Many people with cerebral palsy have a difficult time writing due to limitations in muscular function, fine motor control, joint function, and range of motion. Fortunately, there are many types of assistive tools and technologies that can help people with cerebral palsy to write with greater ease. These can be broken down into a few categories:
Help With Grip and Muscle Fatigue
People with cerebral palsy often struggle with grasping small objects, and experience hand fatigue and pain when they use traditional writing utensils. Fortunately, there are many affordable tools that are easier to grasp, make writing more comfortable, and help the user to safely strengthen their hand muscles. Some examples include:
- Pencil grips ($4.95): Pencil grips are available in various shapes and colors from several vendors. The angle of the grip and finger guard ensures that the fingers are in the proper position to minimize hand fatigue.
- NuMuv Grip Aid ($10.95): An addition to any graspable area of an object such as silverware, writing utensils, toothbrushes, etc. that can give the user greater independence while doing everyday tasks.
- Jumbo GRIP Triangular Pencils ($16.95 for a pack of 12): A transition between grips and regular pencils, these are wider and have soft little dots to aid with grip. They are described as an “ideal companion for children’s first attempts at writing.”
- Coban Wrap ($4.49): Can easily be wrapped in layers around various utensils such as crayons, pens and pencils to provide extra grip.
- Bip Grip: Pen & Pencil Grip ($13.99): Plastic material, goes around pens and pencils to make them thicker and easier to grasp while preventing putting strain on the hand muscles.
- The Pencil Grip Writing CLAW for Pencils and Utensils ($14.78 for a pack of 12): Universal design for righties and lefties with grip stretches to fit any utensils.
- The Heavyweight Pen ($20.95) and The Heavyweight Pencil ($20.95) both provide stability while writing, and allow the user to relax their hand a bit without losing hold of the tool. The ones featured here also come with comfort grips.
- Pencil Weight ($14.95): This serves a similar purpose to heavyweight pens and pencils, but can be used on any writing tool. It could be particularly helpful for people who like to use a variety of writing tools (for example, a large set of colored pencils) because it is more cost-effective than buying many heavyweight utensils. It can be used alone or in conjunction with other pencil grips, and can be used on most coloring tools and writing instruments.
Help With Typing
Typing can also be a challenge for people with fine motor skill impairments, because computer keys are small and can be difficult to press. BigKeys LX ($159-179) keyboards are designed so that each key is larger and therefore easier to press. They also have an “assist mode” which is helpful for people who are unable to press more than one button at once.
Help With Postural Stability
Spending hours hunched over a desk to write can result in bad posture. This is especially true for people with cerebral palsy, who are prone to muscle tightening and postural issues. Moreover, difficulty maintaining postural stability can result in poor handwriting. There are a couple of items that can help create a better posture for writing:
- Better Board Slant Board ($16.95). It has a very light and collapsible plastic surface, which is great for classrooms and travelling. It lies at a 20 degree angle, with clamps for holding paper.
- Classroom Positioner Desk/Stander ($860-890). This one is more of an investment. The height can be adjusted to allow for sitting or standing, with optional support while standing. The angle of the desktop can also be changed.
Some people with cerebral palsy have more severe difficulties with muscle control, and simple devices to improve grip, provide stability, or help with posture will not be of much use. However, there are forms of of assistive technology that can allow them to write without using their hands. Here are two examples:
- Write: Outloud ($99). Write: Outloud is a type of talk-to-text technology that can process spoken letter, words, sentences, and paragraphs. It can be used by people with severe physical disabilities, as well as visual and cognitive impairments that may make writing difficult. There are also voice commands that allow the user to avoid the use of a computer menu when doing things like inserting an image into a document or indenting a paragraph. The program reads aloud as the user writes, and allows for self-correction. It also includes a talking dictionary and other helpful features.
- EyeComTec (price varies). EyeComTec devices allow people who are unable to speak clearly and lack motor control in other parts of their body to communicate solely through subtle eye movements and blinking. They have a keyboard that allows the user to select characters and complete lines of text. All of their technology is highly customizable.
People with cerebral palsy have a wide variety of needs when it comes to writing. Some of these can be met with inexpensive devices that can make writing easier and more comfortable. Others may need to invest in forms of technology that, though expensive, can drastically change one’s quality of life. To explore more options, check out ABLEDATA, a government-sponsored compilation of different types of assistive devices.
The list of products above is intended to be only a general educational resource. We do not endorse individual vendors, products, or services. We recommend that you read reviews, consult your doctor, or ask other users for their opinions before purchasing an item off this list.