Assistive Communication Devices and Applications for Children With Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral palsy can result in some or many of a wide array of impairments or developmental delays, some minor, others major. For many children with CP, the ability to communicate effectively can be a real challenge. This may be the result of cognitive impairments, where they struggle with vocabulary and idea processing, or it may be more about the motor skills that govern the mouth, lips and tongue. CP related hearing impairments can also have a profound effect on a child’s ability to communicate. Learning complex language and speech skills is uniquely human. So is the ability to invent and utilize adaptive devices to aid those who struggle with this process.

Children develop and use language at roughly their own pace, but a child who fails to meet certain developmental milestones for communication should be tested for speech and hearing issues. Babies should react to sound from birth and even look towards the source of a sound by 6 months. If a child isn’t hearing sound well enough to react to it, they will have a difficult time learning to speak. Hearing screenings are available to infants of any age.

In our highly technical world, many new techniques and devices have been developed aimed at assisting young people with hearing and speech impairments in their efforts to communicate. AAC (Augmented and Alternative Communication) strategies and devices exist in many formats from high-tech to low-tech. With the proliferation of highly sophisticated assistive devices comes the fear that children will lose their motivation to attempt speech.

Before choosing which specific method of intervention or technology will be of greatest benefit to your child with cerebral palsy, seek the nearest rehabilitation or teaching hospital that offers evaluation and assistance in choosing AAC systems. Many of them offer assistive technology clinics where teams of AAC specialists along with speech pathologists, occupational and physical therapists can work directly with AAC technology vendors to design a service plan customized for your child. Having all these professionals under one roof streamlines the process by facilitating effective communications between professionals you might otherwise have to visit individually in multiple cities. The result is an AAC system customized specifically to your child’s abilities and needs and the training that both you and your child will need.

Science has made mind-boggling advances over the past decade and there’s no end in sight. Laboratories have developed brain/computer interface systems that provide communication and control capabilities to individuals with severe motor disabilities.

VOCAs (voice output communication aids), such as those used by famous physicist Dr. Stephen Hawking, allow individuals with severe speech impairments to communicate verbally by using voice synthesizers filtered through computers, including laptops and hand-held devices.

It’s an undeniable fact that people with severe speech and motor impairments are having their lives changed for the better as a result of these amazing advancements in the field of assistive technology and augmentative communications. Some of the more impressive AAC devices and assistiveware applications on the market today include: Proloque, Proloque2Go, KeyStrokes, TouchChat, TouchStrokes, SwitchXS, LayoutKitchen, Minspeak, VisioVoice, GhostReader, Digit-Eyes, Pictello. Go to each products website to learn more about what systems the work on and other details.

Parenting a Child With a Disability and Honest Communication – Do You Ever Get Sad?

We were ready for a weekend away. A team of moms had gone out of town to do a presentation at a conference. For a few of the ladies, it was the first time away from home and needless to say, they were a bit apprehensive about leaving their family.

For one mom in particular, there was a concern for her son who had Autism and a seizure disorder. He had not had a seizure in over a year so she was confident that he wouldn’t have one while she was away. At the same time, she was anxious of the chance that he would have one while she was away. She carried most of the responsibility for matters related to her son’s health and she didn’t want her husband to feel stressed if a seizure did occur.

On the last day of the conference she received a call from home. The worry in her voice told us that something was wrong. Her husband called to let her know that indeed, their son had a grand mal seizure. With patient expertise, she guided him on what to do until she returned home the next day.

We could sense her grief and she expressed her feelings of guilt and remorse for not being home when it happened.

A couple of days after our return home I called the family to see how their son was doing. Mom was out with one of her other children so I spoke to dad. He said that his son was slowly feeling better however he was very tired and lethargic.

Then he said, “Can I ask you a question?”.

“Of course”, I responded.

“Do you ever get sad?”, he asked.

“Sad?”, I repeated.

“Yes, do you ever get down or depressed?”, he inquired.

“Well, I feel helpless when my son is ill and I do get sad sometimes, yes.”

“Okay”, he replied, “Because last night I didn’t feel like eating dinner. Everyone was asking me what was wrong but I figured that they should know what was wrong. My eight-year-old son has Autism and he had to have a lot of medication because of a seizure. Now he can’t walk and for a few days, I have to carry him around.”

