Assistive Technology for Those with Cerebral Palsy

Every March we celebrate Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month to celebrate and highlight the Cerebral Palsy community. However, there’s one rather large audience we sometimes tend to forget. It’s important to acknowledge the technologies and genius behind them that continues to allow people of special needs to live a more practical and less complex lifestyle.

To begin, let’s talk about cerebral palsy.

What is Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral palsy is a neurological condition that some children are born with due to brain malformation or damage. It is not progressive or curable, and the symptoms and severity vary from one child to the next. The condition largely affects movement and muscles, but can have wide-ranging complications from hearing loss to intellectual disability. Because there is no cure, many children with cerebral palsy can benefit from assistive technology, such as mobility aids.

The Limits of Treatment

There are many treatment options for cerebral palsy, and they vary depending on what an individuals’ symptoms or complications are. But there is no cure for the condition, so treatments are necessarily limited. For instance, surgery can be used to restore some mobility to someone with painful and stiff muscle tone, but she may still not be able to walk easily.

Another individual with cerebral palsy may go through physical therapy to improve fine motor skills but still be unable to grip a pencil. When treatment for cerebral palsy has done as much as it can, assistive technology can play an additional role in helping that individual adapt to and thrive in the world.

Assistive Technology for Mobility

One of the most important types of assistive technology for those with cerebral palsy is for improving mobility. While every person with this condition has unique symptoms, nearly all have some degree or type of issue with mobility, from over-toned muscles to limited joint movement to involuntary or spastic muscle movements.

Some examples include walkers or canes to help with walking and stability, or wheelchairs for those who really struggle to walk at all. Orthotics, or braces, can help individuals walk more easily or move their hands or arms better. They may also benefit from an adapted scooter, specialized transport, a stair glide or mechanical lift, or even an adaptive vehicle.

Other Types of Assistive Technology

Individuals with cerebral palsy often have a variety of other symptoms and complications related to the condition but not to mobility and assistive devices can help. For instance, some may have hearing loss and can benefit from hearing aids and other auditory technology. Assistive educational tools, such as writing implements or computers and mobile devices that are easier to use, are important in education and employment. Communication tools can also be great assistive technology, as some have speech difficulties.

Cerebral palsy comes with many different symptoms, some more severe than others. But many living with this condition can make use of a variety of assistive technologies that make moving, working, learning, communicating, and just getting involved and participating, much easier and more possible.

Costs of Assistive Technology

These devices are found more sparingly than others because they must be adapted to the individual, and as children grow, devices are often times rendered obsolete. While they can be recycled and re-used, this only compounds an already financially challenging situation. Some be able to secure financial assistance through legal proceedings, others may need to fundraise or seek independent support.

Yet like anything else manufacturing and design processes have improved significantly over the years, allowing medical costs associated with assistive tech to come down.

Regardless, it’s important not to let any of these challenges stand in your way. Manufacturers have worked tirelessly for years with both medical professionals and law professionals sorting out the nuances of assistive tech, making sure devices are affordable and accessible to folks in need. The fruits of their work should not go unrecognised.

Assistive technology can be found on the high street and through specialist retailers. For more information about the technologies available please visit http://www.assistivetechnologyguide.co.uk/.

For more information on how to keep healthy in 2018, visit https://www.nhs.uk/change4life.

Alex Diaz-Granados