Beginner

AT in the Cloud


Maintaining communication page sets on an AAC device can be overwhelming.  In this video I discuss one of the tricks I use to edit J’s page sets on my laptop while making sure that J’s Tobii C12 is kept up to date with the latest edits.

For those interested in how to make use of DropBox as a way of editing AAC page sets on Tobii devices, here is the how to video:

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Categories: Beginner, Caregiver Tech, DIY, High Tech | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bench Walking AT Home


One of the things J is working on in Physical Therapy is assisted walking.  Here is a look at some AT J’s PT built to help facilitate bench walking around the house.

Categories: Beginner, Casual Hacker, Cerebral Palsy, DIY, Low Tech, Therapist Adaptation | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Summer AT On A Shoestring


A beautiful summer day at the AT household inspired me to share a little summer Assistive Tech on a shoestring budget.

Categories: Beginner, Cerebral Palsy, DIY, Low Tech, No Tech | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

AT <3’s Velcro


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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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J “holding” the crayon.  J’s fingers are grasping the crayon, but it is really held on to the glove with the Velcro.

Categories: Beginner, Low Tech, Product Review, Therapist Adaptation | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Midsummer Night’s AT


Awhile back J took an interest in science and, specifically, “star gazing”. AT Mom responded with this amazing art project.  While it may not technically be Assistive Tech, it is pretty darn cool.  Sometimes it really is just about discovering our children’s interests and making those things accessible to their imagination.  Planting a seed, or a spark, of creativity.  This is one of those projects.

Back to J’s interest in “star gazing”.  J’s school was currently working on a theme that involved “star gazing” and J was really interested in the activities at school.  Also, late at night we would allow J to watch some quiet time television as part of our bedtime routine.  The channel we watched (PBS Sprout) was running a particular commercial pretty regularly for “Dream Lites”.  Every time the song came on, J would quiet down and pay special attention to the commercial.

For those that do not know Dream Lites, they are a series of stuffed animals that have colored LEDs inside and a hard shell on top that has stars cut out of it.  When you turn them on, the LEDs turn on in a changing color pattern (yellow, green, blue – I think) and project stars onto the ceiling.  This gave AT Mom an idea.  What if we put glow-in-the-dark stars on the ceiling for J to sleep under?

I chuckled and thought it was a great idea (little did I know what would happen next).  AT Mom was not finished.  A couple of days later some packages arrived.  They included a couple of glow-in-the-dark star sets as well as a 3D glow-in-the-dark solar system pack.

Now I knew I was in a little bit of trouble. Smile

AT Mom described her idea to me.  Using a tri-fold poster board (think science fair display), we would draw out (by hand) the constellations in the Northern Hemisphere’s summer night sky.  We would put glow-in-the-dark stars in place on the constellations, and add a few extra to fill the sky.  We would then attach the planets in the correct order, and somewhat proportional distance from the center of the board as if they were orbiting the center.  (For those detail oriented and perfectionists out there, we would use one distance scale for the inner planets and another for the outer planets.)

It was a great project and J loved it.  The solar system came with diagrams of the night sky of the two hemispheres in summer and winter.  This is what gave AT Mom the idea of being so accurate.

Summer Night Sky Project 008

Getting started on the project.  The Northern Hemisphere Summer diagram came with the solar system set.  The big star is the center and represents the sun.

Of course I took the accuracy a bit further.  I asked AT Mom to be sure and label the four corners with the cardinal directions from the diagram.  That allowed me to mount the project to the ceiling with the proper compass alignment.  (Have we lost you yet?)  AT Mom did all of the drawing of the constellations and some of the glow-in-the-dark star application.  I followed her drawing attaching the stars.  J kept us in line with smiles and encouragement.

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Finished with the constellations and stars.  Now to hang the planets.

When we finished with the constellations it was time to attach the planets.  AT Mom again led the way by doing the distance scaling and putting dots where she wanted each planet to hang (labeling the dots reducing that chance that AT Dad would hang the planets in the wrong order).  I cut 9 pieces of fishing line to the approximate same length  I attached each of these lines to a planet on one end (each planet had a loop just for this purpose) and a toothpick on the other.  I poked a hole at each dot AT Mom drew for me and pushed the toothpick attached to the right planet through each hole.  I could adjust the hang length of each planet by winding the fishing line around the toothpick.  When I had the hang lengths I liked, I used blue masking tape to fix the toothpicks flat in place (just in case).

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Planets added.  AT Mom took this photo from underneath while I held it up outside.  Yes, there are nine planets.  AT Mom and I still count Pluto – don’t be a Pluto Hater!

Then came hanging the project over J’s bed.  I did that one afternoon as a surprise for J.  I used the hangers commonly used to hang bathroom mirrors.  I used a total of 11.  The first 10 were because of the tri-fold presentation board.  I used 4 on each long side (2 on each center fold side, 1 on every short fold side), and 1 on each short side.  The eleventh was to reinforce a fold that had started to tear.  It was a “simple” process of using my compass to find magnetic North, holding the project up to the ceiling with the correct cardinal orientation, having AT Mom trace the outside of the project onto the ceiling, taking down the project, and attaching the hangers to the ceiling using drywall anchors.

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Here it is attached to the ceiling above J’s bed.  I used mirror hangers.

I know that to many people this may seem like a little over the top for an art project.  However, it only took J’s first reaction to staring up from bed at the stars and solar system overhead to make the effort worth it.  When we turned out the lights so J could see it all glow…  Pure joy!

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The view from J’s pillow.

J now enjoys a view of the summer night sky every night.  I have to admit that I get a kick of J’s joy every time I see it myself.  Oh, and remember the “Dream Lites” that helped start this whole thing?  The next time Nana and Papa came to visit, they brought J a little gift – a giraffe that projects even more stars on the ceiling.  Thank you Nana and Papa!

Categories: Beginner, DIY, Low Tech | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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