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Today’s wheelchairs and scooters provide those with cerebral palsy greatly improved mobility. They offer numerous options to match the equipment to the child’s height, weight, posture, and support needs. This optimizes the use of the equipment while also providing maximum comfort.
Wheelchairs can now be moved with just a switch of a button, making it easy for children with cerebral palsy to move around with minimal problems. Before purchasing a wheelchair, there are numerous things to be aware of. First, you’ll need your child’s primary health care provider and therapists to assess your child’s specific needs, such as how much posture control they have and how much support they’ll need. Additionally, you will need to determine the following:
- Seat width (youth, narrow, standard, etc.)
- Seat height (short, tall, or standard seating)
- Wheelchair weight (some are super light where others are extremely heavy)
- Arm rest preference
- Type of seat cushioning
- Leg and foot rest preference
Some children will need lifts as well. Lifts may be used to help position the child and transfer them across numerous surfaces (beds, chairs, bathroom, etc.). There are various types of transfer lifts including powered, overhead, and manual lifts.
Electric wheelchairs are the most popular wheelchair since they are motorized and allow children to move quickly by simply using a small switch. These types of wheelchairs are recommended for children who have limited mobility and problems with coordination in their upper and lower extremities.
Standing Electric Wheelchairs
Standing wheelchairs help children increase their balance and coordination while still offering them an efficient way to move around. A standing wheelchair allows children to interact with their peers on an eye-to-eye level. Standing wheelchairs have also been shown to improve circulation and promote good urinary and bowel health.
Manual wheelchairs are wheelchairs that require the person using it to push the large, rear wheels to make it move. These types of wheelchairs are typically chosen due to affordability and ease of folding. Yet, children with severe cerebral palsy and those who cannot use their arms efficiently would not be good candidates for a manual wheelchair. It is, however, a good option for children who are in the process of learning to walk alone but need additional assistance.
Scooters or power operated vehicles (POV) come with three or four wheels and help children develop movement and stability. Most scooters come with comfortable, padded seating, a flat area to rest the feet and use the foot pedal, and sturdy handle bars that allow children to turn the POV in different directions.
Similar to wheelchairs, there are various types of scooters that range from small to large, lightweight to heavy. The smaller scooters are intended primarily for traveling, although they are sometimes used for everyday activities. The mid-range scooters are the best option for both indoor and outdoor use, while the larger, heavy scooters can handle rough, outdoor terrains.
Scooters are useful for children who have decreased upper limb mobility and have problems with shoulder stamina and flexibility. Another advantage of scooters is that the stigma of being disabled is not as prominent as when children use a wheelchair. Although awareness about cerebral palsy continues to increase, children with disabilities are still often targets of bullies. Scooters make some children feel better about themselves as opposed to using a wheelchair.
Parents should be aware of the possible limitations of scooters prior to considering them for their children. Although scooters help children with upper limb limitations, the children will still need to steer the POV, which requires hand coordination, at least a little upper body strength, and an upright posture. Scooters also do not have the added accessories that wheelchairs can provide, such as headrests.
Affording Wheelchairs and Mobility Scooters
Scooters and wheelchairs will range in price depending on the make, model, and additional accessories needed. Prices will also depend on the store and/or manufacturer. It is always a wise idea to shop around before making a decision.
Many families find that they cannot afford some of the steep price tags that come along with the mobility aid that their child needs, but in many instances, insurance plans will cover the costs of necessary aids. Another option to consider is purchasing a slightly used mobility aid. If taking this option, make sure to have it inspected thoroughly before purchasing to ensure it is in working order and will meet your child’s needs.
Many companies offer the option of renting mobility aids, while some companies can help you finance it. You can also check with charitable organizations, such as the Easter Seals or the United Cerebral Palsy Association (UCP). If have any questions, feel free to contact us and we’ll be happy to answer any questions you have.