Special Needs Toys for Cerebral Palsy

Young Boy with Cerebral Palsy Playing with a Puzzle

Cerebral Palsy (CP) refers to a group of conditions that affect an individual’s ability to move. People with CP generally experience difficulty walking, balancing or controlling their muscles.

Because cerebral palsy restricts movement, it can be difficult for people with the condition to interact with the world around them, especially because the objects and activities available aren’t often designed with differing ability levels in mind.

If you know someone with cerebral palsy and want to support them, you can start by helping them access the physical world. Special modifications make many activities accessible to these individuals, empowering them to live engaging and active lives.

How Adaptive Toys Are Made for Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral palsy is the most common motor disability in children, yet many children with CP still struggle to find toys and games they can access. This issue exists because many products require the fine motor skills and coordination that CP makes difficult. For some, the restriction can make enriching play close to impossible.

At Enabling Devices, we understand the joy play adds to a child’s life. To bring this vital aspect of growing up to more children and teens, we developed a variety of adaptive toys and toy modifications designed specifically for kids with mobility limitations. Toys with extra-large switches or enhanced grip can make play accessible to many children with special needs, including those with cerebral palsy.

Benefits of Adaptive Toys for Children With Cerebral Palsy

All children are drawn to play. In addition to providing fun and entertainment, play activities help kids learn as well as grow and develop important physical, emotional and mental skills. Adaptive toys help children with CP access all the benefits of play within their capabilities.

The benefits of play vary from child to child and by stage of development. Here are a few general benefits of adaptive toys for children with cerebral palsy:

  • For babies: Playing with toys can help babies with CP explore, engage with the physical world and mentally develop alongside their peers.
  • For toddlers: Toys designed for toddlers with CP can provide important practice with different motor skills.
  • For children: Playing with toys can help children with CP reach important developmental milestones and improve language and social skills.

Adaptive toys also help parents of children with cerebral palsy by providing an outlet for their children to interact, explore and express themselves — aspects of child development that delight all parents.

How to Select the Right Adapted Product

Since all people with CP are unique, you should try to choose products that appeal to their personal interests and align with their goals. Here are a few additional questions parents and caregivers can ask themselves when selecting an adaptive or modified toy:

  • Can my child use this toy in a wheelchair or other position?
  • Does this toy respond to input or action to engage my child?
  • Is this toy appropriate for my child’s stage of development?

You might also try to pick toys that the child can use without much physical assistance. Such items can help kids develop confidence and independence within their ability.

Have a Device in Mind That You Don’t See? We May Be Able to Make It for You!

All children deserve access to toys that help them learn and grow. Physical limitations shouldn’t prevent a child from having fun. At Enabling Devices, we offer toys for children and adults of all ages who have cerebral palsy.

We also know that the perfect toy for your child may not exist yet. If you have an idea for a device but don’t see it on our website, reach out to us! We’d love to work with you to develop a product that meets your needs.

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Examples of Assistive Technology in the Classroom

Examples of Assistive Technology in the Classroom

Students with learning differences, like those with Autism spectrum disorder or visual impairments, require a little extra help in the classroom. Assistive technologies help students overcome obstacles to reach their full potential. Below, we’ll explore the different types of assistive technologies you can use in your classroom and dive deeper into how your students can uniquely benefit from assistive devices.

What Is Assistive Technology?

Assistive technology includes any software or equipment used to help students with disabilities navigate their learning challenges and strengthen their skill sets. Every student’s learning challenges are unique, and assistive technology gives them an equal opportunity to a quality education using individualized lesson plans.

The Benefits of Assistive Technology in the Classroom

Students often learn best by doing. Assistive technology uses this concept, supplying students with hands-on learning aids to make learning fun and less stressful. Each assistive technology tool strengthens a student’s skill set through the act of playing, and many of these devices are outfitted with vibrant colors and engaging designs that fuel a student’s empowerment for learning.

Using assistive technology in your classroom can help students in ways like:

help teach cause and effect relationships

1. Helps Teach Cause-And-Effect Relationships

Students with special needs can struggle with cause-and-effect relationships. A big part of learning is understanding how actions lead to events, such as how performing a math function leads to a correct solution or predicting what would happen if a button is pushed on an assistive technology device, such as a capability switch.

