Succeeding with Cerebral Palsy

Asia-Pacific, May 31 2017

In the last week the story of Ding Ding, a 29-year-old man with cerebral palsy who has had to overcome hardship to become a student of Harvard has been circulating the web.

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Ding Ding posing with mother Zou Hongyan outside Peking University. Photo: WEIBO

Cerebral palsy (or CP) is a condition in which motor functions are lost or disability as a result of brain damage due to injury or abnormal brain development. Some of the ways cerebral palsy can affect a person includes fine motor skills, muscle control and coordination, reflexes, posture and balance.

Although many people assume that abnormal brain development equates lower IQ, such was not the case for Dingding, and many other people with cerebral palsy. With his mother’s help and support throughout his entire life, Ding Ding was able to graduate from Peking University in 2011 and was accepted into Harvard Law School in 2016 with her encouragement.

While so much of his success was due to his mother’s unwavering love and commitment, it is likely that Dingding also had the aide of many assistive technologies. Because every case is different in how it affects one’s physical abilities, the types of assistive technology needed vary.

Many assistive tech devices to aide CP include:

Transfer Equipment: It can be difficult for people with CP to move from one type of equipment to another (such as a chair to a wheelchair)

Wheelchairs: While not all people with CP need wheelchairs, some are unable to support their own weight and need the assistance of a wheelchair whether manual or powered

Orthotics: External braces or supports to aide in walking, standing, or motor skills

Specialized Seats: Due to muscle atrophy, special seats can provide support for the body

Mealtime Aides: If motor functions are lower, mealtime aides such as larger cutlery, slip resistant mats, cups with two handles, etc, can make it easier for people with CP to eat and drink

Walking Aides: This could be crutches, walkers, canes, depending on the severity of CP

Standing Aides: Particularly useful for people with CP who choose to work in jobs that require standing for long periods, or other activities/hobbies such as painting.

Communication Aides: Sign language, Picture dictionaries, schedule books, alphabet boards are some basic examples of communication aides. More advanced aides may also include smartphones, tablets and computers

Speech Generating Devices: This can be voice-activated controls, speech-to-text enabled devices, or speech command devices

Sleep Systems: Sleeping can be a difficult task for people with CP as being able to find the most comfortable position isn’t as easy as stirring around, or some muscles may be pained by certain positions.

Accessibility Software: Specialized keyboards, tablets, mouthstick, eye gaze control, touch screens, joysticks

Toilets & Bathing Aides: This can include special toilets or seats for bathing

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