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Paws-itively Awesome Dog Treats Made By People with Disabilities

Dog lovers around the world are ready to fill your social media feeds with the cutest puppy pictures. That’s because National Dog Day is celebrated each year on August 26th. This happy hound holiday honors all dogs (mixed breed and pure), promotes the importance of animal rescues and the many important roles that dogs have to impact the human race – i.e., personal protection, law enforcement assistance, disability service and health companions, to name a few. AmeriDisability is pleased to spotlight the following businesses, each of which make dog treats; and just so happen to be owned and/or operated by persons with varying disabilities.

1. Doggy Delights by Allison

The kitchen wasn’t always Allison Fogerty’s favorite place to be; nor was food consumption an enjoyable pastime. Allison was born with Down syndrome and Tracheoesophogeal Fistula, a rare condition resulting in an abnormal connection between the esophagus and trachea (windpipe), which required her to have a trach tube to breathe. As a tween, Allison was also diagnosed with a laryngeal cleft, an abnormal opening between the larynx and the esophagus through which food and liquid can pass through the larynx into the lungs; thus Allison relied on a gastrostomy tube (G-tube), a surgically placed device that grants direct access to one’s stomach for feeding. Several surgeries later, Allison’s health has improved; and the health of animals has become her top priority.

Allison bakes dog treats using all natural ingredients.


Image credit: Doggie Delights by Allison

Inspired by her complicated food journey, Allison uniquely understands the importance of healthy nutrition for both people and their pets. Now her kitchen, aka the home-base of Doggie Delights by Allison, is her happy place where she whips up treats using all-natural ingredients. And the company motto says it all: “Your Best Friend Deserves the Best Treats!” Doggie Delights’ products are sold frozen or freeze dried to eliminate the need for preservatives. Allison sells these homemade bites at farmers markets in her hometown of Clermont (just west of Orlando, Florida), and also ships to any location via website orders.

Plus, this young female entrepreneur isn’t shy about making connections with fellow Fido owners in high places. Just recently, Allison received a letter from President Joe Biden thanking her for sending treats to his dogs, Major and Champ!

2. Waggies by Maggie & Friends

In 2007, Leigh Corrigan and Mary Ann Nolan of Wilmington, Delaware recognized that employment opportunities for young adults with intellectual disabilities, including their daughters Elizabeth and Maggie, weren’t plentiful in their area. So they cooked up a doggone solution by launching Waggies by Maggie & Friends, a nonprofit dog treat company with a mission to employ persons with disabilities. With direction of an advisory board, Waggies operates with about a dozen bakers who tackle equipment prep, ingredient measuring, additional baking steps, product labeling, kitchen restocking and miscellaneous business-oriented tasks.

Two moms launch dog treat business in honor of daughters with disabilities.


Image credit: Waggies by Maggie & Friends

The result: Waggies produces vet-approved treats without preservatives. Flavor varieties like peanut butter, chicken and sweet potato are available in both bone-shaped biscuits and “WaggieBits” kibble. These pup-approved goodies are available for purchase at about 45 retail locations throughout Connecticut, Delaware, New Jersey, North Carolina and Pennsylvania; plus treats, clothing and gift items are sold through Waggies online shop.

3. Gracie’s Doggie Delights

Gracie Jagler of Watertown, Wisconsin launched her company, Gracie’s Doggie Delights, in 2016. Gracie, who has Down syndrome, was just 19 years old when her career took off. The key to her almost immediate success was tapping into her passion: her love of dogs. Serving as treat testers, Gracie’s three rescue schnauzers playfully participate in operations at Gracie’s Doggie Delights, which has become a collaborative business venture for the whole family — with Gracie at the helm, of course.

Because Gracie’s Doggie Delights are simply made – using just one ingredient (freeze dried USDA inspected meat) – the company’s products have been praised by veterinarians. For example, Dr. Amy Hudson of Johnson Creek Veterinary Care proclaims, “I choose Gracie’s treats because of the natural, limited and high-quality ingredients. I particularly love the benefits of organ meat, such as liver and hearts, for the health of my patients. Gracie’s Doggie Delights makes it fun and easy to give your pet a power-packed, high nutrition treat that your dog will thank you for.” Similarly, Dr. Debbie Reynolds of Veterinary Home Health Care shares, “Our patients love Gracie’s treats and we love providing them with a high-quality product with no fillers or artificial ingredients. With so many pets suffering from food allergies and sensitivities, knowing there is only one ingredient in each treat reassures our clients that their pet can enjoy Gracie’s treats with no ill-effects.”

Gracie's is a female owned business that celebrates disabilities.


Image credit: Gracie’s Doggie Delights

Mutt owners on the hunt for healthy treats can explore Gracie’s diverse online selection of pet snacks, such as Beef Liver Delights, Chicken Heart Delight, Turkey Gizzard Delights, Cheese Curd Delights and many others. And Gracie’s offers pet shampoo, collapsible water bowls, paw balm and more.