“To me, that’s very sad”, he explained. “I got up from the table and went to rest in my room and now everyone is upset with me.”

“Did you tell them why you were sad?” I asked.

“No”, he replied. “My wife has enough to worry about and I didn’t want to upset her any further.”

This was a defining moment in our conversation.

“Can I offer you my point of view, a wife’s perspective?” I asked.

“Sure”, he said.

“I know that you want to protect your wife’s feelings by not telling her how you feel because you don’t want to create additional stress for her. “

“That’s right”, he affirmed.

“When we don’t communicate our feelings and we emotionally withdraw, we can actually cause more stress and anxiety for our loved ones. It creates tension and misunderstanding. You may leave them wondering if it was something they said or did that is causing your grief and unhappiness.”

“Oh”, he replied. “I never thought of that.”

“We may feel vulnerable and exposed when we have candid conversations, however, it is important to be open and honest so that we can understand each other’s perspective. That is how we learn and flourish in our relationships.”, I offered.

“Otherwise strain and hostility may grow, putting the relationship at risk.”

“That makes sense”, he said. “Thanks.”

Whether we are parents or we are in a supporting role, it is crucial that we communicate openly and honestly. Otherwise tensions mount, misunderstanding occur and unnecessary conflict may arise.

By sharing perspectives, we can strengthen our connection and find a balance that works for everyone, especially for the person you are teaching, caring for or supporting.

Assistive Communication Devices and Applications for Children With Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral palsy can result in some or many of a wide array of impairments or developmental delays, some minor, others major. For many children with CP, the ability to communicate effectively can be a real challenge. This may be the result of cognitive impairments, where they struggle with vocabulary and idea processing, or it may be more about the motor skills that govern the mouth, lips and tongue. CP related hearing impairments can also have a profound effect on a child’s ability to communicate. Learning complex language and speech skills is uniquely human. So is the ability to invent and utilize adaptive devices to aid those who struggle with this process.

Children develop and use language at roughly their own pace, but a child who fails to meet certain developmental milestones for communication should be tested for speech and hearing issues. Babies should react to sound from birth and even look towards the source of a sound by 6 months. If a child isn’t hearing sound well enough to react to it, they will have a difficult time learning to speak. Hearing screenings are available to infants of any age.

In our highly technical world, many new techniques and devices have been developed aimed at assisting young people with hearing and speech impairments in their efforts to communicate. AAC (Augmented and Alternative Communication) strategies and devices exist in many formats from high-tech to low-tech. With the proliferation of highly sophisticated assistive devices comes the fear that children will lose their motivation to attempt speech.

Before choosing which specific method of intervention or technology will be of greatest benefit to your child with cerebral palsy, seek the nearest rehabilitation or teaching hospital that offers evaluation and assistance in choosing AAC systems. Many of them offer assistive technology clinics where teams of AAC specialists along with speech pathologists, occupational and physical therapists can work directly with AAC technology vendors to design a service plan customized for your child. Having all these professionals under one roof streamlines the process by facilitating effective communications between professionals you might otherwise have to visit individually in multiple cities. The result is an AAC system customized specifically to your child’s abilities and needs and the training that both you and your child will need.

Science has made mind-boggling advances over the past decade and there’s no end in sight. Laboratories have developed brain/computer interface systems that provide communication and control capabilities to individuals with severe motor disabilities.

VOCAs (voice output communication aids), such as those used by famous physicist Dr. Stephen Hawking, allow individuals with severe speech impairments to communicate verbally by using voice synthesizers filtered through computers, including laptops and hand-held devices.

It’s an undeniable fact that people with severe speech and motor impairments are having their lives changed for the better as a result of these amazing advancements in the field of assistive technology and augmentative communications. Some of the more impressive AAC devices and assistiveware applications on the market today include: Proloque, Proloque2Go, KeyStrokes, TouchChat, TouchStrokes, SwitchXS, LayoutKitchen, Minspeak, VisioVoice, GhostReader, Digit-Eyes, Pictello. Go to each products website to learn more about what systems the work on and other details.