Posts Tagged With: adaptation

Halloween AT Our House

It has been a bit of time since my last post.  I am hoping this post will make up for the recent silence.  Our family has been focused a bit on some family issues, but mostly I have been pouring my spare time into Halloween related tasks.  Halloween has always been an opportunity to let our creativity loose around our house.  I have to admit that, prior to J joining our family, I had developed a bit of a talent with prosthetic and makeup special effects.  Unfortunately, most of those skills were used to create effects not exactly kid friendly, so I have had to redirect my costume skills for awhile.  I have instead turned to pumpkin carving and costume fabrication as my new Halloween creative outlet.

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Categories: Cerebral Palsy, Just For Fun | 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

Inspiration–Automatic Dog Ball Launcher

As you may have read in a recent post, I am exploring ideas to help J participate more fully in Challenger Baseball games by modifying a switch adapted pitching machine to help J throw the ball while fielding.  That project of mine received some attention from another parent who was looking for a way to help their child play fetch with their service dog.  Their child happens to have Cerebral Palsy, happens to use a wheelchair, and happens to need a little help throwing the ball.  A very similar situation to my desire to help J participate in the fielding half of the inning during baseball games. Continue reading

Categories: Casual Hacker, Cerebral Palsy, DIY, Inspiration, Medium Tech | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Let’s Play cATch

This is the third post in a series describing assistive tech and adaptations related to J’s first season of Challenger League Baseball.  First, I adapted a baseball glove for J to wear in the field.  Then I adapted a ball cap for J to wear with J’s headrest.  Today I want to share my first attempt at helping J further participate in the field.

As you may remember, J’s favorite part of baseball is batting.  In fact, J’s favorite position is Designated Hitter (it’s a good thing we got on the Blue Jays, an American League team Smile).  I believe part of the reason that J is not too fond of fielding has to do with what fielding entails from J’s point of view. 

When we head out to the field, I help J put on her adapted a baseball glove and then wheel out our spot at second base with J’s friends.  We get ready for the other team to bat.  Any time a ball is hit, we either charge the ball, backup first base, or cover second base depending on the situation.  For J, the running can be fun but if the play involves the ball coming to us it really means that dad catches and then helps J throw the ball.  Not a lot of independence there.

I started to think of ways to increase J’s direct participation in the field.  My first thoughts were around helping J throw the ball.  I imagined a scenario where we would charge a ground ball.  I would field the ball, load it into something, J would activate that something, and the ball would be thrown/shot/flung/whatever across the field to a teammate.  Now that might increase J’s interest in fielding.

Again going with my first thought, I started to imagine a switch adapted pitching machine.  After all, pitching machines already exist and are designed to throw a baseball.  I thought someone must have already switch adapted one.  Then I remembered an internet video I saw somewhere.  It was taken by a dad, and showed his two sons.  One was pitching batting practice to his brother.  The brother pitching happened to have Cerebral Palsy and was using, you guessed it, a switch adapted pitching machine.  I knew I was on the right track.

I did a quick Bing search for “switch adapted pitching machine”.  Among the hits were a patent for exactly what I was looking, and a “Wireless Pitching Machine” from Enabling Devices.

Wireless Pitching Machine from Enabling Devices

It looked promising, so I ran the idea past AT Mom, got approval( Winking smile ), and made the purchase.  I then waited and watched the front porch for what seemed like 5 – 7 business days.  Smile  When it arrived, I tore into the box, did some finishing assembly (Enabling Devices does most of the assembly for you), and scoured the house for the needed batteries.

Playing Catch With Daddy 009

Enabling Device’s Wireless Pitching Machine with J’s switch connected.

I was glad to see that the pitching machine came with both the wireless controller (which has a switch port) and a direct switch port to the machine itself.  I like plugging J’s switch directly into the what it is going to control.  I feel it makes it more obvious to J: “press this switch and that thing it is connected to will do something.”

I turned on the pitching machine, loaded the three foam balls that came with it, and pressed the pitch button.  I could hear the flywheel spin into action.  WWWWWWHHHHHRRRRRRRR!!!!!!! Then out came the first ball – thup!  I caught it and started to see J using this on the ball field when all of a sudden – thup!  A second ball flew at me.  Followed by – thup!  The third ball flew through the air towards me.  Well, that was my first hiccup. 

It turns out that the Fisher-Price pitching machine that Enabling Devices adapted was intended to be used as a batting practice trainer.  Of course that makes sense.  Kid presses the button, grabs the bat, and gets three pitches to hit – thup, thup, thup!  Still it was not what I was hoping for as an AT solution for helping J throw the ball while fielding.

