Understanding the ages and stages of child development in the context of disabilities is important to your decision about which wheelchairs for kids are the best possibilities for your child. Every child grows and develops on their own time table, but there are some basic milestones to follow, and some signs to look for that can help you in your search.
Wheelchairs for kids: Learning to be mobile
Typically, babies without disabilities or developmental delays start to become mobile by creeping, crawling, and/or walking when they are 6 to 12 months old. If your child isn’t about to be mobile without help, it is important to help them to promote learning, growth, and development. Usually in this young age group it is gross motor delays that inhibit a child from exploring the surrounding environment, and while the idea of providing wheelchairs for kids that are toddlers may seem odd to you, even very young children can benefit from pediatric mobility options that help them strike out into the world around them.
Children as young as 18 to 36 months old can use ultralight manual wheelchairs for kids very successfully. In fact, you will be amazed by how skilled some very small children can be with their wheelchairs! Building confidence in a wheelchair means that your small child explores things around them with independence, and helps them to avoid developing learned helplessness or dependence.
Every ounce counts
When you choose a wheelchair for anyone, weight matters. It matters most for manual chairs, because adding more weight means that staying in motion is a bigger challenge. Naturally, weight matters the very most to pediatric users; some children weigh far less than their chairs!
The adjustability, configuration, customization, proper set-up, and weight of the material all influence the final weight of your child’s chair. As you assess pediatric wheelchairs, remember to examine the weight of accessories and the seating system along with the frame. If your child’s health and needs permit, you can opt for lightweight back and cushion options that are designed for children to help keep the curb weight lower.
In use details
As you shop for wheelchairs for kids, remember that proper set-up and configuration are important to how it functions for your child. This matters even before you’ve purchased because some chairs require more balance or a different center of gravity, so depending on your child’s physical needs, some options might be more or less comfortable to use or easier to maneuver. As a general rule, the center of gravity should be as far forward as possible, but not so much that your child will risk falling (or even feel like they’re about to fall over and over again).
Another important area to consider is the amount of growth possible and how the growth process works in each wheelchair. Remember, if you think it’s frustrating to buy a new pair of shoes for your child only to have them outgrown in six months, imagine how much worse this is when what you’re purchasing is a wheelchair! Be sure to explore the growth capabilities of the wheelchairs for kids you consider.
How you will transport your child’s wheelchair is another critical use detail to consider. You may need to transport the wheelchair using a personal vehicle, a school bus, or on public transportation—or all three. For each pediatric wheelchair you consider, look at how the wheelchair breaks down, how many steps it takes to break the wheelchair down, how tough it is to reassemble the wheelchair and how long that takes, and how much each of the components weighs. You should also investigate which transport related features each wheelchair you’re considering has: folding frame, fold down back, removable seating, and quick release wheels are some of the possibilities.
A personal decision
Remember, this is going to be your child’s wheelchair, not yours. Give them the chance to express their sense of personal style as much as possible. Many wheelchairs for kids come with the opportunity to choose the color of the wheelchair frame, the fabric bands on cushions, and the color of the back shell.
Make sure your child will be able to do everything they want to do in their wheelchair. If your child’s goal is to be as active as possible and propel independently, look for ultralight weight wheelchairs for kids. Just remember that even the most athletic and independent child will need some assistance sooner or later from a caregiver. Simple push handles make this possible and are a must.
At home, at play, or at school, the right pediatric wheelchair is essential to your child’s freedom, independence, and confidence. Modern wheelchairs for kids are unmatched in terms of freedom of movement and sophistication. By accounting for your child’s physical needs, mobility challenges, and social challenges, you can select the best pediatric wheelchair for your child’s development.