Assistive technology helps students make connections between cause-and-effect relationships, making them feel in control of their learning and boosting their self-esteem.

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2. Aids Group Instruction and Sharing Time

Group time, like circle time, plays a crucial role in a student’s education. It’s where your students interact and learn social skills, and it’s also where you deliver group instruction for the day’s activities and tasks.

In circle time settings, assistive technology helps students by keeping instruction and sharing time fun. For example, by passing around an assistive technology like a switch-adapted toy or music device, students can interact with each other in a way that promotes engagement and relationship-building — both of which are essential to a student’s future success.

3. Strengthens Fine Motor Skills

Fine motor skills are the smaller movements in the hands, fingers, and wrists — in coordination with the eyes — that enable students to grasp, reach and manipulate objects, like writing with a pencil and picking up smaller items.

Fine motor movements may be difficult for some students with disabilities. Assistive technology such as activity boxes or small manipulatives helps these students strengthen their fine motor skills, increasing their ability to perform tasks both in school and at home.

4. Improves Visual Tracking

Some students with disabilities have visual challenges, specifically those who are visually impaired, partially sighted, or blind. It’s difficult for these students to track and pay visual attention to objects, such as moving pets or adults’ gross motor movements.

Assistive technology strengthens visual tracking skills to make learning and day-to-day life easier for these learners. Most visual tracking tools include a sliding feature, and some utilize lights and an auditory component to keep students engaged.

Examples of Assistive Technology in the Classroom

Who Assistive Technology Can Help

Assistive technology helps students with learning differences, like:

1. Students Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired

According to a 2018 American Printing House for the Blind (APH) census,  approximately 63,501 students in the U.S. are legally blind. What’s more, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Visual Health Initiative findings, 6.8% of children in the U.S. have some sort of vision difficulty.

Students who are blind or visually impaired have difficulties:

  • Reading and writing.
  • Distinguishing colors.
  • Recognizing shapes.
  • Navigating classrooms.

Typical classroom settings can cause great physical and emotional strain for these students. Assistive technology offers audiovisual assistance tools by reading educational content out loud to students, with some offering Braille support as well. For students with partial visual abilities, assistive technology tools can use bright lights, sounds, tactile cues, and magnified graphics to support learning and communication, or they can magnify content to make reading and viewing easier.

As an example, tactile symbol communicators — augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) devices —  have large, textured icons with bright, colorful hues that enable students with visual impairments to better communicate. Another assistive technology example, a musical light box, helps students with visual impairments strengthen their writing skills by providing a backlight for tracing.

2. Students Who Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing

A recent CDC study found that  5,578 children in the U.S. have permanent hearing loss, and 2 to 3 children in every 1,000 require educational assistance for hearing impairments. Students who are deaf or hard of hearing have difficulties following along with class instruction and communicating with their teachers and peers.

In your classroom, help these students by using assistive devices. Some assistive technology tools that benefit students with hearing impairments are:

  • Assistive listening devices: Most of these devices follow the basic principle of magnifying a video or instructor’s voice or sound, which is then translated to a student’s hearing aid or cochlear implant, allowing them to follow along with lessons.
  • Infrared systems: Infrared systems transmit audio signals to a magnetic field around a student’s head — produced by a receiver — which a hearing aid can tap into. These systems are usually used by adults in theaters or conference rooms, but are equally beneficial for students in classroom settings.
  • Communicators: If your student has communication struggles, they may benefit from using a communicator. Communicators generate speech so your students have an easier time interacting with their teachers and peers.

Students with speech disabilities

3. Students With Speech Disabilities

Nearly one in 12 children have some sort of speech disability. Students with speech disabilities find it hard to communicate due to articulation, voice, or fluency troubles. Common examples of speech difficulties include stuttering and lisping, which may cause stress and frustration when talking in class, as well as medical conditions like autism spectrum disorder or a swallowing disorder.

Speech-to-text software and word prediction tools are great assistive technologies that make it easier for students to communicate with their peers and teachers.

