By Amy Roman, SLP.
One of the first things I suggest to pALS experiencing any neck, shoulder or arm weakness is to avoid laptops or touchscreens when possible. Communicating all day with the full 10 lb. weight of your head thrust in front of your spine is an overuse of muscles you don’t want to burn out! Over fatigued muscles and a strained neck can be avoided easily with the following set up.
Raise your screen to a height that allows you to maintain good posture. If you are in a wheelchair, your head should be supported by the headrest while you use your computer or speech device. I see far too many people lift their heads off the headrest to see their screen. The screen postition, tilt of the chair and neck support should be adjusted so lifting is not even tempting. To look at a variety of mounting options check out AmyandpALS’ Pinterest Boards or Laura Enders’ Mounting for iPADs Pinterest Boards. We provide many ideas and products that allow you to mount your device to a wheelchair, a table/desk or over an easy chair or bed.
In terms of insurance funding, mounts for speech generating devices (SGD) are a Medicare covered benefit. Companies that sell SGDs like DynaVox, FRS, LC Tech., Saltillo or Tobii, are set up to accept and bill insurance for a mount. Non-medical vendors, like the vendors that sell iPAD or Android mounts are unlikely to be set up to accept insurance funding. These non-medical products tend be less expensive and also less durable since they are designed for lighter weight mobile devices.
It is also important to reduce the burden on your shoulders, biceps and wrists. An inexpensive and readily available solution is to place a bean bag lap-desk on your lap.
A Bluetooth or USB keyboard or mouse can now rest on the lap-desk allowing you to relax your shoulders and bring your arms into a more comfortable position. Lap-desks are found at office supply stores and online.
Even if you prefer to travel light and don’t want to take a mount and lap-desk out into the community, consider using a body friendly set up at least when you are at home.