Assistive technology is not always what we expect it to be.
Toys, for example, can be powerful AT tools. This is something to consider as the gift-giving holidays approach!
The federal definition of AT is “any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities” (Assistive Technology Act of 2004, 3 U.S.C).
In this Sun Magazine essay, a daughter is able to spend time with her father who has Lewy body dementia by building toy car models together. The kits engage him and become a bridge for communication and care. It’s an example of AT for the caregiver (“As the weeks go by, he lets me do more and more of the work. He tells me things about cars that I never knew he knew.”)
Sometimes a toy can also clear the path for a person’s functional capabilities to shine (i.e. “increase,” “improve.”)
In Minnesota, a mom of a 6-year-old boy with ADHD saw a unique role for a karaoke machine from the state’s Assistive Technology Act Program device loan inventory. AT Act Programs provide short-term device loans of equipment–including some toys–so borrowers can fill a short-term need or try out a device before deciding to make a purchase.
This mom saw the karaoke machine and thought about how her son loves anything to do with music and dancing. Also, how he can struggle to regulate his emotions safely when he’s upset. She borrowed it for a couple of weeks and found it useful in surprising ways.
Talking or singing into the machine’s microphone helps her son express what he’s feeling and manage his emotions more safely. It also allows her to know how he feels so she can better support him.
She found, too, that during this time of distance learning, the karaoke machine helped him practice rote skills, something he’d usually resist. Now he’s willing to practice spelling or math.
What is AT at your house?
What might AT make possible at your house?
Find your State or Territory AT Act Program
Learn more about AT for recreation