Assistive Technology and Adaptive Equipment for Children with Cerebral Palsy | Cerebral Palsy Guidance (2022)

Assistive Technology and Adaptive Equipment for Children with Cerebral Palsy | Cerebral Palsy Guidance (1)

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Assistive technology and adaptive equipment for children with cerebral palsy includes any device or piece of equipment to help perform an activity or improve the ability to function. For a child with cerebral palsy, there are many different types of devices that can be used to allow for participation in more activities, enhance learning, improve communication, hearing, and mobility, and to make life easier. Assistive technology is crucial in helping a child succeed and transition into independent adulthood.

How Children Can Benefit from Technology

Cerebral palsy causes a number of different types of disabilities, from issues with walking to hearing difficulties, and the ability to communicate or even hold a pencil. The severity of these disabilities ranges from mild to severe and can impair quality of life, independence, and all aspects of health from physical to emotional and social.

The use of assistive technology devices can provide a child with a great number of benefits, including:

  • Better academic performance
  • More inclusion in activities and recreation
  • A more engaged social life
  • Improved communication with others and a better response to a child’s needs as a result
  • Increased ability to express emotions
  • Enhanced self-confidence
  • Greater independence and self-sufficiency
  • More opportunities

Mobility Technology

While the symptoms and complications of cerebral palsy can vary widely from one individual to the next, most children with this condition have some degree of limited mobility. Many children are unable to walk, while others can walk with assistance, and some without any support at all. Aids used to enhance mobility can be low-tech, including the use of walkers and non-electric wheelchairs.

There are also aids that use more technology, such as electric wheelchairs. These help children who struggle to use their arms and hands get around with just the touch of a button or joystick. Lifts can be used to help a child move between floors in the home, into and out of vehicles, and from sitting to standing positions. A power scooter is another option for mobility.[1]

An exciting technology that holds great promise for helping disabled individuals gain more mobility is called functional electrical stimulation. A small device is used to deliver electrical impulses to stimulate specific muscles. It works by activating the nerves and causing the muscles to move, training the muscles to function better over time.

Children with spastic cerebral palsy can benefit from being able to walk more easily and with less pain. This is not a device that will work for every child, but many who walk with difficulty may benefit.

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Technology for Communication

For many children with cerebral palsy, communication is an issue. A child may have muscles in the throat and mouth that are affected by the condition, creating difficulty forming words. This makes it challenging to express emotions and needs, to learn in school, and to be social with others.

Children can work with speech and language therapists to improve communication skills, and these professionals often use assistive technology:

  • Electronic communication boards. These devices are much like a tablet or may even be a tablet using a special app or program. A communication board presents the child with a choice of letters, words, numbers, and pictures. The child can then select them to communicate with others. Depending on a child’s ability, they may need instruction from a speech/language therapist to use a communication board successfully.
  • Low-tech communication boards. The low-technology version of this is simply using a pencil and paper to express oneself. This is only useful for a child who can grip a writing implement and use it to clearly write words or draw pictures. There are also boards containing photographs of objects that a child can point to, such as a glass of water, or a toilet. This way, a child who is too young or is unable to deal with the complexity of a tablet may indicate their needs.
  • Speech-generating devices. There is a more advanced version of an electronic communication board that actually functions to generate speech. The child types or taps words and sentences, and the device formulates it into speech that others can understand clearly.
  • Eye-tracking devices. This type of device is best used with children who are unable to use their arms, hands, or fingers to tap at images on a communication board. These individuals can benefit from an eye-tracking device, which follows where the eyes are moving and looking. When the child looks at a specific word or image on the communication board, it is selected without the need to actively tap on the surface.

Typing and Writing Devices

Many children with cerebral palsy struggle with the fine motor skills needed to hold a pen or pencil and to hit individual keys on a keyboard. Written communication is important for children who cannot speak easily or at all, and it is also necessary for academic work. There are several devices available that can facilitate writing.

Simple, low-technology grips or specially-designed pencils are adaptive devices that can enable a child to hold a writing implement and manipulate them. A weighted pen or pencil, for instance, can help a child get more leverage and more easily manage the tool while learning how to write.[2]

A steadying device can be attached to a pen or pencil to help a child with shaky movements. Having a desk with a surface that can be adjusted for height and angle can also help a child get the proper alignment and most comfortable position for writing.

A child who struggles to use traditional writing implements may benefit from the opportunity to type, but some children also have a hard time using keyboards. A simple adaptive device is a pointer that is attached by Velcro to the hand or wrist, allowing a child to press small buttons on keyboards, tablets, or phones.

