Walking and Wheelchairs

I hesitate in writing this piece.  When you Google wheelchair or anything about wheelchairs you get so many posts, so many strong opinions about how a wheelchair is giving up on walking.  You find people recommending stroller to those whose child is getting to heavy.  However the replies do not seem to be from those who have experienced this situation.  Who are these people saying using a wheelchair is giving up on walking?  Where to they get their information?  I can’t seem to find any studies.  There has to be research on this topic.  Has anyone found research on the negative or positive outcomes of early wheelchair use when the child is still ambulatory?  Does that child all of the sudden stop walking because he or she has a wheelchair?  This is such an emotional topic.  I’ll tell Mel’s first wheelchair story a little later.

Personal history is important here.  I am coming from the perspective of a mom with a child who has an injury at L1, L2.  How much of this is just me wanting my child to be ok?  Just wanting to make sure I made the correct choices.  Just wanting to back up my past decisions.

I recall a study; however, I cannot find the study.  It’s a study from college students, probably psychology students.  If someone can find that study or any study like it, Please let me know as this concept interests me.

In the study, people were shown videos of people walking with different gait patterns and the same person in wheelchair. All were moving down a sidewalk.  The people were to rate the cognitive level of the person moving across the street.  The data indicated, people in wheelchairs were viewed as having higher cognition than those that walked with different gait patterns.

I am not implying walking is bad.  The ability to at least put some weight on ones legs is a very important skill. This skill, in my mind, makes life so much easier.  From the kids I see at school, to the kids at disability functions.  This ability to hold ones weight on ones feet, appears to matter.  It seems to make life a little easier.  Mel is not able to use her legs at all.

Can you older guys tell me what your thoughts are?  The ones of you who can transfer just a little, who can take at least some weight.  How about those who have walked and then started using a chair?   Does anyone recall the years of therapy to learn to walk or to improve walking and then the transition to wheelchair use?

What I can find:

  1. Benefits of Early Mobility with an Emphasis on Gait Training  http://www.rifton.com/adaptive-mobility-blog/benefits-of-early-mobility-with-an-emphasis-on-gait-training/
  2. The Effect of Walking with an Assistive Device and Using a Wheelchair on School Performance in Students with Myelomeningocele.  http://www.physther.net/content/71/8/570.short
  3.   Mobility         http://www.ifglobal.org/en/spina-bifida/living-with-spina-bifida/mobility

I’ll post more studies if I find them.  Feel free to comment with studies you have come across.  Or your personal experience with walking vs wheelchair usage.


6 thoughts on “Walking and Wheelchairs

  1. My younger brother has Friedreich’s Ataxia, a rare but crippling disease. He slowly loses his ability to walk, talk, or control his movements in general due to nerve damage. Working too hard causes chest pain (his heart is enlarged, also due to FA). The Dr. recommended a wheelchair years ago. We just recently started using the chair, only when he really really needed it. Since then, he’s less willing to try and walk because there’s an easier way. Getting the wheel chair, although we needed it, made things a lot harder.

  2. I do not know if you have read my blog on I get a second chance on life, but when I was 17 I was in a bad wreck which could have left me in a wheel chair for I had 11 broken bones and I did not find out till years later that my lower back was messed up some. Anyway thro sugary on my legs and pins put in and taken back out and with lots of therapy, including using a wheel chair, crutches, and wanting to walk I have now lived a productive life raised a family, served in the military, and worked at a job for thirty years and am now retired. I know it sounds like I am bragging but I am not I just know for a fact that God helped me thru all of this and for that I am grateful to Him. I did have back sugary on my lower back and I do have problems with L1 – L3 and I have pain constantly there but I am able to walk. I will pray daily for you daughter and you.

  3. Thank you for the article and for viewing my “Winking at Life” blog. To share something in exchange, my father is a wheelchair user, He is 88 years old and lost a leg in a “forced labour camp” building the Japanese “Burma-Thailand Death Railway”. He is a Death railway survivor. He was a teenager then. Since he, lost his leg, he still persisted in living a normal life, using crutches and an artificial limb to get around. He worked in an office, got married, raised a family and now has been retired for over 30 years. He even managed to cycle to work and climb up a steep flight of stairs to the office when he was younger. In 2009, he survived a hernia operation and was bedridden for about 3 months, yet he always hoped to walk, on his one leg again. He’s tried to exercise that one precious limb but is probably too old to use it for long again. So, he continues using his wheelchair which he only got after his hernia operation. As you know, hope is important, but we must still be realistic. I feel for you, and think that you can try to encourage your child to use her legs, but if it makes life more difficult and frustrating for her, let her live more normally using the wheelchair. Speak to her and understand what she wants. You don’t have to do as others say or feel bad about her sticking to her wheelchair. It is not being brattish, to want to feel more normal by being able to move around, instead of hindering yourself and becoming frustrated and depressed. Whether she wants to walk is really her decision, but needs your support to make that decision. It cannot be forced, because life will be hell if it is. She may exercise in a different way, instead of walking, she could sit in the wheelchair and lift small weights with her feet, or do any other kind of leg and foot exercises to strengthen the muscles there. Consult a physiotherapist. Hopefully, this helps. Good luck and have fun with your special child.

  4. Thanks so much for reading my blog. I love the rich history of your fathers past. Every person and child is so different. Mel has no ability to move her legs, except to turn one leg inward a small amount. Spina Bifida kind of takes a knife and cuts the brains ability to tell the legs what to do. The brain has no ability to tell the legs to move and thus she can not move them. She did walk with special braces for several years. She was braced from toe to chest. Her hip muscles and forward motion allowed her to walk. Totally agree. The child or person has to make the decision. To decide how to live their life. To become independent thinkers and make their own path. I’m going to find a book about the Death Burma-Thailand Railway. Can you recommend one?

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