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Standing up for students with special needs: schools are providing students with disabilities motorized "standers" for physiological, academic and social benefits.

Independent movement has long been regarded as vital for students with special needs. In fact, research shows that children that can move independently through their environment have better spatial and cognitive skills, and learn more in a shorter amount of time than those that cannot.

However, until recently the only option for students with disabilities for powered mobility has been some sort of motorized wheelchair. Although this provides the self-initiated movement the student needs, further research has proven that there are also significant benefits to keeping the student in a standing position. So much so that stationary "standers"--basically standing frames with appropriate support straps to keep the student upright--are also available for students with special needs.

Fortunately, a new category of product is combining the best of both these options into a "motorized stander" that allows the student to move around freely while in the upright position.

Introduced by Innovative Products, Inc., a company that develops mobility devices for children with disabilities, the Sit-to-Stand Power Base with Stander is the only motorized stander with multiple standing options available at the present time. The product allows the student to initiate their own mobility, while standing (or sitting for that matter).

According to physical therapists, the value of a motorized stander for the special needs student is immeasurable.

"Standing has physiological and social benefits," says Gretchen Meyer, PT, MS Ed, physical therapist with Easter Seals. "Many children are put into standers for these reasons. Most of the time, the child will be standing in only one place as their peers move around them. But if the stander is mobile, they'll be able to move with their peers at the same eye level. They can reach things they couldn't otherwise--like library books from higher shelves, things on a countertop, or a sink."

One of the drawbacks of a stationary stander is that it often requires a minimum of two to three staff members for transferring children from a wheelchair and positioning them in a stander. With the Sit-to-Stand Power Base with Stander attachment, students need much less assistance and time. Additionally, they are provided with the physiological benefits of standing--such as improved cardiovascular health, increased bone density, abnormal muscle-tone management, and improved range of motion in the legs.

"The more time children can spend in the upright position the more beneficial it is for them," says Meyer. "It's even more beneficial if they can change their own position for pressure relief and comfort. Whenever possible, we try to incorporate mobility and standing together."

"When children have to be pushed by someone or they have difficulty with self-propulsion, such as with a manual wheelchair, students may have difficulty getting to where they need to be on time," adds Meyer. "By providing them with a more efficient means of independent mobility, they can participate more actively and more independently in their daily routine. They can keep pace with their peers who don't have disabilities."

The Sit-to-Stand Power Base is battery operated, and has custom mounts for multiple seating or standing options, and meets FDA requirements. It can be operated using different configurations, such as joysticks, switches, or a sip & puff switch, or many others. It maneuvers on all terrains except soft sand, easily goes through doors and has a 125 pound rider weight capacity. Together with the Stander, it enables students to move around freely and independently with their peers in a standing position, building self-esteem and social skills.

"With powered mobility, they don't just learn to move, they move to learn," says Meyer. "Children who are not able to move themselves through their environment do not always get the same opportunities for learning as those who do."

According to Meyer, the age at which power mobility is being recommended for children is changing. Powered standing mobility can therefore create positive improvement for even the very young.

"It used to be that therapists and schools would wait until the child was 7-10 years old before considering them for powered mobility," she says. "Now we're finding that, given the appropriate cognitive skills and given enough time for practice and training, children as young as from 18 months to two years old can begin to learn skills using power mobility devices, and some can do quite well. It's wonderful to see how thrilled they are with their independence."

Schools can buy the device direct from the manufacturer, and save 10-30% on the cost. For more info visit www.mobility4kids. com.

Adam Rosenthal is a tutor and writer from Burbank, California.
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Title Annotation:Mobility
Author:Rosenthal, Adam
Publication:The Exceptional Parent
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 1, 2010
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