All About Braille

Braille is a system of raised dots that can be read with the fingers by people who are blind or who have low vision. Braille is not a language. Rather, it is a code by which many languages—such as English, Spanish, Arabic, Chinese, and dozens of others—may be written and read. Braille is used by thousands of people all over the world in their native languages and provides a means of literacy for all. How was braille invented? What does it look like? What types of machines are used to create and read braille? Keep reading for these answers along with product suggestions from ILA. Information for this blog came from What is Braille?, Braille Invents His Code, Braille Alphabet and Numbers, Braille Alphabet Guide, Braille Alphabet, and product suggestions from the ILA website.

Night-Writing to Modern Day Braille

The history of braille goes all the way back to the early 1800s. A man named Charles Barbier who served in Napoleon Bonaparte’s French army developed a unique system known as “night writing” so soldiers could communicate safely during the night. As a military veteran, Barbier saw several soldiers killed because they used lamps after dark to read combat messages. As a result of the light shining from the lamps, enemy combatants knew where the French soldiers were and inevitably led to the loss of many men.

Barbier based his “night writing” system on a raised 12-dot cell; two dots wide and six dots tall. Each dot or combination of dots within the cell represented a letter or a phonetic sound. The problem with the military code was that the human fingertip could not feel all the dots with one touch.

Around the same time, Louis Braille was born in the village of Coupvray, France on January 4, 1809. He lost his sight at a very young age after he accidentally stabbed himself in the eye with his father’s awl. (Braille’s father was a leatherworker and poked holes in the leather goods he produced with the awl.)  He attended the National Institute for Blind Youth in Paris, France, as a student.

In 1821, shortly after becoming the Institute’s new director, Dr. Alexandre François-René Pignier invited Charles Barbier to address his students. At eleven years old, Braille found inspiration to modify Charles Barbier’s “night writing” code in an effort to create an efficient written communication system for fellow blind individuals. Between the ages of 13 and 16 Louis worked on perfecting an embossed dot system. Like Barbier’s, Louis’ system used raised dots, but beyond that similarity Louis’ ideas were his own. For three years Louis spent his free time refining his code. On the weekends, evenings, and summer vacations in Coupvray, Louis could be found with paper, slate, and stylus, diligently working.

When at age 15 he felt he had an adequate code, he shared it with Dr. Pignier, who had become his mentor. Louis’ system, based on a six-dot cell, was both simple and elegant.  Dr. Pignier encouraged the students at the Institute to use Louis’ code. With it, they were able to achieve a level of literacy previously unavailable to them.

What Does Braille Look Like?

Braille code is a writing system which enables blind and partially sighted people to read and write through touch. Braille consists of patterns of raised dots arranged in cells of up to six dots in a 3×2 configuration. Each cell represents a braille letter, numeral or punctuation mark. Some frequently used words and letter combinations also have their own single cell patterns. There are 63 possible combinations of raised dots used to represent the letters of the alphabet, numbers, and punctuation.

When every letter of every word is expressed in braille, it is referred to as uncontracted braille. Some books for young children are written in uncontracted braille although it is less widely used for reading material meant for adults.

The standard system used for reproducing most textbooks and publications is known as contracted braille. In this system cells are used individually or in combination with others to form a variety of contractions or whole words. For example, in uncontracted braille the phrase you like him requires twelve cell spaces.

If written in contracted braille, this same phrase would take only six cell spaces to write. This is because the letters y and l are also used for the whole words you and like respectively. Likewise, the word him is formed by combining the letters h and m.

There are 180 different letter contractions used in contracted braille (including 75 short form words like “him” shown above, which are simple abbreviations). These “short cuts” are used to reduce the volume of paper needed for reproducing books in braille and to make the reading process easier. Most children learn contracted braille from kindergarten on, and contracted braille is considered the standard in the United States, used on signs in public places and in general reading material.

Braille Code Versions:

  • Grade 1: consists of the 26 standard letters of the alphabet and punctuation. It’s mainly used by people who just started reading braille.
  • Grade 2: consists of the 26 standard letters of the alphabet, punctuation, and contractions. The contractions are employed to save space because a braille page cannot fit as much text as a standard printed page. Books, signs in public places, menus, and most other braille materials are written in Grade 2 braille.
  • Grade 3: is used only in personal letters, diaries, and notes. It is a kind of shorthand, with entire words shortened to a few letters.

Braille Readers and Writers

Just as printed matter can be produced with a paper and pencil, typewriter, or printer, braille can also be written in several ways. The braille equivalent of paper and pencil is the slate and stylus. This consists of a slate or template with evenly spaced depressions for the dots of braille cells, and a stylus for creating the individual braille dots. With paper placed in the slate, tactile dots are made by pushing the pointed end of the stylus into the paper over the depressions. The paper bulges on its reverse side forming dots. Because they are inexpensive and portable, the slate and stylus are especially useful for to jot quick notes and for labeling such things as file folders.

Braille is also produced by a machine known as a braillewriter. Unlike a typewriter which has more than fifty keys, the braillewriter has only six keys, a space bar, a line spacer, and a backspace. The six main keys are numbered to correspond with the six dots of a braille cell. Because most braille symbols contain more than a single dot, combinations of the braillewriter keys can be pushed at the same time.

Technological developments in the computer industry have provided and continue to expand additional avenues of literacy for braille users. Software programs and portable electronic braille devices allow users to save and edit their writing, have it displayed back to them either verbally or tactually, and produce a hard copy via a desktop computer-driven braille embosser. Because the use of computers is so common in school, children learn both the braille contractions and also how to spell words out letter for letter so they can spell and write using a keyboard.

Product suggestions:

Orbit Reader 40: The Orbit Reader 40 is a unique 3-in-1 electronic braille device that enables a blind or visually impaired user to read books and documents in braille, take notes and save them as braille or text files, and to easily access all of the functions of a computer or smartphone such as web browsing, email and text messaging. It is the world’s most affordable, full-feature 40-cell braille device and serves as a self- contained note-taker, braille display, and book reader.   It also can connect to a computer or smartphone via USB or Bluetooth. 

Orbit Reader 20 Plus: The Orbit Reader 20 Plus is a unique 3-in-1 electronic braille device that serves as a self-contained note-taker, braille display, and book reader.  It also can connect to a computer or smartphone via USB or Bluetooth. Supported systems and programs include Android, iOS, Windows, Fire OS, Chrome and Linux.  It provides the highest quality braille in the world at the lowest price.

