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How Do I Choose the Best Cerebral Palsy Wheelchair?

Some children with cerebral palsy require more support than others.
The damage that causes cerebral palsy usually occurs before birth.
Determining the best cerebral palsy wheelchair depends on a variety of factors.
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  • Written By: Devin Ruiz
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 21 October 2014
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Three factors are generally considered before purchasing a Cerebral Palsy wheelchair: what kind of posture support is needed, what kind of mobility is required and what adaptations or alterations need to be added to the chair. Environment may also be an important consideration, as some wheelchairs are designed for smooth pavement, while others are meant for rougher terrain. Depending on the condition of the patient, the type of Cerebral Palsy wheelchair may be important as well; some chairs are manual and designed for patients who can control the chair themselves, while motorized versions are designed for patients who have little or no hand coordination.

For the caretaker of a person with cerebral palsy, lifting the chair might be an issue. In this case, a lighter frame might be necessary for a particular lifestyle. Depending on the abilities of the individual, the Cerebral Palsy wheelchair could be manual or electric; if muscle mobility is very limited, the push of a button or lever might be the only way to independently move around. If muscle movement allows, a manual wheelchair that only requires the wheels to be pushed forward could be chosen.

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The cushioning of the chair must also be measured for comfort. The space between the front and rear of the legs should be no more than 3 inches (about 7.6 cm) to help prevent the frame from pushing against the persons legs and causing pain. The footrest should fully support each leg and hold them high enough to avoid the ground but low enough to not cause the knees to jut outward. Also, there should be about a half-inch (about 1.2 cm) of space between the hips and the side of the chair to give ample room for movement. The lateral support rests should be snug, but comfortable, underneath the armpits.

Some Cerebral Palsy wheelchairs also can adjust to accommodate a growing child, which may be a better option than buying another expensive specialized chair. Chairs with "growth kits" often have a cross brace at the bottom of the chair that can be moved to expand the amount of space available. The front frames can be replaced to lengthen the cross brace and provide better leg support as a child grows taller.

Consulting a physical therapist before purchasing a Cerebral Palsy wheelchair is often advised. These professionals are more familiar with the physical limitations of the patient and are able to discuss wheel chair options suited for both the patient and the caretaker. Sometimes organizations have specific Cerebral Palsy wheelchair recommendations which may influence a decision as well. There also are clinics that specialize in wheelchair rehabilitation, and their professionals can help determine a plan for both model and purchase options.

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