Definition and Overview

Assistive learning devices and customized telephones are types of assistive technologies used to help a person with disability or learning impairment so he can communicate more effectively and function more independently.

Below are the different types of assistive technologies that are recommended by a team of medical professionals, which includes speech pathologists, and occupational and physical therapists, based on the unique needs and condition of the patient:

Alternative input devices – these are pieces of equipment that can assist patients in using computers despite their condition. Some examples are alternative keyboards designed to be used with only one hand and text-to-speech software, which converts typewritten words into sounds that can be understood by the user.

Mobility devices – These include wheelchairs, walkers, and scooters. Crutches and canes also fall into this category.

Mechanical tools – A couple of good examples for this category are picture cards and hearing aids.

Who Should Undergo and Expected Results

Assistive learning devices are recommended for:

  • Children with learning or physical disabilities – Many of these assistive devices are recommended for children who struggle with physical disabilities or learning disorders like autism. Many of these devices are designed based on the premise that learning is one of the most critical foundations for children so that they will become efficient and independent later in life. Thus, these tools place a great emphasis on developing and cultivating communication techniques and behaviors.

  • Older people with learning or physical disabilities – As the body ages, different parts of the body also experience wear and tear, which can affect a person’s ability to see, hear, and talk. Their mobility may also decrease.

  • Individuals who have experienced trauma – Trauma can lead to serious injuries, which in turn may cause either short- or long-term physical or learning disability.

  • People who are medically unable to communicate naturally – certain surgical complications or conditions may leave a patient unable to talk. In such cases, they are provided with simple assistive learning devices to help them communicate with their loved ones and healthcare providers.

  • Those who are living in assisted homes – Although these people have carers and healthcare providers who are available to help them 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, they are encouraged to become as independent as possible. Assistive devices or tools can help them achieve this goal.

Although assistive technologies cannot treat or cure any physical and mental disability, they can still be tremendously helpful by:

  • Ensuring the user can enjoy greater independence, mobility, and self-reliance
  • Providing leisure and entertainment that the user may not enjoy without these devices
  • Boosting the person’s self-confidence by giving him the ability to communicate

How Does the Procedure Work?

Patients who have a physical and mental disability are assessed if they are eligible to use assistive learning devices. With the help of their support team, which can include their doctor, psychologist, therapist, and technicians, the most appropriate device that can give the patient the most number of benefits can be chosen and in many cases, customized. Once the assistive technology is already available, the patient’s healthcare providers will provide assistance to ensure that the patient learns how to use the device properly.

Adopting an assistive technology is a continuous process. This is because a person’s condition may change over the years. For example, his speech may improve or his hearing may worsen over time. Either way, the technology that is currently being used should be adjusted and, if necessary, changed so that it continues to meet the needs of the user.

Possible Risks and Complications

Despite the customizability and ingenious design of various assistive learning devices, they can still present a huge learning curve to users simply because they remain to be out of the norm. It may take them months to master its use, and the person may meet many challenges along the way that can frustrate him and cause him to avoid using the device altogether. For this reason, his core team should be there to make the education and transition toward adopting such technologies as comfortable and as easy as possible.

As learning is a two-way process, it’s just as important that the people around the user also understand how these types of devices work. Otherwise, the device may only worsen the communication gap between the user and others such as their own families.

References:

  • Stach BA, Ramachandran V. Hearing aid amplification. In: Flint PW, Haughey BH, Lund LJ, et al, eds. Cummings Otolaryngology: Head & Neck Surgery. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Mosby; 2015:chap 162.

  • Edelstein JE. Canes, crutches, and walkers. In: Hsu JD, Michael JW, Fisk JR eds. AAOS Atlas of Orthoses and Assistive Devices. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Mosby; 2008:chap 42.  

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