Students with speech disabilities benefit from communicators, as well. Communicators can be high- or low-tech, depending on the use of electricity and batteries. Low-tech communicators can be as simple as a pen and paper, while high-tech models use electronic communication boards and keyboards to help learners communicate with others via digitized speech.

4. Students Who Need Mobility Assistance

Some students require mobility assistance because of certain physical limitations, which they were either born with or developed from an illness or injury. Common disabilities that require mobility assistance include:

  • Amputation.
  • Arthritis.
  • Multiple sclerosis.
  • Muscular dystrophy.
  • Fibromyalgia.
  • Cerebral palsy.

Assistive technology can help students with fine and gross motor movements. Students who need gross motor assistance benefit from assistive technologies like flexible furniture, standing desks, and exercise balls.

Other assistive technologies can help with fine motor movements, too. Students can use a switch-adapted device to increase functioning in a classroom, gaining access to devices and toys instrumental to learning. We’ll take a closer look into switch-adapted devices and other fine-motor tools, like iPad accessories, later in this post.

5. Students With Learning, Cognitive, or Developmental Disabilities

Learning, cognitive, and developmental disabilities are an umbrella category of many disabilities with varying challenges. Disabilities that fall under these categories include:

  • Brain or spinal injuries.
  • Autism spectrum disorder.
  • Epilepsy.
  • Language delay.
  • Severe anxiety.
  • Delayed social development.

Students with these disabilities require additional support and guidance through lessons. Audiobooks and speech recognition software are great assistive technologies for these students, along with versatile assistive technologies like communicators and memory aids.

examples of assistive tech

Examples of Assistive Technology in the Classroom

As we learn more about students with disabilities, more technologies are developed to help them overcome their unique challenges. Some of the most current and comprehensive assistive technologies that aid student learning include the following.

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Speech Programs

Speech programs are high-tech AAC tools, most of which are Speech Generating Devices that translate a typed message into digitized speech. These can also do the opposite, translating spoken words into digitized text for students with stronger oral language skills than writing or typing skills.

For students who are visually impaired, speech synthesizers and screen readers may be beneficial. These speech software programs display text and read aloud to the student, highlighting each sentence to improve visual tracking as well.

Communicators

We’ve touched on communicators briefly when explaining who assistive technology can help. Communicators are AAC devices that enable students with learning differences to share their ideas and feelings without talking. Many students can benefit from using communicators, namely those who are visually impaired, hard of hearing, or have speech difficulties.

Many types of communicators tailor to students’ unique needs. When choosing a communication device for your learner, consider their needs and how they will interact with the device. As an example, if your student has motor restrictions, they will benefit from communicators with larger switches. Or, if your learner regularly navigates the school building, they may prefer wearable communication devices so they can communicate on the go.

Timers

Some students have trouble with pacing. Timers are great and affordable assistive technology tools that help students mentally prepare for task changes. These devices also keep them knowledgeable about how much time they have left to complete their current task.

For students who are visually impaired, choose a timer that displays the remaining time in a vibrant color so they, too, can easily decipher how much time is left.

Computer Keyboards

Assistive technology keyboards have altered appearances and easier functionalities than a typical keyboard. There are many computer keyboards for students with disabilities, each customized to meet the user’s unique needs.

Most have special overlays with larger font sizes — about 11 times larger than a typical keyboard’s — and group keys by color and location. Others have reduced input choices and graphic aids to benefit comprehension, some of which are customizable to complement your student’s tasks and abilities.

Switch-Adapted Learning Toys

Students, especially younger ones, learn by exploring the world around them. Switch-adapted learning toys enable students with disabilities to learn through play. These toys help learners build communication skills, improve motor development, and practice visual tracking and attention — plus, they benefit cognitive development.

iPad Accessibility Tools

iPads are extremely beneficial for all students, especially those with learning differences. iPads help students communicate, learn, and play. They’re also debatably more accessible than computers, because iPads have accessibility features like Assistive Touch, Guided Access, and other customizable elements.

