Wheelchairs for Cerebral Palsy

Equipment, Tips for Parents

Happy young Black girl in wheelchair with illustrated flexing arms in background

Cerebral palsy can lead to challenges that make it difficult for children to walk on their own. As symptoms and severity of CP vary, different types of wheelchairs may be most appropriate for different children. A wheelchair may make everyday activities easier for children with CP, improving the quality of life for both the child and their caregivers.

Why Use a Wheelchair?

Children with cerebral palsy may face mobility challenges. The right adaptive devices can go a long way in giving your child increased independence, while making caregiving and other daily activities easier as well.

Today’s wheelchairs can be powered with a simple touch of a button, making it even easier for your child to move around and overcome some movement limitations.

Things to Keep in Mind When Purchasing a Wheelchair

You should speak with your child’s doctors and physical therapists to determine their specific needs before purchasing a wheelchair. You will need to know how much posture control your child has, as well as how much support they will need, to ensure you get the right wheelchair. You may also want to consider the following when shopping for wheelchairs:

  • Appropriate seat height, such as short, tall, or standard seating
  • Appropriate seat width, such as youth, narrow or standard
  • Preference for armrest
  • Preference for foot and leg rests
  • Preference for the type of seat cushion
  • Weight of the wheelchair, as some are extremely lightweight while others are very heavy

In addition to a wheelchair, your child may also need a lift to help position and transfer them from beds, chairs, and bathroom facilities. Types of transfer lifts include:

  • Manual
  • Overhead
  • Powered

Types of Wheelchairs

You will come across various options when choosing the right wheelchair for your child to use. Types of wheelchairs include:

Electric Wheelchairs

Electric wheelchairs are typically the most popular because they’re motorized. Children use a small switch to easily operate this wheelchair, and they can move around quickly. Your doctor may recommend your child use an electric wheelchair if they have limited mobility and/or challenges with coordination in their arms and legs. Studies have recorded that children with spastic and dyskinetic cerebral palsy have effectively used motorized wheelchairs to improve mobility. Some studies even connect the accessibility of electric wheelchairs during early developmental stages to increased independent mobility as they get older.

Standing Electric Wheelchairs

Standing wheelchairs are those that position the user upright rather than in a seated position. Because of this position, these wheelchairs allow children to stay at eye level with peers while interacting. Standing wheelchairs may help your child increase their coordination and balance. Standing wheelchairs may also promote good bowel and urinary health as well as improve circulation. At the same time, these wheelchairs still offer children a way to move around efficiently.

Manual Wheelchairs

Manual wheelchairs require the person using the wheelchair to push large, rear wheels. Benefits include easier folding and affordability. However, manual wheelchairs may be too difficult to use for children who cannot efficiently use their arms or children who have more severe CP symptoms. A manual wheelchair could be a good option if your child is learning to walk alone but needs some additional assistance.

Pediatric Wheelchairs

As a caregiver, you may choose a wheelchair that allows you to better maneuver while walking with your child. Wheelchairs may be needed for children who cannot operate an electric or manual wheelchair because they are too young or have more severe challenges.

Popular options like the Sunrise Medical Kid Kart Xpress Pediatric Wheelchair offer appropriate seating and positioning functions while maintaining the appearance of a standard stroller. The Kid Kart pediatric wheelchair is easy to maneuver and accommodates children as they grow thanks to adjustable standard or contoured seating.

Specialty Wheelchairs

Various chairs, such as Rifton’s Activity Chair, offer adaptive seating that may make therapy and everyday activities easier. These chairs can help with things such as:

  • Active learning
  • Feeding
  • Speech therapy

These chairs may also be helpful for children with sensory processing challenges.

Modifications for Bathroom Functionality

Various chairs are available to make it easier for children with cerebral palsy to bathe and use the toilet as well as make it easier for their caregivers to assist them. Devices may make the transfer to a shower, tub, or toilet easier as well.

Other modifications can be made to bathroom facilities to allow for easier use of wheelchairs. Modifications you may consider include:

  • Adding grab bars near the shower or tub and/or toilet to make getting into/out of the area or onto surfaces easier
  • Building a curbless shower to make entry and exit safer
  • Widening doorways to allow wheelchairs to move into rooms

Incredible treatment advances have been made, and adaptive devices like wheelchairs may have significant impacts on your child’s quality of life, but living with cerebral palsy can create financial burdens as well. Cerebral palsy can also have a huge emotional impact on children and their families, particularly if you believe your child’s CP was the result of mistreatment or negligence on the part of medical professionals. The Cerebral Palsy Family Lawyers at Janet, Janet & Suggs, LLC have helped more than 30,000 families investigate their options in medical malpractice and birth injury cases. Contact us today so we can help you uncover the truth behind your child’s CP.

Was Your Child's CP Preventable?