4. arcBARKS Dog Treat Company

The Arc of Greensboro is a nonprofit committed to identifying and securing life-long opportunities for children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. One of Arc’s most successful endeavors launched in 2011, when parent Pat Clapp, whose son David has Down syndrome, established arcBARKS Dog Treat Company with the help of Ruth Edwards, who then served as Executive Director of The Arc of Greensboro. arcBARKS specifically aims to provide vocational training for individuals with disabilities.

arcBARKS claims their treats are infused with an extra “special” ingredient that really makes a dog’s tail wag: love! Peanut butter and pumpkin are the stand-out ingredients in arcBARKS’ products, which are sold via an online store, in addition to tons of retail locations nationwide. For hefty, hungry hounds, opt for the Big Bone, a large 8×3.5 treat handmade with flour, oats, freshly ground peanut butter, oil and water (oh, and a heaping of that love we noted). Also, arcBARKS now offers convenient monthly subscription boxes, which includes two to four packages of treats, a dog bandana and early access to new products. If you’re not a pet owner but still want to support the work of arcBARKS, monetary donations are accepted.

arcBARKS Dog Treat Company is run by individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.


Image credit: arcBARKS

5. Purely Patrick

Born prematurely, Patrick Lewis has cerebral palsy and is blind. Yet, he has a clear vision for his company, Purely Patrick. Patrick specializes in homemade gourmet goods, which he prepares using assistive technology. “I use a pouring device that is activated by a switch that I control,” he says; adding, “I have the help of my mother and two job coaches to ensure the measurements of my products are correct.”

Purely Patrick sells at craft fairs and farmers markets in Vermont, in addition to online. His dog treat creation lets home bakers sink their paws (whoops, we mean hands) into the baking process. The dry dog treat ingredients (either wheat or rice-based) come stacked in a bottle, along with a cookie cutter. Purely Patrick also prepares specialty bird seed, as well as people food including an array of soups, cookies and breads.

Kudos to these pooch-perfect businesses! AmeriDisability wishes all dog lovers a special tail-wagging National Dog Day.  

Several dog treat companies are owned and operated by persons with disabilities.


Image credit: Waggies by Maggie & Friends

Enjoyed this content? You may also like reading:

How to Become a Service Dog Trainer

How to Make Budget-Friendly Frozen Dog Treats for Your Service Animal

How to Exercise Your Service Dog Indoors During Inclement Weather

Feature image credit: arcBARKS

Originally published in 2021, updated 2023.

Nonprofit Helping Families Pay Off Medical Debt

When a child undergoes treatment for a life-threatening illness, the parents often feel debilitated themselves — physically, emotionally and spiritually. On top of the strenuous demands of families’ personal and professional lives, navigating essential treatments can be taxing; and that includes worrying about healthcare expenses. While a child’s life is, of course, priceless, care is costly. Medical debt can quickly add up. Thankfully, for nearly two decades, one nonprofit has worked to ease financial hardships so parents can pay attention to their child’s health, rather than worry about medical debt and basic needs.

“There is an economic burden that comes when children are diagnosed with a life-threatening illness,” explains Autumn Strier, chief executive officer and co-founder of Miracles for Kids. “Our mission is to try and help offset that, relieving some of the financial burdens with our programs so parents can focus on their family during these difficult times.”

Autumn Strier, chief executive officer and co-founder of Miracles for Kids, hosts event to help families pay off medical bills.
(Autumn Strier, chief executive officer and co-founder of Miracles for Kids, hosts program and events to help families with financial aid, housing, food, basic necessities, counseling and more. | Miracle for Kids)

Based in Orange County, California, Strier co-founded Miracles for Kids to aid families in her own community and beyond. Under her dedicated leadership, Miracles for Kids has raised a whopping $43 million since its inception in 2004. The nonprofit’s monetary assistance efforts have increased greatly since its founding, and it now provides financial aid, housing, food, basic necessities, counseling and other long-term stability services for 2,000+ families with children battling over 150 life-threatening illnesses and/or debilitating conditions.

Nearly a quarter of Americans have medical debt.

Birth defects affect one in every 33 babies born in the U.S. each year, according to the CDC. That translates to about 120,000 babies. Each year, total hospital costs for U.S. children and adults with birth defects exceed $23 billion, not including outpatient care or many provider charges. Plus, many more children are diagnosed with life-threatening illnesses or disabilities at a later time during childhood.

A LendingTree survey found that 23% of Americans currently have medical debt, with another 22% reporting they’ve previously had medical debt. The same survey also found that parents with younger children have a higher rate of medical debt compared to those with older children or those without children. 30% of parents with children younger than 18 years of have have medical debt, versus 20% of those without children and 19% of those with only adult children.