You can purchase other assistive iPad accessories, too, like:

 

  • Mounts: Some students, like those with mobility limitations, can’t easily hold on to an iPad. Mounts allow students to attach their iPad to their tabletop or wheelchair.
  • SwitchesStudents can use switches to interact with their iPad, like scrolling through screens or using compatible apps.
  • Styluses: Students who struggle with fine motor movements may benefit from styluses. Styluses allow them to operate touch screens using their mouths, hands, or heads.

How Do You Integrate Assistive Technology in the Classroom?

Having the right assistive technologies and knowing the proper way to integrate them into your classroom is equally important. No matter the type of assistive technology you use or the group of students you teach, the best ways to integrate assistive technology into your classroom include:

1. Know What Works

Assistive technologies are individualized tools. What works for one student isn’t guaranteed to work for the next. It’s important to recognize each student’s needs and match them with the right assistive technology.

2. Let Your Students Play and Explore

As mentioned earlier, students learn best by doing. Give your students total access to the various assistive technologies and let them explore each tool’s learning potential. Your scholars will learn more about themselves and what works for them, and you gain a clearer picture of what your students prefer to engage with and how.

3. Maintain Ongoing Training

Administrators play an important role in teachers’ education and awareness of students with disabilities. It’s important for teachers to work with these students appropriately to make the right accommodations.

If you’re an administrator, maintain a consistent training schedule to keep teachers up to date on recent technology and proper terminology, emphasizing the importance of equal treatment and education for students who require additional learning aids.

Contact Enabling Devices

Looking for Ways to Integrate Assistive Technology Into Your Classroom? Browse Our Classroom Kits Today

Students with learning differences are excited and eager to learn. Assistive technologies enable these learners to do just that, providing the empowerment and encouragement they need to excel in their academics and personal lives.

At Enabling Devices, we create assistive technologies for people of all abilities and ages to live prosperous and fulfilling lives. We work with individuals, teachers and therapists to find the best devices for every student’s needs, and we want to work with you, too.

We invite you to browse our online catalog of classroom kits and other assistive technologies. If you want to work with someone who will help you find the best devices for your students, our friendly sales department staff are ready and willing to help! Contact us online, or call us at 800-832-8697.

Microsoft Super Bowl Ad is a Game Highlight

Disabled Boy playing with microsoft adapted controller

Whether you’re a football fan or just in it for the beer and Buffalo wings, you’ve probably taken note of the eagerly awaited TV commercials that air during the Super Bowl. Advertisers spend millions of dollars to reserve coveted spots during the game when they know they can capture the attention of millions of American consumers. Though media outlets such as The New York Times claimed Super Bowl 2019 “played it safe” with its advertisements this year, one Microsoft commercial called “We All Win” was a standout.

The commercial features a group of children with physical disabilities who describe how Xbox’s adaptive controllers make it possible for them to play video games, just like their friends. Depending on the user’s abilities, the controller can be used with the user’s hands, feet, head or mouth. Or as one boy in the ad puts it: “No matter how your body is, or how fast you are, you can play.”

Although ads featuring people with disabilities are still few and far between, we are seeing them more frequently than in the past. In fact, this isn’t the first Super Bowl ad that portrayed people with special needs using Microsoft products. In 2014, the company aired a commercial starring Steve Gleason, a retired NFL player with Lou Gehrig’s disease, who used a Microsoft Surface Pro tablet with eye tracking technology in order to communicate. A year later, the company created another Super Bowl commercial that demonstrated how Microsoft’s technology helped a young boy with prostheses participate in athletics.

At Enabling Devices, we spend our days creating and adapting toys and other products so that people with disabilities can get in the game. Whether it’s switch-adapted toys, augmentative & alternative communication devices, assistive technology, sensory or training products, Enabling Devices is working to make all aspects of life more accessible to people with disabilities.

Kudos Microsoft! We’re glad to see that companies like yours are doing their part to raise awareness about the needs of all people and to encourage inclusive play and universal access. In the future, we hope that other companies will follow their lead.

 

 

Talking Tech

#5310 Language Facilitator

Imagine knowing what you would like to say, but not being able to say it? Thanks to augmentative and alternative (AAC) devices, many children and adults with communication disorders are finding their voices.

