A Texas family has won the fight with their local school district over an assistive device their disabled son needs to use while on campus. The teenager, a student at Veterans Memorial High School, suffered a birth injury that damaged more than 65 percent of his brain. As a result, the teenager suffers from quadriplegic cerebral palsy, refractory epilepsy, visual impairments and developmental disabilities. Further, the teenager is non-verbal and cannot walk without assistance.
Texas Teenager Battles Birth Injuries
For most of his life, this Texas teenager has been confined to a wheelchair, but an assistive device called a Therapeutic Ambulatory Orthotic System (TAOS) has provided the teenager with the assistance needed to help him be more mobile and independent. In January 2018, the school district restricted use of the device on the basis that the teenager had outgrown it, and ruled it a safety concern. Without TAOS, the teenager was required to spend the entire day in his wheelchair, which can be difficult and painful.
A spokesperson for Judson Independent School District said that the teenagers height and weight are outside the manufacturers safety specifications. The manufacturer, Sky Medical, however reviewed the teenagers specifications and made an exception to the recommended weight and height based on their review. Judson ISD said that the letter from the manufacturer was not enough.
Local news sources immediately began reporting on the issue, featuring photographs of the teenager using the TAOS device in a hallway. While the family planned to attend school board meetings to further plead their case, the teenager’s doctor cleared up the height and weight debate. As a result, Judson ISD contacted his family and informed them that their son would be allowed to use the TAOS device effective immediately.
For a teenager who has battled so many trials in his life, this was a victory allowing him more independence and freedom to move around. For his family, it is a huge relief that their son will not be confined to a wheelchair for the entire eight-hour school day.
Assistive Device Use and Cerebral Palsy
Individuals with cerebral palsy often require assistive devices to help them with tasks that many of us take for granted. Cerebral palsy commonly causes difficulties with mobility, communication, eating and drinking, hygiene, and learning. Assistive devices like TAOS are commonly used to help the individual gain more strength and independence.
Working with individuals who have cerebral palsy often requires modification and planning – be it at home, school, or in a therapeutic environment. It is important that those working closely with these individuals understand their needs and what modifications may be required to ensure that the individual has the best opportunities and quality of life possible.
Some of the common assistive devices used to help individuals with cerebral palsy include:
- Electronic devices designed to assist with communication, both verbal and written.
- Assistive devices like TAOS, gait trainers, walkers, leg braces, or canes, which help with mobility and balance.
- Adapted feeding gear, such as nosey cups and ergonomically designed utensils.
- Braces and Thumb Positioning Systems to help with wrist movements and stability while writing or completing tasks.
- Shape wear and vests designed to help with posture and balance.
- Bath or shower assistive devices, such as chairs, handles, or modified tubs/showers.
- Toilet chairs to reduce the risk of falls and provide support for the individual’s body.
In addition to assistive devices, individuals with cerebral palsy often require assistance and modification in various activities, such as:
- Assistance with personal care and hygiene, such as brushing hair and teeth, dressing, tying shoelaces, etc.
- Assistance with meal preparation and eating, which can be difficult for individuals with poor grip or motor skills.
- Modified feeding, such as liquid or soft food diets.
- Modified learning environments, such as use of electronic devices or manual manipulation, IEP development, etc.
How to Support Individuals with Cerebral Palsy
There is no question that living with cerebral palsy is challenging. Fortunately, there are many ways that you can plan and prepare to help your loved one live a healthy, productive life. Support for individuals with cerebral palsy begins at home and extends to their healthcare providers, schools and communities.
Because cerebral palsy is so prevalent in the United States, there are numerous support groups and organizations designed to help families. Through these groups you can find resources and support for home, school, independence, related laws, treatments, and much more. To find a support group near you, consider the following options:
- Contact your local hospital or health department to find out if there are affiliated support groups.
- Most states have a statewide organization designed to support families with cerebral palsy.
- There are numerous online groups and “meet ups” allowing families to network and connect with other families affected by cerebral palsy.
- United Cerebral Palsy (UCP) is a group that works with more than 100 affiliates nationwide to support the cerebral palsy community.
- Cerebral Palsy International Research Foundation (CPIRF) offers a multitude of resources related to current research, innovations in technology, preventative strategies, and developing treatment options.
- Cerebral Palsy Family Network (CPFN) is a community-focused organization offering medical and legal resources and information for families. CPFN offers downloadable resources and a state-by-state database for resources and services.
Legal Support for Cerebral Palsy
When a birth injury results in a diagnosis of cerebral palsy, it is important to work with a birth injury lawyer to ensure that your legal rights are protected. For help with legal-related matters, including restricted use of assistive devices, questions about care, discrimination, malpractice or negligence, contact Birth Injury Guide to discuss your case. Call 1-877-415-6603 or fill out our online form to get started right away.