The smart wheelchair: is it an appropriate mobility training tool for children with physical disabilities?
Faculty of Computing, Health and Science
School of Exercise and Health Sciences
Purpose: To describe the impact of a mobility training program using the Smart Wheelchair on the driving skills and psychosocial outcomes of children with physical disabilities. Method: A multiple case study design using mixed methods was used. Four children with physical disabilities were recruited through The Centre for Cerebral Palsy in Western Australia. The intervention was a 16 session Smart Wheelchair mobility training program. Data was collected using a quantitative driving skills assessment, field notes and qualitative parent interviews. Results: Three out of four children gained independence in at least three driving skills or more, whilst one child was competent with verbal prompts. Three out of four mothers reported positive changes in their child’s confidence, motivation and affect. Conclusions: The Smart Wheelchair has the ability to uncover learning potential and facilitate the recognition of abilities in children previously excluded from access to independent mobility. Given the significant limitation that restrictions in mobility pose to participation for children with physical disabilities, therapists must begin to understand the effectiveness of interventions such as the Smart Wheelchair. The descriptive findings of this study allow for future, more rigorous research, to be conducted on the effectiveness of the Smart Wheelchair as a mobility training tool. Implications for Rehabilitation Restrictions in mobility cause significant limitations to participation for children with physical and cognitive disabilities. Advances in technology such as the Smart Wheelchair, have the possibility to uncover learning potential and facilitate the recognition of abilities in children previously excluded from access to independent mobility. The descriptive findings from this study showed that children gained independence in driving skills and it was reported that their parents noted improvements in their confidence, motivation and affect.