Many nonprofits have a mission related to childhood illnesses and/or disabilities but direct funding to research and programs. Surprisingly, there aren’t a lot of nonprofits that offer financial assistance directly to patients and families. And even with health insurance, out-of-pocket costs for premiums, co-pays and deductibles can cost families thousands of dollars per year. Not to mention the many families that are uninsured and/or underinsured.

A child, sitting in a hospital bed, smiles at his physician.

“The last thing families should have to do when faced with their child having a life-threatening illness is to worry about how to pay bills or purchase necessities,” added Strier. “We have worked hard over the years to build four core programs that really help our families survive; such as paying bills, offering counseling, providing housing and basic necessities.”

Adding to its support services, Miracles for Kids recently launched its fifth initiative. The Pillars Stability Program is designed to help families with a critically ill child achieve long-term stability. The program helps members of the family with aspects of education, financial literacy and employment.

The mission of Miracles for Kids is made possible through the generosity of financial donors, corporate partnerships, community programs and volunteers. To learn more, visit

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United Airline to Add Braille to Aircraft Cabin Interiors


United recently became the first U.S. airline to add Braille to aircraft cabin interiors. The inclusive design update will help millions of travelers with visual disabilities more easily navigate the cabin independently. According to the Department of Transportation, about 27 million people with disabilities traveled by air in 2019.

Thus far, United has equipped about a dozen aircrafts with Braille markings for individual rows and seat numbers, as well as inside and outside the lavatories. The airline intends to outfit its entire mainline fleet with Braille by the end of 2026.

“Finding your seat on a plane or getting to the restroom is something most of us take for granted but, for millions of our customers, it can be a challenge to do independently,” Linda Jojo, Executive Vice President, Chief Customer Officer for United, offered in a press statement. “By adding more tactile signage throughout our interiors, we’re making the flying experience more inclusive and accessible — and that’s good for everyone.”

In addition to adding Braille, United is working with the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), the American Council of the Blind (ACB) and other disability advocacy groups to explore the use of other tactile navigational aids throughout the cabin, such as raised letters, numbers and arrows.

“We applaud United for taking an important step toward making its aircraft more accessible to blind passengers,” said NFB President Mark Riccobono. “The flight experience is often frustrating for a number of reasons, one of which is the amount of information that is available exclusively through printed signs and other visual indicators. We hope to continue working with United to explore additional ways to make flying more accessible and less stressful for blind passengers.”

United Becomes First U.S. Airline to Add Braille to Aircraft Cabin Interiors

Inclusion Beyond Aircraft Cabin Interiors 

For the eighth-straight year, United was recognized as a Best Place to Work for Disability Inclusion and earned a top score on the Disability Equality Index benchmarking tool, a joint initiative of the American Association of People with Disabilities and Disability:IN, to advance the inclusion of people with disabilities.

“United is taking additional steps to create an accessible airline passenger experience through Braille signage,” said ACB Interim Executive Director Dan Spoone. “We appreciate the airline’s continued exploration of additional in-flight navigational aids like large print and tactile indicators, and we encourage all airlines to follow United’s lead in making air travel more inclusive for the blind and low vision community.”

Furthermore, the United mobile app was recently redesigned to make it easier to use for people with visual disabilities with increased color contrast, more space between graphics and reordering how information is displayed and announced to better integrate with the screen reader technologies like VoiceOver and TalkBack.

United isn’t the only airline taking inclusion to new heights. As previously published by AmeriDisability, American Airlines operates “It’s Cool to Fly American,” an initiative centered on preparing children and their families for air travel through mock travel drills. And Delta Flight Products (DFP), a subsidiary of Delta Air Lines, recently unveiled a first-of-its-kind prototype of a plane seat inclusively designed to allow passengers who use power wheelchairs to remain in their own wheelchairs throughout the entire flying experience.

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Is Mommy Wine Culture Riskier for Disabled Community?

Stressed out parents of all abilities flippantly toast to “Mommy Wine Culture” because, well, wine has become an acceptable coping mechanism to deal with kids’ whining and other stressors. These days, there’s no shortage of humorous “Mommy needs wine” etched glasses, t-shirts and memes. And for many mothers (and fathers), consuming wine or another type of adult beverage is perfectly fine and even beneficial. But for others — including some people with disabilities, parents of children with special needs and caregivers — Mommy Wine Culture can be more hazardous than humorous.

Why Do Moms Embrace Mommy Wine Culture?

Managing the demands of family life is tricky for all parents and, usually, even more so for parents with disabilities and parents of children with special needs. Parents often struggle to find a healthy balance to do it all, which is why some seek an escape with a glass of red, white or rose vino.

