At the last meeting, she started to cry. One of the sweetest, toughest women one of my students is lucky enough to call “Mom” was having a tough time. The news the doctor had, had broken her heart. “He’s never going to walk.” He CAN walk. It requires a walker, extra time, standby assistance for safety, and a whole lot of encouragement to focus on the task at hand, but walking is unlikely to be his most independent and functional means of getting himself from point A to point B. “I’ll do everything I can to help.”
The team had been doing a great job trying to sneak mobility into the school day. He had been sitting on the risers during music, doing a little morning stretch, walking to the class next door, walking to the restroom. Where could we squeeze in a little more? When was there time? When was there staff available to help? Hey. What if he could do more weight bearing in standing? What if he could he could move around independently in a standing position? What if there was a super simple transfer involved, and then he could mobilize independently while standing? What if he didn’t require any further assistance from the educational assistant after that super simple transfer? What if I just figured out a way for him to achieve great therapeutic and social benefits? What if the walking improves as a result of prolonged stretch and work on dynamic balance and core stability? What if all he needs is a mobile stander? WHY DIDN’T I THINK OF THIS SOONER??!?!?!
The students in my center-based classrooms have easy access to equipment and staff. My students with physical impairments taking grade-level classes don’t spend as much time working on positioning because they are so busy trying to focus on their grade-level class work. Extra equipment also tends to be frowned upon in crowded classrooms. Comfort- and style- conscious children who are readily able to state their opinions readily state that they don’t much care for my old-school supine standers. I can’t blame them.
So, I made my case to the head of the Special Education department. She was very receptive, and the presence of federal stimulus dollars helped as well. I called up my favorite durable medical equipment vendor to arrange for some demos. She wanted to be very sure I was looking at mobile standers for purchase, and not trying to obtain one through insurance. Apparently insurance companies are reluctant to pay for mobile options on standers. That’s a different topic for a different day.
We’re trying out our first mobile stander this week. The day it arrived, I could hardly keep the student out of the stander long enough to make the preliminary adjustments. As he wheeled himself down the hallway, students and teachers had many admiring and encouraging words and plenty of questions. The mobile stander is “sweet”, “tight”, and of course, “cool.” He should be able to use it to reach all parts of the building and school grounds he is able to independently access with his wheelchair, and that means everywhere. I have grand visions of him easily accessing the SmartBoard, speeding around in gym, checking out materials from the library, standing in music, and speaking in front of his class.
It is completely reasonable to expect some improvement in his walking as a welcome side effect of all this upright activity. Most of all I want to see his mother smile when she sees him moving independently, standing proud and tall. I know she will.
The EasyStand Bantam Mobile for preschool and elementary kids is now available!