Our goal is to design a new wheelchair for an eight-year-old boy with cerebral palsy. The family and teacher are concerned that the current wheelchair is allowing the child to slouch and shift his weight in his seat, causing problems such as a need for hip replacement, feet not staying in the footrest, and restraints causing skin irritation and discomfort. The headrest is fixed and rubs on the child’s head causing a bald spot, and the current removable activity tray is difficult to remove and attach.
Cerebral palsy can increase muscle tone and lead to spasms in the limbs. The child has generally increased tone in upper and lower extremities and fair head and trunk control. He is dependent in transfers and mobility and is incontinent. He also presents with a flexor synergy pattern and often struggles with independence. Due to this, our wheelchair will need special support to the torso, hips, and legs. For this project our team will be designing and developing a new wheelchair that will add support for muscle tone, minimize skin integrity issues, increase independence, and have a personal flair.
To help support muscle tone, the chair will need to prevent the child from being able to slide out of the proper 90 degree sitting position or unevenly distribute his weight. This positioning will be even more important after the child’s hip surgery in the coming year. Improper positioning can cause the hip to dislocate after surgery. To minimize skin integrity issues, a comfortable and easy to clean material will be needed and the seat restraints may need to be redesigned to reduce friction. We also have a goal to better facilitate his independence. We want to make it easier for him to participate in class and work on skills such as learning to feed himself.
Our family’s child has spastic cerebral palsy. We did some research on the symptoms and difficulties that come along with his condition so we could better understand the type of adjustments he may need for his wheelchair to make him more comfortable. We also talked to an Occupational Therapist (OT) who specializes in fitting children and their symptoms to wheelchairs and aftermarket products. We discussed the needs of the child and were recommended various strategies to think about when designing and building our own. She also suggested we talk to an Assistive Technology Practitioner (ATP) in our area once we have concept designs.
We also looked into wheelchairs and products currently on the market and determined that the wheelchair that meets all the current needs except the activity tray is the Zippy Tilt-in-Space wheelchair technology.
Adjustable Tilt Wheelchair with Tray
Reconstructed Adjustable Tilt Wheelchair from Static Model
Fixed Tilt Wheelchair from Static Model
Concept one is the best based off the decision matrix, however it is outside of our expected budget and is therefore not feasible. Our next best option is concept 3 with the second highest score on the decision matrix. We plan to add the adjustable head rest from concept 2 to the design for concept 3 to try to meet more of the goals requested by the family. Concept 3 is the best because Concept 2 is much more difficult to fabricate in our limited time this semester and the amount of failure points that would be introduced is too concerning to choose for a project that is only one semester long.