More than 80% of the moms surveyed by Parents said the top reason they drink is to relax and unwind from the stresses of parenting. But is this approach to relaxation worth the risk? Statistics show that women are at greater risk than men for alcohol-related health problems, including liver inflammation, cardiovascular diseases and certain cancers, according to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

Increasing in popularity, Mommy Wine Culture is perceived as casual consumption, but this low-key theory may have high stakes. Mommy Wine Culture may unintentionally encourage and/or lead to binge drinking which, according to the CDC, is a serious yet preventable public health problem. Binge drinking is defined as consuming five or more drinks on an occasion for men, or four or more drinks on an occasion for women. Binge drinkers are not dependent on alcohol; still, binging increases risk of chronic diseases, memory/learning issues and other debilitating conditions.

Mommy Wine Culture is on the rise. Photo: mom sipping red wine while seated on floor with back up to bedside.

Is the Disability Community More Vulnerable to Mommy Wine Culture?

When you’re the mother, father or guardian of a child with special needs, various parenting stressors are undoubtedly magnified. Therefore, people aligned with the disability community may have a greater risk associated with Mommy Wine Culture. Think about every typical parenting scenario being amplified by a disability factor: Picky-eater battles complicated by medically necessary dietary restrictions; outfit debates impacted by sensory-triggering garments; playdates demanding logistical modifications; extra-curricular activities sidelined because of frequent doctor’s appointment.

Besides parenting and/or caregiving a person with special needs, adults with their own disabilities experience substance use disorders two- to four times the rate of the general population, according to Addiction Center. Due to mental and physical disabilities, some people can experience severe depression and anxiety, turning to substances to cope. Another source, Alcohol Help, notes that people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) may also be more vulnerable to alcohol for a number of reasons, like trauma, mental disorders and masking to fit into a social setting.

Alcohol may heighten symptoms of conditions as well. A study published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders found that children from high alcoholism families were more likely to have the onset of their autistic behavior occur with a loss of language. This occurred primarily in families where the mother drank, suggesting an association between maternal alcoholism and regressive onset autism. Another study from Sweden, reported by The Atlantic, suggests that people with autism who have average or above-average intelligence quotients (IQs) are more than twice as likely to become addicted to alcohol or other substance compared to peers. The risk is even higher for people who also have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Furthermore, a UK-based rehab center says that people with ADHD, who often struggle with impulse control and emotional regulation, are five- to ten times more likely to have alcohol addiction than those without this neurodiverse diagnosis.

man, in wheelchair, toasting woman seated across the table with glass of red wine

Is Mommy Wine Culture That Risky?

Approximately 65% all U.S. adults self-report drinking alcohol occasionally, many of which do so without issues. A survey by the Wine Market Council found that consumers attested that wine “is healthier than most alcoholic beverages.” But is wine really healthy?

The debate over alcohol intake is a doozy. That’s because its effects on a person’s wellbeing have been described as a double-edged sword. Drinking too much alcohol may increase risk of an array of health problems, as previously noted, including cancer, depression, high blood pressure, liver disease, obesity, stroke, suicide and, of course, alcoholism. However, studies have also found that drinking can be beneficial when done safely in moderation.

According to research presented at the American Heart Association’s 2022 Epidemiology and Prevention, Lifestyle and Cardiometabolic Health conference, drinking a glass or two of wine with meals – but not at other times – may help lower the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. This latest finding focused on when consumption takes place versus quantity of glasses consumed. This positive conclusion comes after previous findings cited that red wine may be good for heart health because it contains antioxidants such as resveratrol, which can reduce cholesterol, blood pressure and inflammation, and prevent other chronic conditions.

Does Wine Relieve Stress?

A University at Buffalo-led study found that the plant compound resveratrol, which is found in red wine, does display anti-stress effects by blocking the expression of an enzyme related to the control of stress in the brain. Thus, raising a glass may lower tension levels for some people. The researchers even suggested that the intake of resveratrol could help people struggling with specific debilitating conditions.

grapes hanging on a vine

“Resveratrol may be an effective alternative to drugs for treating patients suffering from depression and anxiety disorders,” Ying Xu, MD, PhD, co-lead author and research associate professor in the UB School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, shared in a press statement.

Resveratrol is a compound found in the skin and seeds of grapes and berries; so, wine is not the only potential intake source.

What is Sober Curious?

Sober mom advocate Celeste Yvonne is a certified recovery coach (IAPRC). In her new book, It’s Not About the Wine: The Loaded Truth Behind Mommy Wine Culture, Yvonne helps readers recognize, in many instances, that Mommy Wine Culture is mostly a distraction from what we really need.

“The goal of this book is to look at why we mothers turn to alcohol as a solution in the first place and to help us all find ways to fix the underlying problems we face,” says Yvonne, a Nevada-based mother who no longer embraces Mommy Wine Culture. She believes that the buzz around booze is merely a symptom of larger issues: the mental load of modern motherhood, which includes an imbalance from outdated family norms, traditional roles and a systemic lack of support for moms — all of which impact mental health.