Orbit Writer Keyboard for Smartphones: If you are a braille reader who uses a smartphone, the Orbit Writer is an excellent device which allows a braille keyboard user to have a physical input device for their smartphone.  The Orbit Writer is a small, wireless Perkins-style keyboard that connects to your smartphone or computer via Bluetooth, allowing you to control your smartphone or computer with intuitive key combinations. 

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Understanding and Surviving a Heat Wave

Its no secret that much of the United States, Canada, and other parts of the world are experiencing extreme heat this summer. Many areas currently dealing with hotter than normal days are ill-prepared to deal with such intense heat. Hundreds of people and billions of sea life have already perished from the heat and summer still has weeks to rage on. This blog will look at understanding what causes a heat wave through heat domes, who are most susceptible to adverse heat reactions, how to recognize signs of heat illnesses, and tips to stay safe when the temperature looms large.

What are Heat Domes?

Record-breaking heat waves have roasted the western United States several times already this summer. Death Valley has even registered a whopping 130° for only the 5th time in recorded history with a good chance of hitting it again within a few days from the first. At the heart of these heat waves are “heat domes,” sprawling zones of strong high pressure, beneath which the air is compressed and heats up. They are a staple of summertime and the source of most heat waves.

But how do these heat domes work?

Hot air masses, born from the blazing summer sun, expand vertically into the atmosphere, creating a dome of high pressure that diverts weather systems around them.

As high-pressure systems become firmly established, subsiding air beneath them heats the atmosphere and dissipates cloud cover. The high summer sun angle combined with those cloudless skies then further heat the ground.

But amid drought conditions, the vicious feedback loop does not end there. The combination of heat and a parched landscape can work to make a heat wave even more extreme. With very little moisture in soils, heat energy that would normally be used on evaporation — a cooling process — instead directly heats the air and the ground.

This also makes it harder for everything to cool off during the nighttime hours making it even more likely to cause extreme health issues. The body needs to be able to cool off overnight lest it makes it easier to overheat during the day. If nighttime temperatures remain high outdoors and inside, human bodies may not be able to adequately cool off, which can cause heavy sweating, nausea, headaches and even death.

Who are most Susceptible to Adverse Heat Reactions?

On average, heat waves kill more people in the U.S. than any other type of extreme weather. While some people can handle excessive heat better than others, some people are inherently vulnerable to extreme heat, according to the CDC.

  • Adults over the age of 65 because they do not adjust as well as young people to sudden changes in temperature. Certain medications could cause them to be further affected by heat. Also, conditions such as dementia may make it harder to discern whether they are having heat related episodes or not as they may not be able to express that they are feeling overheated.
  • Infants and children — especially those left unattended in parked cars.
  • People who work outdoors and who are not able to cool off and drink water.
  • People in low-income situations, especially those without appropriate resources for water.
  • People with chronic medical conditions may be less likely to sense and respond to changes in temperature or could be taking medications that make the effects of extreme heat worse.
  • Athletes who exercise or perform in extreme heat during the hottest part of the day.
  • Pets that are left in a car during hot days or that are left outside with limited shade or water.

How to Recognize Signs of Heat Illness

There are five heat-related illnesses to watch out for when someone is exposed to excessive heat, according to the CDC. Look for these signs.

Heat stroke: High body temperature. Hot, red skin. Fast, strong pulse. Headache. Dizziness. Nausea. Confusion. Losing consciousness.

Heat exhaustion: Heavy sweating. Cold, pale and clammy skin. Fast, weak pulse. Nausea or vomiting. Muscle cramps. Tiredness or weakness. Dizziness. Headache. Fainting.

Heat cramps: Heavy sweating during intense exercise. Muscle pain or spasms.

Sunburn: Warm red skin. Blisters on the skin.

Heat rash: Red clusters of small blisters on skin.

Here are some steps to follow if you suspect someone is in serious danger from the heat.

  • Call 911 immediately, especially if the person loses consciousness.
  • If it is a life-threatening emergency, like a heat stroke, move them out of heat ASAP and find somewhere cool and shaded — preferably indoors with air conditioning.
  • If it is not possible to move them into a cool space, try to move them out of the direct heat and start cooling them. You can do so by wetting their clothes with water and removing any unnecessary layers of clothing.
  • If they are conscious, give them water or clear fluids with electrolytes to sip.

Tips on how to Prevent Heat Exhaustion

In many areas currently experiencing extreme heat, air conditioning is not something readily available. There are other ways to try and beat the heat in lieu of traditional air conditioning. These tips are also especially important for those working or playing outdoors for any length of time.

Stay hydrated. In hotter weather, increase your water intake and avoid sugary drinks and alcohol. If your doctor has limited your daily water intake because of heart failure or another diagnosis, stay in communication with them during a heat wave to avoid medical complications. Feeling a headache or thirst? Drink clear fluids ASAP to prevent from becoming dehydrated.

Rest. Do not exercise or do outdoor chores during the hottest hours of the day – typically between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. – and expect longer recovery time after exercise when heat and humidity are elevated.

Find a cool environment. If you do not have an air-conditioned home or car, try:

  • wearing light, breathable clothing
  • avoiding time in direct sunlight
  • spraying yourself with water and sitting in front of a fan
  • taking a cool bath or shower
  • placing a cold pack on your neck, armpit, or head
  • contacting your local health department about local heat-relief shelters

Check on friends, family, and neighbors. In a heat wave, take time to check in with your elderly neighbors, family, and friends to make sure they have the means to stay cool. If you encounter someone having the symptoms of heat stroke, call 911 to get them to an emergency room for evaluation and treatment.

Information used in this blog was obtained from The science of heat domes and how drought and climate change make them worse, Heat wave death concerns rise with historic temperatures. Why heat kills and what to do, Everything you need to know to stay safe during a heat wave, 3 tips for preventing heat stroke.

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7 Fun Ideas for the Visually Impaired to Enjoy This Summer

July 4th, Independence Day, for many is the “true” beginning of summer. Schools are out, beaches are booming, and people are generally more out and about enjoying parties and the outdoors. Regardless of your ability levels there are a myriad of things to enjoy during the summer months. If you or a loved one lives with any sort of visual impairments here are a few ideas to jumpstart your summer to a great start. The best part is that most of these options are available to enjoy year-round too!

Connect with Your Local Lions Club

One of the main missions for the Lions Club is to assist those persons with visual impairments. There are many ways in which they accomplish this, and some things will differ based on each individual club and what they can do.  Traditionally, Lions have helped members in their communities obtain eye exams, glasses, and access to white canes. Other ways that some clubs have helped is by providing VIP (Visually Impaired Persons) bingo nights, state hosted events such as summer camps or fishing. The only way to know what is available in your area is by contacting your local club and asking. You can find your local club through this link.

