Assistive Technology & Augmentative/Alternative Communication
How do we get started?
Call (310) 295-1024 or email our office to discuss the options for an assessment or consultation.
How do I get services funded?
There are several different ways that services are funded, depending on the age of the person receiving services, their needs, and the type and scope of the desired services.
We are service providers with the Regional Center and can provide services to people who qualify for that program. Sometimes school districts can fund services for school-aged children who have educationally-related needs. Believe Ability, Inc. is a Non-public Agency (NPA) certified by the California Department of Education. As of August 2007 our vendorization with Department of Rehabilitation is pending approval. We also contract with other government agencies.
At this time Believe Ability, Inc. does not accept assignment of benefits by third-party payers, i.e. insurance plan(s). However you can submit our invoices to your health insurance company for reimbursement. We have some additional insurance information that should help with filing a claim. We can assist in this process by providing information, additional documentation, and/or advice.
Where are the services provided?
We provide services throught out Southern California in the home, school or community setting. We believe that working with people in their typical environment is superior to having clients come to a specialized facility. We have found that working in these "natural" environments allows us to more accurately evaluate a client's abilities and their support systems (people and resources). We believe working in the home and community settings enhances communication and collaboration between our staff, the individual, his/her family, and support people. And lastly, that it improves carry-over of the client's new abilities to their real life settings.
Do I or does my child need a diagnosis?
At Believe Ability, Inc. a client does not have to have a diagnosis or an identified disability in order to receive and to benefit from any of our services. However a diagnosis often is needed or helpful in getting services paid for by outside funding sources.
What is Assistive Technology?
Assistive Technology is any tool allowing individuals with disabilities to use their own unique abilities to reach their goals. Assistive Technology is defined as technological tools (lite tech to high tech, computers and communication devices) used to access education, employment, home, recreation or communication opportunities, to enable a person to live as independently as possible.
Examples of Assistive Technology include, but are not limited to:
- Talking word processors that read back what a person has written
- Specialized keyboards, trackballs or “mice”
- Lite to high tech communication devices that can allow a person to communicate without using verbal speech
- Software aimed at compensating for difficulties with spelling, handwriting, organization, or other academic skills
- Arm and wrist supports or ergonomic modifications
- Screen magnifiers that enlarge the text on the computer screen
- Environmental controls that allow a person to turn control lights, TV, or the stereo, etc.
How do I know if my child or I need Assistive Technology?
Assistive Technology gives children and adults the means to compensate for a disability allowing them to demonstrate their full knowledge, ability, or skill in a particular area. People who benefit from assistive technology may have mild learning disabilities, autism, or they may have physical or cognitive disabilities that range from mild to severe.
How does Assistive Technology help someone with a disability to compensate?
Technology can be a powerful “equalizer” for people with disabilities, allowing them to “get around” a limitation in any number of areas. Here are some examples of how technology enables people to compensate:
- A child who enjoys writing stories but who lacks the fine motor coordination to handwrite may compensate by typing on the computer.
- A child with autism or cerebral palsy who does not speak may be able to use a communication device with voice output to speak for herself.
- An adult with cerebral palsy may be able to use an electric wheelchair if he/she is unable to walk.
- A person with dyslexia who has difficulty reading or a person with blindness, who can easily understand things that he hears, may rely on a computer scanning software to read books to him.
- An infant or toddler with lots of curiosity but limited movement abilities can play with adapted toys to learn cause and effect.
- A student may use computer software to overcome difficulties with spelling, math, reading and reading comprehension, and difficulties with organization.
- A person with a physical disability may use Assistive Technology to control a computer, radio, or TV, either physically or with voice-activated technology. Nearly anyone with any type of volitional movement—from an eye blink to a tap with a finger or knee—can use a computer and access technology.
Am I or is my child too young/old for Assistive Technology?
It is never too soon or too late to consider using Assistive Technology. The early years in a child’s life are a critical time for learning and exploring. Here are some suggestions for when to evaluate an individual for assistive technology:
- When disability limits an individual’s ability to play, communicate and interact with the environment, and when disability interferes with experiential learning and exploration
- When a significant gap exists between an individual’s receptive and expressive language abilities. This means that an individual has the ability to understand more (receptive language) than he/she can communicate verbally (expressive language)
- When an individual's performance falls behind that of his or her peers
- When a physical disability is impeding the educational/vocational potential of an individual
- When a disability is limiting an individual’s level of independence
What does an Assistive Technology assessment include?