POSM (patient operated selector mechanism), a “sip-and-puff typewriter controller” in 1960 and the “Comhandi, an electronic letter board” a few years later, twenty-first century technology has taken AAC to an entirely new level.  Today, individuals who are non-verbal or unable to speak clearly due to autism, deafness, developmental disabilities, cerebral palsy, strokes, vocal and swallowing disorders have many options for self-expression.

When choosing a communication device, it’s essential to take the user’s individual needs into account. Not every communicator is appropriate for every person. If you’re unsure what kind of device to purchase, consult with a therapist, special educator or reach out to the folks at . We’ll be happy to point you in the right direction.

For the beginner

Is basic communication what you’re after? These one and two message communicators are easy to use. Record songs, jokes and greetings. Use them at home, work, to start a conversation, or to order at a restaurant. Learn to activate one or two messages, then move up to three, four or six!

#4200 Big Talks
#4200

Big Talks #4200

This basic communicator records one 20-second message. Big Talks come in five colors and also act as a switch that can activate another device.

Talkable II #2400

This basic communicator records two messages of 20 seconds each. Includes built-in holder to display a word, picture or icon. Also available as Talkable III (records three messages) and Talkable IV (records four messages) and Talkable IV with 12 levels. Each level has room for four 6-second messages.

For the visually impaired

Bright lights and colors, high contrast, and easy to recognize textures make our communicators for the visually impaired easy to use.

Talkable II for VI # 2600

Our Talkable II for the visually impaired is purposely designed with two different colored switches, each outlined in black, to make finding and activating the device’s switch easy to locate.  The Talkable II features 20 seconds total recording time. Users can record one or two messages. This communicator is also a good choice for users who have difficulty with fine motor control.

Cheap Talk 6 for VI #6056

#2046 Totally Tactile Communicator
#2046

This communicator’s bright red and yellow switches make it easy for visually impaired users to find and select their pre-recorded messages. With six levels, the Cheap Talk 6 provides up to 225 seconds of recording time.

Totally Tactile Communicator #2046Y and #2046

This communicator is a great choice for those new to communication devices or who prefer using touch to select the device’s pre-recorded messages. The Totally Tactile Communicator offers six levels and 300 seconds of recording time.

For those on the go

Wearable tech is all the rage, so why be weighed down by a large or bulky device?

Wrist Talker #3037 and #3037B

This single-message communicator looks like a wristwatch and allows the user to record a 10 second greeting.

#5020 Hip Talk Plus
#5020

Hip Talk Plus #5020

This totally portable communicator, worn around the waist includes 300 seconds of recording time, auditory cueing and fantastic sound quality. Enabling Devices also sells two similar devices: the Hip Talk 12 with levels #5013, which enables the user to record 60 five-second messages and the Hip Talk #5004, which allows the user to record 4 five-second messages.

Small Talk with built-in icon holder #4201

A more portable version of our popular Big Talk, the small talk includes a special holder that displays an icon, word or photo.

Talk 4 with Levels #2500

This powerful communication device gives users access to 12 recording levels and 300 seconds of recording time. The Talk 4 offers single jack automatic scanning with LED illumination and three scanning speeds. Weighing less than one pound and equipped with an adjustable carrying strap, this communicator is both functional and portable!

For fun and learning

These communicators will help children to express themselves while they play.

Lego Communicators #1049D and #1049L Who doesn’t love Lego? This one message communicator will motivate children to learn language while inspiring creativity.

Talking Bubble with Lights and Vibration #2230 This four-message recorder/player helps its user to communicate while also providing visual and tactile sensory experiences.

Brand new!

#5310 Language Facilitator
#5310

Hot off the press, our new Language Facilitator #5310 promotes functional communication. Mirror, mirror … This two switch communicator helps users learn to speak by recording and playing back their utterances. At the same time, the Language Facilitator’s attached mirror provides users with an opportunity to see how their mouths move when making particular sounds.

iPads for communicating

When considering AAC devices, don’t overlook the communication opportunities afforded by iPad technology. According to Andrew Leibs, writing for About Tech,

“Apps on portable devices such as the iPad, can help non-verbal children to communicate basic needs. Intuitive apps that employ colorful images and sounds can also hold a child’s attention long enough to learn and offer effective tools to build vocabulary and reinforce word knowledge.”

