Dressing Aids

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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.

Dining Aids

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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.

Work With What You Got!

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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.

Dynamic Elbow Extension Splint

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I’m not going to lie, I was kind of proud of myself with this one. I had no idea how I was going to pull this off, even as I was making it. This is an elbow extension splint that I made for a 12 year old girl with Cerebral Palsy: hemiplegia. She was lacking 40 degrees of elbow extension. I had tried to teach her stretches to do on her own, but her understanding of the task was limited and there was not great follow through with the family. I could have done a static elbow extension splint, but I really wanted to be able to give a progressive stretch. We don’t have the funding to buy something like this out of a catalogue, so I decided to try to make it myself.

I used 1/8” Aquaplast for the upper arm and forearm. I folded the Aquaplast on top of itself for extra stability to make the bars. I used socket screws for rivets and covered up the back of the flat bolt with Sugru (a self-curing rubber/silicone) in order to avoid any rough edges near the arm. Additionally, she postures her arm in shoulder internal rotation. I was concerned about possible pressure points and/or rubbing that could cause redness. I cut that side down as much as I could without hindering the integrity of it, and then I covered it in Sugru. I attached the bars by punching holes through the bars and the base and forming a rivet out of Aquaplast pellets. I then formed two cylinders out of the Aquaplast. One of them I formed around a long screw, the other one I left open. I used a heat gun to attach each cylinder to the upper arm and forearm pieces. The end of the screw is inserted into the hole of the cylinder on the forearm. As she stretches, the wing nut can be twisted to push the elbow into further extension, and voila!

Baby Toy

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This is not my design, but it’s a favorite of mine when working with babies. I used Aquaplast and formed it around a thin dowel with the edges extremely close, but not touching. Once the Aquaplast has set in form, but is not hardened entirely, I removed the dowel. I then cut beads into strips and slid the top bead of each strip through the space between the edges of the Aquaplast. Then to keep the beads from falling out and to give it a clean finish, I heated the sides up and used curved scissors to create a smooth edge.

DIY pocket button hook/zipper aid

This is a modified button hook that I made for a child whose fingers are contracted in extension. He is able to grasp items using a lateral pinch, but buttons on pants were difficult. Because of this he always wore elastic waste pants to school. He was able to button/unbutton using a standard button hook, but who wants to carry that giant thing around to school? I fabricated this out of a large paper clip and Aquaplast pellets. I made the hole slightly bigger than normal to accommodate a jean button. I curved the other side of the paper clip into a zipper hook, so that he can slip the hook into the hole of the zipper and slide his finger through the button hook to pull up. Now he can wear jeans to school just like his friends!

This is a modified button hook that I made for a child whose fingers are contracted in extension. He is able to grasp items using a lateral pinch, but buttons on pants were difficult. Because of this he always wore elastic waste pants to school. He was able to button/unbutton using a standard button hook, but who wants to carry that giant thing around to school? I fabricated this out of a large paper clip and Aquaplast pellets. I made the hole slightly bigger than normal to accommodate a jean button. I curved the other side of the paper clip into a zipper hook, so that he can slip the hook into the hole of the zipper and slide his finger through the button hook to pull up. Now he can wear jeans to school just like his friends!

DIY Shoehorn

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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.