Imagine seeing your child struggle and be dependent on you for everything. Unfortunately, it has become a common scenario for parents of children with cerebral palsy. They have to go through long-term and strenuous therapy sessions to learn how to cope with this disability.
The good news is that there are assistive devices for children with cerebral palsy. These devices may be as simple as a spoon with a long handle to allow the child to feed themselves or as complex as a wheelchair that can control the child’s head movements. Some assistive devices need to be custom fit and made just for the child. Devices are chosen by finding out what tasks the child has difficulty doing, what tasks they would like to do but cannot do well enough on their own, and what tasks they want to learn how to do.
7 Must-Have Assistive Devices for Children with Cerebral Palsy
The following list is a few essential assistive devices for children with cerebral palsy.
Children with cerebral palsy often need wheelchairs for mobility, seating stability, and positioning. Wheelchairs can be used for mobility indoors and outdoors, in the classroom, or at home. Using a wheelchair helps in increasing a child’s independence and participation.
The three main types of wheelchairs for children with cerebral palsy are:
- Manual Wheelchairs: The child pushes himself using his strength, although a caregiver may also push the chair.
- Motorized Wheelchairs: The child controls an electric motor that powers the chair.
- Power-Assist: A small electric drive is attached to one of the wheels. The child still does most of the pushing, but the chair moves more efficiently in different directions.
2. Orthotic Boots
Orthotic boots for children with cerebral palsy can help to improve gait and posture by providing stability and preventing the foot from turning outward. They are made of lightweight material and are lined with soft foam to provide comfort. Your child’s physician will take a mold of your child’s foot and ankle so that they fit him or her perfectly. Some children may need them on one foot only if the other leg is straightened out.
The orthotic boot is fitted over your child’s foot and ankle to keep it in place. It has a flexible plastic outer shell that supports the foot and ankle. This also prevents the toes from being pushed down into the sole of the boot so that your child does not have to pick up their foot as much when walking.
3. Brachiation Kits
Brachiation kits allow children who cannot use their legs to swing in a safe and fun way. These kits are typically equipped with sturdy bars that are easy for children to grip, and they are designed to support a child’s total weight without becoming tangled or twisted. Many brachiation kits also allow parents to adjust the height of the bars so that children can reach them quickly, and some have multiple bars at varying heights for even more flexibility.
Children with cerebral palsy may need crutches because they have problems with balance and gait. Crutches are used to support the body weight when someone has an injury, or condition that makes it difficult or impossible to walk normally. Crutches usually consist of three parts: two metal tubes connected by a cross piece and a padded armrest at the top of each tube. Crutches come in different sizes because they must be adjusted to fit your height, arm length, and weight. Crutches are designed for either both arms or one arm, depending on the amount of weight being transferred from the legs to the arms.
5. Hand Splints
Children with cerebral palsy often have tight and contracted muscles in their arms and hands. This can make it challenging to grasp and hold objects, write, feed themselves, or even play. Hand splints can be a helpful and easy treatment for these problems.
Hand splints help children with cerebral palsy hold their hands in a functional position. They are typically made of plastic or metal and are fitted to the child’s arm and hand. Splints can help keep a child’s hand from curling up into a tight fist. They can also help the child position his or her fingers correctly when grasping an object or writing.
To fit a child correctly, the splint should allow the child to use his or her hands practically while at the same time keeping their hand from becoming too deformed when not using them. For example, if the child needs help keeping his or her thumb out of the palm of their hand, then the splint should be designed to do just that.
6. Standing Frames
Many parents of children with cerebral palsy are curious about standing frames. Standing frames are specially designed pieces of equipment that allow children to stand upright, even when they lack the muscle tone and control to stand on their own.
Often known as a stander, these pieces of equipment can be used as part of a physical therapy routine. They can also help build bone density, which is particularly important for children who often lie down or sit up most of the time. The improved blood flow from standing also helps promote better kidney function and bowel regularity. Standers can also give your child’s hip joints more freedom of movement and increase flexibility in the legs, hips, and spine.
7. Bathroom Bench
A bathroom bench is a portable bath seat that can be placed over the side of the bathtub. It allows a person to sit on it while being bathed as an alternative to standing or sitting in the bottom of the tub.
Bathing benches are suitable for children with mobility impairments who need help getting into and out of the tub, such as cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, and spina bifida. They can also be used by children who have sensory impairments and need extra support during bathing so that they do not slip off the bench into the water.
There are many helpful devices on the market that children with cerebral palsy can use to enhance participation in daily living activities and improve their quality of life. The important thing is for parents to know what is available and how the technologies can make a difference for the child.
If you have a child with cerebral palsy, these are some helpful assistive devices for children with cerebral palsy that you may want to consider.