As a teacher of special needs I have worked with pupils with cerebral palsy (CP) for whom handwriting is difficult or slow because of the spasm movements associated with the condition. I have found that alternative peripheral devices can help enormously.

Traxsys Joystick II
Traxsys Joystick II

Through the use of switches or a joystick a pupil can overcome their problem with writing. Switch access is a slow process but a pupil often has the resilience and persistence to overcome the slowness issue.

A joystick provides a simple and quick option and with a keyguard ( that is a perspex grid with finger holes through which a user can press keys or buttons) can give a CP pupil access to a computer or laptop.

smartcat trackpad
Smartcat trackpad

Some CP pupils like to use a trackpad and find that gives them speed. A Smartcat external trackpad  gives the user more control and leaves the keyboard free for access to letters.

Many pupils will need a larger keyboard such as a BIGkeys keyboard which have biggerr keytops making it easier to hit a letter. Conversely, some CP conditions work better on smaller keyboards ( also with keyguards) which make eye-tracking over a smaller area easier.

BIGKeys
BIGKeys

Eye-gaze technology also enables CP pupils to access a computer quickly and efficiently. This technology which was very expensive a few years ago costing £25,000 is now becoming more affordable at a few thousand pounds. I strongly advise that an assessment is done by an specialist from one of the companies that specialise in eye-gaze systems. Look for names like Inclusive Technology ,MyTobii and Smartbox .

brainwave device
Device for reading brainwaves

In the future we are likely to see more liberation of this disability by the use of biometric systems that read brain waves and the growth of artificial intelligence to have systems that are both robotic and anticipatory of need. The implication for life skills and environmental living can make our communities more accessible to all.

Myles Pilling

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