, other diseases, or whether there is a spectrum of diseases in which MS is situated.

Signs and Symptoms

Since MS affects the central nervous system, signs and symptoms of the disease can include anything neurological in nature:

  • Loss of sensation or numbness
  • Difficulty in coordination or movement
  • Poor balance
  • Speech problems
  • Visual impairments
  • Fatigue
  • Pain
  • Bladder/Bowel problems
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Mood swings
  • Mental impairments

Symptoms of MS occur either in sudden attacks (relapses) or in a steady decline of neurological functioning, or a mixture of both.

Causes

There is no known definitive cause of MS, although there are several theories. There may be a partial genetic component to the disease since having a family member with the disease increases one’s overall risk of developing it. It is not directly hereditary, however. Some races and ethnicities have greater incidence rates of MS than other, again suggesting that genes play a role in its development. Research suggests that individuals with certain variants of Chromosome 6, which contains over 100 different genes governing the immune system, are more susceptible to the disease than individuals without the variants.

There are also several environmental factors that may influence the development of MS. It’s known that the farther one is from the equator, the greater the risk for developing MS. This might suggest that exposure to sunlight and levels of Vitamin D (the “sunshine” vitamin) may be related to the disease. Other environmental factors that may be associated with MS include exposure to industrial chemicals such as solvents, smoking, diet, and stress.

Infections from pathogens, microbes, or viruses are also theorized to be triggers for MS. It is believed that early exposure to certain infections may protect against MS later in life by creating autoimmune responses via antibodies. Individuals who were not exposed to these infections early in life may develop MS later on, triggered by later infections for which they have no autoimmune response. It has been observed that in developing countries, where there is a greater likelihood of exposure to infectious agents during childhood, there is less prevalence of MS. This is known as the hygiene theory, and it suggests why MS develops more in industrialized countries and why the disease usually develops post-adolescence.

As of right now, the most commonly accepted explanation of the disease is that there is a genetic component that may predispose certain individuals to the disease and that unknown environmental factors contribute to the expression of the disease in those individuals.

Diagnosis

Since there are many diseases that are autoimmune, inflammatory, and/or neurological in nature, the signs and symptoms of MS are very similar to other conditions. As a result, MS can be very difficult to diagnosis. There have been historical criteria used to establish the presence of the disease, although they relied heavily on outward symptoms of the disease. In 2001, experts in MS revised the criteria for diagnosing MS to include MRI imaging to detect the lesions and scarring associated with MS, although some argue that only biopsy or autopsy can definitively diagnose the disease. The 2001 revised criteria are known as the McDonald criteria and are considered the “gold standard” for diagnosing MS.

Management

There is no known cure for MS, although there are several therapies and medications used to treat the disease. They’re used to restore certain neurological functions after an acute attack of MS and/or to prevent further attacks or disabilities cause by attacks. One common treatment right after an attack is the administration of corticosteroids for several days. This has been shown to relieve symptoms in the short term but is not beneficial in slowing the long-term progress of the disease.

When patients show an isolated attack of a single symptom, administration of the proteins known as interferons has shown promise in stopping further progression of the isolated symptoms into genuine MS. Another treatment is a mixture of polypeptides known as copaxone, which mimics the appearance of myelin to the immune system, and if injected daily can help protect myelin by substituting as the target of the immune system’s attack response. Other treatments include drugs such as mitoxantrone and natalizumab, which help by suppressing the body’s natural immune response.

Prognosis

Since there is no cure for MS, it continues to advance and attack the myelin sheaths for decades after the initial onset of the disease. On average, individuals with MS die 5 to 10 years earlier than those without the disease; 30 years is the average duration of time until death after the onset of the disease. Different subtypes of MS along with the kinds of symptoms and the gender and ethnicity of the patient will all affect the long-term progression of the disease. Over 1/3 of MS patients live past 60, but 2/3 of patients will die from complications of the disease. Rates of suicide are higher in populations of MS patients than the general population.

Links and Resources

ALS: Lives Lived in Wheelchairs & Scooters

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention there are an estimated, “…30,000 people in the United States who have the disease (ALS).” The International Alliance of ALS/MND Associations states that there are, “…120,000 cases diagnosed worldwide each year.” Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a disease that can affect people of all ages, but mostly strikes people in middle age. ALS affects the motor neurons and causes severe muscle weakness. Individuals with ALS lose control of voluntary muscles in their arms and legs. In addition, a patient may have trouble talking and swallowing.

ALS is also referred to as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Lou Gehrig was a famous baseball player of the 1930s who had ALS. The celebrated physicist and cosmologist Stephen Hawking also has ALS. The tremendous successes of these two men in their chosen fields can serve as inspiration for others with ALS. The following are some resources that may be of help to individuals with ALS as well as to the people who care about them.

Resources for People with ALS

  • Facts and Helpful Information on ALS: Learn about ALS, find information on support groups, and much more.
  • An Explanation of ALS: Read a descriptive explanation of ALS, the prognosis, as well as treatment information.
  • The ALS Association: The ALS Association is a national not-for-profit health agency dedicated to fighting ALS through research, patient and community services, public education, as well as advocacy.
  • ALS Research: Find out about the research on ALS being conducted at the Robert Packard Center.
  • Information and Research on ALS: Learn specifics about ALS and find some resources regarding ALS research.
  • MDA ALS Division: Discover facts about ALS, research news, and many more sources of information concerning the disease.
  • Learning about ALS/MND: Read about ALS/MND (motor neuron disease) and find out more about the work of this international organization.
  • A Look at ALS: Study some information on Lou Gehrig’s disease including what it is, the diagnosis, treatment, and more.
  • Interview with Stephen Hawking: Look at an interview of Stephen Hawking (who has ALS) to learn about his tremendous accomplishments.
  • An Examination of ALS: Learn information about ALS from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Also, read details regarding the National Registry.

Hospitals Specializing in the Care of ALS Patients

  • ALS Clinics: Find the names of clinics that deal with patients who have ALS. This list of clinics contains the pertinent information connected with each one.
  • Specialty Hospital: Learn about an ALS clinic in Maryland.
  • An ALS Clinic: Read the details regarding an ALS clinic in Minneapolis.

Lou Gehrig

  • Biographical Information on Lou Gehrig: Checkout facts concerning the early life of Lou Gehrig, his success in baseball, and his struggle with ALS.
  • Profile of Lou Gehrig: Look at the successes of Lou Gehrig in baseball and read about his experience with ALS. One interesting fact in the article explains how this beloved baseball player earned the name, “Iron Horse.”
  • Life of Lou Gehrig: Find out the interesting details of Lou Gehrig’s childhood, baseball career, and fight with ALS.
  • The Life and Baseball Career of Lou Gehrig: Discover facts about the childhood, baseball career, and ALS diagnosis of Lou Gehrig.
  • Facts about the Life of Lou Gehrig: Read a detailed article about the life and accomplishments of Lou Gehrig. Also, read the heartfelt speech Lou Gehrig made to his fans.
  • A Look at the Life of Lou Gehrig: Find out about the early life of Lou Gehrig as well as his successes in baseball. Also, learn about the lives and backgrounds of Lou Gehrig’s mother and father.
  • Well-Known Individuals with ALS: Learn about the lives of several famous individuals, including Lou Gehrig, who have dealt with the disease of ALS. Among some of the other well-known individuals with ALS were actor David Niven and musician Charles Mingus.

In Memory of Those Who Have Died of ALS