adaptive devices for seating

Adaptive Devices: Chairs and Seating

CME WebsitesChild Development, Parenting a Child with Special Needs

Kids naturally like and need to move around to explore their environment and socialize with family and other children. Mobility is an important milestone for our children to reach and parents look forward to this stage in development. But the importance of sitting should not be overlooked.  Children need to sit to initially work on their fine motor skills and explore small objects, work on eating skills, and to have a functional position to play before they are able to stand and move. Correct sitting posture is very important for development. There are times when extra support is needed to allow a child to sit correctly.

Who Needs Adaptive Seating?

Children who appear weak or have a “floppy” posture would benefit from adaptive seating because it helps to decrease the negative effects these postures can have on the body. Sitting with a proper posture allows the child to move with more ease. Other children who may benefit from adaptive seating are those who have difficulty concentrating or using their hands to eat or play while sitting. Children with unstable posture use all of their energy to hold a seated position and this leaves less energy to concentrate on other tasks.

Benefits of Supported Upright Posture

  • Gives child more independence to play, eat, talk, and listen
  • Helps keep child comfortable and relaxed during sitting
  • Improves child’s view so they can interact with peers and family
  • Helps to reduce risk of sores or skin breakdown
  • Allows bodily functions, such as swallowing, digestion, breathing, and bowel and bladder function, to occur more easily
  • Decreases risk of developing bone and muscle deformities that result from poor posture

Adaptive Seating Options

There are many options available when considering adaptive seating. The first, and least expensive, is to change or adapt equipment your child already has. A little creativity can go a long way once you understand where your child needs some extra support. Does he need help holding his head in a midline and upright position? Does he need help keeping his hips positioned in a neutral position without crossing his knees or holding his hips in a “frog leg” posture? Does he need help with his trunk to prevent falling over to one side? Your therapist may be able to help adapt commercial strollers, tricycles, and chairs to meet his needs when sitting.

If this cannot be done effectively, there are many “off the shelf” seating options that provide more support than the “typical” seating options. These are somewhat more expensive and often not covered by insurance. Your therapist can recommend the most appropriate equipment. Some examples are the Special Tomato®, Tumble Forms, and the Seat2Go.

Lastly, there are many options of custom made adaptive devices available for children who require specialized support to sit comfortably and correctly. Much thought goes into prescribing this seating option and usually a team including the child’s family, the therapist, and an assistive technology provider work together to determine what options are optimal and necessary. As these options are expensive, they require that your therapist write a letter of medical necessity so they can be covered by your insurance.

If you have any questions or concerns about either how your child is sitting or having somewhere safe to “place” your child during play or meal times, please discuss this with your child’s therapist so that the most appropriate equipment can be provided.

By Randi Weiss, PT & Abby Watson, student PT (SPT)