”Many of us moms with younger kids struggle with the idea of getting a wheelchair for our kids. What would you say to us moms about what a wheelchair is and is not?”
The wheelchair choice is as individual as your child is.
Getting a wheelchair is a lot easier to do now than it was years ago so I’m always tempted to say go for it. I got my first wheelchair at 21, up until then I’d had hand-me-downs from other people, which fit horribly. If you think it will be helpful for your child consider it, do your research, it can be a long process, which you can always stop if you change your mind.
The most important thing to remember is that getting a wheelchair is for the sake of your child. Your child’s needs need to come first and foremost. I’ve noticed though talking with parents, reading blogs & doing some research that emotions cloud judgment. How will the child look to the outside world? It’s not about everyone else & what they’d think. It’s not even about the parents or siblings and what they think. It’s about the child who may (or may not) need a wheelchair.
What a wheelchair is is a chance for your child to bloom socially. It sounds counterintuitive doesn’t it? But in many ways it is, both ways.
If you’re too tired from trying to keep up with your friends how are you supposed to enjoy yourself? If you know you won’t be able to keep up with your friends you may say to yourself “why bother” and stay behind.
Yes your child will be seen as being different, because they are different. A wheelchair won’t make that fact better or worse.
Emotionally a wheelchair will probably mean more to parents than it will the child. The only advice I can give is to put your child first & keep your emotions out of the decision, as much as possible.
A wheelchair will not take away or change your child’s identity. Sitting down or standing up, your child is still your child.
Believe it or not but using a wheelchair has become more socially acceptable than it was years ago. We can probably thank new laws for this, but I can’t be too sure. The world is much better suited for the able-bodied & wheelchair users; those who use walkers & crutches often have to fend for themselves more often, from all sides.
The stares you’re worried about your child getting in a wheelchair are much worse with other assistive devices (from my experience). Not to mention the likelihood of being tripped or tripping someone else with crutches. Sometimes it is just easier to use a chair.
“Often there is a thought that if there is a wheelchair the child will never walk independently, or if it is only used for long distances, then why not get a nice stroller.”
If your child is not a baby they don’t belong in a stroller, no matter how nice it is. End of story. Before I started acquiring hand me down chairs my mom had purchased (out of pocket) what I can only call an oversized stroller. It served its purpose well, but only because insurance would not approve getting a wheelchair. The insurance company felt the same way I’m sure some parents feel, “she can walk, she doesn’t need a wheelchair.”
What the insurance company failed to realize, as do other people, is that I had far outgrown a stroller. I may have been able to fit in one comfortably but socially & mentally it just didn’t work.
It did help me get from point A to point B more easily, but only if someone was willing to push me there. The independent discovery that comes only from the self-propulsion of a wheelchair does not & cannot happen any other way.
As for the never being able to walk independently, well that’s a load of BS. The truth is most wheelchair users can in fact walk, yet they use a wheelchair for various reasons. So the idea that wheelchair usage means a person cannot walk is incredibly incorrect.
Using myself as an example, a wheelchair user, I have done the following; hiked Mt. Rainier, enjoyed some of the largest tri city fairs on foot, frequently climb multiple flights of stairs on a daily basis. When I use my wheelchair it’s due to various reasons, but almost always purely situational.
Using a wheelchair does not mean your child won’t walk. It’s not some white flag to independent ambulation.
What a wheelchair is not is a reflection on who your child is or who you are as a parent.
What a wheelchair is is furthering your child’s independence & helping your child discover who they are meant to be.
*A similar version of this post first appeared on an old blog on March 27, 2012