Have any Assistive Technologies Come About to Help People With Cerebral Palsy?

walkerChildren with cerebral palsy may experience an impaired range of motion, speech and language problems, impaired vision or hearing, or social isolation. All of these issues can affect a child's ability to succeed in school or extracurricular activities. Additionally, the presence of certain comorbid conditions, such as seizure disorders, may make it difficult for a child to access a curriculum at school, even if no cognitive deficits are present.

Researchers have been hard at work identifying and developing assistive technologies that help children ambulate, attend school, and succeed in activities of daily living. Thanks to these technologies, many children with cerebral palsy can attend general education schools, achieve maximum mobility, and play and socialize with their peers.

Assistive Devices for Ambulation

Firstly, many devices exist that help children with cerebral palsy stand straight, walk, and achieve a better range of motion. Such devices include:

  • Custom orthotics. These are more than just braces or inserts, they seek to treat a child's individual needs as he or she develops. Many different types of materials and constructions exist, but their main purpose is to correct any ambulation problems that may arise as the result of muscle spasticity or tightening, and help a child reach his or her maximum mobility.
  • Seating systems. For children with severe cerebral palsy who cannot move independently, motorized wheelchairs help them navigate the environment.
  • Gait poles help children with moderate to severe cerebral palsy move about independently and promote good posture.
  • Open front walkers give children with severe cerebral palsy added support and confidence.
Communication Devices

Perhaps one of the most dramatic examples of assistive technology in action is the development of Augmentative and Assistive Communication (AAC) devices. These devices may be standalone devices or applications that work with iPads. The presence of certain comorbid speech disorders, such as apraxia or dysarthria, cause serious communication barriers that may otherwise prevent children from accessing a traditional school curriculum, even when no cognitive deficit is present. AAC devices allow children with speech disorders to press buttons to produce computer synthesized sentences. This allows even non-verbal children to communicate wants and needs, express thoughts, and talk about their feelings.

Therapy Animals

Children may also be able to attend school with the help of therapy animals. Dogs and other animals may be able to help a child navigate the classroom environment and provide warnings to other staff members before the onset of a seizure.

Devices for Typing and Writing

Many children with a diagnosis of cerebral palsy lack the fine motor skills required for writing with a pen or pencil or hitting individual keys on keyboard. Written communication is essential for attendance in a general education environment, but children with cerebral palsy may require assistance from devices that help them write or type.

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. Though they don't require advanced technology, they can make a big difference in a child's success at school.

Assistive technologies have come a long way in helping children succeed at school and in life. The use of communication devices, ambulation technology, and devices for reading and writing all help children access the curriculum and succeed in the general education setting. Technology has evolved such that children with even severe communication or ambulation difficulties can succeed in a general classroom, in instances it would not be possible otherwise. Today's advances in assistive devices allow children with cerebral palsy to live their best lives.