The background to the project is the circumstance that children with severe physical disabilities and an inability to speak are involved in few activities, and that these are often limited to the home environment. It is therefore important to prioritise interventions that allow the children to take part in more activities, including activities outside the home. Eye control is often the only way these children can control a computer, and eye controlled computers have the potential to overcome activity reductions and participation limitations for them. However, there are currently no evaluations of real-life usability for children with severe physical disabilities, or of whether eye controlled computers could be integrated with their everyday life.
An intervention programme made up of evidence-based strategies has been drawn up for how support can be given to children, parents and the immediate community for the integration of eye controlled computers with the children’s everyday life. This intervention programme, intended to increase the children’s opportunities for using computers in school and during leisure time, is being evaluated in several studies within the project. Further, the project is studying teachers’ experiences of teaching children using eye control, as well as ethical issues in connection with testing of eye control for children with severe functional disabilities.
Eye controlled computers for play and schoolPreliminary results show that all the children regularly use eye controlled computers in daily activities after having participated in the intervention, and that all of them were continuing to use them when the project was followed up. Use of the eye controlled computer in everyday life has meant that the children’s repertory of computer activities has grown. Among the uses were communicating with others, playing games and learning in school. The project also showed that the children’s abilities in terms of controlling the computer with their eyes improved over time. Children of different ages (1-15 years) improved their ability to control the computer with their eyes, and results show that children with severe physical disabilities, with cognitive difficulties or strabismus, can learn to control a computer with their eyes.
Eye controlled computers are used both nationally and internationally as an aid, but there are few studies of real-life usability for children with severe physical disabilities. So far, usability studies have focused on a lab environment or the benefit to adults with physical disabilities. The knowledge contributed by the project could therefore be beneficial to children and parents as well as professions that administer aids and measures for this category of children.
A future project is planned that will include a larger number of children, to study the effect of eye controlled computer use has on participation, independence and communication for children with severe physical disabilities and an inability to speak. This project will also compare different intervention methods for integrating eye controlled computers in everyday life.
Increased activity level
The diagrams show three different activities carried out by a child using an eye controlled computer. The child is a six-year-old with severe physical disabilities and no ability to speak.
The data shown is the share of days (of all days studied) that the child used the computer for the activity in question. We can see that use of the eye controlled computer continued at the follow-up, and had even increased for all activities.
Grants and funding
The Swedish Research Council
Jimmy Dahlsten’s Fund
Sunnerdahls Handikappfond Foundation
Queen Silvia’s Jubilee Fund
Targeted R&D funds from Uppsala County Council
The Research Foundation of RBU, the Swedish National Association for Disabled Children and Young People
The Communication by Gaze Interaction network (COGAIN)