Take a Walking Tour with the Help of Be My Eyes App

Whether you are native to your neighborhood or just moved in chances are there are many locations (both new and old) that you have yet to explore. Check online to see if any sort of walking or online tour already exists, contact your local parks and recs department, or create your own journey. Grab a real or virtual friend to help you see the world around you. Be My Eyes is a free app that connects blind and low-vision people with sighted volunteers and company representatives for visual assistance through a live video call.  Depending on your weather preference this option can be enjoyed year around.

Try New Foods

Trying new foods can be fun and exciting. Their touch, texture, and taste are just as important, if not more so, than their visual appearance. Have you ever tried raw oysters, escargot or frog’s legs? Maybe you have never had something as simple as sushi. Think of all the things you have yet to taste then go out and try something new. Not sure what to try first? Check out the Weird Food Bucket List: 60 Strange Foods From Around the World or The Food List Challenge’s 100 Foods to Try Before You Die.

Go to a Farmers Marker, Farm or Produce Stand

A farmers market can be a wonderful hands on experience to touch and sample a variety of vegetables and fruits you may not otherwise have a chance to taste. Some locations even give out free samples so do not be afraid to ask. Depending on which option (market, farm, or produce stand) you may also be given the opportunity to pick your own food. This is especially true when it comes to strawberries, but some areas allow for other produce to be self-picked as well.  This option is most prevalent during the summer months but often operate on a reduced day/hour schedule throughout the year as well. The USDA Local Food Directories: National Farmers Market Directory can help you find locations where 2 or more farm vendors are set up to sell produce.

Plant Something

Planting something, whether an indoor herb garden or a tree, bush, or flower bed, is an excellent hands-on experience that allows the gardener to engage all of their senses into the task. It can also develop into a lifelong hobby or interest. Advanced gardeners can even join area clubs and become certified as a Master Gardener.  Not sure what to plant or when? Check out The Old Farmer’s Almanac and input your zip code to find out.

Go to an Outdoor Summer Concert

Many towns across the nation will host free outdoor summer concert series starting around July. Simply go to your area’s website or Facebook page to enquire. These events are usually held in the heart of the town and will have vendors and/or food trucks set up to enjoy a light fare while you partake of the music.

Attend a Book Reading or Be Part of a Book Club

Reading, whether it be braille, large print, normal print, or an audio book can be a fun and immersive experience. It allows you to leave your normal world and dive headfirst into that of another. Both book clubs and book readings can be a fun way to combine this pastime in a more social environment. Sharing your love for the story, authors, or sharing common gripes about plot holes or things that you wish would have been written differently are all great ways to engage with your community. Signup for emails from your local library or join online book clubs to stay in the loop. Not sure where your local library is located? Both the WorldCat and the Libraries and Archives page put out by the US Government are great ways to locate your local library. If you are also looking for items in large print and braille that your local library may not have the National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled is also a good choice.

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The Importance of Sunglasses

National Sunglasses Day is celebrated every June 27th, but it is a good idea to be sunglasses aware all year long. There are many advantages to wearing sunglasses, especially if you are looking to save your vision (and in some cases the skin around your eyes). This blog will take a look at the benefits of wearing sunglasses, how to choose an effective pair of sunglasses, and a more in depth look at UV protection and why it is important. Information in this blog came from Health Tip: Why Wear Sunglasses?, What are sunglasses really doing for your eyes?, Top 10 Reasons Why Sunglasses Are More Than Just a Fashion Accessory, and National Sunglasses Day The Vision Council.

Why Wear Sunglasses?

Sunglasses do more than make you look like a movie star. They can protect your eyes from many problems, including those caused by the sun’s harmful rays.

There are a myriad of reasons that you should always don sunglasses during the daylight hours. Some of these reasons are:

  • They protect your eyes against the sun’s UV rays, which could otherwise lead to cataracts.
  • They protect against “blue light” from the solar spectrum, which could increase your risk of macular degeneration.
  • They lead to improved and more comfortable vision from not having to squint, which in turn can help guard against wrinkles.
  • They can make it easier to adapt to darkness. Exposure to bright light can make it more difficult to adjust to driving at night.
  • They help prevent photokeratitis, which is a sunburn of the eye. It can be painful, causing blurred vision, light sensitivity, and the sensation of having sand in your eye.
  • Sunglasses prevent skin cancer of the eyelids and skin around the eyes.
  • Sunglasses protect your eyes from debris. If you engage in outdoor activities, wearing sunglasses can help deflect dirt and other particles from finding their way into your eye.
  • They can enhance safety, even in the winter. Extremely bright reflections off snow and ice can cause glare, which seriously impairs vision, making activities such as driving or skiing dangerous. 

What to Look for when Choosing Sunglasses

Sunglasses should do more than just look fashionable, but there is no reason why they cannot be both beneficial and look good at the same time. You should keep in mind the following factors when picking out a new pair of shades:

100 percent UV protection. This means your pair will filter out all the harmful UV rays that can damage your eyes.

A wraparound style. They can reduce the amount of UV exposure to your eyes.

Polarization. This optional feature reduces glare, which can be more comfortable for your eyes.

Tinting. The color of your sunglasses is purely cosmetic, so choose a pair that best suits your taste. Just be sure they are labeled as having 100 percent UV protection.

Some contact lenses also offer UV protection, but should be worn in combination with sunglasses to maximize protection. The biggest difference between inexpensive and high-end sunglasses are generally the more expensive versions have better frames. Less expensive glasses may not be cosmetically appealing, however, as long as there is 100 percent UV protection, that’s the most important thing.

ILA offers a vast array of sunglasses including the Cocoons Polarized Sunglasses, Amber Lens, Slimline Medium Tortoise Frame, the Cocoons Polarized Sunglasses, Gray Lens, Pilot Large Black Frame, and the Cocoons Polarized Sunglasses, Amber Lens, Aviator XL Tortoise Frame.

Why is UV-protective Eyewear Important?

Everyday millions of Americans make the conscious decision to not wear sunglasses or other ultraviolet (UV) protective eyewear. While seemingly harmless, this habit carries serious vision risks, many of which are not known or understood by those who fail to wear protective frames.

UV radiation is often recognized as the culprit for sunburns and skin cancer, but most people do not realize the damaging impact the wavelengths inflict on their vision. The problem originates with the sun’s unfiltered UV rays. Just as these rays can burn skin cells, they can also harm unprotected eyes. A full day outside without protection can cause immediate, temporary issues, such as swollen or red eyes, and hypersensitivity to light. Years of cumulative exposure can cause cancer of the eye or eyelid and accelerate conditions like cataracts and age-regulated macular degeneration.

