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There are numerous mobility aids, also called assistive technologies or assistive devices, to help with mobility limitations associated with cerebral palsy. Most assistive devices can be adjusted to fit a child’s height or can be specially made to fit their individual needs. Assistive devices greatly improve a child’s quality of life, as well as increase their independence.
Orthotic devices are braces worn externally that improve and strengthen mobility. There are two types of orthotic devices: accommodative orthotics and functional orthotics.
Accommodative orthotics are “over the counter” devices, which means they do not require a prescription or the approval of a doctor to be purchased. They are made in various sizes to fit anyone and can be bought in most pharmacies or sporting goods stores.Functional orthotics are specifically made for the individual.
Functional orthotics are commonly used by those with cerebral palsy because they can be customized to fit the individual’s needs.
Orthotic devices come in hard, semi-soft or soft forms. There are many types of orthotic braces, including:
Walkers can assist children with cerebral palsy with their mobility issues, including problems with balance and posture. They also allow the child to bear weight on their legs, which increases bone strength and reduces the risk of fractures and osteoporosis.
There are several kinds of walkers available to help those with cerebral palsy, such as:
Walking sticks and canes are a cost effective option that provide extra balance and stability for those with milder forms of cerebral palsy. They are most helpful in patients with hemiplegia or monoplegia.
Canes and walking sticks can be adjusted to fit the child’s height. There are several types of canes, including:
Crutches are often used by those with cerebral palsy who have the ability to ambulate, or walk, but need extra help with balance and stability. There are two types or crutches: underarm crutches and forearm, or elbow, crutches.
Underarm crutches are mostly used for short term disability, like a broken leg. Forearm crutches are used for long term or lifelong disabilities and more commonly used by cerebral palsy patients. These crutches attach to the forearms and help with balance, but are not meant to take on the user’s full weight.
Standers are devices that allow those with cerebral palsy to stand for short or extended periods of time. They help to support a person’s weight and provide stability while in the upright position.
There are many benefits of using a stander. Standers:
The following types of standers may be helpful to those with cerebral palsy:
There are a number of lift options to help those who have difficulty transferring positions and supporting their body weight. Some lifts that are helpful with cerebral palsy include:
Wheelchairs are common mobility aids for non-ambulatory cerebral palsy patients. There are numerous design options and features to choose from, but there are two basic types: manual wheelchairs and power, or electric, wheelchairs.
Manual wheelchairs must be propelled by the user or pushed by another person, while power wheelchairs are motorized.
Manual wheelchairs are a more cost effective option, but they do require upper body strength to move them. There are several types of manual wheelchairs, including:
Power wheelchairs are more expensive, but are more convenient for those who do not have the ability to propel a manual wheelchair. They’re also well suited for those who maintain an active lifestyle. These chairs come with many different features and options. They’re also very customizable to an individual’s needs. Electric wheelchairs come in rear wheel, front wheel or mid wheel drive and have a variety of different battery options.
It’s important to consider the following when buying a wheelchair:
Power scooters are an alternative to wheelchairs and are often cheaper than power wheelchairs. They’re great for use outdoors and for those who do not have the upper body strength to operate a manual wheelchair.
While power scooters are more compact than power wheelchairs, they’re more difficult to maneuver because of their longer design. They’re also not as customizable for day-to-day activities and can be difficult to transport because of their heavy weight.
In most cases, children with CP who have mobility limitations must first be evaluated by a qualified professional to determine which device fits their needs. The following professionals can help with choosing the proper mobility aids:
Assistive technology experts (orthotists, prosthetists, seating practitioners, etc.)
Most assistive devices can be purchased in stores or online through specialty retailers. Many orthotic devices and other mobility aids that must be customized may need to be specially ordered or fitted by a doctor, therapist or assistive technology expert.
To learn more about mobility aids, try downloading our free Cerebral Palsy Guide, which includes over 60 pages of in-depth information for children and parents of a child with CP.
Kimberlee is a writer and researcher who is passionate about helping children with disabilities enjoy a happy, healthy life. She works closely with our attorneys to create content that educates the families and caretakers of children with cerebral palsy.