Baby On Wheels
At what age would you expect a baby to walk? A popular and very frequent response tends to be “every baby is different when it comes to development”. If this is the case, then why is the decision by the NHS wheelchair services to find a physically impaired child a suitable wheelchair delayed until the child reaches the age of 3 and over. Coincidently the DLA’s mobility component is also restricted to the age of 3 and over. So I presume this chosen age is when a child is expected to be independently walking, although many become walkers much earlier than this. So who decided a physically impaired child is unable to use a wheelchair before the age of 3 and on what basis is such a decision based upon? When my son was 9 months old I worked with an engineer to custom make a self propelling batmobile wheelchair, which he uses independently inside and outside the house. To be quite frank we cannot imagine our lives without it!
Before walking there are different physical movements children use to enhance their development and help them form better knowledge of the world around them. Things that seem insignificant such as balancing on their knees to open the washing machine door or crawling around the house following their parents going in and out of different rooms; both have a strong impact on cognition. Children with physical impairments are no different and although they may not be able to use their legs to play and explore their environment they can use aids such as walking frames or wheelchairs just as well. I believe each child is in the driving seat of their own development and through their motivation, determination and perseverance they can achieve things that may have been perceived unachievable.
Most under 3 year olds, who are physically impaired get around in a buggy. Those of them who have sufficient upper body functions that allow them to move their arms and hands should have the option to own a wheelchair that they can use to independently explore their surroundings. There are a limited amount of manufacturers who produce such small sized wheelchairs only catering for ages 1 and a half and over, so they do exist and are accessible through the NHS wheelchair services if you put up a good enough fight. Having the batmobile (our custom made wheelchair) made it extremely difficult for any occupational therapist to deny us a self propelling wheelchair. REMAP are a team of engineers who assist people with special needs in creating and adapting equipment to suit a range of impairments, so if you feel you may need a specific type of equipment that is not in the market then get in touch with them.