Sunglasses are a major health necessity – regardless of whether it’s sunny or cloudy, warm or cold – and spread the word that sunglasses and other UV-protective eyewear are key to protecting long-term eye health.

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Adaptive Clothing or Dressing Aids: Which Option is Best for Your Needs?

Adaptive clothing and dressing aids have similarities, and while some overlap may occur, they are also different. This blog will help you decide if you need to seek out adaptive (also called adapted) clothing or if a few simple dressing aids are all that you need to help stay as independent as possible with this daily living function. Information for this blog came from the article Adaptive Clothing with product suggestions linked from our very own ILA website.

What is Adaptive Clothing?

Adaptive clothing is clothing designed for people with physical disabilities, the elderly, and the infirm who may have trouble dressing themselves due to an inability to manipulate closures, such as buttons and zippers, or due to a lack of a full range of motion required for self-dressing.

Adaptive clothing typically offers rear-closure designs so that an individual can be dressed more easily by a caregiver or even by themselves. For example, rather than buttons and zippers, hidden magnets, or Velcro (also referred to as “hook and closure”) may be used for garment and footwear closures. A common misconception of adaptive clothing is that it is only for wheelchair users or others that suffer from severe disabilities. While these groups do benefit from these type garments, adaptive clothing is for anyone that can be limited by traditional clothing. Adaptive clothing not only benefit the wearer but also the caregiver or health care professional to be more efficient and helps prevent potential back and shoulder injuries.

Examples of adaptive clothing:

  • Adaptive Shoes and pants that are adjustable in size and offer non-restrictive closures.
  • Clothing that can be removed easily and quickly and can accommodate incontinence aids discreetly and comfortably.
  • Buttons and zippers are replaced with easy touch hook or magnetic closures.
  • Open back clothing which allows the clothing to be put on frontwards, eliminating the need to bend or rotate muscles or joints.

What are Dressing Aids?

A dressing aid is an item that’s purpose is to assist those with limited flexibility or mobility when putting on clothes, socks, and shoes. They can help with maintaining a sense of independence and reduce painful bending or stretching. Anyone that finds the movements involved with getting changed or personal grooming difficult may benefit from a dressing aid.  (Click on the name of each type of product below to go to the applicable webpage to order)

Common Types of Dressing Aids:

Zipper Pulls/Button Hooks: Zipper pulls are designed to make grasping your zipper a lot easier and usually work with any standard zipper. No more struggling and straining to reach your buttons and zippers. Here is a dressing aid that helps people with limited mobility or vision. It is specifically designed to help you grab and hold those small little buttons and zipper pulls with the greatest of ease.

Telescopic Shoe Horn: This long-handed shoehorn helps reduce the amount of bending over involved with putting your shoes on. It helps create a slick movement that not only helps limit bending but also helps prevent the back of the shoe wearing down.

Sock Pro Color Sock Holders: Set of 24 clips helps keep socks together from the minute they come off your feet till the time they end up back in your drawer all nice and clean.  Slip 2 socks through the round disc, and they stay together throughout their travels so that you don’t have to worry about walking out the door wearing one brown and one black sock. Good for both athletic or dress socks.  Package of 24 in assorted colors. 

Metal Rehab Reacher: This handy grabber will make life much easier when reaching for things on the top shelf or down off the floor. It is ideal for individuals with limited hand strength.

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Father’s Day for the Fatherless

Father’s Day is just around the corner and while this might be a joyous occasion for some for others it is a day of dread, sorrow, and foreboding. Being fatherless means different thing for different persons but no matter if your father passed away, was absent most of your life, or he is removed from your life by choice days such as Father’s Day can make for incredibly challenging times mentally and emotionally. This blog will look at a few suggestions on how to combat negative feelings depending on the reason why your father is no longer in your life.  

Fatherless Due to Bereavement

Many of you may be missing your late fathers on this special day. Father’s Day may give rise to feelings of grief and sadness which is completely normal. For others, it may bring on a depressive episode. And for those whose parents died in a violent or sudden way it may trigger symptoms associated with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Whatever feelings arise, remember that there are a variety of ways to honor your late father, even if he passed years ago. The following are a few ideas from several websites to help you get through this holiday.

Create a tribute video. Using your smartphone, tell a memorable story about your dad or narrate a slideshow, and share it with your family or on your social media pages. Sharing what made your father special to you can put a smile on your face. And it is likely to generate support from others that can help fill the void you may be feeling.

Set digital boundaries.  If every single image you see on social media is someone with their dad and a note of appreciation, it will make your loss feel like fresh and new. It is really just masochism. So put the phone down.

Visit his final resting place. Spend some time at your father’s gravesite if that helps you feel closer to him. Talk to him as if he were still alive.

Do a Father’s Day gift swap. Write a simple post on social media, it does not have to be long or elaborate, just say something like, ‘Hey, I’m thinking of doing a little gift swap for anybody who is dreading Father’s Day.” You may be surprised at how many people are willing to participate.

Do something he loved. Did the two of you like gardening, playing golf, or fixing cars together? Relive those times by engaging in that activity again. Say a few words in his memory before you start.

Visit his favorite spot. Did your dad love watching the sunset from the top of a local hiking trail? Did he enjoy sitting on a park bench and watching the people passing by? Did he feel most at home just hanging out in the garage? Visit this spot, if possible, and try to see it through his eyes.

Write to (or about) your dad. Some people find comfort in writing a letter to their late father every year. Share the things in your life that you wish you could have told him in person and read it out loud on Father’s Day. Or you can write something about him.

Fatherless Due to Abandonment

Over 25% of children grow up in father-absent homes. And this statistic does not even include the “overlooked fatherless,” such as those who are donor conceived. These children are living without having a relationship with their biological fathers.

So, on a day when we celebrate fathers, here are a few suggestions for helping those children (or adults who may still be feeling the slight from an absent father) who are growing up without theirs:

Acknowledge the significance of father loss and give kids (or adults) the freedom to talk about it.  Well-meaning adults may say, “You’ve always lived without your dad, so what’s different about today?” Or “You are way better off with your mom.” They may even say that your current stepfather is a far better parent than your biological father ever had been.  How much better would it be to say to a child: “I know you are missing your father today. And I am so sorry you are sad.” And even though it may be hard to hear it, make sure children know that they can talk openly about missing their dads, and reassure them that they do not need to worry about hurting any adult’s feelings.

