Assistive devices for children with functional impairments: impact on child and caregiver function


* Correspondence to last author at Centre for Childhood Disability Research, IAHS, Room 408, 1400 Main Street West, Hamilton, Ontario L8S 1C7, Canada. E-mail:


Functional impairments can limit a child's ability to participate in the experiences of childhood. This‘deprivation’can, in turn, have a negative effect on such children's development, academic performance, and quality of life, as well as on the lives of their caregivers and families. Many adults use assistive devices to overcome functional impairments and enable them to participate in daily activities; however, such devices may be underutilized by children. Each of the 54 studies reviewed in this report identified one or more functional impairments towards which an assistive device was targeted: accessing a computer (n=3 [studies]), activity assistance (n=2), behaviour changes (n=3), communication (n=30), independent feeding (n=1), living skills (n=1), mobility (n=9), modifying the environment (n=1), nutrition (n=4), and postural stability (n=2). The aim of this review was to determine the impact of assistive devices on the components of functioning defined by the World Health Organization's International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health. The impact of these devices was found to be overwhelmingly positive. Study outcomes reported were mainly child-focused and could be classified as influencing activity, participation, and personal contextual factors, with relatively little attention paid to caregiver-focused outcomes. Few studies provided either qualitative evidence or experimentally-based quantitative research evidence using controls.