Selecting the best pediatric wheelchair for your child can be a difficult task. You know your child best – but you also need expert advice from someone who knows the product options available like the back of their hand. To help you on your journey, we’ve created a list of factors to consider when selecting a pediatric wheelchair.
Disclaimer: Always consult your pediatrician about your child’s specific mobility, health, and safety needs before purchasing a mobility aid. This guide is not designed to replace the expertise of a doctor.
Six Factors to Consider When Purchasing a Pediatric Wheelchair
The process of finding the perfect wheelchair for your child doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Here are the six factors to focus on as you shop.
The first and most important factor to consider is what the wheelchair will be used for. Do you need a kids’ wheelchair for short-term use while your child recovers from an injury? Or are you looking for a daily-use pediatric wheelchair for a disability like cerebral palsy or muscular dystrophy?
If you’re just looking for a temporary solution or an option for an ambulatory user, you’ll likely want to consider a manual wheelchair. While they do require the user or a caretaker to push them forward, they will be far more affordable than an electric pediatric wheelchair.
If you’re looking for a wheelchair for long-term or permanent daily use, you may want to explore the option of an electric wheelchair. While they are more expensive, they allow a child to navigate and travel long distances without heavy use of their upper body.
2. Age & Growth
Pediatric wheelchairs are designed specifically for children, so the age and size of your child will play a major role in finding the best option. This can be a particularly difficult factor to consider, not only because children grow so quickly, but because many children with mobility disorders don’t follow predictable growth patterns or charts.
The goal is to find the right balance between fit and frequency of purchase. While a perfect fit is ideal, some wheelchairs can be adjusted significantly using padding, foot rests, and arm rests to extend their useful lifespan.
The main priority is always the long-term comfort and health of your child. You can check out our blog on wheelchair fitting for more on this topic.
Next, you’ll need to consider what activities and terrains the pediatric wheelchair will be used for. Is your child interested in trying a wheelchair sports league? Do they love exploring the outdoors? Or will the wheelchair mostly be used indoors and on even ground?
The goal is to focus on your child’s quality of life and the activities they wish to pursue. For a child interested in playing a sport, a lightweight, self-propelled option may work best. For a child who will mostly use their wheelchair to navigate their school and home, an electric wheelchair can provide a no-fuss solution.
You’ll also want to think about transfers, and which wheelchair features will make transferring easiest for you and your child. If your child is an ambulatory wheelchair user, this may not be a concern at all.
However, for many children, ease and safety of transfer is incredibly important. Look for pediatric wheelchairs that offer flip back arms, swing away footrests, and wheel locks to make transfers a breeze. If you are not able to lift and transfer your child yourself, you may also want to research which slings and lifts are compatible with the wheelchair models you are considering.
How do you plan to transport your child’s wheelchair? Will the wheelchair need to fold to be stowed away for travel? Depending on your vehicle and needs, transportation can be a huge issue for many parents and children alike.
The good news is that there are so many different types of wheelchair lifts that can fit your vehicle – yes, even if you drive a sedan! Check out our blog on wheelchair vehicle lifts to learn more.
You may also want to consider if you’ll need a modified vehicle for your child’s transportation needs. Modified vehicles allow your child to roll directly in and be strapped in place without transferring out of their wheelchair. Modified vehicles are typically best for children who will be traveling often and for whom transfers can be dangerous or complicated.
Finally, let’s talk about budget. For parents of children with disabilities, money is not an easy topic. Every parent wants to provide their child with the absolute best care, safety, and comfort. But, pediatric mobility aids can be very expensive – especially if you need custom modifications.
Finding a mobility equipment supplier that offers warranty support as well as financing options should be a priority. This will help protect your investment and provide flexible ways to pay for it over time.