As children begin learning how to walk, they face balance issues and struggle with independence and mobility. However, children with cerebral palsy may face additional balance issues, due to their involuntary muscle spasms and coordination issues. In order to help children meet their special needs, there are a number of different kind of walkers available, many of which are age-appropriate and height-appropriate.
Four-Wheeled Posture Control Walkers
For users that are 35”-72” high, four-wheeled posture controlled walkers are generally designed for toddlers or young school age children. Since there are four wheels, this type of walker is designed for the child with cerebral palsy that needs a little extra help with balance. The rubber hand holds are designed for optimum comfort, and the metal supports are designed to curve away from the child so that if he or she falls, the child is not likely to sustain a walker-related injury.
Two-Wheeled Posture Rest Walkers (with Seat)
Just as the four-wheeled posture control walkers are designed to motivate movement and independence but keep stability, so the two-wheeled posture walker is designed for movement and stability. There are four posts to the walker, two with wheels and two with rubber-capped legs. This helps your child to move at a slower pace and helps to promote control while walking.
Additionally, there is a seat provided, so if your child needs to take a break, he or she can. If your child is in school and is generally more ambulatory, you could use this as an accessory instead of a wheelchair, having your child sit on the walker if there are no seats provided for the students such as in hallways, lobbies, or in the school yard.
Chest-support walkers are much taller than posture walkers. They are generally designed to provide more balance and support, and to that end, they offer several accessories such as forearm supports.
Chest-support walkers can come in four wheels or two wheels, but generally don’t come with a seat, as the primary design of the walker is to get the child to keep walking.
Gait trainers are walkers that provide additional clearance for walking. They typically have handles that are higher than traditional walkers, and they have four wheels so that your child can have full mobility and speed if he or she needs it to work on developing a gait. Shorter gait trainers may have forearm supports that you can strap the child into so that he or she depends more on strengthening his or her legs.
If your child isn’t ready for a gait trainer and has a hard time remaining standing with a regular walker, you may want to consider a suspension walker. A suspension walker has an apparatus that hangs above the walker that your child clips onto with a torso brace. This allows your child to be fully supported and fully erect as he or she is learning to strengthen his or her legs.
Suspension walkers are sometimes twice as expensive as any other form of walker, but often essential for children who need to develop core strength for standing.
Mobility and Walker Statistics
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 11.3% of all children with cerebral palsy, in 2008, relied on hand-held walkers for walking and mobility assistance. The good news, however, is that most children (over 58%) didn’t use any form assistance for walking, and were able to walking independently. The remaining 30.6% were not able to walk at all.