You do not have to deny the pain you feel because your father left. It hurts. It hurts when you were a little kid waiting for him to show up and it hurts even when you are an adult who knows he will never show up. Cry all you want.

Do not define who you are based on your father’s decision to walk away. Just because your father could not live up to his responsibilities does not mean that something is inherently wrong with you. He might not be able to see the gift that you are, but there is no need for you to be blind to your worth too.

There are people who will tell you that you should let go of your hurt and get over it. It is OK to tell them to back off. They mean well. They just do not understand that even after you forgive your father, every now and again, like say Father’s Day, your wounds will re-open a little bit. No need to panic. Just give it room to breathe until it re-heals.

You do not need your father to feel complete. I know right now you feel life dealt you a crappy hand by giving you a dead-beat dad. Ditch that thought. Whatever you feel the world is withholding from you, look deep inside and you will find it in yourself. If you are looking for love, then love yourself. If you are looking for acceptance, then accept yourself.

Fatherless Due to Choice

Some fathers are lovable. However, some fathers are not. For a myriad of reasons, they are outside the realm of our love: abuse, neglect, absence, abandonment, betrayal — many fathers have simply made it impossible for their children to feel the emotion of love or demonstrate it back. And if you are such a child, of any age, or even if your father is dead, particularly on Father’s Day when you are bombarded with Hallmark card messages of “love you dad,” you need to hear this at least once:

  • Not loving your dad does NOT make you a monster.
  • Not loving your dad is NOT your fault.
  • Is it sad? Yes, of course, but it does NOT make you bad!

So, what are some things you can do on Father’s Day to help not focus on the negative?

Honor thyself. In the era of ceaseless social media, few of us manage to escape the seemingly inevitable barrage of tweets and posts about loving, devoted fathers — and photos of them, too. While it is comforting to know that wonderful fathers who maintain a meaningful presence in their children’s lives do indeed exist, it just may be that coopting the day to celebrate and honor yourself is the way to go.

Sometimes a solo cocktail or some much needed humor is all you need for a reminder of the deep self-love you have worked to develop over time!

The power of positive thought. It may sound cheesy, but even if your relationship with your father is on the devastating end of the spectrum and you are not on speaking terms, you can always choose to send him love and kindness—from afar.

In the long term, this will help you more than him, because holding onto anger or resentment past the point when it might serve any constructive purpose can be very toxic—and you deserve better.

Neat and tidy “closure” may not exist for you and your father, but you can forge your own way forward by tapping into your sense of self-love and compassion for others—even those who have wronged you.

Learn from his mistakes. It is no secret that in spite of ourselves, we often inherit the qualities—both good and bad—of our parents. While men may worry they will end up like their fathers, women stereotypically end up with their fathers. Regardless of what your particular set of hand-me-downs looks like at this point in your life (daddy issues be damned), why not treat Father’s Day as a time to acknowledge and appreciate all the positive qualities you possess—both in spite of and because of your difficult or nonexistent relationship with your father. Take a moment and think about all the ways your father may have failed you, if he did, and let them go by resolving to do better in your life, or with your children. There is beauty to learning from the mistakes of others!

Celebrate all the positive parental figures in your life. Ultimately, Father’s Day should be a reminder to honor all the real dads out there who did/do so much more than help bring children into the world. Maybe you were raised by your mother, who played many roles in your life. Maybe your partner has a parent who has stood in for yours. Or maybe it is a friend’s dad, or a mentor who has brought patience, humor, and wisdom into your life.

Maybe there are great dads in your friend circle, working hard to raise young children with love, presence, and the resolve to do better than the generation before them. Whatever role good parents may play in your life, why not find little ways to celebrate them this Father’s Day?

Bottom line: Some of us have bad dads with few redeeming qualities. Sad, but true. And yet life isn’t so much about what happens to you as how you choose to react, now is it?

Information in this blog came from Special Ways to Celebrate Father’s Day When Your Dad is Gone, Fatherless on Father’s Day? Me too. Here’s how to cope, On Father’s Day, Remember the Fatherless, An Open Letter To Fatherless Daughters On Father’s Day, Father’s Day When You Have a Bad Dad, and How to Celebrate Father’s Day — Without Your Dad.

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Memory Loss: What is it? When is it reversible? When to see a doctor.

Everyone forgets things from time to time be it why you went into a room, what you were getting ready to look up, or where you just laid something down. Random forgetfulness does not necessarily mean that you are on the verge of more severe memory loss. This blog will look at types of memory loss, when memory loss is potentially reversible, and when you should seek medical advice. Information in this blog came from The Mayo Clinic,  Medline Plus, National Institute on Aging, and WebMD.

Types of Memory Loss

Normal age-related memory loss does not prevent you from living a full, productive life. For example, you might occasionally forget a person’s name, but recall it later in the day. You might misplace your glasses sometimes. Or maybe you need to make lists more often than in the past to remember appointments or tasks.

These changes in memory are generally manageable and do not disrupt your ability to work, live independently or maintain a social life.

Mild Cognitive Impairment: Some older adults have a condition called mild cognitive impairment, or MCI, meaning they have more memory or other thinking problems than other people their age. People with MCI can usually take care of themselves and do their normal activities. MCI may be an early sign of Alzheimer’s disease, but not everyone with MCI will develop Alzheimer’s.

Researchers and physicians are still learning about mild cognitive impairment. For many people, the condition eventually progresses to dementia due to Alzheimer’s disease or another disorder causing dementia.

Other people’s memory loss does not progress much, and they do not develop the spectrum of symptoms associated with dementia.

If you have MCI, visit your doctor every six to 12 months to track changes in memory and other thinking skills over time. There may be habits and behaviors you can change and activities you can do to help you maintain memory and thinking skills.

Dementia: The word “dementia” is an umbrella term used to describe a set of symptoms, including impairment in memory, reasoning, judgment, language, and other thinking skills. Dementia usually begins gradually, worsens over time, and impairs a person’s abilities in work, social interactions and relationships.

Dementia is not a normal part of aging. It includes the loss of cognitive functioning and behavioral abilities to the extent that it interferes with a person’s quality of life and activities. Memory loss, though common, is not the only sign of dementia. People with dementia may also have problems with language skills, visual perception, or paying attention. Some people have personality changes.

Common types of dementia are Lewy body dementia, Fronto-temporal dementia, Progressive supranuclear palsy, Normal pressure hydrocephalus, and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (mad cow disease). Alzheimer’s disease, however, is the most common form in people over age 65. The chart below explains some differences between normal signs of aging and Alzheimer’s. (Chart was taken from the National Institute on Aging site. See link for further info)

Potentially Reversible Causes of Memory Loss

Many medical problems can cause memory loss or other dementia-like symptoms. Most of these conditions can be treated. Your doctor can screen you for conditions that cause reversible memory impairment.

