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Assistive Devices and Adaptive Technologies for Children with Disabilities

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Assistive Technology for Infants with Birth Injuries and Cerebral Palsy

Approximately 2.5% of newborns suffer birth injuries, resulting in brain damage or other bodily harm that impairs the major human systems responsible for motor, intellectual, and sensory functioning. Birth trauma, most often due to complications in the labor and delivery process or negligence, can be slight or significant, leaving some babies with cerebral palsy and other lifelong disabilities. Depending on the severity of the damage to the brain, skeletal, muscular or neurological systems, injured babies may grow into children with special adaptive and assistive needs, requiring devices and technologies that help them accomplish the daily functions of eating, drinking, reading, writing, speaking and walking.

Assistive technology improves the lives of children with disabilities. This overarching category encompasses adaptive technology, which are modified systems or customized items for disabled people. Assistive and adaptive technologies cover the various needs of this population, aiding with mobility, vision, hearing, speech, feeding, and navigating various environments, such as roadways and the home. The most well-known devices include wheelchairs, walkers, screen readers, hearing aids, handrails, or non-slip ramps. Theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking notoriously used an augmentative and assistive communication system to help him speak after developing a motor-neurological disorder. These devices can prove crucial for improving the daily lives of children with various physical and functional challenges, including those with hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), cerebral palsy, neurological impairments, and a vast array of birth injuries.

How Assistive Technology can Help Children with Disability & Birth Injury

Motor and neurological impairment is typical of congenital, as well as incidental birth injury. For instance, a common disability in children due to brain damage at birth, cerebral palsy (CP) affects the body’s muscles, hindering movement, balance, and posture. Children with CP often need assistive devices for walking, eating, or speaking, depending on the severity of symptoms. Along with mobility difficulties, CP may produce intellectual disabilities, seizures, as well as speech, vision, and joint problems arising from the area of the brain that has been damaged. Muscle stiffness or spasticity are among the most common defining features of CP. Spasticity leads to muscle weakness mostly in arms and legs but can affect the entire body, including the face and tongue. When CP is diagnosed, children receive professional help with medications, perhaps surgery, and various therapies, namely, physical, occupational, and speech. In fact, assistive technology is critical for cerebral palsy treatment, giving patients more self-assured independence. The benefits of adaptive devices and assistance technology cannot be understated, as these items can significantly enhance the child’s ability to accomplish key tasks on their own, providing greater independence and promoting overall wellbeing.

Examples of Assistive & Adaptive Technologies

Assistive technology is divided into simple, low-tech assistance, and more complex, high-tech functional tools and systems. Some of the leading forms of low-tech assistive technology include knee, foot, ankle, hip, or spinal orthotic braces to support weak joints and muscles during physical therapy, or for life-long assistance in walking. Walkers, canes, and crutches also provide walking support. Walkers are customizable to two or four wheels, hip or chest-high support, while crutches come in underarm or forearm support. Glasses, large-print books, and magnifiers are yet another subsection of reading enhancers that may help with vision impairment. Additionally, curved eating utensils, non-slide dishes, and specially designed bottle openers can aid eating and drinking.

Standers and lifters are other devices that help children bear their weight and shift it from standing to sitting. These are more high-tech options that can be mechanical or computerized. Weight-bearing devices help therapeutically, especially to fight bone loss and increase range of motion in the legs, hips, and hamstrings. Wheelchairs, manually or electronically customized with reclining seats or miniaturized for young children, are essential to mobility, as are the more affordable power scooters, although these lack the head support that some individuals need. For driving teenagers, driving assistance adaptations to vans and other vehicles allow for wheelchair as driver’s seat conversion.

Other high-tech devices include computerized systems, augmented or adapted communicative devices that assist communication, such as computer spelling and word prediction software, picture touch screens, two-way computer screen displays and voice synthesizers, as well as assistive listening devices, like hearing aids and amplifiers or amplifying systems used with cochlear implants for improved listening to telephone, television, public broadcasts, and speakers in homes, classrooms, and theaters. Types of electronic amplifiers include loop, FM, and infrared systems, connecting sound systems to receivers in implants or portable receivers. Telecommunication relay devices, voice to text, and captioned telephones allow hearing impaired users to type to sound or speak to text for telephone calls. Alerting devices that sound or light up to signal that something is happening, like alarm clocks ringing, can also be used to assist a child with interacting and understanding the world around them.

Paying for Assistive Technology for Children

For those with cerebral palsy or others who have suffered birth injuries and need adaptive technology to help them navigate daily life, simple and complex devices allow children to live out their fullest potential. Some children need more of these assistive technologies than others, given their symptoms and the stage in their lives, but all can be incredibly costly. Fortunately, there are numerous public and private programs that provide critical resources for infants and children in need of assistive devices. Your child may be entitled to technologies that address their individual challenges, which can be accessed through local school systems, government organizations, private health insurers, non-profit organizations, and other publicly or privately funded agencies and groups.

Seeking Compensation for Adaptive Technology when Your Child has Disabilities from a Birth Injury in NJ

When your child experiences cognitive impairment or other harm as a result of improper medical care, it is vital to explore your legal options to recover compensation to provide for their immediate and lifelong needs. For injuries negligently caused by a physician, hospital or another healthcare provider, these costs may be compensable damages awarded for your child’s physical, mental, emotional, and intellectual health. To discuss your child’s case with an experienced birth injury attorney in New Jersey who can advise and assist you with advocating for your child’s best interests, call 866-708-8617 or fill out an online form for a consultation free of charge.

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