Assistive Technology

USE OF ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGY FOR PEDIATRIC PHYSICAL THERAPISTS AT CHILDREN'S HOSPITALS

Assistive technology has revolutionized pediatric physical therapy. Children with disabilities are given the tools to improve their quality of life, enhance their independence, and support their development. The therapists at children’s hospitals and clinics play a crucial role in implementing these technologies to help their young patients reach their full potential.

WHAT IS ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGY?

Any device, system, or equipment that helps individuals with disabilities perform activities that might otherwise be difficult or impossible for them is considered assistive technology. These items can range from simple, low-tech tools to complex, high-tech systems.

Assistive technologies used in pediatric physical therapy for children with disabilities or with those who have special needs can be broadly classified into three categories: mobility aids, sensory aids, and communication aids.

Mobility Aids

Mobility aids encompass a wide range of devices and tools designed to support and enhance a child's ability to move and engage in daily activities. These devices play a vital role in facilitating independent mobility, improving balance, increasing overall functional independence, and even fostering inclusion with peers.

An additional function of mobility aids is to assist children with mobility impairments associated with transportation. These aids include wheelchairs, walkers, crutches, adaptive strollers, and ride-on devices. For example, wheelchairs—both manual and powered—provide children with the freedom to move independently or with assistance. Walkers and crutches offer support and stability for children who require assistance with balance and walking. Adaptive strollers are designed for children with significant physical disabilities who need specialized seating and positioning, allowing them to be mobile and participate in outdoor activities. Ride-on devices offer independent mobility and transportation that’s typically powered by the child via leg and/or arm motion.

Sensory Aids

Assistive technologies that benefit children with sensory processing difficulties, such as those with autism spectrum disorder or sensory integration disorder, are called sensory aids. These products are designed to regulate sensory input and create a more structured and predictable environment for the child. By modulating sensory stimuli, these aids help children better process and respond to sensory information, promoting improved attention, self-regulation, and engagement in therapy activities.

Communication Aids

Some children have difficulties expressing themselves, understanding others, and engaging in meaningful interactions. Communication aids can assist these children in this vital aspect of life. These aids are particularly valuable for children with speech and language impairments, hearing loss, or conditions such as cerebral palsy that affect their motor control and coordination.

EMPLOYING ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGIES

Pediatric physical therapists play a key role in determining which assistive technologies will benefit each child the most. They start by assessing and evaluating a child's unique needs and abilities to determine the most appropriate assistive technology to support their goals.

Once the appropriate assistive technology has been identified, pediatric physical therapists provide intervention, training, and support to help the children and their families integrate the technology into their daily routines, including at school. They also collaborate with family members, caregivers, and healthcare professionals to ensure the successful implementation of the assistive technology and provide ongoing support.

Assistive technologies such as mobility aids, sensory aids, and communication aids can make a major difference in the lives of children with special needs by improving their ability to function in the world more independently.

Mobility for Kids aids healthcare professionals and healthcare facilities with the selection and acquisition of assistive technologies for children. Donations help fund the purchase of assistive technology for these providers.

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