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Electric wheelchairs: is it giving up or giving?

I once thought if I bought my son an electric wheelchair I was giving up on the hope that he would someday walk. Let me be the first to say I was wrong. My husband and I had made up a lot of excuses not to buy one. My son's vision and use of his arms and hands are all very limited. Therefore, we did not think he would be able to drive an electric wheelchair. Besides, only a small area of our house is accessible and we couldn't afford a van with a lift. But our biggest objection was that we thought we would be giving up on our son ever walking.

My son's physical therapist at school kept sending me notes saying that she thought he needed a power chair. She had let him try out another student's chair at school and she kept insisting that he could drive it. After a year or so, we reluctantly gave in.

He has had a power chair for a year and a half now. All of my fears have been resolved. What he lacked in physical ability, he has more than made up for in determination.

Since my son has been driving his power chair, a whole new world has opened up to him. I have seen differences in the way other people react to him. He has become more social, less dependent on us and more inquisitive. He doesn't feel left out anymore. He has the ability to go where he wants, when he wants. To us, he seems much happier now.

Our house is still limited in its accessibility, and we still do not have a van lift, but he takes his chair to school on the bus and uses it in our yard and neighborhood. This may seem like very limited use for such an expensive piece of equipment, but it's worth every cent. I can't express enough what it has meant to my son.

And as for my fright of giving up on my son walking -- that was all in my imagination. I haven't given up anything. I still work with him on standing and walking, and he still wants to walk. In the meantime, I have given my child independence. If my son does eventually walk, it will take years of practice. And if my son never walks, I'11 know that I didn't waste all of these years.

Linda Kratz lives in San Antonio, Texas, with her husband Steven and her two sons, Jerad, 10, and Bradley, 4. She has spent the past year compiling an information binder for Texas parents of children with physical disabilities. Kratz is co-founder of the Parent Information Exchange for the Physically Challenged (PIE). For information on the PIE binder, write PIE, c/o Linda Kratz, 11418 Baraeswood, San Antonio, TX 78233.
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Author:Kratz, Linda
Publication:The Exceptional Parent
Date:Oct 1, 1992
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