Possible causes of reversible memory loss include:

Medications. Certain medications or a combination of medications can cause forgetfulness or confusion. Possible culprits include antidepressants, antihistamines, anti-anxiety medications, muscle relaxants, tranquilizers, sleeping pills, and pain medications given after surgery.

Minor head trauma or injury. A head injury from a fall or accident — even if you do not lose consciousness — can cause memory problems. Memory may gradually improve over time.

Emotional disorders. Stress, anxiety, or depression can cause forgetfulness, confusion, difficulty concentrating and other problems that disrupt daily activities. When you are tense and your mind is overstimulated or distracted, your ability to remember can suffer. Mental health disorders, such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia can also be at fault.

Alcoholism. Chronic alcoholism can seriously impair mental abilities. Alcohol can also cause memory loss by interacting with medications.

Vitamin B-12 deficiency. Vitamin B-12 helps maintain healthy nerve cells and red blood cells. A vitamin B-12 deficiency — common in older adults — can cause memory problems.

Hypothyroidism. An underactive thyroid gland (hypothyroidism) can result in forgetfulness and other thinking problems.

Brain diseases. A tumor or infection in the brain can cause memory problems or other dementia-like symptoms.  Brain infections such as Lyme disease, syphilis, or HIV/AIDS or other diseases such as Parkinson disease, Huntington disease, or multiple sclerosis are included in this category and can also cause memory loss.

Stroke. A stroke occurs when the blood supply to the brain is stopped due to the blockage of a blood vessel to the brain or leakage of a vessel into the brain. Strokes often cause short-term memory loss. A person who has had a stroke may have vivid memories of childhood events but be unable to recall what they had for lunch.

When to Seek Medical Advice

If you, a family member, or friend has problems remembering recent events or thinking clearly, talk with a doctor. He or she may suggest a thorough checkup to see what might be causing the symptoms. You may also wish to talk with your doctor about opportunities to participate in research on cognitive health and aging.

Your doctor is likely to ask you questions. It is good to have a family member or friend along to answer some questions based on observations. Questions might include:

  • When did your memory problems begin?
  • What medications, including prescription drugs, over-the-counter drugs, and dietary supplements, do you take and in what doses?
  • Have you recently started a new drug?
  • What tasks do you find difficult?
  • What have you done to cope with memory problems?
  • How much alcohol do you drink?
  • Have you recently been in an accident, fallen or injured your head?
  • Have you recently been sick?
  • Do you feel sad, depressed, or anxious?
  • Have you recently had a major loss, a major change or stressful event in your life?

In addition to a general physical exam, your doctor will likely conduct question-and-answer tests to judge your memory and other thinking skills. He or she may also order blood tests and brain-imaging tests that can help identify reversible causes of memory problems and dementia-like symptoms.

You might be referred to a specialist in diagnosing dementia or memory disorders, such as a neurologist, psychiatrist, psychologist, or geriatrician.

Finding the cause of the problems is important for determining the best course of action. Once you know the cause, you can make the right treatment plan. People with memory problems should make a follow-up appointment to check their memory every six to 12 months. They can ask a family member, friend, or the doctor’s office to remind them if they’re worried they’ll forget.

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All About Memorial Day

There are 3 separate holidays in the United States that focus on the 5 branches of the military. Each date has its own significant purpose. In 2021, Armed Forces Day was held on May 15th (the date is always the third Saturday in May) and recognized all military personnel currently serving. Veterans Day, which is always held on November 11th, celebrates anyone who has previously served in the military. This coming weekend we celebrate Memorial Day which is a date to remember those military persons we have lost. This blog focuses on several elements concerning Memorial Day and information in this blog came from three different articles with very similar names, The History of Memorial Day, Memorial Day History, and History of Memorial Day.

The Beginning of Memorial Day

Originally called Decoration Day, from the early tradition of decorating graves with flowers, wreaths and flags, Memorial Day is a day for remembrance of those who have died in service to our country. It was first widely observed on May 30, 1868 to commemorate the sacrifices of Civil War soldiers, by proclamation of Gen. John A. Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of former Union sailors and soldiers.

During that first national commemoration, former Union Gen. and sitting Ohio Congressman James Garfield made a speech at Arlington National Cemetery, after which 5,000 participants (approximately the same as attends today) helped to decorate the graves of the more than 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers who were buried there. This event was inspired by local observances of the day that had taken place in several towns throughout America in the three years after the Civil War. In recent years, the custom has grown in many families to decorate the graves of all departed loved ones.

In 1873, New York was the first state to designate Memorial Day as a legal holiday. By the late 1800s, many more cities and communities observed Memorial Day, and several states had declared it a legal holiday.

After World War I, it became an occasion for honoring those who died in all of America’s wars and was then more widely established as a national holiday throughout the United States.

In 1971, Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act and established that Memorial Day was to be commemorated on the last Monday of May. Several southern states, however, officially commemorate an additional, separate day for honoring the Confederate war dead, sometimes referred to as a Confederate Memorial Day: January 19 in Texas; third Monday in Jan. in Arkansas; fourth Monday in Apr. in Alabama and Mississippi; April 26 in Florida and Georgia; May 10 in North and South Carolina; last Monday in May in Virginia; and June 3 in Louisiana and Tennessee.

Memorial Day is commemorated at Arlington National Cemetery each year with a ceremony in which a small American flag is placed on each grave. Traditionally, the President or Vice President lays a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. About 5,000 people attend the ceremony annually.

Red Poppies

In 1915, inspired by the poem “In Flanders Fields,” Moina Michael replied with her own poem: We cherish too, the Poppy red That grows on fields where valor led, It seems to signal to the skies That blood of heroes never dies.

She then conceived of an idea to wear red poppies on Memorial Day in honor of those who died serving the nation during war. She was the first to wear one and sold poppies to her friends and co-workers with the money going to benefit servicemen in need.

Later a Madam Guerin from France was visiting the United States and learned of this new custom started by Ms. Michael. When she returned to France, she made artificial red poppies to raise money for war orphaned children and widowed women. This tradition spread to other countries. In 1921, the Franco-American Children’s League sold poppies nationally to benefit war orphans of France and Belgium. The League disbanded a year later, and Madam Guerin approached the VFW for help.