“There is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of in our sober journeys. The more people who speak up and talk openly about addiction, recovery and sobriety, the more people struggling will feel safe to seek help, open up or simply recognize the problem. I imagine a future where binge drinking isn’t an expected part of the college experience, where friends meeting up for drinks automatically includes both alcoholic and nonalcoholic options, and where a mother struggling elicits genuine concern and offers of support instead of jokes about wine being the solution to anything that ails her. What an inclusive, supportive, glorious world that would be!”

Smiling person placing supportive hand on another person's shoulder.

Some mothers are championing a “sober curious” movement. In fact, Yvonne, who is five years sober, is also the founding host of the Sober Mom Squad, a platform aimed at supporting mothers who are struggling with alcohol, mental health and other concerns.

Final Round of Wine

Experts recommend no more than one to two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women. So, if it’s safe for you, there is no shame in enjoying a glass of wine. Cheers to you! But know that you also deserve the right to choose other coping mechanisms. Need some ideas, click over to AmeriDisability’s article featuring self-care strategies.

[Note: If you drink, do drink responsibly and always use a designated driver.]

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Parents Love These At-Home Occupational Therapy Kits

Juggling a family’s busy schedule is tricky for all parents, and especially so for parents of children with special needs. In addition to life’s typical demands, families within the disability community often devote hours to doctor’s appointments, physical rehabilitation, speech therapy and other disability-related priorities. Is there enough time in the day to do it all? Well, an occupational therapist turned entrepreneur is lending a helping hand to time-strapped parents with Hands On Fun OT, a kit pairing at-home occupational therapy with fun family bonding time.

What is Occupational Therapy?

Occupational therapy (OT), as defined by the American Occupational Therapy Association, enables people of all ages to participate in daily living. Occupational therapists help people improve their quality of life by focusing on skills pertaining to one’s work, schooling, hobby, household duties, self-care and other independent tasks.

At-home occupational therapy can be a great supplement – or, in some instances, alternative – to clinic-based OT sessions. A senior-aged person may benefit from practicing activities to help them age in place. Whereas at-home OT may help young children with special needs build gross motor skills and fine motor skills.

Based in New York, Kim Cunningham has worked as an occupational therapist for three decades. Noticing that parents and teachers wanted to take an active role in supporting their children and students through early intervention, Cunningham developed the Hands On Fun OT Kit, which consists of play-based learning tools designed to empower children with disabilities to overcome challenges, discover strengths and flourish in all areas of day-to-day life. And that’s achieved while spending quality time with mom, dad or a trusted caregiver.

Hands On Fun OT Kit is a tool to help families implement at-home occupational therapy
(Hands On Fun OT Kit)

“I developed Hands On Fun OT kits to bridge the gap in services provided in the school environment and activities at home to strengthen a child’s fine motor skills,” Cunningham tells AmeriDisability. “Additionally, I wanted to provide classrooms the opportunity to carry over skills I’m working on in OT every day — so children get therapy every day, even the days I’m not working with them.”

Implementing At-Home Occupational Therapy

Designed for pre-school aged children, Cunningham describes Hands On Fun as a new, innovative program that includes everything one needs to make at-home occupational therapy easy, fun and entertaining for both parent/caregiver and child.

Each kit features a manual that provides a written and pictorial explanation of the six areas that contribute to fine motor skill development, a suggested implementation schedule, and various toys, manipulatives and a DVD.

Because a parent’s time is limited, each of these play sessions takes just 30 minutes, with children remaining engaged and entertained. The Hands On Fun OT Kit for preschoolers is priced at $79.99. If you’re eager to access Cunningham’s expert advice before your kit arrives, start by downloading Hands on Fun OT instructional videos, typically priced at $7.99.

At-home occupational therapy tools.
(Hands On Fun OT Kit)

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10 Ways to Support Your Child’s Special Education Teacher


You understand the great complexities of parenting a child with special needs – from the boundless rewards to the abundant challenges. Parenting journeys are hard and, perhaps, especially so for those nurturing a child with physical and/or intellectual disabilities. Well, as you might imagine, the teaching journey of special education instructors is also unique. Teaching is one of the hardest, yet fulfilling careers; and, of course, the highs and lows of this profession can be amplified when working in an inclusive or special education setting.

Sadly, there’s a staffing shortage within the essential profession of education. And, according to findings by the Learning Policy Institute, the turnover rate among special educators is nearly twice as high when compared to teachers leading typical classrooms.

As a parent of a child with special needs, you’re likely used to advocating for others. So know that you can make a real difference by also supporting your child’s special education teacher. This positive effort can stimulate a meaningful trickle-down effect on your children, their peers, their families and the community-at-large.

special education written in chalk on blackboard

Here are ten simple, yet effective ways to support your child’s special education teacher:

  1. Get Organized

It seems like traditional textbooks are being replaced more and more with tablets and other digital tools; but know that an old-school binder—for you, not your kiddo—is still a necessity. With IEPs, 504s and tons of supporting documentation, you’ve likely got a pretty tall stack of papers building up, right? Keeping such paperwork organized in a Parent Planning Binder will be of use for you and your child’s special education teacher, especially if and when a question or concern regarding your child’s education arises.

