The following is a brief guide to the different types of walking aid that are available to help children maintain their personal mobility. However, please note that every individual's needs are different. Customers should base their purchasing decisions on the user's particular needs and preferences and, where appropriate, upon advice from medical and care professionals.
What is a paediatric walking aid?
Children's walking aids can take a variety of forms, from conventional crutches to wheeled frames, rollators and specialist gait trainers. In all cases, they are designed to support the child in such a way as to enable more independent upright movement. The choice of walking aid will depend to a large extent on the nature of the user's disability, his or her the strength, co-ordination and dexterity, and the intended purpose - i.e. whether for day to day use or to assist in shorter term rehabilitation and exercise.
Although crutches hardly require much explanation beyond emphasising the value of height adjustability and the incorporation of an ergonomic handle, it is important to note the difference between a walking frame, a gait trainer and a rollator.
Children's walking frames
Walking frames for children normally surround the user and will typically have four castor wheels, mounted either on separate legs or on a semi-continuous surrounding frame. Many of them will feature height-adjustable supports, either for the forearms or for the whole trunk of the body. The choice will obviously depend on the user's ability to stand independently. The frame takes some of the user's weight but encourages him or her to stand on both feet and to move around without assistance.
Look for a product that is easily manoeuvrable and can be adjusted - both to suit the size of the child and to accommodate future growth. Be conscious, too, of whether it is limited to indoor or outdoor use. You may also like to look for models with optional safety features such as extra padding, brakes, pelvic support, seat and harness. Other useful safety measures include anti-tipping and an anti-roll-back devices.
Children's rollators are typically simple, lightweight walking aids that are easy to pack away and transport. Ideal for children who require some extra support when walking but who retain good balance and can stand independently, paediatric rollators are normally equipped with cable brakes and may come with useful extras such as detachable storage bags, bottle holders and kerb-lifters that help users to negotiate small steps and similar obstacles. Some also feature inbuilt seats that allow the child to take a rest when needed. Again, important considerations Ã‚ include weight, ease of folding, the presence of sturdy, height adjustable handles with comfortable grips, and whether the product can be used both indoors and out.
Children's gait trainers
Children's gait trainers are designed to help users to develop their walking action and balance, so they are particularly useful after surgery or during a period of rehabilitation. Highly supportive, gait trainers take the great majority of the user's weight and are often supplied with accessories that assist the walking action. Examples might include hip positioners, trunk supports and guides for the thighs and ankles.
- Corrosion resistance is important for any item that is likely to be used outdoors.
- Strength - check that the model's maximum weight capacity is appropriate for the user.