Walkers for children with Special Needs
Pediatric Walkers are vital aids for children who have special needs. Pediatric Walkers not only serve as mobility assistance but also help injured users rehabilitate. Until now, walkers were most popular with people who are over 65 years old and with musculo-skeletal or neurological problems. But over the last several years, walkers have improved considerably in their design and function so that they can assist children who suffer from problems like Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis in their knees and hips, have fractured a bone or are recovering from a debilitating illness. In any of such cases, weight bearing can be directed through the arms to the walker allowing a more natural gait and body position.
Pediatric Walker frames are available with or without wheels. There are mostly 3 different designs:
- Walker Frame with rubber tips (no wheels)
- Walker Frame with 2 wheels and 2 glides
- Rollators (with 3 or 4 wheels)
Walker Frame with rubber tips (no wheels): This type of walker provides the most support and stability to the child. By being steady and not moving much, it helps the child control his/her own body and learn to be upright. More weight can be supported through the arms with less weight on the legs.
Advantage: Good for moving very short distances and transferring from one chair to another.
Disadvantage: Not recommended for longer walking distances.
Walker Frame with 2 wheels and 2 glides: This type of walker is suitable for children who can take more of body weight through their legs. This walker gives a lot of support as the child can stand within the frame, but instead of lifting the walker, the child can move by just pushing it forward. This walker allows a more normal gait pattern and is the most common walker used for indoors.
Advantage: Takes up less space when maneuvering in the house and folds for storage.
Disadvantage: Not good for outdoor use as small wheels can get stuck causing tripping on the rougher terrain.
Rollators (with 3 or 4 wheels): Rollator walkers generally come with large 6” to 8” wheels which are very comfortable. As most rollator walkers also come with a seat, the user can walk a longer distance and sit down when tired. Rollator walkers are suited for children who are more independent and need the walker for balance or weakened bones (osteoporosis).
Advantage: Rollator walkers are easier to fit into the back of a car and the large wheels make them more stable outdoors.
Disadvantage: Can be very bulky for indoor use and since the walker is light, the child may slip backwards.
Children’s Walkers can mainly be divided into 4 categories:
- Folding Pediatric Walkers
- Posture Control Pediatric Walkers
- Pediatric Rollators
- Specialty Pediatric Walkers
Folding Pediatric Walkers:
One of the most popular walker options is a folding walker, which is a walker that folds up to lie flat for easy transport and storage. Choosing a folding walker is based on several factors, but is based on individual preferences and needs. Folding Walkers have many different features available, including two or four wheels, seats etc. When selecting a folding walker, determine when and where the device will get the most use to help you decide on which features are important. Consider the differences between wheeled and non-wheeled models. Depending on stability needs and the strength of the child, a non-wheeled version may be the best option. However, if specific strength or coordination issues are a concern, wheeled models are easier to move. Keep concerns like comfort, durability, and practical use in mind.
Posture Control Pediatric Walkers:
Posture Control Walkers are designed encourage the child to remain upright with the help of supports provided in front and behind the child. Pediatric Posture Control Walkers have more advantages in terms of upright positioning, energy conservation and maximizing potential for walking. Clinical Studies have demonstrated that Posture Control Walkers facilitate postural alignment, balance and components of gait. Most posture control walkers fold, for easier storage and transportation. Some posture control walkers place the support behind the child, which requires the child to adapt to a more upright posture and place the center of mass within the base of support of the walker. This helps the child to coordinate rhythm and timing of swing and stance phases of gait when impaired balance prevents independent walking.
A Rolling Walker or rollator can increase confidence and independence in a child. The stability that a rollator offers can compensate for a loss of strength or balance, whether temporary or permanent. Rollators generally come with larger 6-inch or 8-inch wheels while wheeled walkers generally come with smaller 4-inch or 5-inch wheels. Rollators are made with three wheels or four wheels. Since rollators have wheels on all of their legs, they are easier to move than a wheeled walker. Three wheeled rollators offer the advantage of lighter weight and easier maneuverability, while four wheeled rollators give the user greater stability. Rollators are ideal for those who want to get up and go using their own two legs, but who could use a little assist with balance or endurance. Rollators are not recommended for use on an escalator or stairs as they can easily trip over causing serious injuries.