Shortly before Memorial Day in 1922 the VFW became the first veterans’ organization to nationally sell poppies. Two years later their “Buddy” Poppy program was selling artificial poppies made by disabled veterans. In 1948 the US Post Office honored Ms. Michael for her role in founding the National Poppy movement by issuing a red 3 cent postage stamp with her likeness on it.

The National Moment of Remembrance Act

To ensure the sacrifices of America ’s fallen heroes are never forgotten, in December 2000, the U.S. Congress passed, and the president signed into law “The National Moment of Remembrance Act,” P.L. 106-579, creating the White House Commission on the National Moment of Remembrance. The commission’s charter is to “encourage the people of the United States to give something back to their country, which provides them so much freedom and opportunity” by encouraging and coordinating commemorations in the United States of Memorial Day and the National Moment of Remembrance.

The National Moment of Remembrance encourages all Americans to pause wherever they are at 3 p.m. local time on Memorial Day for a minute of silence to remember and honor those who have died in service to the nation. As Moment of Remembrance founder Carmella LaSpada states: “It’s a way we can all help put the memorial back in Memorial Day.”

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Voice Activated Products (No Wi-Fi needed)

Voice activated technology is everywhere from Amazon Echo, iPhone Siri, and every day appliances connected to Wi-Fi. There are times Wi-Fi is not an option either by choice, safety, or location. In those situations, it is nice to be able to find devices suitable for those who need the ability to establish things by voice only. This blog will look at three such items complete with linked URL.

Reminder Rosie Voice Controlled Clock

Before looking at what all this item can do let us look at the reason it was developed in the first place. This is especially important for those looking for ways to help/assist their loved ones with dementia and/or living alone.

According to Gary Rotman, Inventor and co-founder of Life Assist Technologies, “Necessity is the mother of invention. I invented a solution for my 80-year-old father who was diagnosed with dementia and often forgot to take his medications and other daily tasks and ended up back in the hospital. When I tested and tweaked the device over several years and started to sell to others, dozens of overwhelming and even life changing testimonials came back to me from users, caregivers, healthcare professionals and even experts- and Reminder Rosie™ was born! I had no idea at the time that there were millions of people worldwide that had similar challenges as my father. High levels of hospital re-admittances, high health care costs, many unavoidable deaths and caregiver stress, all due to poor medication compliance. And over the next 5- 10 years an ever-increasing and ageing population want to live in comfort of their own home longer, independently and with dignity. Rosie has shown she can really help everyday!”

Now that you know the backstory let us dive into what this nimble little clock can do. The Reminder Rosie™ 25-Alarm Voice Controlled Clock will record your personalized voice reminders for medication, appointments, bill payments, and other tasks. These reminders will announce at any time and in any language recorded. The loud alarm and large display make this clock great for sight impaired or hard of hearing individuals.

Set up multiple reminders for everyday, any day of the week, or today only. Your loved ones can even record daily messages on the Reminder Rosie™ which can aid in combatting any feelings of loneliness. Currently the clock is only available in English, but you can record in any language.

This is also a great low vision alarm clock with its bright 2″ high LED digits that are visible at any angle. Reminder Rosie™ is hands free and voice activated, you never need to touch any buttons.

Moshi Voice Controlled Talking Alarm Clock

The Moshi IVR (Interactive Voice Response) Clock is an amazing, modern styled talking clock that is totally voice controlled. Once set, through voice commands only, the current time, the alarm time and sound, the sleep sound, and even the date, can be retrieved by just asking for it. “MOSHI” is fully voice interactive and can be operated without ever seeing the clock. The 12 commands can be asked and answered without even leaving the comfort of your bed! In addition to the indoor temperature announcement in either Fahrenheit or Centigrade, choose from 5 different backlight colors. To Activate Clock, simply say, “Hello Moshi.”

MOSHI listens and responds to 12 voice-activated commands. You can select from 3 different alarm sounds: chime, chirp, or bell. A sleep sound of your choice may be played for 5 minutes, water, birds, or waterfall. It includes a night light and “help” feature. It can operate with either an AC/DC adaptor (located inside the Styrofoam packaging of the clock) or 3 AAA batteries which are not included.

A couple of things of note from the user manual are:

When you turn off the alarm when it is sounding, Moshi will tell you the time, date and inside temperature. When the alarm is not sounding, Moshi will not speak.

It is important to remember that you cannot give a command while Moshi is speaking.

When clock is telling AM time there will be no icon on the display, but when in PM time, the icon “PM” will appear in upper left corner. In addition, when setting time, if you do not specify AM or PM, it will automatically set to AM time.

Verbally, say “set alarm” to turn the alarm on. To turn off or cancel the alarm, say “turn off the alarm”. Manually, you can turn the alarm on by the switch located on the bottom side of the clock. The alarm icon on the display verifies that the alarm is activated.

Vocally 3 Freedom Voice Dialer

The Vocally 3 Freedom Voice Activated In-Line Telephone Dialer is quite easy to use. Simply attach it to your favorite telephone and record the name of the person or place you would like to program and dial that number on the attached phone one time. The next time you pick up that phone this unit will prompt you, “Who would you like me to call?” State the name you recorded, and the unit will confirm with you and then dial the number. This unit will allow you to record up to 19 digits for each name you record. Stores up to 60 names with phone numbers.

You can train the unit by speaking the name into your handset/headset and then entering the corresponding number on your telephone keypad. To call a number not stored simply press the # symbol on the attached telephone and then dial the number as usual. The dialer works with regular corded telephones and cordless phones provided you are not too far from the cordless base causing distortion on the line. Please note that it does NOT work with cell phones. Voice prompts are available in English, French, or Spanish.

To train the dialer correctly you must do so in a quiet environment.  If it does not understand what you are saying it could be because of noise interference. This can be any noise from people in the room with you, a TV or radio working in the same room, or even loud noises coming from construction taking place near you.

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May is Better Hearing and Speech Month

May is Better Hearing and Speech Month, a time to raise awareness about communication disorders and available treatment options that can improve the quality of life for those who experience problems speaking or hearing.  At least 46 million people in the United States have a hearing or other communication disorder. In addition, an estimated 17.9 million adults in the United States report having a voice problem. Problems with your voice can significantly affect your ability to perform your job. Information in this blog comes from The American Academy of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery (AAO-HNS), The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), and The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA).

Taking Action on Hearing Loss: 5 Steps to Success

Hearing loss is a sudden or gradual decrease in how well you can hear. It is one of the most common conditions affecting older and elderly adults. Approximately one in three people between the ages of 65 and 74 has hearing loss and nearly half of those older than 75 have difficulty hearing. Having trouble hearing can make it hard to understand and follow a doctor’s advice, to respond to warnings, and to hear doorbells and alarms. It can also make it hard to enjoy talking with friends and family. All of this can be frustrating, embarrassing, and even dangerous.

