Newbie

No Tech Eye Gaze AAC


Since last week people seemed very interested in AT Rule of Life #1 (Every High Tech AT Solution Needs At Least One Low or No Tech Alternative), I thought I would share a No Tech Eye Gaze AAC solution we use at the AT Household as an alternative to J’s High Tech AAC device.

 

Categories: Cerebral Palsy, Newbie, No Tech, Rules for an AT Life | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

AT for the Caregiver


Assistive technology (AT) isn’t always for the individual who happens to have a disability.  AT can also be something utilized by caregivers to make life easier as well.  This weeks DIY AT entry is one of those helpful life hacks for the caregiver.

Part of J’s life includes a G-tube.  Due to various issues, J receives a continuous drip feed through that G-tube using an enteral pump.  That means a carefully measured amount of food is pumped directly into J’s stomach at a predetermined rate over a prolonged period of time.  That also means that the carefully measured amount of food must be made every day.  This is where today’s low-tech AT project comes in.
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Categories: Caregiver Tech, DIY, Low Tech, Newbie | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

AT the Ballpark


As I wrote earlier, J started playing Challenger League Baseball this year.  AT Mom and I may have been more excited than J with the approaching first game.  The last practice before the game J received a uniform – a Blue Jays jersey and ball cap. 

The day of the game arrived!  We got dressed, packed up, and headed out for the ballpark.  We arrived for warm up with the team.  AT Mom and I had the biggest smiles on our faces watching all of the kids arrive in their uniforms complete with huge smiles on their faces, ready to “play ball!”  It was a very sunny day, perfect for a baseball game.  AT Mom whipped out the sunscreen and started protecting J’s exposed skin.  (I was too excited for the game to start, after all J and I were about to play baseball!)

After AT Mom finished applying sunscreen I moved to complete the uniform by adding J’s ball cap.  I took a step back to admire “J the baseball player.”  J’s head turned to look at a friend and J’s ball cap fell forward.  I stepped up and fixed the ball cap and took another step back.  Again, J’s head turned towards the crack of a bat from one of J’s friends taking batting practice.  Again, the ball cap fell forward.

For then next couple of minutes there was this sort of dance going on, J’s ball cap falling forward and AT Dad stepping in to readjust the ball cap.  The problem was that whenever J’s head moved the ball cap would rub against J’s headrest.  After a few minutes I realized why some of J’s teammates simply did not wear their ball caps, and we went capless ourselves.

The first couple of games involved the same dance each time.  I would try to help J wear the ball cap, constantly fixing it, then give up and go without.  J was happy to not wear the cap and focus on playing baseball.  I think it helped that J could feel more wind through J’s hair as we ran the bases without the ball cap.

Then one game I got to talking with one of the other parents about possible adaptations for the ball cap.  I thought about building a sort of halo that could suspend the ball cap above J’s head.  AT Mom thought that would just be visually distracting.  (She was right.)  Then I hit on an idea that I thought would work great.

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Side view of my ball cap to show before adaptation.

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Back view of my ball cap to show before adaptation.

The problem was that J’s headrest would rub against the back of J’s ball cap and spin the cap of J’s head. What if J’s ball cap did not have a back to rub against the headrest?

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Side view of J’s ball cap after my adaptation.

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Back view of J’s ball cap after my adaptation.

I cut out the back three panels of J’s ball cap and used barrettes to attach the front of the cap to J’s hair. This allowed J’s head to turn against the headrest without rubbing the ball cap. The first time I tried the new ball cap it stayed in place for nearly the entire game. That includes running the bases.

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J wearing the adapted ball cap.

The next couple of games did not fair as well. The cap stayed on better than before, but J’s fine hair made it difficult to get the barrettes to hold well. Thinking about the design a bit more, next season I will cut out the back three panels but this time I will leave the Velcro strap across the bottom used to adjust the size of the ball cap.  When next season comes around I’ll have to remember to write an update to how well the new design works.

Categories: DIY, Low Tech, Newbie | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

AT Meets America’s Pastime


A couple of years ago AT Mom and I were invited to bring J to watch a friend play Challenger League Baseball.  J was absolutely hooked.  From the moment we arrived and even before we were fully settled into the bleachers, J was glued to the fence watching all of these kids playing baseball.  J had already been exposed to MLB on television (that’s another story for another time), but this was the first time J got to see other kids, including kids with similar challenges, playing the game.  I think the kids who happened to be wheelchair users captured J’s imagination the most.  One of our favorite pictures of J is one that AT Mom captured of J standing in a gait trainer that is pressed up against the fence.  J’s head is beautifully upright watching the play on the other side of the fence.

Unfortunately, J was too young to play at that time.  A couple of years later though, J got to play baseball for the Blue Jays.  The first couple of games made it apparent that J’s favorite part of the game was batting.  J’s favorite position was Designated Hitter – I guess it was a good thing we were on an American League team.  Winking smile

Fielding was a difficult part of the game for J.  Being a chair user added some challenges to fielding the ball, but those could be overcome with a fielding aide (AT Dad had to dust of my old baseball skills).  However, more than that was the impact of J’s Cerebral Palsy on wearing a glove.  The nature of J’s tone made wearing a typical baseball glove inappropriate.  I took my lead from some of the other parents and help J put a baseball glove on one of the armrests of J’s wheelchair.  I knew there had to be a better way so during one of the games I started talking with some of those other parents about ways to adapt a baseball glove for our kids.

