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Assistive Technologies and Other Supports for People with Brain Impairment

Stein, Joel MD

Cognitive And Behavioral Neurology: September 2013 - Volume 26 - Issue 3 - p 167
doi: 10.1097/WNN.0b013e31829795bc
Book Reviews

Department of Rehabilitation and Regenerative Medicine Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons New York, NY

The reviewer declares no conflicts of interest.

This book is a single-author text written by a well-known expert in assistive technology. Dr Scherer’s extensive clinical experience and in-depth knowledge of the field are evident throughout the book. Despite fast-paced changes in both consumer technology and medical assistive technology, the book is up-to-date, incorporating discussion of the latest devices and approaches. The writing is clear and the book is well-organized, with a substantial number of comprehensive tables and charts that make this a valuable reference work.

The author includes a number of case vignettes to provide context for an otherwise somewhat technical and potentially dry subject, and to emphasize the impact of assistive technology on individual lives. These vignettes are primarily used in the first few chapters of the book, where the author focuses on the nature of disabling illnesses and injuries affecting the brain and daily function. The later chapters, comprising about two thirds of the book, focus more specifically on assistive technologies.

The book includes an index and glossary, a reference list, and extensive material to help clinicians and patients identify resources to meet clinical needs. The index is not as comprehensive as might be desired, omitting some of the devices discussed in the text, eg, no listing for the iPad or for the Jitterbug phone.

One limitation of the book is that because it attempts to meet the needs of multiple audiences, most readers will find some sections unnecessary or excessively technical. For example, the first 4 chapters are devoted to explaining basic functions of the brain, how they can go awry, and how the disorders affect function. Because the level of the material is rather basic, it is most useful for the layperson who has limited knowledge of neurologic disorders, but is not of much use to a practicing clinician in rehabilitation or neurology.

The later chapters delve deeply into a conceptual framework for assistive technologies and their appropriate selection and use. These chapters focus on technologies used to support individuals with cognitive and/or communication issues. In contrast, there is minimal coverage of mobility devices. This is not a deficiency of the book, but rather a reflection of the author’s intentional focus on cognition and communication issues.

The later chapters are useful for clinicians dealing with cognitive and communication issues, but are probably too technical and in-depth for patients or their families to appreciate fully. Nonetheless, there are portions that sophisticated consumers could find very helpful and might use to guide in selection of the most appropriate technology for themselves or a family member.

In summary, this book is an important resource for all who deal with assistive technology, providing both consumers and professionals with extensive information about this important aspect of care for individuals with disabling conditions.

Joel Stein, MD

Department of Rehabilitation and Regenerative Medicine

Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons

New York, NY

© 2013 by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.