Assistive Technology for Muscular Dystrophy

Instructor: April Gwen Ellsworth

April has a master's degree in psychology and has experience teaching special populations from preschoolers to adults.

Assistive technology helps individuals have greater independence and function at home, school, work, and in the community. In this lesson, we will learn about various forms of and resources for assistive technology for persons with muscular dystrophy.

Understanding Muscular Dystrophy

Muscular dystrophy is a condition that progressively weakens the muscles. Over time, the skeletal muscles that control movement degenerate, causing progressively weaker hands, arms, legs, and overall body strength. Some forms of muscular dystrophy (MD) also eventually affect the heart and other organs and systems of the body.

There are nine types of MD, differing in the rate at which the symptoms progress, age of onset, and inheritance factors. The most common is Duchenne MD, which primarily affects boys. Symptoms are usually noticed between ages 3-5, and the disease progresses quickly, resulting in most boys being unable to walk by age 12. In later years, a respirator may be needed to breathe.

Other forms of MD, including Becker MD, facioscapulohumeral MD, and myotonic MD, manifest themselves in late childhood, the teenage years, or adulthood. All are similar to Duchenne MD in their muscle weakening characteristics, but some forms are milder and others are accompanied by organ problems.

Assistive Technology

Regardless of the form of MD, assistive technology is available to help individuals live more independent and enriching lives, whether in the early or later stages of the disease. Assistive technology for muscular dystrophy refers to any device or adaptation that helps a person maintain their ability to function within their environment.

To determine the best type of assistive technology for a particular individual, the best strategy is for a team of people closest to the student or adult to conduct an assistive technology assessment. They will consider the person's needs, strengths, assistive technology options, and other factors. Additionally, since MD is a degenerative disease, ongoing changes in assistive technology will need to occur in order to continue to meet the person's needs over time.

Let's take a look at some the assistive technology options to consider:

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