Children can need wheelchairs for many different reasons. Some have had injuries either to their legs or spine, which controls leg movement. Others have disabilities due to muscular dystrophy or cerebral palsy. In certain cases, children may have wheelchairs but not need them permanently. For example, they might be able to walk with the aid of crutches or a walker but need the chair for longer distances.
For children who depend on a wheelchair for the long term, they’ll need to learn how to use the wheelchair in a variety of situations — at home, in school, while away on holiday or enjoying hobbies and recreational activities.
Most things able bodied people can do wheelchair users are able to do too, with the right chair or adapted equipment. All sports are enjoyed by wheelchair users these days and the ‘can do’ attitude is a good one to adopt.
Development areas to encourage
Encourage activities which use all the child’s senses. Introduce a variety of hobbies, sporting activities and art.
Where possible use hydro-therapy pools and swimming baths, which will promote the use of upper body muscles and strengthen all body parts. Developing their spacial awareness will prove useful in many areas.
Help the child to become independent by building the confidence they need to enable them to achieve the same goals an able bodied child can.
Problem solving skills will assist them when dealing with and tackling the issues they will face in life.
Activities that they can engage
Experiment with the same tools children with motor disabilities use for grasping, holding, transferring and releasing.
Placing double sided sticky tape on crayons and markers will make them much easier to grip or maybe secure a paint brush into a glove. Paint brushes with large knobs on the ends also allow children easier grip.
Use spray bottles to practice the squeezing motion needed to use scissors and this will also strengthen hand muscles.
Materials of different textures, such as play dough, fabric swatches, ribbon, corrugated cardboard and sandpaper will stimulate the sense of touch.
Obstacle courses are brilliant fun and great at gaining confidence in moving around in a wheelchair. They will also aid building upper body strength and developing the muscles needed to participate in certain fast sports like basket ball or netball.
Ball games such as catching and throwing will develop gross motor skills.