Resources for Families

Assistive Technology and Equipment

01 Dec 2017


What does the research tell us?

Assistive Technology (AT) refers to any piece of equipment, item or product that can be used to increase, maintain or improve the daily life of a child with a disability.1

For example:

  • A specialised chair to enable a child to join their family at the dinner table
  • A walker so the child can play outside with their peers at kindergarten
  • An electronic communication device that helps the child communicate
  • A hoist and sling to help parents lift their child from the bed to the floor.

It is well recognised that AT has the potential to empower children with disabilities and their families, and is a critical component to consider in comprehensive service delivery2 3.

Despite the positive influence that AT can have on the daily life of a child and family, there are issues with uptake and usage. Research and anecdotal feedback demonstrate a generally high abandonment rate of AT4. For this reason, the literature primarily focuses on what promotes successful uptake of AT and reasons for abandonment.

Research indicates that professionals and family members should work together in the decision-making process if implementation of AT is to be successful. The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) AT Strategy suggests that there is a 30% abandonment rate for AT if the user has had little opportunity for choice and control5. It has been suggested that AT is often abandoned because of a failure to consider the opinions and preferences of the user.

AT also needs to suit the child and family's individual context and needs. Ongoing discussion between family members and professionals is required to ensure that everyone concerned has the knowledge and skills to understand the context within which AT will be used and how to integrate use into everyday life.6

Research also suggests that introduction of AT is appropriate when it is:

  • related to specific and clearly defined goals that are meaningful to the child and family;
  • compatible with practical constraints such as funding resources and availability of equipment; and,
  • results in the child achieving the desired outcomes.

It is also necessary to pay attention to the environments in which AT is used and the naturally occurring tasks within those environments7.

AT should be based on the priorities, needs and wishes of individuals that will use it. The development of a clear goal to underpin this practice helps to identify the purpose of the AT and to ensure that there are clear outcomes as a result of its use.

At Noah's Ark, our teams of Physiotherapists, Occupational Therapists and Speech Pathologists have the expertise to work collaboratively with families to support the use of AT in everyday life and further develop children's functional skills and participation.

What do parents say about this approach?

Let's hear from parents who have been receiving services from Noah's Ark and had support from the team of Occupational Therapists, Physiotherapists and Speech Pathologists.

"Our Key Worker suggested what might be useful for us through the process of looking at needs and goals. It was great to be able to trial them first."
"Loaning equipment from Noah's Ark, has been a seamless process. Our Key Worker was very informative of how the loaning process works, what type of equipment will be available and when. Once we received the equipment our Key Worker supported us in how to use the equipment, and to this day, is providing ongoing support.


1 Division for Early Childhood. (2015). DEC Recommended Practices: Enhancing services for young children with disabilities and their families. (DEC Recommended Practices Monograph Series No. 1). Los Angeles: CA

2 Kintsch, A., & DePaula, R. (2002). A framework for the adoption of assistive technology. SWAAAC 2002: Supporting learning through assistive technology, 1-10.

3 Long, T., Huang, L., Woodbridge, M., Woolverton, M., & Minkel, J. (2003). Integrating assistive technology into an outcome‐driven model of service delivery. Infants & Young Children, 16(4), 272-283.

4 Ibid

5 National Disability Insurance Agency. (2015). Assistive Technology Strategy. Retrieved from:

6 Ibid

7 Rose, D. H., Hasselbring, T. S., Stahl, S., & Zabala, J. (2005). Assistive technology and universal design for learning: Two sides of the same coin. Handbook of special education technology research and practice, 507-518.

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