AT and Children

AT and Children article in Word format

Assistive technology can help infants, toddlers, and their families in critical ways. Devices such as computers and augmentative communication systems can help children learn and develop social, communication, and cognitive skills. Assistive technology can let very young children explore and control their environments, developing self-assurance and self-sufficiency.  Daily living aids can enable children and families to more easily carry out routines like bathing and feeding, making these activities more enjoyable for everyone involved.

Sensory enhancers (e.g., augmentative communication devices, text magnifiers, scanners with speech synthesizers, and voice analyzers) improve environmental access for students.  In hearing, vision, and communication assistance, children may need to begin with pictures and colors rather than letters and words, depending on language development.  If they have no vision, they may need special programs to teach abstract concepts such as color or beauty.

Mobility aids for children need to match their smaller size and be adaptable as the child grows. Proper positioning is critical for children because they are still growing and could unnecessarily develop skeletal deformities, muscle imbalances, or coordination difficulties. Consideration also should be given to the strength of and the strain on muscles and bones.

Switches and remote controls may be the only means of providing a child with appropriate control over his or her environment. Examples include switches activated by pressure, eyebrows, or breath; visual doorbells; and control mechanisms with motion sensing devices.

Uses of Technology to Support Early Childhood Practice
Uses of Technology to Support Early Childhood Practice (2015) reviews and summarizes the knowledge base related to the use of technology to support the practice of early childhood practitioners who work directly with children and families. It is accompanied by three related research-to-practice briefs:

AT and Education

Children with disabilities may require assistance in learning basic skills such as cause and effect or problem solving.  Computer simulations, special toys and games and other devices can help teach these skills and broaden the child’s experience in a variety of situations. These devices also let children from infancy through school age explore and discover, practice, repeat, imitate, and engage in a variety of other learning approaches.

For more formal educational situations, children with disabilities need hearing, vision, communication, mobility or computer access technology. Technologies designed especially for learning include interactive computer programs, computer simulations and educational computer games. They use alternative approaches and formats that meet the needs of children with certain kinds of disabilities, including cognitive or perceptual disabilities.

Students with certain kinds of learning disabilities can use devices in many different ways. Some use tape recorders instead of taking notes, or use a typewriter or computer rather than handwriting, because they have difficulty reading or forming written words. Customized communication devices can also help students to improve their communication or language skills by relating words to pictures or symbols. Recorded books and oral test taking are also possible aids.

AT and Recreation

Children of all ages learn through play, developing skills they need to function competently in later years.  Adaptive toys facilitate this “incidental” learning process. Many types of outdoor playground equipment are available, including swings, slides, teeter totters, merry–go–rounds, and jungle gyms. Also available are a full line of baby walkers, tricycles, bicycles, and other wheeled devices may be battery powered, hand pedaled, or use another means of propulsion. An increasing array of switch operated, battery powered toys, and other adapted educational toys, such as puzzles, peg boards, stacking rings, etc., are also becoming available.

Computers and Young Children

Research and demonstration projects around the country have proven that computers can have a beneficial impact on the intellectual, educational, and language development of children with disabilities.  For parents and teachers, the computer provides the first window into the minds of some children, revealing how they think, what they think, and in some cases, how well they think. Unlike adults, everything is new to children and computers create no special fear. With proper explanation, computers are no more difficult for children to learn to operate than the television or VCR.

Computers are especially successful adaptive devices for children with physical disabilities who cannot access their environment. They provide a way for children with disabilities to achieve skills that were previously unattainable. Children who will never be able to hold a pencil can use computer graphics programs for drawing and word processing for writing. Children who are unable to speak can use the computer as a communication tool. For those who speak, the computer provides topics and incentive for conversation.

Funding Sources

The Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnosis and Treatment (EPSDT) Program provides comprehensive and preventive health services to Medicaid eligible children from birth to age 21 through periodic screenings to find conditions which need medical attention, to treat conditions detected in early stages, and make appropriate referrals when necessary. Children’s Rehabilitative Services (CRS), under the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, also provides evaluation, treatment, and services for children up to the age of 18 who have chronic disabilities or certain diseases. BabyNet is a full entitlement program for infants and toddlers and their families. Young children from birth to age three are eligible by diagnosis of physical or mental conditions, or significant developmental delays.

Local school districts may buy devices and services for a child three years or older, if they are included in the IEP.  If a funding request is denied, contact Protection & Advocacy at 1-800-782-0639 to help determine the best action and to serve as your advocate.  

back to top