Enabling Devices’ iPad Wireless Switches #1164 and #1167 provide access to hundreds of compatible apps available on your Bluetooth-equipped iPad, iPhone or Android device. Both switches have internal interfaces, so there’s no need for wires.

Don’t forget the iPad Mounting Systems!

Enabling Devices offers a Tabletop system #1589, which includes a mounting platform, designed for easy access to all of the iPad’s electronic ports and a removable tabletop base to hold your iPad at just the right angle.

The Mounting System #1556 includes a mounting platform, an expandable light duty arm and a clamp with which you can mount the system to a wheelchair or tabletop. The iPad Mounting Platform #1566 can also be purchased separately.

A free chart of switch accessible apps can be found on our website.

 

Making Technology Accessible

iPad Wireless Switch #1164

March is not only the first month of spring, it’s also National Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month. While raising awareness about disabilities and the obstacles facing individuals with disabilities is an ongoing effort, in recent years, advances in technology have gone a long way toward making the obstacles they face, more surmountable.

“Mobile devices have become incredibly popular for their ability to weave modern conveniences such as Internet access and social networking into the fabric of daily life,” writes Larry Greenemeier for Scientific American. “For people with disabilities, however, these devices have the potential to unlock unprecedented new possibilities for communication, navigation and independence.”

With the introduction of Apple’s iPad in 2010, people with all sorts of disabilities could gain access to hundreds of apps by just activating a switch. For those new to switch technology, switches come in a variety of shapes, colors, sizes and types. The choice of which switch to use depends upon users’ abilities as well as how they plan to interact with the technology. Enabling Devices offers switches and switch-related accessories to make iPad use accessible to everyone. Check out these products:

iPad Wireless Switch Interface #11661. The iPad Wireless Switch Interface (Item # 1166)

To use your own switches with your iPad, you’ll need switch interface. Just plug in the switch of your choice and gain access to hundreds of switch accessible apps on your Bluetooth-equipped iPad or tablet! Our new model features six modes that provide additional functions. To see a demonstration of how to operate the iPad wireless switch device, click here….

2. iPad Wireless Switch (Item # 1164)

iPad Wireless Switch #1164The one switch is the simplest type of switch. A great tool for teaching kids about cause and effect and making choices, one switch devices are also appropriate for beginning users and those with significant cognitive or physical impairment,” says Enabling Devices tech guru, Vinny Livoti! To see a demonstration of how to operate the iPad wireless switch, click here.

3. iPad Wireless Two Switch (Item # 1167)

The two switch is somewhat more complex than the one switch and gives users more navigation options. Those who are physically and cognitively able iPad Wireles Two Switch #1167and/or more experienced with switch technology, may prefer two switch interface because it is faster, and doesn’t have the same timing requirements as the one switch, Livoti explains. Setting up two switch scanning is easy, says Livoti. To see a demonstration of how to operate the iPad wireless switch, click here.

“The first switch moves the cursor around the screen and the second switch makes the user’s selection.” Be sure to turn off auto scanning!

4. Switch Control

Apple’s IOS 7 and the recently introduced IOS 9 have built in switch control, so users can access their iPads, iPhones or tablets by using one or multiple switches or even by using the device’s screen as a switch!

As Apple.com explains:  “Switch Control allows you to navigate sequentially through onscreen items and perform specific actions using a variety of Bluetooth-enabled switch hardware. Switch Control is customizable for both beginners and advanced users — you can simplify existing actions or create your own.”

Once you’ve decided what kind of switch suits you best, it’s time to explore apps! You can find an extensive of switch accessible apps for the iPad and apps specifically for individuals on the autism spectrum, here.
If you have thoughts about technological accessibility you’d like to share, we’d love to hear from you. Talk to us on Facebook or Twitter.

Interested in learning more about Enabling Devices? Visit our website at enablingdevices.com or read our blog.