Specialty Pediatric Walkers:
Specialty Walkers include innovatively designed walkers like Knee Walkers, Hand Support Walkers etc. which are designed to provide support to children who suffer from hypotonia or are just learning to walk and need a balancing aid as they begin to develop walking skills. Specialty Walkers are more stable and safer walking devices as compared to standard walkers. They are generally lighter than standard walkers so are more maneuverable. Specialty Walkers allow exercising the lower extremities of the child with load control thus enhancing independence while walking.
To help you choose the best walker for your child, consider the following things before you finalize your purchase:
Walker Height: Considering the height of the walker is important because while the child is rehabilitating, it is very important he/she maintains a good posture. There are, however, advancements with modern Pediatric Walkers. Many pediatric walking aids available in the market today have the convenience to adjust the height according to the child’s needs. This not only helps in maintaining the optimal posture, but also gives the walker the ability to grow in size as the child grows.
Weight Capacity: The weight of the child has to be properly checked before purchasing any pediatric walker. The walker should be able to support the full weight of the child with at least 15-20 pounds of additional weight bearing capacity so there’s ample room for the child to grow. Most pediatric walkers support anywhere from 120 pounds for normal usage, all the way up to 220 pounds for heavier children.
Handgrips: Choose walkers with handgrips that are comfortable for the child. Common handgrips are molded plastic and foam rubber. Some of them are also adjustable for a stable grip. Extra soft handgrips can also be purchased for most walkers which are commonly made of a polyester and acrylic blend sheepskin-like fleece or ribbed cushion neoprene.
Leg Frames: You can choose between 3 legged walkers and 4 legged walkers. Three leg frames provide improved maneuverability while four leg frames provide improved stability. Unlike 3 legged walkers, a 4 legged walker also allows users to maneuver through tough outdoor terrains. Hence, it is better suited for active children who go outdoors. But since it is bulky, a 3-legged walker is recommended to be used in smaller indoor areas and tight spaces.
Wheels: Walkers are available with different number of wheel options. It’s critical to decide the number and size of wheels present on the walker frame because different numbers of wheels are suited for different requirements. Non-wheeled walkers are suited for children with disabilities as they provide better support than rollators. On the other hand, rollators are designed for children who are stable enough to handle wheeled equipment. Otherwise, they can cause them more injuries.
Brakes: Most Walkers today offer brakes so the child can stop as per his/her convenience without applying excessive braking force. Brakes can be applied either by pressure, cable or locking. Hand brakes are a necessary feature for securing the walker at its place while the child is resting.
Environment: Choose the right pediatric walker based on the environment where the child lives in. As mentioned above, there are different specifications to remember. The requirements of a good pediatric walker for tight spaces may vary greatly with those that are suitable for larger spaces.
Portability: Smaller, lightweight walkers are easier to lift and fit into a trunk; however, the lighter the walker, the less stable it will be. The Walker’s weight generally ranges from just over 6 pounds to nearly 20 pounds. Folding walkers also increase portability. If you need to transport the walker or store it while not in use, look for a folding model.
Accessories: To provide convenience, pediatric walkers come with a wide array of accessories to choose from. Features such as a storage bag or basket, cup holder, tray, or other accessories can increase the comfort of the walker and give the child a place to store items.
Insurance: Lastly, be sure to check with your insurance provider before purchasing any pediatric walker. Some or all of the cost may be reimbursed or provided for the purchase of most models of pediatric walkers, but some models may not qualify.
If you’re still not satisfied with the suggestions you have gathered, you can always call our mobility experts at (866) 563-6812 or visit us at http://www.medicaleshop.com, or just visit one of our local retail showrooms to inquire about all types of Pediatric Walkers.