Assistive Technology and Adaptive Equipment for Children with Cerebral Palsy | Cerebral Palsy Guidance (2023)

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 assistive technology is used for cerebral palsy? ›

Children with cerebral palsy face a number of daily challenges. Communication boards and hearing devices are just a few options for children with CP.

What equipment do people with cerebral palsy use? ›

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.

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 an example of adaptive equipment? ›

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

Which of the following are examples of 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.

Who can benefit from assistive technology? ›

This assistive technology has been especially useful for individuals with disabilities, aging populations, and people with non-communicable diseases. According to the World Health Organization, an estimated one billion people need assistive products to meet their daily needs.

What can teachers do to help students with cerebral palsy? ›

Teacher Tips for Inclusive Classrooms
  • Get to know the needs of every student. ...
  • Assign seating. ...
  • Instead of asking for volunteers, call on students randomly. ...
  • Provide group discussion time. ...
  • Use personal response devices. ...
  • Expose students to diversity. ...
  • Vary teaching strategies. ...
  • Make classrooms physically accessible.
6 May 2022

Which adaptive equipment would be appropriate for severely contracted patient with cerebral palsy? ›

In such cases, it will be ideal to utilize a power wheelchair or power scooter. Depending on their needs and insurance coverage, some individuals with cerebral palsy may even be able to get a standing power wheelchair.

How can assistive technology enhance communication? ›

Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) devices help people with communication disorders to express themselves. These devices can range from a simple picture board to a computer program that synthesizes speech from text.

What is the importance of assistive technology? ›

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 the benefits of this technology for children? ›

4 Benefits of Technology to Children 
  • 1- Quick information exchange. Thanks to the Internet, we can access the information we want at any time from our computers, tablets or phones. ...
  • 2- Developing basic skills. ...
  • 3- Socializing. ...
  • 4- Developing special skills.
21 Jun 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 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 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.

Do people with cerebral palsy use crutches? ›

Crutches are often used by those with cerebral palsy who have the ability to ambulate, or walk, but need extra help with balance and stability. There are two types or crutches: underarm crutches and forearm, or elbow, crutches. Underarm crutches are mostly used for short term disability, like a broken leg.

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3. Cerebral Palsy: Exercise Programming
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