Tuesday, December 24, 2013

People of All Ages Benefit from AT

by Christina Mills, CFILC's Deputy Director

baby Bumbo seat with wheels and tie-dyed foot platform
Homemade ZipZac
Thank goodness there is handy, easy-to-use assistive technology available for people of all ages. The best part is that it’s gotten better looking and more portable over time. It may sound ridiculous to some who came before me, but I when I think about my first wheelchair and how clunky and easy to tip over it was, I think about how many less fractures I might have had if my chair would have been lightweight and more aerodynamic. Then again, who am I’m fooling…I was a daredevil and was constantly testing my limits in that little metal E&J chair. I was about five or six-years-old when I got that chair. Nowadays kids with mobility disabilities have all sorts of cool wheelchair options and even toddlers have mobility devices like ZipZacs. In fact, a friend of mine who has a child with a mobility disability made a homemade ZipZac that is very similar to the real thing and works the same way.
3 Photos: 1. textured balls; 2. High-contrast peg board. 3. toddler using wedge
Toddler AT for learning, development and play

Assistive technology doesn’t only come in handy for kids who use mobility devices. My daughter, who has multiple disabilities, has benefited from a variety of AT tools since she was born. If you’ve read my previous posts, you know that as a parent with a disability I have used a variety of low- and high-tech AT too.

My daughter has been enrolled in Early Intervention and Physical Therapy since she was five-months-old. She uses a variety of AT when she’s at therapy, but also gets the added benefit of using it at home because our Early Intervention program allows us to check-it-out for as long as it’s needed or until another child needs it. We used this wedge for a few months to help Olivia gain upper body strength and eventually be able to crawl on all fours.

We learned early on that it was easier for Olivia to see and play with high-contrast toys and so we worked with another local agency that specialized in low-vision toys. This high-contrast peg board is one of Olivia’s favorite toys, but she also loves her textured balls that come in all different sizes. The big ball is smooth, the middle size ball has hair made out of rubber and the smallest ball is rough with lumps. I should also mention that the hairy ball lights up when you shake or bounce it.

Child standing on top of two sliding drawer stairs built bathroom sink cabinet.
Sliding drawer stairs
My favorite kind of AT is homemade, like the crib we made for Olivia when she was born. In my experience, it’s typically more affordable and is more likely to fulfill a specific purpose. Another one of my parent friends has a daughter who is short stature and was having trouble using her bathroom sink to wash her hands, brush her teeth, etc. A stool sort of solved the problem, but it also took up a lot of space and still didn’t make it terribly easy to use the entire sink area. To solve the problem the family converted the storage space under the sink into two different height built-in slide and lock steps, which gives their daughter the independence she needs.

AT serves all kinds of purposes and is helpful for people of all ages. It’s also for everybody. Whether you have a disability or not, AT comes in handy for all of us. 


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