Assistive technology is 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 individuals with disabilities. It helps students work around their challenges and promote functional independence and participation across settings. Some examples of assistive technology are text-to-speech, word prediction and talking calculators. Assistive technology can also include low-tech tools such as pencil grips, weighted vests, slant boards and visual supports.
Adaptive Play in Early Childhood
There are many ways that you can use common household items to adapt or modify activities to enable children with motor delays to be more successful with play. But first let’s talk about positioning. For children with trunk or head control delays, it is important to find a position that gives them stability in their mid-body to help encourage reaching with their arms and visual tracking with their eyes. Side lying is an option to encourage young children or children with one side of their body that is weaker to bring both hands to the middle of their body to reach and play. You can position toys at eye level and encourage reaching, sensory exploration, and play. Pick items that are brightly colored and provide some sensory feedback with lights, music, or meaningful interaction.
To help with working on sitting upright for children who are at risk of falling over, families may want to use a small laundry basket to support their child’s position. Extra space around the child could be filled with a rolled up towel or small blanket. This can also help with toy play, as it keeps the toys from rolling out of their reach. Many children find small spaces organizing, so a typically developing child may also find this to be a fun “office space” to complete their school work in.
Another great position for play is the Elbow Prop. This position encourages eyes to focus at midline to promote improved attention, as well as building great stability at the shoulders which will lead to improved fine motor development. Children can also prop their backs to a corner for a little side support as they are learning to sit without falling over.
To assist with grasping skills, toys can be modified by building the size up for easier grasping. This can be accomplished using pipe insulation, foam rollers, masking tape, etc. Adaptive utensils can also be helpful. Sometimes a wider handle is all that is needed, but for children who are lacking wrist movement, the spoon can also be bent to align it to be placed into their mouth easier.
Another method that can be used for children who are lacking the ability to maintain hold of a spoon or pencil, is to place the item through a wiffle golf ball. Industrial strength twist ties can also be used to wrap around a student’s hand to help maintain grasp of an item.
To help promote proper writing position, and for beginner writers who are learning to hold a pencil correctly, having them write on a slanted surface is very helpful.
To help maintain proper grip, make an adaptive grip splint which can help hold a pencil/crayon in the space between the thumb and index finger. A small ring or item is then held between the ring and little finger in the palm of the hand.
Use pool noodles to assist positioning.