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Power Mobility

Introduction to Power Mobility

In the past, power mobility was considered to be a last resort and something only to be considered for the most severely disabled children, once all other options had been exhausted. Now that we understand the impact that early independence in mobility can have on overall development, we realize that children who are unable to move independently need to be assisted to explore their environment at the same age as their non-disabled peers. For some children alternate mobility devices such as walkers, caster carts, crawlers or scooters will be appropriate. For children with more severe mobility impairments, a powered device may be the only option.

Power mobility should be considered as an option for children who:

  • Will never walk e.g. children with more severe forms of cerebral palsy, spinal muscular atrophy, limb deficiencies or spinal cord injuries etc.
  • Are able to walk, or propel a manual chair but not to the extent that will allow them to fully participate in play, school or community life e.g.children with milder forms of cerebral palsy, arthritis etc.
  • Will lose the ability to walk in future e.g. forms of muscular dystrophy

Children who are unable to crawl or walk are often carried or pushed in manual wheelchairs or strollers until they are deemed ‘ready’ to use a power chair. In the past, children were expected to pass formal psychological or adult style driving tests without any mobility experience. Current thinking is that what were previously thought to be ‘readiness skills’ may in fact be skills that are developed as a result of mobility experience. For children with multiple and complex disabilities, the only way to determine readiness is to provide extended mobility experience and practice. This may be achieved by providing access to powered mobility riding toys during therapy or by extended loans of old power wheelchairs.

Last Updated: Feb 27, 2013