Choosing The Right Pediatric Power Wheelchair

David Silva
 


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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 chairs.

    David Silva is the webmaster for The Perfect Wheelchair, a website dedicated to sharing information about wheelchairs, including manual chairs, power chairs, dog wheelchairs, and wheelchair accessories.

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