Ask the Doctor Blog

Using Tablets to Assist People Living with Cerebral Palsy


Tablets are incredibly handy devices. From the sleek, portable design to their ability to download thousands of apps, tablets have nearly endless capabilities. One of the many functions of tablets is using them as therapy and assistance tools for people living with Cerebral Palsy. Although this may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word “iPad,” tablets are being used more and more to assist children with Cerebral Palsy in their daily lives.

You may be wondering, “Why tablets?” Computers have been around considerably longer than tablets, however it is the ease of use that makes tablets a valuable tool for people with Cerebral Palsy. Since Cerebral Palsy affects body movement and muscle control, it can be difficult for a person with Cerebral Palsy to navigate a computer while also controlling a mouse and a keyboard. Tablets are controlled by larger touch screens, which can make them more intuitive to use than computers. There are also adaptive tools available to make operating a tablet easier based on an individual’s needs.

Cerebral Palsy affects hearing and speech, which can make it difficult and frustrating for children with Cerebral Palsy to communicate. The touch screen and available speaking apps make tablets a useful communication assistance tool. One of the communication apps that Apple offers for iPads is Proloquo2Go, a customizable touch to speak app that lets users use their own photos to suit an individual’s needs. Another communication app is soundAMP R, which is a helpful tool for those that are hard of hearing because it allows users to amplify the sound and record things they might want to hear again later. There are numerous other apps available that can help children with Cerebral Palsy, parents, therapists, teachers and doctors.

Real life story:
“Noah Rahman has moderate Cerebral Palsy affecting his communication, cognition and upper and lower body movement. When he turned two, his language, cognitive ability and fine motor skills were diagnosed by a developmental specialist as being at least 12 months behind. Then Noah got an iPad.

Four months later, his language and cognition were on par with his age level. His fine motor skills had made significant leaps.
Today, the three-year-old spends an hour or two on his iPad each day. He switches his apps between reading and writing in English, Arabic and Spanish. In the fall, he’ll enter a classroom of five-year-olds. “The iPad unlocked his motivation and his desire because it’s fun,” says his dad Sami Rahman, co-founder of SNApps4Kids, a community of parents, therapists and educators sharing their experiences using the iPad, iPod touch, iPhone and Android to help children with special needs.”
–via Zoe Fox, Mashable

Tablets can be incredibly helpful tools for people living with Cerebral Palsy. Tablets should never be used as an alternative to your child’s therapy sessions and you shouldn’t expect to see positive results from just letting your child play with an iPad for a few hours per day. Instead, tablets should be used in addition to your child’s therapy and to assist your child in his or her everyday life while also keeping their minds active. When used in conjunction with therapy and with guidance and support, tablet technology can be an incredibly powerful tool.