Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Weighted Blankets

How do you use your weighted blanket?

Weighted blankets are often suggested as a therapeutic treatment for many medical conditions. Although most often associated as a treatment for children with Autism, weighted blankets can be used to treat both children and adults with a broad spectrum of conditions. They have even been recommended for hyper-active dogs! If you think a weighted blanket may be helpful for you or your child, be sure to talk to your healthcare provider to learn more about the benefits and possible risks.

What is a weighted blanket?
A weighted blanket is a blanket that has been specially designed to distribute weight evenly over the person using it. The blankets can weigh as little as 5 pounds for a child-size blanket, and can range up to 40 pounds for an adult-size blanket. Blankets can be made from a variety of different fabrics, depending on the look and texture you prefer. Although several filling materials are available, polypropylene pellets are recommended the most because they are hypoallergenic, non-toxic, and have a consistent size and smooth shape which creates an even texture that is comfortable to snuggle up with.

How do weighted blankets work?
Weighted blankets apply pressure to the afflicted person, known as “deep touch pressure.” This pressure has a calming effect, almost like a hug. This soothes and relaxes the users, helping them to ignore distracting stimuli which may normally keep them awake.

Who can weighted blankets help?
I’ve done some research and put together a list of conditions for which weighted blankets are recommended:
  1. Autism
  2. Sensory Processing Disorder
  3. Asperger’s Syndrome
  4. Insomnia
  5. Sleep Walking
  6. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
  7. Anxiety Disorders
  8. Restless Leg Syndrome
Many of our customers order Quality Plastic Pellets to make their own weighted blankets. Have you used a weighted blanket? Tell us how they worked for you in the comments below!

How to Make Your Own Weighted Blanket:

So many fabrics to choose from…which one do you like?

Weighted blankets have a great deal of benefits, not only for people on the autism spectrum, but for anyone with restless muscles, insomnia, ADHD, or a number of other sensory disorders. Weighted blankets can be made from a variety of materials to suit the individual, depending on the tactile sensitivity of the user or how it is being used. There are plenty of options for fabric I have heard about, felt and seen, but cotton and flannel seem to be the most popular choices. You can do one on each side if you want!

Weighted blankets may take some time to make, but they are definitely worth it! Since purchasing a weighted blanket can be expensive, you can save quite a bit of money making your own and you have the added benefit of customizing it. Like many of our crafts, this is a fun family project, since you have to go shopping for the fabric, weigh out the pellets, do some sewing, and assemble it all. Set aside some time together over a weekend to do this fun activity. Here’s how to get started.

Weighted blanket materials:

  • 1 pound of white or clear smooth Quality Plastic Pellets per 10 pounds of weight for the user, plus one extra pound
  • Fabric of your choice
  • 2.5 yds. of fabric for the top of the blanket
  • 2.5 yds. of fabric for the bottom of the blanket
  • Thread
  • Scissors
  • Measuring Tape
  • Ruler
  • A small scale
  • Pins
  • Sewing machine

 Assembling your Weighted Blanket:

  1. Determine the size. If your blanket is going to be portable, you will want to make it smaller than the one that goes on your bed. The materials above will make a blanket to fit a twin bed (40” x 76”).  If you’re using a heftier fabric, you may wish to weigh it before beginning and add this weight into the total of your blanket.
  2. After you have your blanket size ready, place the fabrics right sides together.
  3. Measure two inches in on two of the long sides and one of the short sides, leaving one side open for adding your pellets.
  4. Sew on the lines, then turn the fabric inside out.  Iron the edges so they are nice and crisp!
  5. Prepare for adding the plastic pellets.
    1. Measure out a grid for the remaining area of the blanket. Since we are taking off 4” from each side for an edge, we will have a weighted area of 36” x 72”.
    2. Divide the area into even squares, making as neat a grid as you can.  If making 6” by 6” square, we will have a perfect six squares across and twelve squares up!
    3. Divide out all of the pellets into the right sized portions. To do that, just follow this handy formula:
      Blanket weight in ounces/number of squares you have = number of ounces per square. Remember that 16 US oz. = 1 lb. You can have someone help you measure them out for you as you go!
  6. Sew along the vertical lines to make channels six inches apart from each other. This is where you are going to pour the pellets.
  7. Once all of the channels are ready, pour the proper amount of fill for each square into each of the six channels. Shake them a little so they settle to the bottom.
  8. Measure six inches from the bottom seam and sew a straight line across the fabric, sealing up that line of weighted squares.
  9. Repeat steps seven and eight until you have finished the last row of squares at the top.
  10. Fold in the two inches of fabric that are left over, then stitch that shut. This will seal up the top row of weighted squares, and you now have a personal, homemade blanket!

