Sunday, March 18, 2012

Sewing for Kids with Special Needs!

Wow, this was one of the most rewarding projects that I've ever worked on with a student. We made this cute little fellow (the pattern is in the wonderful book Sewing School that I posted about earlier)!

Here is some of the equipment used to complete the project. I brought my sewing machine and connected it to a "PowerLink3," a device that allows a switch user control up to 3 appliances using a switch.  If you look in the photos, you'll see that the student that completed this project was using a "Grasp Switch." It is the black tube-shaped switch connected to the "PowerLink" in the photo. It activates when the child squeezes the foam hand grip. She uses this to access a communication device and other devices, including her battery operated scissors. In fact, she used her switch to activate the scissors while we cut out the pattern for this doll! The last photo shows what the electric scissors look like.

For the sewing part of the project, I wrapped some tape around the sewing machine pedal so that it was always engaged, so that when the student squeezed the switch, the sewing machine turned on. As long as she was squeezing the switch, the machine would run. I sat beside her, and maneuvered the fabric while she ran the machine. It was quite challenging, but so fun!

The "PowerLink3" (which is quite an old model, by the way) was kept on the "direct" access setting. For some children, it may work better to use the "latch" setting. When using "latch" the machine turns on when the student squeezes the first time and runs until the student squeezes again. There is also a timer component that allows you to adjust the amount of time (in seconds) that the machine will run once the switch is activated.

I know it sounds complicated, but it really wasn't. The best part was that I could tell that my student was really enjoying sewing for the first time, and to top it off, she had a stuffed doll to take home that she made herself! That's a fun bonus :)

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  1. You are such a great teacher and therapist! I know this little girl was thrilled to have made this for herself.

  2. Hi, I teacher in Continuing Studies with in an FE college. I am looking to purchase some specialist sewing equipment such as sewing machines with speed control, alternative switch mechanisms, electric scissors or those attached to a block etc. Do you have a directory of suppliers who provide such equipment for educational purposes?

    Thanks Sharon Collier

  3. Hi! I'm on vacation, but when I get back, I'll check my catalogs. I adapted the sewing machine myself, but I have purchased electric scissors, etc. I think that they came from Abilitations, but I'll double check. Please reply and let me know that you got this message. Anne

  4. Please note that your sewing machine needs to be NON-computerized. Finding one that isn't computerized is probably the biggest challenge of this project. Not only does the power-off system throw off a computerized machine, but many must complete the forward cycle of the needle. That means if a student gets their finger caught under the needle, it has to finish the up-down cycle...OUCH!

    Your best bet is a used electronic machine from the sewing machine store...or a wonderful old Singer Featherweight if you can find one.

  5. I am the inventor of the wireless sewing machines for special needs students in textiles tel; 07860764636