A traumatic brain injury can bring with it all sorts of challenges. A person’s balance may be off; he may have lost part of his field of vision; or his memory might be so compromised that within moments of seeing or hearing something, it’s gone. But like a magnifying glass for someone who has trouble reading the small print, there are many assistive technologies available for people with TBI.
What exactly is assistive technology?
Assistive technology is technically any item used by a person with a disability to increase independence and to make the tasks of daily living easier. Assistive technology for brain injury can be as simple and low-tech as a spiral notebook to help with organization and memory, or it can be as sophisticated as a computer-powered vocal assistant to aid with communication.
From simple to “bells and whistles”
Assistive technology helps to level the playing field for people with brain injury by providing them a way to more fully engage in life’s activities. You can use assistive technology to travel about, participate in recreational and social activities, learn, work, and communicate with others. Here are some examples of assistive technology that can help you get back to the business of enjoying life:
- Wheelchairs, scooters, and walkers help with mobility and increase independence.
- Special computer hardware and software, such as voice recognition programs and screen enlargement programs, enable people with mobility and vision problems to carry out educational or work-related tasks.
- Education and work aids such as automatic page turners, book holders, and adapted pencil grips enable adults and children to participate in work or classroom activities.
- Bowling balls with hand grips (instead of finger grips) and one-handed fishing reels are examples of how technology can be adapted for sporting activities.
- Light-weight wheelchairs have been designed for organized sports, such as basketball, tennis, and racing.
- Bigger or easier-to-use on/off switches on electronic toys make it possible for children with limited motor skills to play with certain toys and games.
- Devices to assist a person with daily living tasks, such as cooking, dressing, and grooming are available for people with special needs. For example, a medication dispenser with an alarm can be set to remind a person with memory issues to take daily medication. A person with use of only one hand can use a one-handed cutting board and a cabinet-mounted can opener to cook meals with improved independence and safety.
Where to start?
People with TBI and their caregivers can identify potential assistive technologies if they learn about the choices that are available and how they are best applied. A good place to start is often with speech-language therapists, occupational therapists, vocational therapists, and school professionals. There are also organizations that provide assistive technology information and training to consumers and families such as parent training and information centers, community technology centers, state assistive technology programs and rehabilitation centers.
Will my insurance help?
In some cases, assistive technology may be covered by health insurance. Before settling on an assistive technology, it's a good idea to contact your insurance company to determine thereimbursement rates for each item.