Using Assistive Technology During Rehabilitation
By Melanie Koch, Occupational Therapist
When choosing to use assistive technology with the pediatric brain-injured child, there are a number of factors involved in the selection of devices, level of device sophistication and the training for use with that device.
When selecting a device, ask the following questions: Is the child ready to use a device? Is the family ready to accept the use of a device for compensation of a skill (maybe a skill you are still hoping the child will regain)? Is this device going to be functional and FUN for the child to use? Until you find the answer to be “yes” (even a tentative “yes” is good), you may want to consider other options. But if it is a “yes,” then begin thinking about the device.
Do you really need a high-tech versus low-tech solution? Sometimes a 3-ring binder can serve the purpose for a memory remainder as well as a computerized notebook (and a lot less costly). Look around. Places like Radio Shack and Circuit City offer great low-tech solutions that are affordable and FUN. When thinking of a high-tech device (for example, a Dynavox or integrated Environmental Control Unit) consider the following questions: Do you have a backup if that unit fails? How stranded are you without your unit? How accessible is repair to where you live? However, don’t rule out high-tech solutions all together. A system that is more complicated may also give your child more room to upgrade as his/her skills progress, it may provide a more stimulating challenge and it may be more personally acceptable (it’s cool to use a computer!).
Once you have your device, discuss training options with your Occupational or Speech therapist. How many follow-up visits will you realistically need? Can learning the skills in a therapy environment translate to the real world? Can other family members come to training sessions to learn as well? (You can never have too many people involved in a good solution!). And finally, have FUN and use that device.
Reviewed by Donna Purcell, Psy.D., Psychologist, December 2002
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