Today I want to share a particular piece of Assistive Technology that is the foundation of a number of adaptations in our house. First, let me give you a little background on J’s disability. J happens to have athetoid Cerebral Palsy. J’s particular picture means that all limbs are affected, muscle tone is variable, and often there are extra or involuntary movements. One half of J’s body tends to be higher tone, and the other side tends to be more variable.
The different tone pictures make grabbing and holding things particularly challenging. The higher tone half of J’s body has an easier time grabbing and holding something. However, when the muscles in the hand contract to grasp an object all of the muscles in the arm contract as well. This results in J holding the object close to J’s chest. Also, that side of the body has a harder time letting go. J often needs help releasing objects on that side. The more variable tone half of J’s body has an easier time releasing objects; however, that side has a much harder time maintaining a grasp on something. When J tries to gab something with this side it often times results in accidentally dropping or “throwing” the object.
A couple of years ago J’s Occupational Therapist focused on developing a strategy to provide J with a functional grasp. More to the point, J’s OT wanted to help J participate in activities like coloring that require maintaining a grasp for a period of time. That brings me to the star of today’s post: J’s Velcro sensitive gloves.
AT Dad’s hand next to J’s left glove.
J’s OT worked with the folks at Benik who make neoprene braces of different types. The OT decided on a custom splint for both hands (I am only showing the left one in pictures here). Most of J’s fingers are exposed so J can grasp with those fingers. Each glove partially covers J’s pointer finger and thumb to help encourage a pincher grasp, and/or pointing when appropriate.
J modeling the left Benik glove.
The outside of the glove is a Velcro sensitive material. This means that J can now grasp anything we can attach hook Velcro (the rough side): crayons, drum sticks, markers, paint brushes, and baseball gloves are just a few of the items we have adapted so far.
Another angle of J’s left hand in the glove.
The gloves do have a metal stay on the underside that helps keep J’s wrist at a functional angle. The only down side is that they are made of neoprene and can get a little hot. After wearing the glove for five minutes, J’s hand can get very hot and sweaty.
The bottom of a Velcro adapted crayon.
I can’t say how J feels about the gloves because we don’t focus on the gloves. Whenever I put the gloves on J is more interested in the actual activity. I guess that makes the gloves a very successful piece of AT, the kind that fades into background and does not become the activity itself.
J “holding” the crayon. J’s fingers are grasping the crayon, but it is really held on to the glove with the Velcro.