Powering up with the help of Virtual Reality
by Luke Thompson
At Pace we believe that early intervention is essential for children with motor disorders to have the best opportunity in life. This includes having early access to powered wheelchairs which give children the chance to independently move.
It is a commonly held belief that powered mobility can limit a child’s physical/gross motor skills, literally prevent them from learning to walk independently. This theory is proved wrong time and time again and at Pace we advocate for our children to have access to powered chairs as soon as possible. A power chair can enable a child to independently turn around and look to see what is behind them, to change their view when they want to, to make decisions on where they want to go, to be social.
Our friends at Whizz Kidz say:
A lack of independence can create a sense of decreased motivation, reduced confidence and bring an overall feeling of frustration. Research shows that disabled children should be given a wheelchair as close as possible to the age when mobility would occur naturally.
Being independently mobile encourages an ongoing cycle of development, in all aspects of a child’s well being. As a leading researcher has said, ‘Independent mobility becomes ability … the ability to become a social person rather than a passive observer; the ability to choose which parts of the world you want to explore rather than have them chosen; the ability to test out your environment by defying authority.’ (Whizz Kidz, 2012, p.1)
Pace are currently working on a special project with Remap to develop a wheelchair simulator that also works with virtual reality! This is a very exciting project that gives greater opportunity for those most affected by motor disorders to learn power chair skills. We are also looking into renovating two power chairs so that we can fix a child’s current specialist seating to the chair.
This simulator will enable students to have access to power chairs and learn how to use them before their competence is assessed. Children who have never had the opportunity to learn to use a powered chair will not pass the test to be a ‘safe and competent user’. It would be like testing a person learning to drive a car on their first moment behind the wheel! Can you imagine? This project will give them the skills they need to pass that test so we can start rehabilitation as early as possible.
So, if you have a child who struggles to move then we encourage, alongside working on their motor skills (walking and moving), you also empower independent movement through the use of powered mobility.