Six Types of Adaptive Equipment for Children with Cerebral Palsy

Many children with cerebral palsy and other physical impairments need adaptive equipment for therapeutic services or even day-to-day living. Such equipment not only allows a little more independence, it can also be vital for their well-being. As an example, it is important for children who cannot stand on their own to do some sort of weight-bearing exercise to help keep their bones strong. Two pieces of adaptive equipment that work well for weight-bearing are the gait trainer and the stander, which I will discuss in further detail along with other types of adaptive equipment.

Bath chair Photo by: Cari Bousfield
Bath chair Photo by: Cari Bousfield

Bath or Shower Chair

Some children with cerebral palsy cannot sit up on their own. This can make even the simplest task of taking a bath somewhat challenging. Thankfully there is adaptive equipment such as bath chairs and shower chairs to enable those with physical challenges to bathe or shower.

Bath and shower chairs come in a variety of sizes and cost hundreds of dollars. The most important factor when choosing which bath or shower chair to purchase is the size of the child and how much support that child needs. Some chairs come with more support for the head and can come with adjustable straps and belts. It is helpful to discuss the best option with the child’s physical or occupational therapist. As with most adaptive equipment, there are different sizes to choose from and can usually be adapted as the child grows.

Toileting Systems/Positioning Commodes

Some children with cerebral palsy may never have the ability to be potty-trained due to the fact they cannot control those particular muscles. For these children, when they grow out of diapers there are youth-sized briefs that can be worn for their toileting needs. These can cost around $70 for 90 pair of briefs.

If the child is able to become potty trained, there is adaptive equipment to help support them as they go to the bathroom. Again, in choosing this type of adaptive equipment, it must first be determined how much support the child needs. If a child cannot sit up on his/her own, the support needs to be in place for the child to sit up on the toilet. Some children may just need a special type of commode to place over the toilet. Some of these commodes can help with things like leg positioning. These adaptive commodes and toilet systems can cost anywhere from $100-$1,000.

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There are also toilet systems that can be a combination of a toilet system and a bath/shower chair. These combo sets can be expensive and cost from $1,500 to over $4,000.

gait trainer Photo by: Cari Bousfield
gait trainer Photo by: Cari Bousfield

Standers and Gait Trainers

Both standers and gait trainers are excellent ways for children with cerebral palsy who cannot stand on their own to do weight bearing. As mentioned previously, weight bearing allows the bones to remain strong. Standers and gait trainers also allow the child to be in a different position which can enable participation in different activities. With standers, the child can be stood completely upright or at a certain angle. Some standers come with the ability to move from a sitting position up to a standing position. These can be expensive and cost over $2,000. Regular standers can cost anywhere from $700-$2,000.

Gait trainers are not only important for weight bearing and for exercise in general, but also allow the child who cannot walk on his/her own to be able to take some steps. It is sort of like training the brain to send the right signal to the child’s muscles to enable them to “walk.” Gait trainers cost between $500-$2,000, depending on the size and support needed.

It is very important to discuss with the child’s therapist the best type of stander and gait trainer to use at home. Equally important is knowing how to get your child in and out of the stander and the gait trainer, which can sometimes be very involved.

Modular Chair Photo by Cari Bousfield
Modular Chair Photo by Cari Bousfield

Modular Chairs

Adaptive equipment such as modular or positioning chairs can come in handy especially for children in school. Some kids with cerebral palsy are in their wheelchairs for most of the day but modular chairs offer another kind of seating system. These modular chairs are at a lower level than typical wheelchairs and allow children to sit down at the same level as their peers. In their younger years, kids often sit at lower tables and a modular chair would allow the child to sit at a different height and sit up at the table.

Again, the chair must have the right amount of support for the child. Many modular chairs can be adapted as the child grows. These chairs can range in price from $200-$900.

The special tomato adaptive car seat
The special tomato adaptive car seat |Source

Adaptive Car Seats

It is the law that children be properly restrained when traveling anywhere by car. What about kids with cerebral palsy and other special needs who cannot be supported in a regular car seat? What about those whose parents don’t have an accessible van? An adaptive car seat is the answer.

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When buying an adaptive car seat you must make sure that it meets or exceeds the US Federal Safety Standard MVSS 213 (Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard) where required. You can’t just use any adaptive chair in the car; it must have a proper latching system so that the seat can be secure in the vehicle. Some adaptive car seats come so that footrests and headrests can be attached, although you may have to purchase those pieces separately. Also, some adaptive car seats can be used when traveling by airplane. Again, it has to meet the Federal Safety Standard.

Most adaptive car seats cost between $600-$2,000. As with some adaptive equipment, insurance nor Medicaid will cover this cost.

Adaptive Beds

Adaptive beds not only offer the sleeping child a comfortable place to sleep but also give parents peace of mind, knowing that their child is safe in bed and will not fall out or get his/her limbs caught in the railings.

Adaptive beds usually come in standard twin or full sizes which includes the mattress and box spring. Mattresses can come with features found in hospital beds, such as being waterproof. They’re also designed to reduce pressure sores and come with an anti-bacterial covering. When purchasing an adaptive bed, make sure it meets or exceeds federal safety standards and the FDA seven zones of entrapment guidelines.

Some adaptive beds can be electronically adjusted so that the head/feet can be set at different angles for further comfort and a better sleeping position. Adaptive beds can range from $4,000 to over $5,000.

Stander Photo by Cari Bousfield
Stander Photo by Cari Bousfield

More About Adaptive Equipment

Adaptive equipment makes it easier for children with cerebral palsy to get all of their needs met, including bathing, sleeping, going to the bathroom, being able to stand or sit in different positions and being able to be transported by car.

Other adaptive equipment includes eating and drinking utensils. There are many different kinds and variations of utensils. There are adaptive plates, forks, knives, spoons, cups, straws, bowls, any and everything that a child might need to feed him/herself. If your child needs any of this type of adaptive equipment, it would be best to discuss all of the options available with the child’s occupational therapist.

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It is good to do your research before purchasing adaptive equipment. It is also good to discuss adaptive equipment issues with your child’s physical/occupational therapist or any other professional who works with your special needs child. If the adaptive equipment is not supportive enough or does not help your child, it can cause huge frustrations and can even be dangerous for the child.

Adaptive equipment can be great for children with cerebral palsy as it allows them to be a little more independent and helps them take part in different activities. Adaptive equipment also helps these children get their everyday needs met, making them a happier, healthier child.

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