Assistive Technology for Children with Cerebral Palsy

Assistive Technology refers to any device that helps a person with disability to better interpret and interact with the world.  The ultimate objective of any Assistive Technology is to contribute to the effective enhancement of the lives of people with disabilities and elderly people by helping to overcome and solve their functional problems, reducing dependence on others and contributing to the integration into their families and society.

Cerebral PalsyFor children with Cerebral Palsy, Assistive technology enhances coordination and decision making skills, improves hearing, vision, mobility and motor function and give the ability to care for oneself and live as independently as possible.

The following are some examples of Assistive Technology for children with Cerebral Palsy:

  • Mobility Aids:  Children with cerebral palsy may face additional balance issues, due to their involuntary muscle spasms and coordination issues. They would therefore require the special assistance of mobility devices in order to make it easier to move around and carry out daily tasks.  Some of the Assistive devices used for mobility are Walkers, standers, Canes,Wheelchairs and Mobility Scooters.
  • Seating and Positioning: Appropriate use of an adaptive chair that enables a variety of seat and backrest angles as well as forward and backward tilt-in-space, along with appropriate accessory options, can effectively establish a stable pelvis and trunk for active core postural control for a child with cerebral palsy.
  • Bathroom Needs: Children with cerebral palsy usually face challenges, as they may not have the coordination and dexterity needed to use the toilet correctly which can result in slips, falls and other accidents.  The good news, however, is that there several options such as are specialized commode chairs, raise toilet seats, shower chairs or even urinals and diapers for those who are unable to reach to the toilet.
  • Eating and drinking: Eating and drinking can cause frustration and a lack of independence for children with Cerebral Palsy, but it doesn’t have to be that way. While some children will require feeding tubes, others can be taught proper movement of the lips, tongue, and jaw to encourage feeding. The challenge of feeding oneself can lessen by using utensils and dishes designed for a wide-range of needs making it easier to hold and prevent any spilling.
  • Home/ School modifications: Structural adaptations such as ramps, lifts, modification in the bathroom to make it accessible like lowered sink, automatic door openers and expanded doorways etc. remove or reduces physical barriers for a child with disability.
  • Alternative and augmentative communication devices (AAC): AAC devices include anything that helps children with Cerebral Palsy to communicate and express themselves. Forms of AAC are waving, using sign language, making faces, communication boards (a board with pictures representing patient’s daily needs), symbol systems, programmable switches, electronic communication devices, speech synthesizers, recorded speech devices, communication enhancement software, and voiced word processing.  Communication is essential for children, regardless of disability as it helps bridge the communication gap for those having difficulties in expressing needs.  If a child has certain ailments or pains, it’s crucial that they have a way to communicate what hurts.  Another benefit of AAC is an increase in learning, which helps children with disabilities stay on the same level educationally, or at least as close as possible, to their peers.
  • Orthotics:  Braces and orthotic devices strive to limit spasticity, help with transition from sitting to standing, make several steps in a series, establish a gait, reduce the potential for accidents and increase strength, thereby increasing posture and limiting the possibility for deformity.
  • Vehicle Modifications: There are numerous types of vehicle modifications available today that can ensures the safety of children with cerebral palsy.  These include:  Wheelchair accessible converted Vehicles, Transfer Seats and Accessible Seating.
  • Computer Access Aids: The computer is an important device that can make a difference in the lives of those with cerebral palsy. There are plenty of options available using a computer – one such example is when a child who is unable to speak or write but can make head movements may be able to learn to control a computer using a special light pointer that attaches to a headband.
  • Recreational aids: Adaptive Art Supplies, Adaptive sports such as Frame football, Table cricket, adaptive toys all assist with important development of children in terms of socializing and interacting.
  • Environmental Controls: Environmental Control Systems provide alternative access to devices such as lights, audio visual equipment, doors, telephones and much more through remotes, laser beams switches, pressure sensitive floors. Environmental controls offer children with Cerebral Palsy many ways to have more control over their lives.

New technologies are constantly changing the face of assistive devices used in the treatment of cerebral palsy.  It is always a good idea to get professional medical assessments on the child’s strengths and weaknesses, which can ultimately help better decision with what aids/therapy will be the most beneficial.

Sources:

Assistive technology for people with cerebral palsy Anton Zupan, Mojca Jenko

Cerebral Palsy Group – Mobility Aids Overview

The National trust

Cerebral Palsy Guidance

World CP Day