Other typing technologies that can help children communicate more effectively include word prediction software and spell- and grammar-check.

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Hearing Aids

Hearing loss is an issue that many children with cerebral palsy struggle with, but the technology has come a long way in providing devices to improve the ability to hear. Hearing aids, for instance, can facilitate hearing for those who are not deaf but have some level of hearing loss. For children with more severe hearing deficits, a cochlear implant may be a good option.

Cochlear implants have a small device that is inserted beneath the skin inside the ear and an outer piece that sits behind the ear. It works by stimulating the auditory nerve and bypassing damaged parts in the ear that prevent hearing. Getting this device requires surgery, and it can take several weeks before it is ready to use and for the child to be able to hear.[3]

Getting a cochlear implant is not recommended for all children with hearing difficulties. It is expensive, requires surgery, and comes with some rare but serious health risks. It is particularly recommended for those children who have multiple special needs and complications from cerebral palsy. Being able to improve hearing can be a significant benefit for a child struggling with several disabilities.

Other devices that can help children who are hard of hearing include assistive listening systems. These are devices that capture sound, amplify it, and deliver it to the ear. A good device can help a child hear their teacher speaking in the classroom, for instance, even with a lot of background noise.

Technology to Help with Daily Activities

In addition to the assistive technology devices that help children with specific issues, like hearing, writing, or communicating, there are a number of adaptive tools that help with the activities of daily living. These are devices that can make life easier, make a child more self-sufficient, and help them achieve greater independence. Some of these specially-adapted devices are:

  • Specialized toilet seats, safety bars, and bathing benches in the bathroom
  • Sponges and brushes with longer handles
  • Eating utensils with grips or that are weighted
  • Plates and bowls with non-slip bottoms
  • Non-skid rugs
  • Dressing aids
  • Tables that can be moved up and down
  • Adaptive scissors and art supplies
  • Key turners
  • Aids for positioning in bed or on couches and chairs

A child with cerebral palsy can benefit in major ways from using assistive technology and adaptive devices. Parents can advocate for what their children need by working with public schools. With an evaluation, a child can get an individualized education program (IEP) through the special education department.

This may include assistive devices that the school will then provide. Parents or adults with cerebral palsy can contact government organizations, advocacy groups, and community groups to seek assistance with paying for and getting these much-needed devices.

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References

  1. Assistive devices for people with hearing, voice, speech, or language disorders. (2019, November 12). NIDCD.
    Retrieved from: https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/assistive-devices-people-hearing-voice-speech-or-language-disorders
  2. Wu, F., Chang, E., Chen, R., & Chen, C. (2004). Assistive drawing device design for cerebral palsy children. Technology and Disability, 15(4), 239-246.
    Retrieved from: https://doi.org/10.3233/tad-2003-15405
  3. Steven RA , et al. (n.d.). Cochlear implantation in children with cerebral palsy. - PubMed - NCBI. National Center for Biotechnology Information
    Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21893352

View All References

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FAQs

What types of assistive technologies does a person with motor disability use? ›

Some examples of assistive technologies are: Mobility aids, such as wheelchairs, scooters, walkers, canes, crutches1, prosthetic devices, and orthotic devices.

What are examples of low tech assistive technology? ›

  • Slant boards.
  • Pencil grips.
  • Adapted paper (e.g., colored, raised line, and with portions highlighted)
  • Word banks.
  • Dictionary/thesaurus.
  • Alternative keyboards.
  • Digital recorders.
  • Spelling devices, and even computers with word processing software.
26 Oct 2020

What is assistive technology for children? ›

What is assistive technology for LD? AT for kids with LD is defined as any device, piece of equipment or system that helps bypass, work around or compensate for an individual's specific learning deficits. Over the past decade, a number of studies have demonstrated the efficacy of AT for individuals with LD.

How does assistive technology help child development? ›

In this way, assistive technology can help: Improve a child's participation, well-being, confidence and self-esteem, by improving a child's functioning and opportunities for play and social interaction. Give children a level of autonomy and self-determination to direct their own care and ambitions.

What is the difference between assistive technology and adaptive technology? ›

In other words, “assistive technology is any object or system that increases or maintains the capabilities of people with disabilities,” while adaptive technology is “any object or system that is specifically designed for the purpose of increasing or maintaining the capabilities of people with disabilities.” ...

What is the most common assistive technology? ›

Examples include:
  • magnifiers,
  • talking devices such as a talking thermostat,
  • Braille displays,
  • screen reading software,
  • text-to-speech systems using Optical Character Recognition (OCR),
  • large print materials, and.
  • phones with large tactile buttons.

