Assistive Technology for Supporting Communication, Occupation, and Leisure by Children With Severe to Profound Developmental Disabilities

Assistive Technology for Supporting Communication, Occupation, and Leisure by Children With Severe to Profound Developmental Disabilities

Fabrizio Stasolla (University of Bari, Italy), Viviana Perilli (Lega del Filo d'Oro – Molfetta, Italy) and Adele Boccasini (Lega del Filo d'Oro – Termini Imerese, Italy)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7368-5.ch019
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This chapter provides a literature overview (i.e., range period 2000-2015) concerning the use assistive technology (AT) for children with severe to profound developmental disabilities. Specifically, the chapter presents a general picture concerning the use of electronic tools such as microswitches enabling individuals with multiple disabilities to access independently to preferred stimuli. The chapter focused on the opportunities of choice, literacy process, communication of their own needs, promoting adaptive responses and reducing challenge behaviors, fostering ambulation and/or locomotion fluency, cognitive-behavioral interventions for people estimated within the normal range of intellectual functioning who present pervasive motor impairments. Moreover, the effects of such programs on indices of happiness as outcome measure of participants involved are outlined as well as social validation assessments. Results and implications of the findings are discussed.
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Two categories of users have been recruited for the aforementioned programs:

  • 1.

    Participants with extensive motor disabilities and normal intellectual functioning, and

  • 2.

    Individuals with severe to profound developmental and multiple disabilities (i.e. a combination of intellectual, motor and sensorial disabilities).

The AT for the first category, implemented for educational and/or rehabilitative purposes, may be useful to improve literacy process (Chiapparino, Stasolla, De Pace, & Lancioni, 2011), instead the interventions for the second category may be focused on the independent access to preferred stimuli or on constructive engagement (Stasolla & Caffò, 2013; Stasolla et al., 2015).

A basic form of AT are the microswitches, that is electronic devices planned to enabling persons with disabilities to control autonomously their environment through the exhibition of small and simple behavioral responses (Holburn, Nguyen, & Vietze, 2004; Mechling, 2006; Saunders et al., 2003). For example, through a pressure microswitch, a child may receive a short listen (e.g. 10 sec) of preferred song, rather than directly switching on the computer or the CD player, not accessible to him/her, considering his/her clinical conditions (Lancioni et al., 2008), or accessible only through the help of caregivers (Lancioni, Singh, et al., 2006). Consequently, they are considered as a great educational and rehabilitative resource (Stasolla & Perilli, 2015).

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