Assistive Technology and Achieving Dreams
● By Brian O
By: Valorie J. Ahrendt, PAAT Program Director, South Dakota Advocacy Services
The definition of assistive technology is quite technical and is, to be honest, very boring. But when thinking about using assistive technology (AT) with children with disabilities, an easier and more exciting definition is any item that supports a child to be able to learn, play, communicate, and do things that other children do, and do these things as independently as possible. When a child has difficulties, AT should definitely be considered as an option. AT can be “low-tech,” such as a laminated picture choice board, or “high-tech,” such as speech recognition software. Whether low- or high-tech, the main goal is for the item to provide a child an opportunity that may not be otherwise possible. AT costs can range from a few dollars to thousands of dollars, depending on the device needed. However, there are a variety of free applications (apps) available for mobile devices, such as iPads, iPhones, or similar operating systems. Numerous devices, software, and apps are available to fit an array of needs. Using AT is easier than ever. Most devices and applications are already programmed and can be easily set up to fit individual needs.
Examples of how assistive technology can be used with a child with a disability:
- A child with difficulties verbalizing wants and needs could point to picture symbols or use a mobile device that has voice output, such as an iPad with a communication app.
- A child with a visual impairment could use computer software that will read a story aloud.
- A child who has limited mobility could use a stair lift in the home to get from one floor to another.
- A child who has limited hand and arm strength could use an electronic stapler.
If parents are unsure of how assistive technology could benefit their child or which device(s) would be appropriate, the first step is to request an evaluation for assistive technology through the local school district, hospital, or assistive technology specialists. The assessment should provide recommendations on selecting, obtaining, and paying for a device.
All parents have dreams for their child’s future. Sometimes those dreams may seem lost when their child is diagnosed with a disability. It doesn’t have to be that way. With assistive technology, dreams can be realized. So start dreaming!