Selecting an appropriate pediatric or child wheelchair, as with any mobility chair purchase, requires the professional counsel of a doctor, physical therapist, and/or occupational therapist to ensure the mobility chair fully meets the needs and size requirements of the young user.
Unlike past decades, there are a wide variety of manual and power wheelchairs on the market today that are specifically designed to address the needs of mobility-challenged children
Child wheelchairs come in a range of styles, colors and options to appeal to young users. A number of models easily adjust to accommodate changes in size as a child grows.
Addressing the Child’s Needs: Choosing an appropriate wheelchair begins with a professional assessment of the child’s health condition, size, needs, growth forecast, and physical abilities.
Settings and Functional Requirements: How and where the chair will be used also contributes to the selection process. For example, the mobility chair be used primarily indoors or outdoors?
Is it important that the wheel chair offer the functionality to climb stairs, elevate the child to a standing position, or traverse rough terrain such as a playground or park?
Overall Appeal: Many wheelchair users of all ages perceive their chairs as extensions of themselves. Therefore, a wheelchair’s fit, features and comfort are always paramount.
In addition, the user must be comfortable with the color and style, as these attributes contribute to a person’s sense of style and image portrayal. For young users, the look of the chair can be a pivotal selection criterion.
Evaluating all criteria will help determine whether the child is best served by a manual wheelchair, power chair, electric scooter, or alternative wheelchair.
Child Wheelchair Options
Manual Wheelchairs: Depending on abilities, a manual wheelchair may be propelled by the child’s arms, legs and/or a caregiver.
Manual chairs come in a number of types including standard models, sports wheelchairs, lightweight or transport chairs, and standing wheelchairs that enable the child to elevate to a standing position without leaving the chair base.
They can be ordered with bright, patterned upholstery and colored accessories to enhance appeal to young users.
"Grow Wheelchairs" are also attractive choices because they are designed to be adapted over time to fit kids as they change in size. This saves on the expense of investing in a new chair each year. Adjustments and replacement components enable the chair to convert from a smaller size to a larger size as children grow.
Electric Wheelchairs: A child who requires independent mobility but is unable to propel a manual chair is a candidate for a powered chair.
Physical and developmental factors, such as posture, coordination, and visual perception, should also be taken into account. The environment in which the chair will be used is also an important factor to consider. Training and supervised practice are essential for children using electric wheelchairs.
Electric wheelchairs for children typically feature joystick controls, though other options are available that may include head and chin switches, push-button controls, trackballs, tillers and sip-n-puff systems.
In addition to customized colors and upholstery that appeal to kids, power models offer a variety of features and functionality. Some are more basic, while others offer the capability for the user to change seat height, recline, and even stand while being secured in the chair.
Child Mobility Scooters: A child-sized mobility scooter is an attractive choice for young users who have some limited ability to walk; yet need to rely on a chair to go for extended distances.
Scooters require upper body strength and arm function for steering purposes, and the child must be able to transfer to and from the scooter. Some models offer greater speed and distance on a charge than a power chair. For more information on scooter types, click here.
Recreational and Alternative Chairs: Other child wheelchair options and equipment are available that address young users' mobility needs and recreational interests.
These include hand-propelled or powered wheelchair carts that resemble go-karts in design. With wheelchair carts, the child sits near ground level with legs outstretched. The legs and feet are supported while the child uses the chair.
Hand-cycle bikes have high appeal among children and are available in single or multi-speed models. They come in a range of colors and are typically custom made for each user. The bikes feature flip-up footrests and sliding seats so transfers are easy.
Specially designed mobility strollers are another alternative for young children. There are standard models that look similar to conventional strollers, as well as all-terrain and beach mobility strollers with special wheels and supports. Most stroller models are easy to transport and store.
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