The solution that I came up with was based on an adaptation done by J’s OT I wrote about earlier (AT <3s Velcro).  The simple idea was to attach some hook Velcro to the inside of the heel of the glove.  J could then wear the left Velcro sensitive splint when fielding.  The hook Velcro sticks to the splint and J does not need to hold the glove on.

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J’s adapted glove.  You can see a bit of the white hook Velcro pad.

I happened to choose some industrial hook Velcro.  I was hoping that the “industrial” nature would include a strong adhesive that would help keep the Velcro attached to the glove.  Also, the hook side of the Velcro is made up of what appears to be a lot of tiny pyramids – so it is not as abrasive against bare skin.

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Opening up the glove for a better view of the white hook Velcro pad.

I cut a patch wide enough to cover most of the inside of the heel of the glove.  This would increase the surface area of the Velcro touching the Velcro sensitive splint.  As an added benefit it has meant I have to be less precise when helping J put on the glove during those days that J’s tone is less cooperative.

AT Dads Place - Baseball Glove 001

A better picture of the hook Velcro pad attached to the inside of the heel of the glove.

The glove I had purchased for J at the beginning of the season was a tee ball glove that had a wrist strap that was fastened by Velcro itself.  That meant I could open up the wrist strap completely when helping J put on the glove, exposing my Velcro adaptation for easy use.

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Helping J put on the glove before taking the field.

Now during inning changes instead of putting J’s fielding glove on an armrest of J’s wheelchair I help J put it on.  I start by helping J put on the left Velcro sensitive hand splint.  Then I open the wrist strap of the baseball glove and help J place J’s palm centered on the hook Velcro pad inside the baseball glove.  I then help J tuck J’s thumb inside the glove.  Finally, I close the wrist strap of the baseball glove and help J tuck fingers inside the baseball glove.  J seems to like keeping that pointer finger outside the glove like the pros do.  Smile

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J wearing the glove and ready to take the field.  Note the pointer finger outside the glove just like the pros!

We then wheel out to the field and take our position (usually around second base).  During the inning it is not uncommon for J’s fingers to come out of the glove.  That would have resulted in the glove falling off in the past; however, thanks to the Velcro adaptation the glove stays on J’s hand.

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J ready to field any grounders towards second base.

Now when we are in the field, J and I charge every ball put into play towards second base.  We cover second base and back up first base on just about every other play.  With all that running we no longer spend any time going back to pick up a dropped glove.  Fielding has become a bit more exciting for J with all the running and activity; however, J still prefers to bat.  I guess I know where J falls on the age old Designated Hitter debate.  It looks like the AT household will be an American League household.

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J taking a break between batters.

 

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

Pipe Insulation–It’s Not Just For Insulating Pipes!


I was hoping to get to my second post a bit quicker than this.  Thankfully my delay in posting was due to a great visit from Nana and Papa and nothing medical in nature.  For my second post I though I would keep to the low-tech theme.

The Background

When we (my wife, J’s team, and I) ordered J’s wheelchair we included a tray.  We wanted J to have a surface both for activities and to help J prop into an upright position.  Due to J’s big (and sometimes uncontrolled) movements padding of that tray is very important.  The tray we choose had a clear hard plastic surface with a Velcro attachable pad.

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J’s tray without the padded cover.  Note the black lip around the edge.

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J’s tray with the padded cover.

The Problem

The problem with the tray was the lip around the outside.  You can see the black lip in the above pictures around the sides and front of the tray.  This lip’s purpose was to help contain activities onto the tray and reduce what would fall off onto the floor.  A good intention; however, it is very hard and has a pretty abrupt edge.  Combined with J’s movements and it resulted in bruises on J’s forearms.  We absolutely needed a padding solution  and fast!

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A close up of the hard edge.  Notice the abrupt shape of the top.

The Solution

This is one of those solutions that is one of those AT Dad gambles that turned out to be a Grand Slam.  While my wife, J’s PT, and I discussed different padding solutions versus various extensions to the tray to make it harder for J to strike the hard border, I proposed pipe wrap insulation as an easy (and inexpensive) solution.  AT Mom was a little hesitant.  I think she was concerned about how it would look.  After all, J would have the tray on most of the time and this would be a very visible modification.

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Two different types of pipe wrap insulation.  The black (top) one is rubber, the gray (bottom) is polyethylene.

Here comes the gamble – while AT Mom was at work one day, I ran out to the local hardware store and obtained a few different 6 foot lengths of pipe wrap insulation. I measured out a piece, cut it to length, and attached it to J’s tray. Not only did it cover and soften that lip, but it provided and even higher lip to help keep activities contained on J’s tray. It looked good to me, but the Grand Slam came when AT Mom got home from work. She took one look at it and reacted … “That actually looks good!”

