The Bay Area Makeathon was a 72-hour event that brought those who understand the needs of people with disabilities together with technologists, designers and makers. I was a part of a team designing a self-feeder for people who had limited use of their hands.
I LOVE TO CREATE AND BE CREATIVE
I'm an occupational therapist. I make adaptive equipment, therapeutic toys, and splints to help people function independently.
In order for me to function in everyday life, I need to make things. I dabble in drawing, fabric printing, felting, painting, paper crafts and mixed media art.
Commercially available adaptive aids rarely work for pediatrics. I made these 3 tools to help with the difficult task of buttoning pants. Two of them are modifications to existing aids available: the button hook and the zipper pull. The third one (to my knowledge) is my own design, for these purposes I will call it the loop hook.
Primary task limitations: unable to reach button, difficulty pinching/grasping, and decreased upper extremity/grasp strength
Initially, I wanted to combine all tools into one, but it worked better for this client to use all 3 separately. I formed a triangle handle, a T-handle, and another handle that looked like an anchor. The T-handle worked the best for her. I was also trying to make it as compact as possible. I formed all of them out of Aquaplast pellets, but continually had to reheat them to make them longer. I used binder clips and heavy duty paper clips to form the metal parts. I used pliers to bend them.
For the button hook, I kept the shape of the large heavy duty paper clip because it seemed to work better with jean buttons.
For the zipper hook, I added a straight piece of metal to help with pushing the zipper down. This piece needed to be bent on the inside of the plastic or it fell out.
The loop hook was formed by bending a binder clip and was used for 3 purposes. When the client was zipping the zipper up, they used the loop hook to stabilize the pants at the bottom as they were unable to reach that far down. They also used it simultaneously with the buttonhook. For unbuttoning, the loop hook would hook onto the button hole and would help pull the button hole away from the button, as the button hook pulled in the opposite direction. When buttoning, the button hook would go through the button hole first, attach to the button, then the loop hook would hook onto the button hole, both tools would be pulled in opposite directions, and “voila!” pants are buttoned. Sounds confusing, but the client picked up on it right away. :)
Future implications: 3D printing could make some of these individualized adaptations quick and easy. Contact me if you’re interested in collaborating.
I’m trying to work on utensil grasp patterns with a kiddo. My intention with these aids is not for them to use always, but to use them as tactile and visual cues on how to place their hands on the fork and knife in a more effective way.
I made a triangle handle for a knife using Aquaplast. I formed the triangle using a cast cutting strip, which was just the right width I was looking for. I always try to find objects which can facilitate the form that I’m shaping. In this case I wrapped the knife in place using athletic tape to form a triangle. I formed the Aquaplast around it. Before it completely hardened again I removed it and massaged out any bumps. I placed 3/8″ open cell blue padding on the inside back wall and closed off the end of it to allow the knife to slide in and out.
For the fork, I melted Aquaplast pellets to form a place for the index finger to rest and attached a built up foam handle.
I’m hoping that these tools will assist visually, tactilely and facilitate the development of the arches of the hand.
I work with a 7-year old girl who was born with bilateral absent radiuses (bones of the forearm). She was having difficulty pushing her pants down to use the bathroom. We practiced using a dressing stick, which facilitated her independence well. I didn’t want her to have this long contraption to take to school. I’m pretty sure they make something similar commercially, but I only had access to this one. So, I sawed it in half, drilled small holes in each end of the stick, and threaded an elastic string through it. I used Aquaplast to form the neck, being careful it permanently adhered to only one end of the sticks. She is now able to take it to school in her backpack.
I was working with a baby that had Torticollis, and he needed a little more head support in this Tumbleform chair to keep his head in midline. I used scraps of material and pool noodles to create support on each side. I sewed seams all around the material, measured the material over the noodles and sewed that. In retrospect, I could have done a better job with hiding the inner seam, but it works.
This is an adaptive shoe aid I made for a client who was unable to bend their knee. We tried a long handled shoe horn and a foot funnel, but neither worked. I used Aquaplast to make a combination of the two. I’ve used it with several of my clients since. This is a picture of a Polaroid, which explains why the quality of the photo is so bad.
This is an adaptive device I made that is used with clients who have difficulty grasping a pencil. It maintains the fingers in a pinch. It is typically used for people with muscular dystrophy.
*Disclaimer: this is not my original design
I made this for a client who was unable to bend their elbows. There was some bony limitations, but they were also lacking bicep muscles. There is a harness that fits over the trunk and rests on the shoulders, then there are two wrist splints. A piece of Theraband is attached to the shoulder and to the wrist, which allows them to extend their arm, but also stretch it back into flexion. It also allows the person to bring something to their mouth for self-feeding.