Choosing Your Childâ€™s First Wheelchair
By Lee Vander Loop
CP Family Network Editor
a third of children with cerebral palsy are non-ambulatory and will
require the use of a wheelchair for transportation outside, indoors, or
both. Getting the right wheelchair at an early age helps a child gain
independence and all the confidence that can inspire.
a child reaches a size where they canâ€™t be carried safely, around 3
years old, itâ€™s time to get a wheelchair. If youâ€™re new to this need, it
is easy to get overwhelmed by all of the choices. But as a parent who
has dealt with this issue for many years, there are really only
- Is it comfortable?
- Is it reasonably adaptable?
- Does it provide the needed support and alignment?
- Is it easy enough to transport?
said, thereâ€™s an amazing array of wheelchairs and associated technology
available today that didnâ€™t exist even 10 years ago. Lightweight,
ultra-light, electric, â€śsmart,â€ť sports, all-terrain and customized
seating are just some of the wheelchair options for non-ambulatory
children and adults in todayâ€™s world. There are even wheelchairs that
incorporate gyroscopic technology and four-wheel drive.
Selecting a Wheelchair Seating System
hospitals and all rehabilitation centers offer â€śseating clinics.â€ť This
is where physical and occupational therapists evaluate a childâ€™s needs
and make recommendations for a wheelchair, a.k.a. seating system. Be
aware that these clinics may deal with only certain manufacturers and
therefore wonâ€™t be showing you what other options may be available.
main consideration of therapists is to choose a seating system that
distributes a userâ€™s weight away from areas of the body that are most at
risk for pressure sores. For someone who spends hours of their day in
the sitting position, the parts of the body that are the most at risk
for tissue breakdown include the ischial tuberosities
and greater trochanters
. The seating system also must provide stability, comfort, shock absorption and aid in seating posture.
seating systems can be created for individuals with scoliosis or other
complex muscular skeletal conditions when itâ€™s obvious that standard
seating systems arenâ€™t suitable.Usatechguide.org
, developed by the United Spinal Association
, offers an impressive list of manufactures of custom and molded wheelchair seating systems.
Questions to Ask
You should ask these questions of whatever seating system your childâ€™s therapists recommend:
- How and why did the therapists select the style, options or seating system they are presenting?
- Can the chair/seating system be adjusted for future growth, changes in posture, or function?
- Can the wheelchair or seating system be folded or converted for easy transport?
the chair be used in a vehicle tiedown system (if you will be using a
tiedown system)? If so, what adaptions need to be made?
additional accessories are available, such as seating trays, clamps to
attach switches or alternative communication devices?
- What adaptations are being added and do they facilitate your childâ€™s needs?
- What type of headrest is being used and what parameters are being used in assessing the best headrest for your child?
type of harness system will be used with your childâ€™s new wheelchair or
seating system and what is its crash-test rating? Examples of todayâ€™s
offerings of harness systems can be found at Convaid. A five-point restraint harness is recommended for children.
What about a Powered Wheelchair?
A Swedish study
wheelchair use among children with cerebral palsy found, not
surprisingly, that children using powered wheelchairs experienced much
greater independence than those that required adult pushing. Therefore,
the researchers suggested that children be introduced to a powered
wheelchair as soon as they can safely
begin to use one.
on Aug. 1, 2012 at 6:27 PM