Assistive tools play a critical role in therapy sessions for kids. These tools help children engage and improve their communication and functional abilities so that they are better able to succeed.
Why are assistive tools used in therapy?
There are many benefits for both the child and therapist when assistive tools are used during a therapy session. Some benefits of assistive tools include:
- An increase in communication between the therapist and the child, especially when the child has difficulty with verbal communication and/or executive function skills.
- Increased ability for the child to engage in therapy activities when they have motor, sensory, and/or cognitive skill deficits.
- Increased motivation due to gamification of activities when using apps or other technology tools.
- The ability to provide and tweak technology to cater to different learning styles.
Assistive tools provide additional support and can make therapy more enjoyable for children by reducing barriers to participation. Caregivers can be trained so tools can be used at home for increased carryover of skills and use in the child’s natural environment.
What are some examples of assistive tools used for pediatric speech therapy?
Augmentative and Alternative Communication devices (AAC) can help children with difficulty expressing themselves. AAC devices can be high-tech or low-tech. Examples of low-tech AAC devices include pointing to pictures, facial expressions, gestures, and even drawing. Consider how you could give someone information in a situation where it’s too loud, too far away to hear, or where talking is inappropriate; you may have used low-tech AAC. In these situations, you may point to your watch to indicate it’s time to go, roll your eyes to show irritation or give someone a high five as an accolade.
High-tech AAC examples include speech-generating devices that use text and/or symbols. One such device is the Proloquo2go. You can read the reviews about this device here. Another app is Lamp Words For Life. Stephen Hawking, one of the most brilliant scientists of our time, used a speech generation device to communicate for most of his adult life. Because of his access to AAC, Hawking made cameos on popular shows such as The Simpsons and The Big Bang Theory in addition to conveying his most significant scientific thoughts to write books for adults and children as well as to teach at the university level.
What types of assistive tools do pediatric occupational therapists use?
Children struggle with handwriting tasks for various reasons. However, tools such as electronic pens, talk-to-text programs, typing, and interactive whiteboards can be functional alternatives to traditional paper and pencil writing. This allows children to convey thoughts without worrying about the mechanics of handwriting.A child with impaired fine motor coordination or decreased fine motor strength may benefit from different types of fine motor tools until their skills improve, or as a permanent solution. Such tools include:
- Pencil grips for a more functional writing grasp.
- Weighted utensils for increased independence with self-feeding.
- Adapted scissors for completing cutting tasks.
- Specialized keyboard and/or mouse to improve the ability to use a computer.
Therapy balls, weighted vests and blankets, and sensory bins can help children with sensory processing difficulties regulate their bodies for improved performance with self-care, academic, and social activities. It is important to note that sensory interventions should not be administered without an evaluation by a qualified occupational therapist.
Individualized picture schedules can be used for therapy, home, and school to assist with task sequencing or understanding a schedule. Timers and visual cue cards can also be used in addition to schedules for an added bonus.
Where can I find occupational and speech therapists who are knowledgeable about assistive tools?
For assistive tools to be effective, it is important that an occupational and/or speech therapist evaluate a child’s abilities in order to make recommendations for the correct tool to bridge the child’s performance gap.The Therapy Place has occupational and speech therapy services available to help your child of any ability reach their full potential for the most success in their daily life. Check out our website for more information about our qualified professionals available to meet your child’s unique needs. Our team of skilled, caring clinicians looks forward to working with you and your child.