Cerebral Palsy (CP)
Cerebral palsy, also known as CP, is a group of chronic conditions affecting movement and coordination. Depending on its severity, it can impair the way patients walk, talk, use their hands, and engage in nearly any physical task. It makes dealing with everyday activities a lifelong challenge.
Its name gives us insight into the conditions: "Cerebral" means having to do with the brain and "palsy" describes poor control or weakness in muscles. The problems don't start in the muscles or nerves, but rather in the brain before, during, and shortly after birth. Adverse conditions during this vulnerable period can damage or disrupt the development of brain areas governing the muscles. The brain can no longer adequately control simple functions such as movement and posture.
It's a relief to know that the underlying conditions don't get worse -- the brain damage doesn't spread. However, secondary conditions, such as the ability of muscles to stretch, can improve, worsen, or remain constant.
Although cerebral palsy can't be cured, therapy, training, innovative strategies, and empowering technologies can improve function and the quality of life of those affected.
At its most basic level, life is all about interacting with the people around us. Communication is especially important for people who rely heavily on family members and other in-home caregivers on a daily basis.
Gaze interaction and other assistive technologies can help those with severe forms of cerebral palsy communicate their needs, wants, ideas and opinions with greater ease. Easier communication makes life easier for caregivers, too.
Access and play
Eye-gaze technology can give individuals with cerebral palsy fuller lives and enjoyment by letting them have access to distractions that most people take for granted. These systems can control ordinary electronic devices like TVs, as well as specialized technologies.
Users who are immobile or severely restricted can independently play video games, surf the Internet, and even speak to family and friends via synthetic speech, things that would otherwise be impossible for CP patients with limited muscle tone or impaired motor skills.
Enabling education and employment
Education and self-expression are among the basic activities that can be limited by cerebral palsy. It's difficult to learn to read or write when it's impossible to hold a book or control a pencil. With eye-gaze technology, however, students can write by simply gazing at a keyboard on a computer screen. They can turn pages in electronic books with a glance.
Students affected by CP may have previously relied heavily on dedicated teacher's aides holding letter boards or other assistive tools. But, thanks to new and empowering technologies, students with CP now can learn and express themselves with relative independence.
Automation beats limitations
It can be challenging, or even impossible, for those living with CP to maintain control of everyday activities, which can be disheartening.
As home automation technology enters the mainstream for everyday consumers, eye gaze technology makes home automation possible for those with CP. Home automation controllers include devices that can turn lights on and off, monitor security cameras, activate lawn sprinklers, adjust thermostats, lock and unlock doors, and so much more.
For those affected by cerebral palsy, being able to control surroundings with ECUs and home automation technology can be a leap forward in increasing independence and quality of life.
A meaningful look
The simple act of gazing at a target on a computer screen can make incredible things possible for those affected by CP. Eye-gaze technology capitalizes on the amazing abilities of new electronics.
An eye-gaze device uses a camera to track the user's eye movements on a computer screen in order to move the cursor. Users select items by holding their gaze on an item for a certain amount of time, or by blinking or clicking on an external button.