What are the 3 levels of assistive technology? ›

Assistive technology devices can be viewed along a continuum of low-, mid-, and high-tech items.

What are the four categories of assistive technology? ›

Common sub-categories are:
  • Speech and Augmentative Communication Aids. ...
  • Alternative Input Devices. ...
  • Clothing and Dressing Aids. ...
  • Cognitive Aids. ...
  • Environmental Controls & Switches. ...
  • Ambulatory Aids. ...
  • Sports Aids.

What are examples of adaptive or assistive technologies that can be used when appropriate for instruction to meet student needs? ›

8 examples of assistive technology and adaptive tools
  • Audio players and recorders. It may help your child to be able to listen to the words while reading them on the page. ...
  • Timers. ...
  • Reading guides. ...
  • Seat cushions. ...
  • FM listening systems. ...
  • Calculators. ...
  • Writing supports. ...
  • Graphic organizers.

What is the main purpose for assistive technology? ›

The primary purpose of assistive products is to maintain or improve an individual's functioning and independence, thereby promoting their well-being. They enable people to live healthy, productive, independent and dignified lives, and to participate in education, the labour market and civic life.

What does assistive technology include? ›

Assistive technology can include mobility devices such as walkers and wheelchairs, as well as hardware, software, and peripherals that assist people with disabilities in accessing computers or other information technologies.

What is the importance of assistive technology? ›

Assistive technology enables people to live healthy, productive, independent, and dignified lives, and to participate in education, the labour market and civic life.

What assistive technology is used for cerebral palsy? ›

Examples of adaptive equipment include crutches, walkers, wheelchairs and braces for splinting or posture. Adaptive equipment helps provide children with cerebral palsy with greater autonomy and self-confidence as they learn to perform tasks on their own.

What are the assistive technologies of cerebral palsy for their education? ›

Adaptive pencils or keyboards are low-tech devices that can help a child with cerebral palsy succeed in school. Weights and steadying devices are common tools that help a child with shaky penmanship. Adaptive desks can also help children achieve a better position for writing or typing.

What is adaptive equipment and technology explain how it can be used in the learning process? ›

Adaptive technology empowers teachers with the ability to easily and continuously improve their instruction, equiping them with analytics and authoring tools to better understand their students' learning and modify their lessons accordingly.

Is a walker considered adaptive equipment? ›

Assistive devices include (but are not limited to): Crutches, Canes, and Walkers. Braces/Prosthetics.

How effective is assistive technology? ›

Findings revealed that while some programs saw no improvement in spelling, reading or writing as a result of using the assistive technology, the majority of studies found consistently improved outcomes.

What are some examples of high-tech assistive technology? ›

Examples include:
  • power wheelchairs and scooters.
  • digital hearing aids.
  • computers with specialized software such as voice recognition or magnification software.
  • electronic aids to daily living.
  • digital hands-free headsets.
  • voice activated telephones.
  • communication devices with voices.
  • bluetooth integration.

What are assistive technology resources? ›

Assistive technology (AT) is any item, piece of equipment, software program, or product system that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of persons with disabilities. AT can be low-tech: communication boards made of cardboard or fuzzy felt.

Which of the following is not an example of assistive technology for children with disability? ›

Supplement to the textbook is not an assistive technology aid for visually impaired learners. It is a teaching aid used for normal students in regular settings.

Are sensory items considered assistive technology? ›

Types of Assistive Technology for Autism

Examples include battery-operated sensory toys, visual timers, and social skills videos.

What is daily adaptive equipment NDIS? ›

Everyday use products with specific features that address the participant's mobility limitations due to their disability, these can include items such as: • kitchen trolley. • laundry and washing line adaptations. • kitchen stool.

What is assistive technology in Special Education? ›

The term assistive technology device refers to any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified or customized that is used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities of a child with a disability.

What are the 10 major assistive technology categories? ›

Assistive technologies include, but are not limited to, the following:
  • Text to Speech. ...
  • Reading Pens. ...
  • Voice Recognition. ...
  • Digital Recorders. ...
  • iPads and Tablets. ...
  • Electronic Spell Checkers. ...
  • Word Prediction Software. ...
  • Visual Search Engines.
6 Oct 2022

Why is assistive technology important for students with disabilities? ›

Why is it important? Assistive technology increases a student's opportunities for education, social interactions, and potential for meaningful employment. It also supports a student's participation in learning experiences in the least restrictive environment.

