How to increase the accessibility of a laptop for a child with special educational needs?
Mobile team Dominiek Savio
The people involved in this case were the parents, the school, the private speech therapist, the private physio and home counselling. The child went to school in the third grade of preschool. It was a child with ataxia, dysarthric speech and visual-spatial problems and therefor the fine-motor coordination is limited. The child had a marked tremor when performing fine motor actions. As a result, fluent participation in these activities, particularly preparatory writing motor skills, was difficult.
Together with the team, we wanted to find a good way for the child to use a computer. The parents asked for advice which computer aid they could best buy for their child. In preparation for primary school, it was good that the child already learned to use the computer/tablet as well as possible.
We practiced the use of both a tablet and a laptop with a small computer mouse to assess which device she could work with best.
On the laptop we changed the mouse cursor to a larger coloured (red) one.
We set the mouse speed to a lower rate. Nevertheless, dragging was difficult so we activated the click lock in the mouse settings.
The child did activities on the computer such as memory, puzzles, serialisation, sorting, counting,…
Experience and Outcomes
The child was able to use a normal laptop with the above-mentioned adapted mouse settings. Navigating with the mouse from one point to another took a lot of time so we advised the parents to buy a laptop with touchscreen so that she could combine touch with the use of the mouse. On the tablet, she could click on items more quickly with her finger but could not drag them because of her tremor and uncontrolled movements. On the laptop, we could use the click lock for dragging. The parents bought a laptop with touchscreen with a children’s mouse. Every week I, occupational therapist of the mobile team, went to the class to practise the laptop use with this child. When she was able to use the laptop, we tried to integrate it into the classroom context, but it was difficult to get started due to lack of materials – and lack of time of the teacher.
In this case, lowering the mouse speed and the click lock made the difference in being able to operate the laptop.
As mobile team we support children with motor disabilities in a regular education network. So we can receive such questions several times.
We work demand-driven and visit the child for 1 hour every week to work with the child and support the environment.
We often collaborate with the other partners around the child: parents, physiotherapists, speech and language therapists, support team, etc.