Choosing The Right Pediatric Power Wheelchair
All children value their freedom, their ability
move around in space while experiencing the many wonders of the
world. This is as true for those children who can't walk as it is
for those who can. In the past, being confined to a wheelchair was
just that ... confining. But today, wheelchairs are technologically
advanced and sophisticated enough to allow children who are unable
to walk a freedom they were never previously able to experience.
The right pediatric wheelchair can allow a variety of positions,
including sitting, laying and standing so that the user can move
around during the day while still remaining comfortable and functional.
Pediatric power wheelchairs are available in the same basic models
as other power wheelchairs. There's the rear-wheel drive, which
move fast but can be difficult to maneuver in tight places; the
front-wheel drive, which can make sharper turns and runs only slightly
slower than the rear-wheel model; and finally, there's the mid-wheel
drive wheelchair, which has the tightest turn capability but can
be unsteady in stops and starts.
However, far more important in choosing the right pediatric power
wheelchair for your child is how well it serves your child's needs.
The wheelchair should be a single component in a complete support
program designed to serve your child's needs, strengths and environment.
With this in mind, some hospitals and medical centers go through
a complete assessment program to determine the best pediatric power
wheelchair for each child. All these factors are taken into consideration
in order to build a wheelchair that will suit the specific needs
of the child. Some of these considerations include:
- Which mobility controls are most appropriate
- The extent of the need of the child for independent mobility
- The child s physical abilities and functional skills
- The child's ability to control his or her upper and lower extremities,
as well as head and eye movements
- The child's ability to use activating switches or joysticks
- The child s needs for posture support and seating
These are all valuable considerations, whether or not you're in
a situation in which your child's wheelchair needs can receive a
complete assessment through a medical facility. In addition, you'll
want to look for a wheelchair that will grow with your child. Most
pediatric power wheelchairs have adjustable brace supports and frame
sections that can expand, so that your child's chair can be used
for ten or twelve years.
In addition, you'll want to understand that a pediatric power wheelchair
will require regular maintenance. Beyond normal cleaning, the hardware,
tires, seat, braking system, control system and battery will need
to be tested on a regular schedule.
On the social side of your child's wheelchair needs, take into consideration
his or her lifestyle, the temperament of your child, how he or she
faces social situations, makes new friends, deals with being different,
etc. For instance, how will your child handle the frustrations of
first learning to use the controls and maneuver the power wheelchair?
Will he or she become impatient and quick to give up or will your
child be determined? Will your child be embarrassed entering new
environments and new experiences confined to the wheelchair? Or
will he or she thrive in these circumstances?
Finally, you'll also want to consider how you intend to transport
your child's pediatric power wheelchair. For instance, these chairs
are far heavier and bulkier than a standard manual chair. Do you
have a vehicle that's big enough to handle the chair? Do you have
a lift or a rack that can handle the additional weight? Will you
need additional help when transporting the wheelchair?
While pediatric power wheelchairs offer greater freedom than ever
before, including the ability to allow your child to participate
in activities at floor level or table height or even standing in
some situations, they also require some important decision making.
Choosing the right pediatric power wheelchair is a process of balancing
the needs of your child against the practicality of today's versatile
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