I thought, “no big deal, just load one ball and after it throws that one it will just spin and not throw anything else.”  But like I said, that was just the first hiccup.

Playing Catch With Daddy 030

J about to throw a few balls AT Dad’s way.

The next thing I did was grab one of J’s Challenger League baseballs.  They may be a touch smaller than a traditional baseball (or about the same size), but they are much softer (in case anyone gets hit by one).  I loaded it into the machine, hit the button, and ……… nothing.  The weight of the baseball was too much for the loader mechanism and the ball was jamming the flywheel.  I pushed it through with my bare hands.  Hmmmm….

Then I got the idea to start the flywheel before loading the baseball.  I pressed the button, the flywheel whirred up to speed, I dropped the ball into the loading tube, and ……… flup.  The ball sputtered out onto the floor after a two foot flight with an apex of about 6 inches above the ground.  Not exactly throwing anyone out from second with that.  Hmmmm….

Then I got the idea to use a tennis ball.  Challenger Baseball is a wonderfully accommodating environment.  They use whatever type of ball a batter needs to be able to make contact.  Bright balls that are easier to see.  Softballs that are easier to hit.  Racquetballs that fly off the bat a bit further.  Why not change the ball in the field to accommodate a player’s throwing ability?

I acquired a pack of tennis balls and loaded one into the machine and knew we had a problem.  The smaller size of the tennis ball and the additional weight (when compared to the foam balls that came with the machine) meant the tennis ball fell right past the loader mechanism into the bottom of the machine.  I turned the thing upside down and extracted the tennis ball.  Hmmmm….

What about starting the flywheel first again?  I pressed the button, the flywheel whirred up to speed, I dropped the tennis ball into the loading tube, and ……… flup. The tennis ball sputtered out onto the floor after a three foot flight with an apex of about 8 inches above the ground.  Better but still not throwing anyone out at first.  Hmmmm….

What about the foam balls that came with the machine?  I loaded up the three balls to see how far they flew, hit the button, heard the flywheel whirr up to speed, then THUP! then THUP! then THUP!  All three flew between 9 and 9-1/2 feet with an apex of about 24 – 28 inches.  All of those measurements were on the flattest trajectory setting (there are three trajectory angles) and with the machine sitting on the floor.  Increasing the trajectory angle shortened the distance and increased the apex of the ball flight, as expected.

Well it looks like this idea was a bust for helping J participate further in the fielding aspect of baseball.  However, it has become a very fun activity to play catch with daddy.  I bring the machine out on the back deck and place it on our table or we go in the front yard and I place it on a deck chair.  I load all three foam balls and let J decide when to press the switch.  I then go crazy trying to catch all three balls.  There are times I miss one or two and have to go chase it across the deck/yard.  There are other times I attempt crazy diving catches because I was “caught out of position”.  J also likes to catch me when my guard is down – activating the switch after I turn my back or go for a drink of water. Smile

AT Dads Place Action Shot

Hey dad, catch!

I haven’t given up yet though.  The next step is a bit more advanced.  I am just waiting for the right time try some voltage modifications on the machine.  I am hoping that increasing the voltage provided to the motor will increase the flywheel speed which will result in further throwing distances.  Just don’t tell AT Mom before I can get a chance to try.  Winking smile


Categories: Medium Tech, Product Review | 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.

AT Dads Place - Ball Cap 001

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.

Challenger Baseball 002

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.

AT Dads Place - Baseball Glove 003

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.

Challenger Baseball Jamboree 025

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

Challenger Baseball Jamboree 026

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.

Challenger Baseball 024

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.

Challenger Baseball 005

J taking a break between batters.


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

To Boldly Go Where No AT Has Gone Before!

Awhile back J took an interest in science and, specifically, “star gazing”.  AT Mom responded with an amazing art project that resulted in glow in the dark stars (arranged in real constellations) and 3-D glow in the dark planets hanging above J’s bed.  (It really is a cool project.)  AT Dad, on the other hand, responded by rewiring the launch controller for a model rocket to be switch activated.


NOTE:  Since the launch controller includes safety mechanisms to prevent unintended launches and rewiring the controller needs to be done in a way to not bypass these safety mechanisms, I will not be describing how to rewire the controller.  Consider this post as inspiration for what can be switch adapted.  If you have the technical knowledge of circuitry the rewiring is not difficult; however, it is easy to get wrong resulting in unintended launches.  (Which you will find out happened to me this initial attempt.)

This is an AT project that was stretched over a number of weeks.  Most of that time was just waiting for the time to build the model rocket together and then waiting for a good launch opportunity.  (Our first two planned launches were cancelled due to rain.)

