CEREBRAL PALSY IN THE CLASSROOM
Alternative Control - Switches
What is Cerebral Palsy?
Cerebral Palsy is a group neurological disorder affecting posture, coordination and body movement. It can be caused by in-utero brain injury, severe trauma (such as near drowning or car accident) or genetic factors. There is a large variance in the effects of Cerebral Palsy, usually correlated to the degree or location of brain injury. Since it is a group of conditions, signs and symptoms are as unique as the individual and may or may not include cognitive impairments.
Symptoms of Cerebral Palsy
The symptoms of Cerebral Palsy may be due to a combination of conditions. These may affect areas of speech, muscle coordination or joint and muscle pain and/or weakness. The student may display developmental delays, hearing impairments and/or learning disabilities. Students with Cerebral Palsy may also be at risk for seizures.
The needs of a student with Cerebral Palsy.
A student with Cerebral Palsy may have difficulty with speech skills, gross and fine motor skills, mobility, personal care, self-advocacy, self-esteem and transitioning skills. Assistive devices such as wheelchairs and walkers may require accommodations in the floor plan of the classroom. The student will require extra time to transition from one activity to another or one room to another; provide additional room between desks and allow student to transition from room to room when the hallways are less congested. When planning field trips insure that there is accessible transportation and access to the site/building, such as ramps, elevators and appropriate pathways for the student’s wheelchair or walker, as well as accessible washrooms.
Assistive technology is any hardware or software that enables a person to perform an activity or task that may have been difficult, limited or impossible without the support. Many people use simple assistive technology in our everyday lives such as voice dialing on our cell phone or navigational directions from our GPS. Students with Cerebral Palsy may need multiple assistive technologies, from the manner in which they control a computer (Alternative Control) to a text-to-speech app assists with reading (Alternative Display) to word prediction software (Augmentative Processing) to ease communication or writing challenges.
Alternative Control - Switches
Switches allow for easier use of a computer than a standard keyboard or joystick for a person with Cerebral Palsy. A switch can be made up of single or multiple buttons, a sensory plate or motion sensor. Switches can also activate toys and games. A switch can be used to access a communication device or as a simple communication tool.
How will the switch be activated? Will it be activated by a limb, head, by blinking or by motion sensor?
Where will the switch be placed? Will the switch be mounted to a wheelchair or lap tray?
How will the switch be powered? (Rechargeable battery, plugged in)
Is the switch compatible with the computer? How will the switch interface with the computer?
What are the set-up requirements? What additional support is need? What technical support is available?
SNOW Education, Access and You!
OTF Teachers’ Gateway to Special Education
How to Help Students with Cerebral Palsy by Karen Plumley 2009