Technology plays a major role in improving the lives of physically disabled young people, and this is particularly true for who attend Treloar School and College. The Treloar’s Assistive Technology (AT) team works closely with on-site therapists to identify and create bespoke solutions to maximise every student’s independence and to ensure that they can access education. The team will adapt equipment, modify everyday utensils (even ones that have been designed to be more accessible) and employ high tech solutions. They will take on any challenge that is presented to them by students or therapists; below are some recent examples of the technologies they have resourced, recommended and employed for the students.
Thomas, who is 14 has quadrilateral cerebral palsy and is one of a number of students who have no, or very limited, functional use of their hands. He found it difficult to deal with the anticipation of food coming towards him, particularly when the spoon position wasn’t exact enough for him to eat from. Thomas now uses a specialist machine that scoops up food for him and then brings it to his mouth to feed himself.
He uses a soft-touch switch fixed on the headrest behind his head to start/pause/and turn the plate. He has found using the device easy as it has the ability to pause between mouthfuls of food so even if he activates the switch, the cycle will not restart until the allocated time has passed. Thomas sums up what this technology has done for him: “I like it a lot, I normally have to tell people what I’d like off my plate but using this I feel more independent and more in control of feeding myself.”
Amy is 14 and has a progressive muscular disorder. She has been trialling a lightweight robotic arm that has 16 movements, 2 or 3 flexible fingers and rubber pads to grip. Her reaction: “It expands your world, because of my disability I don’t have a lot of strength—this is like my 3rd arm and part of my body. It’s all well and good having lots of equipment around you but simple things like picking something up or opening the door I can’t do. The robotic arm is like a non-disabled part of my body and it’s lots of fun to use and makes me feel like I’m not disabled.”
Steven, who uses a powered wheelchair, is severely dysarthric which means he is unable to coordinate the muscles required for speech and voice. When he came to Treloar's he was using a Toughbook as a communication device. This is older technology and no longer met his needs nor was it able to support his academic and social life. After various trials of traditional Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) devices, an iPad was determined to be the preferred communication method. He was assessed with a Bluetooth device that gave him access to his iPad using a single switch and an on-screen radar mouse. This enabled him to scan the iPad screen and select an icon with his switch. He quickly became very efficient at using this method which has given him full mouse control to all parts of the device and its apps.
Through having access technology tailored to their specific needs, the students at Treloar’s are able to improve their lives. The specialist skills found at Treloar’s, such as those within the AT department, means that even students with the most complex disabilities are able to build on their skills and have a greater degree of independence. Finding technological solutions is just one of the ways that a specialist school and college can help young disabled people to take more control over their lives.
Find out more at naidex.co.uk/exhibitors/treloar-school-and-college/