Assistive Devices for Children with CP
Many people who suffer from cerebral palsy are going to require assistive devices. These devices include ones that are designed to facilitate easier walking and devices that are designed to increase the acuity of the sufferer’s senses.
Unfortunately, hearing aids, walkers, wheelchairs and other assistive devices can be very expensive. Generally, the more severe the CP symptoms, the more sophisticated and expensive these devices may be. There is a huge spectrum of devices available that fall under this category, but your child’s doctor should be able to provide you with guidance and suggestions.
Most people with cerebral palsy suffer some limitations on their mobility. This is usually dealt with by using crutches or a wheelchair, depending upon the severity of the sufferer’s symptoms. These devices also come in different designs that are more-appropriate for specific types of cerebral palsy than others.
Wheelchairs, for example, come in a range of designs. Some of them are very simple and people whose cerebral palsy is not so severe that they cannot power the wheelchair themselves will usually do fine with a standard wheelchair. Sufferers who have more-severe disabilities may need an electric wheelchair to get around. In some cases, sufferers who are severely affected by cerebral palsy may have wheelchairs that have additional devices attached to them that help them communicate, breathe or eat.
Most people with CP have some trouble walking. However, having a physical therapist help your child may allow them to use a less complex assistive device to get around. For example, learning to use crutches is a skill that some children with CP can take to very well. However, in order to learn how to use the crutches they may need a bit of help. Talk to your doctor about the options, and see if your child may be able to use something less involved for an assistive device. Moving from a wheelchair to crutches can often mean a lot more freedom for the child.
Orthoses & Braces
Braces are often an integral part of treating the symptoms of cerebral palsy in young children. They aid children with cerebral palsy by stretching muscles that are typically over-contracted, and can prove to be truly invaluable in supporting a child’s mobility.
Braces are available for ankles, legs, backs, elbows, feet, hands–just about any part of the body that relies on muscle contractions for movement. Braces are typically made of metal, leather, plastic or a combination of these.
Back braces are a common brace for children with cerebral palsy. These help straighten up the children who have issues with sitting up and it will help straighten the spine.
One of the most common forms of braces for a child with cerebral palsy are Ankle-foot orthoses (AFOs). These are often used for stretching out the Achilles tendon. AFOs can help children with hemiplegia who end up “toe walking.” They are typically adjusted every few months, and during this time period, the braces might be quite uncomfortable.
Kids who wear AFOs typically wear them throughout the day. Different braces require different forms of care, but it’s important to check your child’s skin for rashes, redness, blisters and open skin wounds–all of these can indicate a malfunctioning brace. If your child’s braces don’t fit correctly or if they outgrow the braces, the device may prove to be useless to your child.
Many people who suffer from cerebral palsy have severe issues with hearing and speech. Hearing and speech, of course, are closely related and improved hearing often helps such individuals get a better handle on speech. A large percentage of people who suffer from cerebral palsy also use hearing aids. These not only help them to hear people who are talking to them, they help the child hear themselves, as well. This can make it easier for the individual to work on their speech skills and improve his or her ability to communicate.
Hearing aids can be very expensive, but they’ll be a necessity for some children in order to be able to participate in normal activities and conversations. Speech therapy can also cost a very significant amount of money, but may help children to gain confidence and to participate in activities with other children more.
The major computer companies all have tablet computers on the market these days. These are computers that are essentially a large screen operated by touch, and that have fairly powerful capabilities. There have been games developed for children with cerebral palsy that help them to develop coordination by using one of these devices. One of the most well-known games works a bit like the old games from the 1970s and 80s where a colored light lit up buttons in a certain pattern and you had to match that pattern. There are plenty of other things that these types of computers can provide in the way of education and entertainment for somebody with CP, as well.
Text to Speech
Most of the time, when you’re talking about technology for people with disabilities, you’re talking about expensive medical devices that somehow make their lives easier. There are technologies out there, however, that anybody who has a personal computer has access to and that can actually make life quite a bit easier for people with cerebral palsy. Some of these technologies are probably installed on your computer already and you can use them for entertainment and education.
Just about every computer operating system has a text to speech feature on it. This feature allows the computer to read back text on a page through the speakers. There are software programs that offer more sophisticated versions of this technology, as well.
Some people with cerebral palsy have a hard time learning how to read. Having words read to you and then reading them back can sometimes make it easier to learn. It’s also possible to use this technology to listen to recorded books, which can be very entertaining for children who have a hard time handling a book in their hands.
Voice Controlled Devices
People with CP oftentimes have difficulty operating devices that require fine motor skills. Smart phones and other devices now usually come with a voice control functionality. You can teach your child to use this so that they don’t have to hit the buttons on the phone or deal with the touchscreen as much. For example, they could dial home by simply telling the phone to “dial home”.