Choosing the right specialist seat for disabled children can make a huge difference to their physical and emotional development. Proper seating provides comfort and postural support but it also boosts their wellbeing and self-esteem by fostering social interaction and participation in various activities.
But deciding which chair is best for your child and what elements to look for can be daunting. Annabell Crabtree is a specialist seat assessor at Premiere Healthcare and has a few tips on how to choose the right specialist seat for disabled children.
How to choose the right specialist seat for a disabled child
1. Choose a chair that is adaptable
Children grow quickly and their seating needs may change over time. A chair that is highly adaptable, such as the CareFlex SmartSeat Pro II, will allow for changes in size and posture. Many specialist children’s seats have an adjustable seat height, depth, width, and backrest angle. This adaptability ensures that the seat can be customised as your child’s needs evolve, maximising the longevity of the investment.
2. Browse fun fabrics
Whether the chair is to be used at home, at school, or in a day care facility, it is important that it feels age appropriate. Look for chairs that come in bright designs and fun fabrics, such as the Cura Contour and Cura Legacy in pistachio green and bright red or a new indigo, orange and turquoise colourway, and choose designs that the child would enjoy and that would suit their bedroom or setting.
3. Easy to operate
Depending on the age of the child, it is important that they feel some sense of independence and control over their situation. An electric Tilt-in-Space function will allow the user to operate the chair independently, which will help build confidence and allow for greater social interaction. It is also important that the user can easily operate the chair, whether that’s a carer or family member.
4. Easy transfer method
Try to choose a chair that involves the minimum amount of fuss when it comes to patient transfers, by making sure it is compatible for use with hoists, stand aids or walking transfers.
Some chairs, such as the CareFlex Smartseat Pro II, have adaptable features, such as removable armrests and a hoist and transfer-friendly frame with increased ground clearance to make patient transfer easier.
5. Something that’s versatile for a range of settings
A child with disabilities may find themselves in different settings as their development progresses. That might be day care, home or school, so it is important that the chair is versatile and can be adapted for each setting. For example, the option to insert a food tray or a desk for computer or school work. Any chair that encourages social interaction and participation in activities will boost their self-esteem and sense of belonging. The CareFlex HydroTilt is a brilliant chair that can be used in a range of settings by different users – you can read about the benefits of the CareFlex HydroTilt in our blog.
6. Allows maximum function
Children’s chairs need to offer functionality that promotes independence and inclusion. Many chairs are designed to encourage freedom of movement in the upper limbs for function whilst still maintaining good pelvis support. The comfort and inbuilt pressure relief provided by the Tilt-in-Space function on the Cura Legacy Kinder allows the user to sit for longer periods, meaning less reliance on carers. Most specialist chairs are on castors that offer greater independence as the user can move around and enjoy a change of environment rather than being constrained to one room.
7. Bespoke alterations
A good therapeutic chair will cater for individual needs. That means you will be able to make bespoke alterations, like linking up a communication aid or adding special padded beanbag footpads. Other additions might include the all important ipad mount, side pockets for storage, split legrests, docking cushions for customers and a choice of cushions specially designed for children.
8. Postural support and comfort
Comfort and support is paramount when choosing specialist seating for disabled children. The Kirton Duo Mini is an excellent chair for disabled children requiring the highest level of postural support as it has options for pressure relief in the seat and can be adjusted without the use of tools. Look for seats with well-padded cushions and removable cushion systems that cater to your child’s unique body shape and size. This allows for changes in pressure relief and promotes longer periods of comfortable sitting as the child grows.
9. Ease of Cleaning
Children can be messy, and their seating can quickly accumulate dirt, spills, and crumbs. Choose seating that is easy to clean and maintain, preferably with removable and machine-washable covers. This not only keeps the seating hygienic but also extends its lifespan.
10. Tilt-in-Space functionality
We’ve explored the benefits of Tilt-in-Space chairs for elderly patients in our blog, but they also have many advantages for disabled children. For example, Tilt-in-Space children’s chairs, such as Kirton Duo Mini can help to prevent children from sliding out of the chair and assist them to relax. Tilt-in-Space can also improve trunk and head control when the child is tired. Chairs with the motorised Tilt-in-Space option are particularly good for older children as it allows them to independently reposition themselves without having to rely on anyone else to do it for them.
Where to find more support when choosing specialist seating for a disabled child
When choosing a seat for disabled children it is important to speak to a knowledgeable seating assessor who can guide you on the right make and model. At Premiere Healthcare, we have a team of seating experts who are specially trained in children’s seating. And if possible, always try to arrange a demonstration to check that the chair suits your child and offers adaptability for them as they grow. We offer free seating assessments online and in person and also have a range of specialist seats that you can try at our Demo Centre in Tewkesbury.