Should We Choose Power Mobility?
Written by: Jean Murby, PT, PCS
A challenging decision for families is to decide if they should pursue power mobility for their child. Independent mobility allows children to freely discover their environment, develop social skills and participate in daily routines in their home and community. This article discusses when a power chair should be considered and how a power chair can contribute to a child’s performance and development.
Children need to move within their homes, schools, and the community. The ability to move independently enables children to explore their environment, visit with friends or family members, and more fully participate in activities. Power mobility enables a child who would not, otherwise, be able to move independently to do all these things. Many times, a parent perceives power mobility as a significant compromise of their aspirations and goals for their child. This is not the case, however.
Benefits of power mobility include;
- Cognitive development.
- Increased social interactions and development of relationships.
- Development of spatial awareness.
- Independence of movement within their environment.
- Increased confidence and sense of self-responsibility.
When a child struggles to use an ambulation device successfully or lacks the required energy to walk long distances, that child could benefit from powered mobility. Skills that a child needs to have for a successful trial of powered mobility include;
- Adequate vision, cognition, and judgment to safely operate a power chair.
- Ability to use a hand or head array control to drive the chair.
- Understanding of safe steering and ability to stop/go.
A successful trial of the child driving the power chair needs to be demonstrated to third-party payers (insurance) for reimbursement of the cost of the power chair. The home’s physical environment needs to be conducive to the child managing the power chair, and the family may want to consider purchasing a van to transport the power chair to allow the chair to be used during family outings. However, there are some situations where children solely use their power chair in their school for increased access to school activities.
Helping children achieve the highest level of function, participation, and independence is important. The investigation of whether a non-ambulating child is a strong candidate for power mobility should be based on the clear recognition of the full opportunity of power mobility to contribute to the child’s development, along with the child’s aspirations and family’s values and goals.
For more information or to be scheduled for a power mobility evaluation, please contact one of our Pediatric Outpatient sites.