  1. Update As Needed

If your child had any testing or therapy during summer break, obtain records and reports from relevant providers. Provide copies (either electronic or paper) to your child’s teacher, school and/or school district’s special education office. This may help special educators help more effectively customize lesson plans for your little learner.

  1. Meet and Greet

Shortly before or after the start of the new school year, request either a face-to-face or virtual meeting with your child’s special education teacher. Standard open-house meet-the-teacher events typically aren’t sufficient when it comes to the parent-teacher relationship aligned with students with special needs. Just as you do, teachers want to see your child succeed in- and outside of the classroom. As a parent, you can offer invaluable insight into some of the key factors that unlock your child’s learning potential. Knowledge is power… and, since you know your child best, share what you know to kick-start a successful school year.

  1. Confirm Communication Methods

Establish what form of communication is best for you and your child’s special education teacher to stay connected – email, text, phone, app, etc. Also, decide if and when a regular touch-base should occur.

Special education teacher using ASL with student
  1. Volunteer at Your Kid’s School

If you have the time and flexibility, consider volunteering at your child’s school. Does your child’s teacher need help with classroom preparations, like copying or updating bulletin boards? Or do you have a special skill that could be of use, like designing a newsletter or tackling the logistics of a field trip? Special educators (and all teachers) have so much on their plate these days and can use the helping hands of parent volunteers.

  1. Supply Drive

It’s common to assume that teachers have access to basic classroom resources, like crayons, pencils and paper. But that isn’t always the case. According to a survey by, more than half of educators reported that one of the biggest challenges their students will face this school year is not having access to the basic learning materials they need. Teachers often close the gap themselves! In fact, a new report revealed that the average teacher spends $820 out-of-pocket on their classrooms every year. And, because additional resources are incorporated into special education classrooms, teachers instructing students with disabilities may devote even more of their personal budget. You could help by:

  • Coordinating a Teacher’s Amazon Wish-List so families and the community-at-large can help stock your child’s special education classroom with resources.
  • Join Staples’ Classroom Rewards program to earn 10% back in Classroom Rewards on in-store purchases to give to your local special education teacher or school, plus up to 5% back in Staples Rewards.
  • Explore donation options for your school and other schools nationwide at
  1. Be Kind

From mugs to embroidered totes, teacher gifts are totally appreciated. But displaying genuine gratitude doesn’t have to break the bank. Try sending a handwritten or typed thank you note via snail mail; and, do some unexpectedly (meaning beyond the holiday season or Teacher Appreciation Week). Better yet, email a message of praise to your child’s teacher and copy the principal so he/she gets to see how much your child’s teacher is adored. The goal is to simply remind your child’s teachers that they matter, you acknowledge their dedication and you understand how impactful their personal effort is to your family and countless others.

man pushing child on adaptive swing
  1. Keep Emotions in Check

Navigating the world of special education can be emotional. As a parent, always strive to remain respectful when advocating for your child during IEP/504 meetings, parent-teacher conferences, PTO meetings and beyond. When advocating for your student, you don’t have to shout to be heard.

  1. Follow Through on Your Partnership

Because you expect your child’s special education teacher to follow an appropriate set schedule in the classroom, offer the same level of consistent support at home. Establish healthy habits for brain-boosting meals, restorative sleep and comfortable homework stations.

  1. Attend School Board Meetings to Voice Support

Are your local teachers battling for fair wages, increased school funding and/or other issues? Let your child’s educators know that you value them and that you support them!

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[Originally published by AmeriDisability on September 7, 2022; Updated August 10, 2023.]

CVS Pharmacy Stocks Aisle with Accessible Personal Care Products

CVS Pharmacy announced plans to expand its inclusively designed product line, just months after the company first introduced its accessible personal care items. Pronounced “one another,” one+other is a beauty and personal care brand created with a mission to democratize access to self-care products so that CVS consumers can practice personal hygiene in their own way — and at an accessible price point.

Since the January 2023 launch of the universal brand, the drugstore retailer has continued to innovate one+other to ensure its consumers feel represented within the product assortment.

In a recent survey of 100 people with mobility or dexterity challenges conducted by Gauge on behalf of CVS Health, 62% said using nail clippers and/or tweezers poses a challenge. Recognizing the need for more representation in the self-care aisle, CVS Pharmacy developed the disability-friendly Universal Tools collection.

Designed by lived experience in collaboration with members of the disability community, the Universal Tools collection features six universally comfortable to use self-care tools, including:

  • Rounded Tip Scissors ($14.99)
  • Nail Nipper + Catcher ($16.99)
  • Slant Tweezer ($9.99)
  • Half Jaw Cuticle Nipper ($16.99)
  • Nail Clipper + Catcher ($9.99)
  • Pumice Stone ($6.49)
screenshot of one+other, accessible personal care line, on
(one+other, a line of accessible personal care products, is available at and in stores.)