Thursday, October 19, 2017

My Child Has a Diagnosis. Where Do I Start?

My Child Has a Diagnosis. Where Do I Start?

Finding out that your child has a disability or special health-care needs can change your world in a moment. You might be feeling like someone just sucked the wind from your sails. You might be filled with anger and grief. Or you might feel a little relieved to finally have a diagnosis. Maybe you were in denial about your child’s diagnosis and are just now ready to move forward. All of these emotions – and more – are perfectly okay. Give yourself permission to feel your feelings without judgment. Begin where you are, take a deep breath, and come back to this page as much as you want and need – on your timeline. 

Early Intervention for Birth to 3 Years of Age

Your child’s special health-care needs or disability might affect how and when they reach developmental milestones. Early intervention gives children a big boost to help them grow. If your child is an infant or toddler, it is very important to ask for early intervention services. You can learn more about this on the Early Childhood Intervention (ECI) page. Do not delay; ask for your child to be evaluated for these services.

Help for the Newly Diagnosed Child (All Ages)

Other Important Things to Know

  • Financial concerns: You might wonder how to plan for the costs of medical care for your child. Learn more about family financial planning and steps in the process on our Financial Concerns page.
  • Medical planning for your child: Your child might begin seeing several specialists and therapists. Having a plan in place will help everyone involved in your child’s medical care understand the bigger picture and how you want your child treated by the medical community. Learn more about medical planning on the Medical Home page.
  • Technology, devices and other tools that can help: Your child may benefit from having special equipment, technology devices, or durable medical equipment and supplies. Learn more about adaptive and assistive devices and technology.
  • This page has a lot of information for you to think about. You may want to move forward a little bit at a time, and that’s okay. The website will be waiting for you when you are ready to read more.

Questions to Ask Yourself – and Your Child – When Creating a Vision for the Future

  • Where do you see your child in 10 years?
  • What life milestones do you hope your child has reached in 5 years? 15 years? 25 years?
  • Picture the best day for your child. What does it look like? What can you do so you have more of those days?
  • Picture the worst day for your child. What does it look like? What can you do to help your child and your family get through it?

Top Five Things You Can Begin to Do Now That Will Help You and Your Family

  1. Create a vision and plan – one for your child and one for your whole family.
  2. Understand your child’s diagnosis. Do the research to learn more about it and the terminology that goes with it. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. The more informed you are, the more empowered you will be to help your child and your family. Learn more about how to talk to your child’s doctor.
  3. Create a care notebook to keep your child’s medical records organized and in one place. Take it with you to all doctor and therapist visits. Learn more about organizing your medical records.
  4. Reach out to other parents. Remember that you are not alone and that other parents have experienced this too. Join a support group or online forum with parents of children with the same or similar diagnoses. Learn more about how to connect with other parents.
  5. Take care of yourself and your family. Your child is not defined by a diagnosis. It is just a part of who they are, like the color of their hair or eyes. Nurture yourself and your relationships. This will go a long way in helping all of you cope and thrive. Learn more about self-care.

Texas Medicaid Waiver Programs for Children with Disabilities


Texas Medicaid waivers are a gateway to getting services for your child. We don’t want to tell you what to do, but we strongly suggest that you consider adding your child to the waiver interest list(s), which many parents call “waiting lists,” if you haven’t already done so. Even if you hope your child will never need those services, it is very important that they be added to the interest list for any program(s) that might meet their needs. You can always decline the services once your child moves to the top of the list.