Do you think you could have hearing loss? By taking action today, you can start on a course to improved health and quality of life. Here’s what you can do:

Schedule a hearing evaluation. Contact a certified audiologist for a full hearing workup. An audiologist will perform various tests to find out more about your overall hearing health. This starts with ruling out other medical problems that may be affecting your hearing, ranging from wax buildup to fluid behind your eardrum. Then they will perform a hearing test to determine your exact hearing levels. Everyone’s hearing is different.

Listen to the audiologist’s recommendations. Keep an open mind when your audiologist explains your evaluation results and their recommendations. There are lots of different solutions for hearing loss.

These solutions may include:

• amplification technology, such as hearing aids or cochlear implants;

 • aural rehabilitation, which is when an audiologist provides strategies to help you hear better in situations where you have more trouble; and

 • external solutions, such as amplified telephones and/or assistive TV technology

Check with your insurance plan. Find out about your health care benefits for hearing aids. Medicare and Medicaid have their own requirements. If you have trouble paying, your audiologist may be able to recommend less expensive options. For example, the more expensive hearing aids offer many different features that you may not need. Loaner banks and financial assistance programs also may be available. Talk to your audiologist about local assistance programs.

Educate yourself. Read about the different types of hearing aids and make a list of which ones sound like the best fit for you. Check out trusted review sites and online forums. Hearing aids have many features to meet your needs and wants. Other hearing assistive technologies and strategies can help you, too. Talk to friends and loved ones about their experiences.

Understand the process. For many people who are fitted with hearing aids, it’s not like flipping a switch and then suddenly your hearing becomes perfect. Hearing aids are different than eyeglasses in this way. It may take a few visits with the audiologist to get your hearing aid settings just right. It also takes time for your brain to adjust to your hearing again; your brain processes information differently the longer you have lived with hearing loss. It’s worth the time investment of a few appointments up front.

Taking Care of Your Voice

The sound of your voice is produced by vibration of the vocal folds, which are two bands of smooth muscle tissue that are positioned opposite each other in the larynx. The larynx is located between the base of the tongue and the top of the trachea, which is the passageway to the lungs.

An estimated 17.9 million adults in the U.S. report problems with their voice. Some of these disorders can be avoided by taking care of your voice. You may have a voice problem if your voice has become hoarse or raspy, you’ve lost the ability to hit high notes when singing, your voice suddenly sounds deeper, your throat feels achy, raw, or strained, it’s become an effort to talk, or you find yourself repeatedly clearing your throat.

There are many possible causes for voice problems including upper respiratory infection, inflammation caused by gastroesophageal reflux (sometimes called acid reflux, heartburn, or GERD), vocal misuse and overuse, growths on the vocal folds, such as vocal nodules or laryngeal papillomatosis, cancer of the larynx, neurological diseases (such as spasmodic dysphonia or vocal fold paralysis), and/or psychological trauma. Most voice problems can be reversed by treating the underlying cause or through a range of behavioral and surgical treatments.

Healthy habits to take care of your voice include:

Stay hydrated:

  • Drink plenty of water, especially when exercising.
  • If you drink caffeinated beverages or alcohol, balance your intake with plenty of water.
  • Take vocal naps—rest your voice throughout the day.
  • Use a humidifier in your home. This is especially important in winter or in dry climates. Thirty percent humidity is recommended.
  • Avoid or limit use of medications that may dry out the vocal folds, including some common cold and allergy medications. If you have voice problems, ask your doctor which medications would be safest for you to use.

Maintain a healthy lifestyle and diet:

  • Don’t smoke and avoid second-hand smoke. Smoke irritates the vocal folds. Also, cancer of the vocal folds is seen most often in individuals who smoke.
  • Avoid eating spicy foods. Spicy foods can cause stomach acid to move into the throat or esophagus, causing heartburn or GERD.
  • Include plenty of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables in your diet. These foods contain vitamins A, E, and C. They also help keep the mucus membranes that line the throat healthy.
  • Wash your hands often to prevent getting a cold or the flu.
  • Get enough rest. Physical fatigue has a negative effect on voice.
  • Exercise regularly. Exercise increases stamina and muscle tone. This helps provide good posture and breathing, which are necessary for proper speaking.
  • If you have persistent heartburn or GERD, talk to your doctor about diet changes or medications that can help reduce flare-ups.
  • Avoid mouthwash or gargles that contain alcohol or irritating chemicals.
  • Avoid using mouthwash to treat persistent bad breath. Halitosis (bad breath) may be the result of a problem that mouthwash can’t cure, such as low-grade infections in the nose, sinuses, tonsils, gums, or lungs, as well as from gastric acid reflux from the stomach.

Use your voice wisely:

  • Try not to overuse your voice. Avoid speaking or singing when your voice is hoarse or tired.
  • Rest your voice when you are sick. Illness puts extra stress on your voice.
  • Avoid using the extremes of your vocal range, such as screaming or whispering. Talking too loudly and too softly can both stress your voice.
  • Practice good breathing techniques when singing or talking. Support your voice with deep breaths from the chest, and don’t rely on your throat alone. Singers and speakers are often taught exercises that improve this kind of breath control. Talking from the throat, without supporting breath, puts a great strain on the voice.
  • Avoid cradling the phone when talking. Cradling the phone between the head and shoulder for extended periods of time can cause muscle tension in the neck.
  • Consider using a microphone when appropriate. In relatively static environments such as exhibit areas, classrooms, or exercise rooms, a lightweight microphone and an amplifier-speaker system can be of great help.
  • Avoid talking in noisy places. Trying to talk above noise causes strain on the voice.
  • Consider voice therapy. A speech-language pathologist who is experienced in treating voice problems can teach you how to use your voice in a healthy way.

Directory of Organizations

The NIDCD Directory lists selected national organizations that provide information on communication disorders. Each organization Is listed alphabetically and includes (when available) name, physical address, email address, and website. There is also an option to read the description for each listing as well by clicking on “view full description.” As an example of these listings, here is the overview for each site used to obtain information for this blog.  This list encompasses over 150 different organizations.


1650 Diagonal Road

Alexandria VA 22314-2857


Internet: is external)

View full description


2200 Research Boulevard

Rockville MD 20850


Internet: is external)

View full description


1 Communication Avenue

Bethesda MD 20892-3456

Email: sends e-mail)


View full description

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