A good AT assessment has many components. Believe Ability, Inc. uses client, student, and family-centered assessments. Our functional approach allows the individual opportunities to try a variety of technology to see what works. We also engage in a dialogue, with the client and the team members, in which we facilitate, rather than direct, the process to ensure the best outcome.
Our comprehensive Assistive Technology assessments include:
- Consideration of the needs/abilities of the person, the support available in the environment, the demands of the task, and examination of tools that may allow the person to accomplish this task
- A chance to try more than one possible product
- A written report including:
- “Before and After” work samples of the individual, documenting the improvement that occurred with use of technology
- Specific recommendations about Assistive Technology solutions
- A list of choices of Assistive Technology devices along with product names, vendor contact information, and price quotes
- Recommendations for additional training that may be needed to learn to use the technology
What is AAC?
Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) systems involve the use of personalized methods or devices to aid a person’s ability to communicate. There are many types and methods of AAC and most individuals use a combination of systems/devices depending on their needs.
AAC equipment ranges from no tech/lite tech to high tech. High tech AAC devices look like laptop computers. Generally they work by displaying the symbols or letters a person selects (by touching, typing, or by scanning with a switch) and then speaking with pre-recorded or a computer generated voice.
How long does an Assistive Technology or AAC assessment take?
Assistive Technology and AAC assessments are extremely personalized to the needs and wishes of the client. Assessments vary from a one-hour long consultation with a person who has a specific need to an eight-hour long assessment for an individual with complex issues. Turn around time for the report is four weeks, on average.
What happens after the Assistive Technology or AAC assessment?
If the assessment process has shown that a child or adult can benefit from Assistive Technology or AAC and the type of technology recommended in the report is purchased, then training begins. Training the client or student to use the technology may require one session or several sessions and the involvement of parents, teachers, aides, or other professionals is often needed. Training sessions usually last from 1-2 hours.
What happens if we have a problem later, after the training? What if our needs change?
It is our intention that the training provides all the information that a child or adult needs to use their technology independently and successfully, however it is not uncommon for additional issues or complications to arise. Believe Ability, Inc. is available for on-going consultation over the phone or in-person, as the client’s needs change. We also provide technical troubleshooting ourselves or we can refer the client directly to the product’s vendor, who may provide troubleshooting free of charge. Believe Ability, Inc. may need to charge for these additional services, depending on the scope or the situation. Ideally, technology recommendations are updated or revisited on a periodic basis as technology improves and client’s needs change.
What is Occupational Therapy? What does a Pediatric Occupational Therapist help with?
Occupational therapists view “occupation” in the broadest meaning of the word, as a “purposeful activity”. As adults, besides paid work, we engage in a myriad of “occupations” everyday. Cooking, typing, making a bed, brushing our teeth, driving, reading a book—are all occupations. An infant’s occupations include rolling, sitting, crawling, and eating. Children’s occupations include play, social interactions, school participation, and self care activities. Your child or infant may benefit from intervention with a pediatric occupational therapists if he/she has:
- Difficulties attaining developmental milestones
- Feeding and eating difficulties due to poor oral motor skills,
- Movement difficulties such as coordination and motor planning
- Delays with fine motor or visual motor skills including handwriting, cutting, coloring, picking up and manipulating small objects in their hands
- Self care including managing clothing fasteners, toileting, and dressing
- Attention, concentration, and self-regulation
- Difficulties with sensory processing
How do I know if my child needs Occupational Therapy?
If your child exhibits one or more of the difficulties listed above they may benefit from Occupational Therapy. A comprehensive Occupational Therapy assessment is conducted with the child and the parents to identify the child’s areas of skill and areas of need. This assessment helps determine if the child would benefit from therapy and prioritize areas of weakness that would be addressed during intervention.
What is a sensory processing disorder (also known as sensory integration dysfunction)?