Medicaid Waiver Programs for Children with Disabilities

Many parents say they wish they had signed up for the waiver interest lists when their child was born or first diagnosed with a disability or special health-care needs. Some of the interest lists have more than a 10-year wait time for services.
We know this page has a lot of information for you to take in. It’s okay if you don’t absorb everything here in 1 visit. Take a deep breath and come back as much as you want or need to.

What Are Waivers and How Do They Work?

  • Waivers let states use Medicaid funds for long-term home and community-based services for people with disabilities or special health-care needs and the elderly in order to help them live in the community.
  • Before the creation of waiver programs, people had to live in hospitals, nursing homes, or other institutions such as Intermediate Care Facilities for Individuals with an Intellectual Disability or Related Conditions (ICF/IID), so that Medicaid would pay for long-term services.
They are named “waivers” because certain Medicaid requirements are waived (meaning they don’t apply). For example, family income. All but 1 waiver is based on just the child’s income and certain licensing requirements for service providers. Your child’s income means any money that they personally have in assets, earn, or are paid – not your whole family’s income.
  • Besides getting these additional services, people who receive waiver long-term services and supports also get full Medicaid health-care benefits. This is a huge help for children who have complicated medical needs and no other health insurance.
  • Texas has 7 waivers, and each one has its own interest list. Consider adding your child to all the interest lists based on their identified diagnosis and current needs. You don’t know what future needs your child might have, so you might want to place them on as many of the lists as possible. One of the Medicaid waivers, known as the Youth Empowerment Services (YES) program, will eventually be statewide but is currently only available in several counties, including Bexar, Tarrant, Harris, and Travis.
  • Waivers are managed by the Department of State Health Services (DSHS), the Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC), or the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services (DADS).
  • When there is room for your child on one of the waiver programs, they will come off of the interest list. This is when DSHS, HHSC, or DADS (as applicable) will review diagnostic and other information to decide if your child meets the waiver requirements. Depending on the waiver, you might be asked for information about their medical, psychological, and developmental history, as well as financial and income eligibility. The eligibility information that is needed changes based on the waiver. The comparison of Texas Medicaid waiver programs chart gives you more details about what is needed for each of the waivers.

How to Add Your Child to Interest Lists

You do not have to prove your child is eligible before adding them to the waiver interest lists. Your child will go through this process and review once they move to the top of the list. Only then is the eligibility information reviewed and used to decide if your child can enroll.
  • Call 1-855-937-2372 for information about DADS long-term services. A trained professional will guide you to the right option, including the waivers, if appropriate.
  • Call your Local Mental Health Authority about the Youth Empowerment Services (YES) waiver program. Go to the DSHS website to find the Local Mental Health Authority in your area.

The Texas Medicaid Waivers

All of the waivers are listed below with a description and link leading to more information about each one:

