Aims: Children with disabilities often face the challenge of participating along with their typically developing peers in academic activities that require the manipulation objects, while talking about it. An integrated manipulation and communication assistive technology (IAMCAT) to support academic activities is described.
Method: The IAMCAT developed is a computer based system running the AAC software The Grid 2. Cells were added to communication boards allowing for controlling a Lego® Mindstorms® car-like robot with a gripper and a pen attached. Nine children with neuromotor disabilities, aged between 3 and 6 years old, attending pre-school or first grade, trialed the IAMCAT. They used the system in their regular classes to participate in the activities proposed by their teachers to the entire class. Goal attainment scales (GAS) were developed for each participant in order to capture participants’ performance regarding communication, participation, autonomy, and academic achievement.
Results: GAS results show that, in general, the outcomes were the expected or better in all academic goals, while the progress was more moderate on communication, participation, and autonomy goals, goals that are more dependent on system mastery and thus may require more extensive use of the IAMCAT.
Conclusions: The IAMCAT is an effective tool to support the participation of children with neuromotor disabilities in academic activities. To facilitate the integration of the system in the classes’ daily routines, a set of activities can be made available for teachers covering different curriculum topics. This work was supported in part by FCT and Fundação PT.