Sensory processing, or sensory integration, is the neurological process by which children (and adults) take in sensory information, make sense of it, and use it during daily activities. Sensory integration theory and treatment were originially developed by Dr. A. Jean Ayres, researcher and occupational therapist. “Sensory information” refers to our 5
senses—sight, sound, taste, touch, and smell—in addition to two additional senses, proprioception (body awareness) and our movement sense (detected by our vestibular system). A child’s ability to process sensory information affects learning and behavior, sometimes in dramatic ways. Sensory processing difficulties are commonly seen in children with diagnoses such as autism spectrum, ADD/ADHD, cerebral palsy, learning disabilities, and genetic syndromes. However there are also children with sensory processing difficulties who have no other identified disability.
Here are some characteristics of children with sensory integration dysfunction:
- Tactile defensiveness, also called “over-sensitivity” or hypersensitivity to touch, is a term used to describe children who avoid touching various things to the point that it interferes with daily routines or school activities. A child may have difficulty touching wet, slimy, sticky, or rough surfaces, or have difficulty being touched by other people. For example a child might be bothered by clothing tags or sock seams, avoid touching things like paint or glue, or avoid being hugged. Sometimes “picky” eating or overly strong food preferences are also seen, based on a child’s difficulty with eating foods of a specific texture.
- “Under-sensitivity” to touch, a child appears not to feel things very well. For example, a child may not be aware that he has food stuck on his face long after mealtime is over.
- A child with decreased proprioception/body awareness may be clumsy or demonstrate uncoordinated movements. A child with decreased body awareness may bump or crash into furniture or people, fall out of his desk chair, or seek out activities that involve heavy lifting, pushing or pulling. Children with decreased body awareness may use overly heavy pressure for a task, for example she may be constantly breaking her pencil lead while she writes.
- A child may exhibit problems with self-regulation of emotions and attention (activity levels too high or too low, not matched for the task at hand).
- Motor planning, also known as praxis, may be difficult. Motor planning is a child’s ability to think of what she wants to do, sequence the steps, and execute the plan.
- A child with auditory “over-sensitivity” may startle unexpectedly with loud noises, cover or protect his ears from sound, or may dislike sounds that others don’t even notice, like the hum of a bathroom fan.
- A child with “over-sensitivity” to movement may avoid activities that require his feet leave the ground, such as riding a bike, scooter, swing, or walking on uneven surfaces.
- A child with “under-sensitivity” to movement might spin in a swing for a long period of time without demonstrating any signs of dizziness.
- Inefficient sensory processing can also interfere with a child’s ability to do self-care activities, develop language skills, movement skills, self-esteem, and social skills.
- Over reliance on routines or schedules and difficulty with changes in plans or expectations are also commonly seen with children with sensory processing disorders.
What does an Occupational Therapy assessment include?
At Believe Ability, Inc. an Occupational Therapy assessment typically has several components including:
- Review of past reports, assessments, medical or school records, if applicable
- Intake forms to gather information about pertinent medical and/or school history
- Standardized testing, may include tests of sensory processing skills, handwriting, developmental milestones, or others
- Non-standardized, clinical observations of movement, strength, and coordination skills
- Parent interview(s) to discuss concerns, answer questions, discuss testing observations and results, and to establish treatment goals and priorities if needed
- Written report including recommendations on length and duration of treatment
How long does an Occupational Therapy assessment take?
Assessments are, on average, two hours in length. About an hour and a half is spent with therapist working one-on-one with the child. Afterward the Occupational Therapist discusses initial impressions with the parent and answers questions for about a half hour. Written reports are completed and sent to parents about 4 weeks after the date of the assessment. At any point in time during the process parents can contact our office if they have questions.
What happens after the Occupational Therapy assessment?
After the assessment is complete and the decision is made to move forward with therapy you can contact our office to schedule your child’s therapy time. Children are scheduled on a space available basis.
How long does an Occupational Therapy session last?
Individual sessions are typically 50 minutes in length with about 5 minutes afterward for us to discuss your child’s progress. Sessions occur 1-2 times per week, depending on the results of the assessment.
How long will my child receive services?
Duration of services varies greatly between children from a few months to a few years. On average, Believe Ability Occupational Therapy staff work with children from 6-12 months.