Important Tips About Interest (Waiting) Lists

  • Consider adding your child to as many waiver interest lists as possible when your child is first diagnosed with a disability or special health-care needs. You should also think about adding your child to the lists even if they aren’t diagnosed but have reason to believe that you child will have a long-term disability or special health-care needs.
  • Ask for an email confirmation or a mailed letter when you add your child to the Medicaid waiver interest lists. Keep this in a safe place.
  • It is very important to keep your address and contact phone numbers updated because if your child moves to the top of the interest list and they can’t reach you, your child will be dropped from the list.
  • At least 1 time a year, call to update your contact information so they know how to reach you. Most parents remember by calling around their child’s birthday. During these calls, you can also find out where your child is on the list. Write it down in a safe place, like your care notebook, so you can keep track of how far your child moves up the list each year. See our Organizing Medical Records page for more information about care notebooks.
  • Once your child moves to the top of an interest list, a service coordinator, case manager, or nurse will schedule a home visit. This will start the process of determining if your child is able to enroll in one of the waiver programs. You can also research the waiver program beforehand to learn what it takes for your child to get its services.
  • Your child can remain on other waiver interest lists while receiving waiver services. They just can’t receive services from more than 1 waiver program at the same time. For example, if your child is receiving MDCP services, and they move to the top of the CLASS interest list and are approved for CLASS services, you will have to pick between the 2 programs. In this example, it might be better to give up MDCP and enroll your child in the CLASS program, since your child will age out of MDCP at 21 years old, and CLASS has no age limit. You can also connect with other parents whose children receive waiver services to help you decide which one is best for your child.
  • If you have other health insurance through an employer, and your child is enrolled in a waiver program, you might be reimbursed for health insurance premiums through the Health Insurance Premium Payment (HIPP) program. Once your child starts receiving waiver services, call your local utility company about possible discounts on electricity, water, and wastewater bills if your child lives in your home. Depending on income, your family might also be able to receive food stamps (SNAP benefits).
  • Most of the waivers offer the Consumer Directed Services (CDS) choice for at least some, if not all, of the program’s services. Also known as “self-directed services,” this gives you more personal control over how your child’s services are delivered, and many parents prefer it. For example, parents who pick the CDS choice serve as the employer for their child’s attendants. They are able to interview, hire/fire, and train them.
  • If your child has an intellectual disability or a condition related to an ID in addition to high medical needs, call 1-855-937-2372 to ask about diversion slots. These slots are for extreme cases only, such as a critical health crisis that puts the family at risk of placing the child in a state supported living center. If approved, your child moves to the top of the HCS interest list.

Organizing Medical Records: Creating a Care Notebook

Organizing Medical Records: Creating a Care Notebook

Do you struggle to locate medical information for your child’s doctors and therapists? Or find yourself answering the same questions again and again from caregivers or teachers? Your child might see many doctors, therapists, and other professionals over the years.
It helps to keep medical records and other important things about your child’s care in one place. We’ve heard that many parents find a care notebook to be the best way of keeping everything organized. Think of a care notebook as a 1-stop shop containing everything that family, doctors, therapists, and members of their school or care team would need to know about your child. It’s simple and easy to carry to doctors’ offices, day care or school, and other places you go with your child. It can even be kept on a tablet or phone.
Ready to get started? Well, read on!

What Is a Care Notebook?

A care notebook is a place to keep:
  • Medical records.
  • Medication changes.
  • Treatment plans.
  • Other key information for caregivers, doctors, therapists, and others who work with your child.
Many people also use a care notebook to organize things like:
  • Important phone numbers.
  • Notes from doctor’s visits.
  • Hospital stays.
  • Medication schedules.
  • School strategies and contacts.
  • Transition plans.
  • Developmental checklists.
  • And more!
Having a care notebook is a good idea regardless of your child’s age. Even if your child is a teenager, keeping a care notebook will help you and the care team as your child grows and has new or different needs. A care notebook is a very helpful tool for anyone. Don’t forget that a care notebook will probably contain very sensitive information that needs protecting, such as Social Security numbers or Medicaid ID numbers.

Why Should You Create a Care Notebook?

  • A care notebook will help you keep everything important organized and easy to find. When you’re away (or short on time), the care notebook will give caregivers the information needed to best take care of your child.
  • If your child has an emergency, the notebook can help first responders know important medical information, such as whether they have a feeding tube, communication device, or other equipment.

How Do You Get Started?

  • Make a list of the things you refer to most about your child, such as reports from their doctors, lab results, vaccine records, care plans, hospital stays, school records, etc. Remember to include information most often needed by doctors, caregivers or respite providers, school staff, and others on your child’s care team.
  • Decide how you want to organize it. Some parents use a 3-ring binder, while others prefer a virtual care notebook on their laptop, tablet, or smartphone. Do what works best for you and your family. Keep in mind that, due to concerns about computer viruses or security and privacy issues, you can share your care notebook as a hard copy instead of an electronic one.
  • There are many free online tools that allow you to download or print templates for your child’s care notebook. See some of them at the links below.

Being Prepared for an Emergency