A Descriptive Analysis of Access to Assistive Technology in Children with Acquired Brain Injury: The Right to Assistive Devices

Joseph J. Fins, Julie Knitter, Debjani Mukherjee, Karen Conti, Barbara Donleavy-Hiller, Linda M. Gerber, Jennifer E. Hersh, Rita Kotorac-Erlbaum, Barbara Milch, Scott M. Klein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Objective: Pediatric clinicians caring for children with acquired brain injury have noted that many individuals requiring assistive technology (AT) go unserved or face delays until devices are obtained, with potential adverse implications for recovery and development. In this article we map the pathways by which AT is prescribed and assess delays and barriers to access. Methods: We conducted a retrospective chart review of patients with moderate to severe brain injury admitted to Blythedale Children's Hospital over a 2-year period using a database drawn from the medical record. Results: We identified 72 children diagnosed with brain injury requiring at least 1 device. Devices were used to improve mobility and positioning, self-care, safety, and communication, and enable access to other technologies and foster social integration. We found that 55% of devices were delivered, with most deliveries to home or the hospital's outpatient department for fitting, training, and instruction. Time to delivery ranged from 12 to 250 days with an average of 69.4 days. Twenty percent of nondeliveries were attributable to change in medical status, transfer to a skilled nursing facility, or continued inpatient status, while 31% were canceled by the family. Other nondeliveries were attributed to insurance coverage. We also found that the medical record is not designed for the longitudinal tracking of devices, indicating the need for a prospective process to document the AT trajectory. Conclusion: Instead of tolerating delays and denials, there should be a normative expectation that children have a right to medically necessary devices, consistent with disability law. This analysis was undertaken as a step toward formulating a prospective means of tracking AT recommendations, approvals, denials, and/or deliveries. Our findings should be understood as a promissory note toward structural reforms that are reflective of society's responsibility to better meet the needs of vulnerable children and their families.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)152-159
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1 2024


  • Americans with Disabilities Act
  • assistive technology
  • disability rights
  • neurodevelopment
  • neuroethics
  • pediatric brain injury
  • rehabilitation
  • Humans
  • Self-Help Devices
  • Brain Injuries
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Child
  • Self Care
  • Disabled Persons

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
  • Rehabilitation
  • Clinical Neurology


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