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Assistive technology (AT) includes devices and services used to enhance abilities and participation of children with disabilities, while reducing limitations that may arise as a result of impairments of body functions and structures. These children have limitations that prevent them from performing activities in the same manner as their peers. The limitations are attributable to neuromotor or musculoskeletal impairments, including muscle contractures, skeletal deformities, and inadequate balance and control of muscle groups that affect children's ability to produce the movement necessary to perform specific skills and activities. Physical therapists, as members of an intervention team, may recommend AT in the areas of positioning, mobility, and communication for children with disabilities to prevent or decrease the influence of neuromotor or musculoskeletal impairments (Henderson, Skelton, & Rosenbaum, 2008; McEwen & Lloyd, 1990; Minkel, 2000; Washington, Deitz, White, & Schwartz, 2002). Historically, professionals in rehabilitation and educational environments have used AT to support therapeutic intervention.


With continued advancement of technology and legislation in the United States addressing the provision of AT during the past 25 years, options for devices are more readily available. Although therapists and families may still use handmade devices fabricated from low-cost materials, other options are now commercially available. Physical therapists, along with parents and other service providers, can evaluate a child's need for AT devices and services and make appropriate recommendations to meet those needs (Carlson & Ramsey, 2000; Galvin & Scherer, 1996; Gillen, 2002). This chapter describes the laws and processes used to meet the AT needs of children, as well as the role physical therapists play in the selection, acquisition, and implementation of AT, with a focus on positioning and mobility. Chapter 18 provides information for the physical therapist using augmentative communication and other technologies.


Assistive Technology Legislation


Many laws in the United States address AT and provide a legislative framework designed to ensure that children with disabilities receive the AT they need. These laws are summarized in Table 17.1 and in Chapter 1.

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Table 17.1

Federal Laws Related to Assistive Technology (AT)

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