The project started with a trip to the local hobby store.  J and I went up and down the aisles looking for a science related project for home.  I would take something off the shelf (take a quick look to make sure I had an idea of how J would participate) and then ask J if it was something J wanted to try.  We tried various science kits (solar car, potato clock, etc.), electric trains (which I was hoping for since I had some cool ideas for connecting a train set to J’s eye gaze system), and a few others.  Finally, I offered a model rocket and J’s face lit up.  We had our science project!

Before purchasing the kit I talked with the guy at the hobby store.  He gave me some great ideas about launch locations and informed me about local model rocket clubs / associations.  I asked about switch adapting the launch controller.  I got the response I expected, a confused look followed by something like “that sounds cool.”  Since the launcher worked by pressing a button I was highly confident I could put a switch connector in parallel to the button, so we bought the kit and headed home.

A few weeks passed, ever so often I would take out the model rocket kit and imagine J pressing a switch to launch the rocket.  I got some time to focus on the launch controller and began to take it apart.  I actually had to get out the Dremel and cut away some of the plastic to get at the circuitry.  It took a little finesse but I got the launcher working the way I thought it should (I was not going to connect it to an engine until launch day).

Later that week J and I found some time to actually construct the Taser model rocket.  J helped me follow the directions and showed me with eye pointing where the different parts went together.  When the rocket and launch pad were fully constructed (and all glue was dried), J and I set it up on the floor and simulated a few launches (AT Dad lifting the rocket up the launch post).

A few more weeks passed, every so often J and I would excitedly simulate a couple of launches in the house.  We planned on a Friday afternoon launch, but were foiled by a summer rain.  Not big rain, but enough to make me pull the launch for that day.  I told J we were official rocket scientists now because we had a launch scrubbed by weather.  Smile

We rescheduled the launch for the following Friday afternoon.  But a week later we were foiled by another light rain.  So another couple of weeks needed to pass before our next launch window.

Then came a beautiful Thursday afternoon (I wasn’t going to tempt another Friday afternoon Smile).  J, J’s Papa, and I headed out to a local sports field complex for the launch.  I set up the launch pad, inserted the engine into the rocket, slid it onto the launch pad, connected the launch controller to the rocket, connected J’s switch to the launch controller, inserted and depressed the safety key (arming the launch controller), told J to press the switch when ready, J pressed the switch, and ….


I removed the safety key and disconnected J’s switch from the launch controller.  Checking everything I found one of the alligator clips had disconnected from the rocket engine.  I reconnected the alligator clip, reconnected J’s switch, inserted and depressed the safety key (arming the launch controller), told J to press the switch when ready, J pressed the switch, and ….


I removed the safety key and disconnected J’s switch from the launch controller. Checking everything I found that the primer was broken so it could not start the engine.  I inserted a new primer into the engine, reconnected the alligator clip, reconnected J’s switch, inserted and depressed the safety key (arming the launch controller), FFFFFFFFFFFFFISSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSHHHHHHHH!

The rocket launched when I pressed the safety key.  This should have only armed the launch controller.  We watched the rocket fly a couple hundred feet up before deploying its parachute and floating back to the ground.  I turned and asked J if that was neat and did J see the rocket.  Then I turned my attention to the launch controller.  I deduced that in my rewiring of the controller I unintentionally created a short that fully closed the circuit when depressing the safety key.

We had one more primer and two more engines, so we could do one more launch.  I retrieved the rocket, repacked the parachute, inserted the engine into the rocket, slid it onto the launch pad, connected the launch controller to the rocket, connected J’s switch to the launch controller, inserted the safety key (but did not depress it yet), told J to press the switch when ready, J pressed the switch (and I depressed the safety key at the same time), and ….


A second successful launch!  I asked J how J liked the rocket.  J smiled.  I learned a couple of things that I will change for next time (and there will be a next time).  First, I need to get another launch controller and do a better job of rewiring it.  If I cannot do a better job of rewiring an existing controller, I will have to construct my own from scratch.  Second, prior to launch I will tilt J’s chair back to full tilt – making it easier for J to watch the rocket fly above us.  Third, for the class of engine I used I now know I can get away with a launch area of two soccer fields wide (given a relatively calm wind).

When I do have a follow up launch, I will make sure to share the details of that experience and provide select details from my (hopefully) successful adaptation of a rocket launch controller.

Categories: 1337, DIY, Medium Tech | 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.

AT Dads Place - Tray Padding 004

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).

AT Dads Place - Tray Padding 006

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! 

AT Dads Place - Tray Padding 007

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.

AT Dads Place - Tray Padding 008

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

Using the search term “self seal pipe wrap insulation” on 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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