The tools include inclusive features such as wide, open handles and non-slip, easy-to-grip silicone patterns that are uniquely textured to distinguish from other tools, making self-care more accessible to consumers with certain disabilities.

“We know that it’s not enough to just stand for inclusivity and diversity – it needs to be seen through the products and services we are providing,” said Andrea Harrison, Vice President of Merchandising for Beauty & Personal Care, CVS Health. “The introduction of the Universal Tools collection ladders back to our continued efforts to make self-care solutions more inclusive for all of our consumers.”

Now available on and in-store at CVS locations nationwide, the Universal Tools collection joins the brand’s existing assortment of 200+ self-care staples, including cotton balls, nail polish remover, tweezers, eyelash curlers, body wash, brushes, hair accessories and more.

In addition to creating more inclusivity in the self-care and beauty aisles, the retailer has continued to introduce innovation in other categories as part of its overarching commitment to accessibility. This includes the expansion of its CVS Health by Michael Graves Design collection of mobility bath safety and home health care products in April 2022, as well as the launch of its proprietary audible prescription label, Spoken Rx™, in November 2021.

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Promising Finger Prick Test May Diagnose Alzheimer’s Disease

Cutting edge research shows that a basic, finger prick blood test may help detect and diagnose Alzheimer’s disease. The finds were recently presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference 2023 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. That means that, not unlike simple finger prick testing commonly used for diabetes, this new advancement may soon be the most accurate way to identify Alzheimer’s disease.

Alzheimer’s disease, as defined by the Alzheimer’s Association, is a type of brain disease caused by damage to nerve cells (neurons) in the brain. The brain’s neurons are essential to thinking, walking, talking and all human activity. About 6.5 million people in the United States (age 65 and older) live with Alzheimer’s disease, according to Mayo Clinic statistics. Alzheimer’s disease worsens over time, which is why early detection is crucial.

Prior to this testing advancement, there’s been no single test to determine if a person is living with Alzheimer’s or another dementia. Presently, says the Alzheimer’s Association, medical experts rely on various diagnostic tools combined with medical history and other information. This includes neurological exams, cognitive and functional assessments, brain imaging (MRI, CT, PET) and cerebrospinal fluid or blood tests to make an accurate diagnosis. It would be a medical game-changer should these new blood tests be able to  accurately diagnose Alzheimer’s disease.

Researchers hope a new finger prick blood test will help detect and diagnose Alzheimer's disease. Photo: Senior age man holding hands with support person.

“These findings are timely and important with the recent U.S. Food and Drug Administration approvals of Alzheimer’s treatments targeting amyloid-beta where confirmation of amyloid buildup and biomarker monitoring are required to receive treatment,” said Maria C. Carrillo, Ph.D., Alzheimer’s Association chief science officer. “Blood tests — once verified and approved — would offer a quick, noninvasive and cost-effective option.”

These blood tests could be available for both at-home use and in office use at a medical facility.

Early Signs & Symptoms of Alzheimer’s

  1. Memory loss that disrupts daily life
  2. Challenges in planning or solving problems
  3. Difficulty completing familiar tasks
  4. Confusion with time or place
  5. Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships
  6. New problems with words in speaking or writing
  7. Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
  8. Decreased or poor judgment
  9. Withdrawal from work or social activities
  10. Changes in mood and personality

*This list of 10 Early Signs & Symptoms of Alzheimer’s is credited to the Alzheimer’s Association.*

AmeriDisability will keep readers posted on further information pertaining to this medical advancement.

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The Long & Short of Medically Related Hair Loss

Most people lose some hair every day – roughly 50-100 strands; and an ample amount naturally grows back to maintain a full head of hair. But sometimes one’s hair growth cycle falls short. Aside from the aging process, a person may experience medically related hair loss because of genetic conditions, hormonal changes, illnesses, medications, stressors and an array of other reasons. And while some people confidently rock a bald or shaven head, others emotionally struggle when hair thins or falls out.

If you need another reason to cut your hair this summer, know that August is National Hair Loss Awareness Month. It’s a time to brush up on medically related hair loss and learn how your next haircut can make a difference.  

Male pattern baldness (MPB), or androgenetic alopecia, accounts for 95% of hair loss in men. But hair loss isn’t just a male issue. According to the American Hair Loss Association, women actually make up 40% of hair loss sufferers in the United States. Furthermore, children’s hair loss is responsible for about 3% of all pediatric office visits in this country. Yes, far beyond the typical bald baby stage, many children and adults go through medically related hair loss, which can be a devastating experience and negatively impact one’s mental health.

