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Mobility issues are a problem for many people with cerebral palsy. People with cerebral palsy often need intervention in getting around the house, to school, and to other everyday places. The type of assistance they will need depends on how severe their disorder is. Sometimes using a walker, canes, or a stander is all that is needed.
The non-wheeled walker, also known as a basic walker or a standard walker, works by having the child place their hands on the handle of the walker and hold on while taking steps. These walkers are more appropriate for children with normal arm strength, although all types of walkers require children to have at least a little upper body coordination and strength. The non-wheeled walker has four “legs” that generally have rubber tips to help prevent slipping. Most are height-adjustable.
A two-wheeled walker comes with two wheels attached to the front of the walker and an optional resting seat, depending on the model chosen. For children who don’t have the stamina to stand for long periods, the two-wheeled seated walker is recommended. Similar to a non-wheeled walker, the child grasps the handles on the walker while walking, but wheels make it easier to maneuver around.
Two-wheeled walkers come in many different sizes for different ages, ranging from toddlers to adulthood. Some walkers can fold for easy convenience while traveling. For children with seated two-wheeled walkers, the seat often doubles as a chair during class time.
Four-wheeled walkers are designed for children who are not quite coordinated enough to handle a standard walker or two-wheeled walker. In addition to helping children move forward using their weight, four-wheeled walkers are said to improve cadence, velocity, and help reduce the energy used. Similar to the other walkers, the four-wheeled walker comes in various sizes for each age stage. Some four-wheel walkers can be easily folded.
Gait trainers are similar to four-wheeled walkers in that they also have four wheels. Gait trainers also come with an attached seat and may be either angled or straight depending on the needs and mobility of the child.
Canes are a type of mobility aid for children who don’t have severe symptoms in their legs but still need added balance and support when getting around. Canes are often preferred because of their ease of use, both indoors and outdoors, and their versatility. Many children with cerebral palsy can participate in sports with the help of canes.
There are a number of canes created specifically for children with cerebral palsy. The most popular type are the heavy-duty canes that come with rubber pronged ends to help reduce slipping. Many canes today are foldable, making it easy for children to put them away while in class or load them easily into a vehicle.
Canes generally have adjustable holes, in which children slide their arms through. They can then grasp onto the canes’ rubber handles. Most canes today are height adjustable.
Children with cerebral palsy who stand for long periods of time may benefit from using a stander. Standers are specifically designed to allow people to stand for short to extended periods of time. A stander has numerous benefits to offer including:
- Facilitating muscle and bone development
- Promoting lower extremity use
- Allowing eye-level interaction with peers
- Helping develop motor coordination and head control
- Passive hamstring stretching
- Improving bowel and bladder function
There are several types of standers that have been proven beneficial to children with cerebral palsy. These include:
- Active Standers: Active standers are a relatively new development and comes with a sit-to-stand option. Children move these standers with their arms, legs, or both.
- Mobile Standers: Mobile standers help children stand upright, but some come with the option of sit-to-stand. A pulley propels movement in these types of standers, but some also come with a motorized option.
- Multi-position Standers: Multi-position standers allow children to be in the standing position, lying face upward, or lying face down.
Where to Buy Walkers, Canes, and Stands
Walkers, canes, and standers are generally sold online from specialty retailers or in stores that carry mobility devices. Your child must first be evaluated prior to purchase. If you need assistance choosing the mobility aid, a physical therapist, occupational therapist, and/or an orthopedic surgeon should be able to assist you. Inquire with your health care providers about getting a referral.