Adaptive equipment and assistive technology can be truly life enhancing for many children. They are tools designed for people with disabilities or special health care needs to help them do more, experience more, and build on their abilities.
There is a wide range of assistive and adaptive technology and devices. They can be high-tech, like an iPad app. Or they can be low-tech, like a wall calendar that helps a child organize their day. They can help with movement, communication, reading, writing, speech, organization, and hearing – or just help with managing daily life.
Some assistive devices might come in the form of medically necessary equipment like a wheelchair or communication device. See our page on Medical Equipment and Supplies to find out more, including how to work with your health insurance company to get equipment.
Assistive technology and devices might be used at a rehab center, in a therapist’s office, at home, on the go, and at school. To learn how to make sure they are used in your child’s classroom, see our Section 504 page.
Examples of Assistive Technology in Action
- Using a long-handled grasping tool so a child with limited movement can help put their own socks on or pick up something from the floor.
- Replacing cabinet knobs with a parachute cord so that drawers and cabinets are easier to open.
- Adding color-coding to a wall calendar to help a child know their schedule and organize their day.
- Using speech recognition software so that a child who has trouble writing or typing can capture their thoughts as text.
- Using a tablet that reads aloud so that a child having trouble reading can listen to words as they look at them.
- Using the Model Me Going Places app to help explain daily life to a child who gets anxious in new situations.
- Using Facebook or Twitter as tools for a child with cerebral palsy to organize her friends to support her through her day at college.
- Using a special wrist mount for a fork or spoon so that a child who has trouble grasping them can more easily feed themselves.
iPads and Tablets
Smartphones and tablet computers like the iPad, Kindle Fire, and Samsung Galaxy have opened up a whole new world for many people with disabilities or special health care needs. There are now more than 300,000 apps for the iPad alone. They cover education, life skills, learning sign language, changing sound to writing, changing writing to sound, and much more.
A few apps that parents love:
- Dragon Dictation is a speech recognition program that turns an iPad or smartphone into a speech recording device.
- Proloquo2go is a symbol-supported communication app that gives voice to a child who can’t speak.
- SocialSkillBuilderLite offers videos of real-life scenarios and asks the user to answer questions and make judgments.
- Cut the Rope is a game that helps children build learning skills and even control movements by tilting the iPad.
- iTouchiLearnLifeSkills offers visual schedules, rewards charts, social skills games, and training to reduce anxiety and build confidence while learning.
Some organizations and programs that might help families buy tablets are:
Finding the Right Assistive Technology
With the millions of devices and apps that could be considered assistive technology, you might need help finding the right ones for your child. Here are some people who can help you. See our Health Care Specialties, Therapies, and Professions page if you want to learn more about what these people do.
- Occupational therapist.
- Physical therapist.
- Speech therapist.
- Your child’s teachers.
- A behavioral therapist.
- An assistive technology professional (ATP). ATPs are teachers, engineers, or therapists who focus on helping match people with the right assistive devices. They often work in schools, therapist offices, or rehab facilities. RESNA can help you find a local ATP.
More Resources for Finding Assistive Technology
Here are some online sources for finding great assistive technology. These sites go beyond apps to match children to the right assistive devices or technology.
- Texas Technology Access Project is a program through the University of Texas at Austin. They loan out devices and offer low-interest loans to purchase assistive technology.
- The Center on Technology and Disability helps connect families to the right assistive technology.
- AbleData connects families to suppliers of medical equipment, assistive technology, and assistive devices. Their database has facts about more than 40,000 assistive devices.