A children, who is experiencing medically related hair loss, hugs her mother

Medically related hair loss may be caused by:

  • Alopecia areata: A common autoimmune condition affecting seven million Americans. Alopecia areata may cause either total or partial loss of scalp and body hair, says the National Alopecia Areata Foundation.
  • Cancer and cancer treatment: Affecting a whopping 1-in-3 people in America, cancerous (or abnormal) cells are often treated with chemotherapy, radiation and medications, which frequently causes hair loss.
  • Lupus: According to the Lupus Foundation of American, many people with lupus have skin issues, like rashes or sores on the scalp, that cause hair loss. Hair thinning or loss is also a side effect of certain medicines used to treat lupus, like steroids and immunosuppressives.
  • Physical trauma: Third- and fourth-degree burns can damage skin, hair follicles and cause scarring. Unlike alopecia areata which is not classified as a disability in legal terms, scarring alopecia can garner disability benefits for eligible veterans through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). This may be especially important to note for veterans experiencing PTSD and emotional turmoil.
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS): An estimated 5-10% of U.S. women of childbearing age have PCOS, which causes elevated levels of testosterone and its metabolite dihydrotestosterone (DHT). That causes follicles to shrink and become thinner, leading to hair loss.
  • Psoriasis: This chronic condition causes itchy, scaly patches on the skin, which generally appear on the knees, elbows, trunk and scalp.
A young woman, with medically related hair loss, hugs a young girl
  • Scalp infections: Scalp ringworm can cause patchy skin irritation, as well as hair loss. And staph A bacteria may cause folliculitis decalvans and, ultimately, baldness.
  • Sexually transmitted diseases (STD): Particularly if left untreated, some STDs, like syphilis, can cause hair loss. People living with HIV and AIDS occasionally experience hair loss due to infection, nutritional deficiencies or hormonal changes.
  • Telogen effluvium: Typically leading to temporary hair loss, telogen effluvium occurs following a stressor or change to the body, like childbirth or other hormonal changes/imbalances, psychological stress and infections (such as COVID-19), among other causes. Poisoning, such as thallium or arsenic poisoning, can also lead to a certain hair loss called anagen effluvium.
  • Thyroid disease: Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) and hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid) may cause hair loss, plus additional symptoms.
  • Trichotillomania: Categorized as a mental disorder, those affected by ‘trich’ have an uncontrollable urge to pull hair from their scalp, eyebrows and other areas.
  • Vitamin deficiencies: A lack of dietary and supplemental nutrients, like iron, vitamins B & D and zinc, can impact the hair growth cycle.
  • Other auto-immune disorders & chronic conditions: Hair thinning and/or loss may also be a symptom of diabetes, fibromyalgia, Graves’ disease, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, heart disease and Lyme disease.

While not medically related, per se, chemical burns or damage can occur from harsh haircare like perm and dye products. Additionally, excessive styling, like frequent ponytails, can impact hair.


Here’s Why You Should Cut Your Hair

Hair loss — whether temporary or permanent — can trigger anxiety, depression, embarrassment, frustration, jealousy and self-consciousness, as well lead to withdrawal or isolation. Women and children who experience medically related hair loss may be at greater risk of experiencing these troubling emotional side effects.

Some causes of hair loss are treatable. Medication, hair transplants and platelet-rich plasma (PRP), for instance, may be applicable; still, others prefer headscarves, hats and wigs. Many people don’t realize that they can help provide wigs to those in need just by getting a standard haircut!

That’s the very mission of Children With Hair Loss, a nonprofit that provides human hair wigs at no cost to children and young adults facing medically related hair loss. Regina Villemure, a former cosmetology instructor, hairstylist and hair replacement specialist, established the organization in 2000 in honor of her niece, Sarah. While visiting Sarah in the hospital during her ordeal with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, Regina noticed that pediatric patients were outfitted in adult-sized synthetic wigs which weren’t ideal, flattening or mood boosting. Regina came up with a solution for the hairy situation and, now, Children With Hair Loss serves over 600 children per year.

Row of real hair wigs made by Children With Hair Loss, an organization combating medically related hair loss
(CWHL Facebook)

Main Benefits of Taming Your Mane

Those that chop and contribute their hair to charitable organizations may benefit too. A hair donation may:

  • Potentially be free of charge, as some partnering salons offer a donation cut on the house. Plus, with a shorter bob, one can scale back on the amount of styling products used and, thus, spend less on haircare.
  • Help maintain proper grooming habits, which is essential for mental wellbeing. A fresh haircut can boost self-confidence. Plus, a cut and wash can feel nice and relaxing, especially for sensory seekers.
  • Lead to healthier, shinier and fuller hair because, according to haircare experts like L’oreal Paris, locks should be trimmed about every three months to effectively part ways with damaged hair and split-ends.
  • Foster the “do good, feel good phenomenon!” Research suggests that when someone does something good, a happiness high ensues.

Normalizing Medically Related Hair Loss

Bald is beautiful, says Evsie, a clothing brand for young girls. The company recently welcomed a new brand ambassador, 8-year-old Hadley McNulty, who’ll appear in various m