What are the assistive input devices? ›

Alternative input devices allow individuals to control their computers through means other than a standard keyboard or pointing device. Examples include: Alternative keyboards—featuring larger- or smaller-than-standard keys or keyboards, alternative key configurations, and keyboards for use with one hand.

What resources or tools are available that may be useful to support learning? ›

Feedback / Polling Tools
  • Class Content and Lecture Delivery Tools.
  • Communication Tools.
  • Collaborative Tools.
  • Homework/Assignment Activity Tools.
  • Exam / Assessment Tools.
  • Feedback / Polling Tools.

What is adaptive equipment in special education? ›

They are tools designed for people with disabilities or special health care needs to help them do more, experience more, and build on their abilities. There is a wide range of assistive and adaptive technology and devices. They can be high-tech, like an iPad app.

What devices are commonly used to help people with mobility impairments? ›

Some mobility aids include:
  • Wheelchairs.
  • Walkers.
  • Crutches.
  • Canes.
  • Prosthetic Devices.
2 Aug 2022

What is a assistive mobility devices? ›

These devices are intended to assist passengers with a disability to hear, see, communicate, maneuver, or perform other functions of daily life. Assistive devices include (but are not limited to): Crutches, Canes, and Walkers. Braces/Prosthetics. Wheelchairs.

What are some assistive technology that can help students with physical handicaps? ›

8 examples of assistive technology and adaptive tools
  • Audio players and recorders. It may help your child to be able to listen to the words while reading them on the page. ...
  • Timers. ...
  • Reading guides. ...
  • Seat cushions. ...
  • FM listening systems. ...
  • Calculators. ...
  • Writing supports. ...
  • Graphic organizers.

How has assistive technology helped individuals with physical disabilities? ›

Adaptive tools, like utensils, keyboards or switches allow those people with physical disabilities that limit their motor skills to eat, write, cook, dress, groom, play games or use their smartphones, tablets and computers. Some of these are specialized handles and grips.

What are assistive devices in special education? ›

The term assistive technology device refers to any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified or customized that is used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities of a child with a disability.

What equipment is needed for cerebral palsy? ›

Types of Adaptive Equipment
  • Wheelchairs. A wheelchair is an essential piece of equipment for many people with cerebral palsy. ...
  • Strollers. Sometimes, a child with cerebral palsy will have weak trunk muscles and need assistance to sit upright. ...
  • Walkers. ...
  • Braces. ...
  • Orthotic Boots. ...
  • Brachiation Kits. ...
  • Toilet Chairs. ...
  • Bath Chairs.
12 Aug 2022

What are the importance of assistive devices? ›

Assistive technology reduces the need for formal health and support services, long-term care and the work of caregivers. Without assistive technology, people are often excluded, isolated, and locked into poverty, thereby increasing the impact of disease and disability on a person, their family, and society.

What are assistive devices used for? ›

Assistive devices are external devices that are designed, made, or adapted to assist a person to perform a particular task. Many people with disabilities depend on assistive devices to enable them to carry out daily activities and participate actively and productively in community life.

How does assistive technology support children with special needs? ›

Or, more simply put, assistive technology is something that enables one to use their abilities in order to work around their disabilities. Communication boards help students who have difficulty speaking. Switches make it possible for some students to use a computer at school.

How does assistive technology help students with special needs? ›

Assistive technology helps in two ways: it can help the student learn how to complete the task and it can help to bypass an area of difficulty. For example, when a student decides to listen to a digital version of a book, they are bypassing an area of difficulty.

Are there forms of assistive technology that can be beneficial to all students? ›

Research supports the effectiveness of text-to-speech tools with students who struggle with decoding, fluency, and comprehension. Speak Screen for iOS is a built-in tool that can read text on a screen. Newer iOS devices can download the higher-quality Alex voice for a better experience.

Can technology be used to improve learning for children with special needs? ›

The use of technology in special education helps break the barriers for people with disabilities and provide them with access to the most relevant educational programs. Properly designed software and hardware allow students with special needs to get modern education and achieve any required information online.

What is adaptive technology explain how it can be used in the learning process? ›

Adaptive technology empowers teachers with the ability to easily and continuously improve their instruction, equiping them with analytics and authoring tools to better understand their students' learning and modify their lessons accordingly.

How assistive technology can have an impact on the lives of children with physical impairment? ›

Challenging Disabled Students to Reach Their Potentials

Assistive technology can play a vital role in raising the bar for disabled students by giving them the tools necessary to expand their knowledge bases and gradually move into a more rigorous environment for learning.

Videos

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