The loss of mobility is a devastating blow to any adult, but to a child, limited mobility is even more calamitous. The first thing a child who has become limited in mobility will miss is his or her freedom. It is paramount that a sense of freedom be restored quickly, through the use of a pediatric wheelchair.
There are many models of pediatric wheelchairs available today; as the wheelchair will become the child’s primary method of movement, it is important to quickly and carefully assess what model is most compatible with the child’s needs. Parents need not make this decision without guidance. Doctors and staff at physical therapy centers are available to help with this important decision.
Professionals will help assess the child’s needs and recommend appropriate powered electric wheelchairs based on their assessment. One of the factors that will be taken into consideration is posture support and seating needs. Some wheelchairs are equipped to help children stay upright, when they cannot hold themselves up.
Comfortable and safe seating for different posture needs is available, to cushion children and prevent pressure sores. Ability to use controls is also taken into account; some wheelchairs use joystick systems to direct motion, others use switches, and some even use breath control for children who have limited dexterity. Wheelchairs vary not only in their controls, but also in their functionality. Some wheelchairs are able to attain higher speeds than others.
Front wheel drive chairs are able to make sharp turns, but have only moderate speed. Rear wheel drive chairs attain high speeds but are difficult to maneuver in tight spaces. Mid-wheel drive chairs have extremely good maneuverability. Both physical and lifestyle needs must be taken into account when choosing a pediatric wheelchair.
Pediatric wheelchairs are long-term investment that can grow with a child. All chairs can be modified with extensions; back, arm, foot, and leg rests can grow to accommodate a child’s lengthening limbs and body. Chairs are also equipped with several position settings, so that children can better maintain their sense of comfort and freedom; not only can they move themselves through space, they can change the way they are situated in space.
Doctors and physical therapists should not be the only individuals consulted when choosing a pediatric chair. The child who will use the chair should also have an active role in picking a wheelchair. Consult your child, and include him or her in your discussions.
Understand not only your child’s physical needs, what lifestyle choices he or she wants to make. Only through the procurement of the appropriate chair will your child fully regain a sense of freedom.