Achieving goals with assistive technology

The assistive technology team at our Specialist College actively develop innovative resources to support students with disabilities to become more independent through technology. For Elspeth this has included increasing her ability to use switches to operate her wheelchair, PC and other electrical equipment....and scoring goals!!

Individual assistive technology assessment

Each student learning at our Specialist College in Harrogate is individually assessed to find out the most appropriate method for them to access technology and to identify which equipment will best meet their specific – and often complex – needs. We support them to develop the skills they need to use the equipment during their learning sessions and how to transfer these skills in preparation for life after College.

Switches provide an alternative way to interact with and control a PC and other electrical equipment, including wheelchairs and communication aids.

A multi-disciplinary team of physiotherapists, assistive technologists, teachers and enablers have worked with student Elspeth to support her to use a variety of switches in a range of positions to increase her independence.

Switches are opening up new opportunities and experiences for Elspeth.

A disabled female in a wheelchair fitted with a switch

Developing switch skills

Elspeth can choose how to operate the switch (options include hand and tongue) and where she wants the switch placed to make it most comfortable for her to use. To encourage Elspeth and keep her motivated to keep working on her switch skills she has weekly therapy sessions which embed operating the switch into an activity.  These initially worked on consolidating cause and effect switch skills (push the switch and something happens) before progressing to timing actions with a single active switch.

In PE, Physiotherapist Lee Dart set up a football goal and ball for Elspeth to “kick” by pressing her switch to move her wheelchair.  This allowed Elspeth to experience scoring a goal and has allowed her to get better at using the switch for accessing other technology to advance her learning.

Lee said: “Elspeth has been working on using a single switch to drive her wheelchair forwards.  By making the activity fun and with literally a goal to aim for we are developing confidence in using and operating the equipment.  This can then be transferred to other areas of learning at College.”

Set up for a wheelchair user to score into a football goal in a specialist physiotherapy session

Elspeth has made great progress and can use her switches to drive her wheelchair, start and stop equipment such as a fan, and select music on a PC. This allows her to express choice and have control over her environment. All of which means Elspeth can take steps to be more independent.”

Naomi Parish, Henshaws PSD Programme Leader

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