Shasta of Outrageous Fortune recently wrote this regarding a search for an appropriate wheelchair for her son Malachai:
I worry that if I get him a power wheelchair that I’m “caving” or “giving up” on him ever walking, because why would he want to try crawling if he already had something that propelled him around? (Indeed, he already does that with me.) But I worry that if I force him to be in a manual chair that it will just become another piece of unused equipment that he hates being made to try and I will lose out on all the developmental and social benefits an effortless propulsion system would offer him.
I get it. I really do. Deciding to get Aidan a power wheelchair was a complex and emotional decision. It was absolutely the right decision for us and I shutter to think how close we came to saying no. I see the freedom it has given Aidan, the additional motivation to move in anyway he can including walking, the interesting way his wheelchair has become a tool for communication. This experience, however, does not entice me to run around Oprah Winfrey style and shout, “and YOU get a powerchair, and YOU get a powerchair, and YOU get a powerchair!”
It was right for Aidan, and I want all other parents considering the best mobility options for their children to find exactly what’s right for them and for their lifestyle. Getting a powerchair for Aidan meant getting an accessible van too; that’s no small commitment.
The powerchair does not come into the house. We still hold Aidan and help him walk these short distances. That means that Aidan’s movement is dependent on our initiation. He walks into the kitchen when I decide it’s time for him to get there. That kind of stinks for him.
Our home has recently been renovated by our community to be a much more accessible space for Aidan, leaving us to wonder how Aidan can best take advantage of that. He should be able to choose where he wants to go, and yet, the powerchair is not quite appropriate for Aidan (not all kids) to use in the home. It would take intense supervision to make sure he doesn’t hurt himself or destroy our house as he gets around.
So……..we decided to get him a second hand manual chair that he can propel. I’m SO excited about this. Aidan can go where he wants to go. He doesn’t have the strength to crash into walls and hurt himself, but he certainly has the strength to propel himself short distances.
See for yourself. (Subscribers will have to click through to the blog to view video)
After just one week of using the manual chair, here’s what Aidan has learned – the break in the front is not the same as the joystick on his powerchair; it takes both hands to propel; he can make the cognitive switch between both chairs and is motivated to use either of them; and yes, he can finally get over the bump into the kitchen. Check out this video:
I’m excited. Wheelchairs at first screamed to me “CAN’T” or “WEAK” or “DISABLED.” Now they shout for joy “CAN” and “STRONG” and “SMART” and “INDEPENDENT.”
So, parents of kids with mobility issues, what questions do you have for me and what has worked for you in making this decision?