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Close up of me attaching the pipe wrap insulation.  The greenish plastic is the tape covering the adhesive.

The Results

This is one of those modifications where the actual results far out  performed my expectations.  In fact, I think that this performed so well that AT Mom gave me a little more latitude in attempting a few of my more “interesting” ideas since then (yes, I will be adding some of those in future posts too).

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J grabbing onto the softer, gentler edge of the tray.

Not only does J have a softer edge to protect against those forearm bruises, but it is actually a softer edge to grab onto.  The tray’s lip is now bigger and better prevents activities from being accidentally swiped onto the ground.  According to AT Mom, it does not look half bad either! 

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Close up of how the pipe wrap insulation covers the tray’s original abrupt edge.

For those readers interested in replicating this at their home, here are some details. I recommend using the self sealing type of pipe wrap. This type is split down the middle and has adhesive on the split edges. You attach it by removing the plastic tape covering the adhesive and simply press it in place.

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J’s tray with the new pipe wrap insulation and padded cover.

Using the search term “self seal pipe wrap insulation” on HomeDepot.com returns a price range of $1.64 – $7.25 per 6 foot length (the results you see that cost more than $100.00 are per carton, not per 6 foot length). The price difference depends on the pipe diameter (1/2 inch, 3/4 inch, 1 inch) and the material (polyethylene or rubber). The pictures on this post are using the 1/2 inch rubber pipe wrap. I am actually replacing the 1/2 inch polyethylene wrap. Both work very well to pad the edges. The rubber has a bit more give to it and looks cleaner (smooth black finish instead of rough gray finish). My wife’s first reaction to the new rubber wrap was “I like that one more.”

AT Dads Place - Tray Padding 009

One more final shot of the end result.

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

A Light Bulb Goes On Then Off Then On …


I thought for my first AT project post I would start with something easy, and something that many people may not consider Assistive Technology, since it is a Low Tech solution.  For this one I have to give credit to my Mother-In-Law, thanks Nana!

The Background

We are constantly looking for ways that J can help around the house.  J’s disability includes physical challenges that impact both J’s gross and fine motor control.  This often leads to a number of explorations into the world of AT around our house.  This particular exploration focused on trying to find a routine task that J could do with minimal assistance.  In a flash of brilliance my Mother-In-Law decided to look at how J could help with turning on and off the lights.  (Again, way to go Nana!)

The Problem

The problem is that our house has the traditional light switches.  J’s motor challenges made these difficult to use.  These switches are too small for J to grab, and require an amount of force to flip that would result in J’s hand slipping off the switch instead of throwing the switch.

The Solution

I cannot speak for the order of events that lead to the solution.  My wife and Mother-In-Law called me into the living room to show me something.  What they showed me was a simple solution that we have been using ever since.

Nana had repurposed the tubing that came with J’s suction machine.  After cleaning it (of course), she cut the two blue ends off the tube.  She cut one right at the end of the blue tip and the second she cut about 3/4 to 1 inch up the clear tubing (so it was a bit longer).  Here is a picture of the suction tubing still in the package with the bottle and filter.

Suction bottle, filter, elbow, and tubing package.  This is the tubing we used.  Note the blue tips on either end of the tubing.

Suction bottle, filter, elbow, and tubing package.  This is the tubing we used.  Note the blue tips on either end of the tubing.

 

Nana then took these blue tips and pushed them right over the light switches.  The were tight enough that they stayed on.  They extended the light switch to a length that J could hit and operate the lights.  J could run a hand up or down the wall until it contacted the new and improved light switch, then continue to sweep that hand to turn the light on or off.

Here is a set of pictures of one of the light switches.  This happens to be the shorter original adaptation that Nana made.  We only adapted one of these switches since the second is for decorative (versus functional) lighting.  It also gives you an idea of the before at the same time.

One of the light switches we adapted.  The blue tip is also a soft rubber that makes it gentler on “big swipes”.

One of the light switches we adapted.  The blue tip is also a soft rubber that makes it gentler on “big swipes”.

 

A second view of the same light switch.  Notice just how much extra length that is added to the switch with this adaptation.

A second view of the same light switch.  Notice just how much extra length that is added to the switch with this adaptation.

 

The Results

J now participates in our regular routines and is responsible for turning on and off our adapted lights.  Daddy holds J up next to the wall and J very intentionally and carefully reaches out a hand, slowly grabs the adaptation, and flips the switch.  Daddy then struggles with all his strength to keep a hold of J as a happy dance with huge laughter follows.

Here are a couple of action shots of J turning off the lights before heading to bed.

J using a soft hand and the wall to “spider walk” a hand to the light switch.

J using a soft hand and the wall to “spider walk” a hand to the light switch.

 

Lights out and its time to go to bed!

Lights out and its time to go to bed!

 

This is a quick and easy (assuming you have the suction tubing) adaptation that makes light switches much more accessible.  If you do not have suction tubing I would look at trying things like pen caps, etc..

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

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