The following post is part of our monthly QPAM Q&A feature.
Question: “How can I best provide comfort to my child in a wheelchair?”
Answered by: Jared
If you have a child who has limited mobility and therefore spends much of their time in a wheelchair, this post may be of particular interest to you. The process of achieving comfort in a wheelchair can be very involved. For an individual who is non-verbal, the situation can be even more difficult. Over the years, I myself have studied and experienced a tricky little thing referred to as autonomic dysreflexia. This factor – primarily but not exclusively coped with by those who have spinal cord damage – is what happens when a pain or stimulus of some sort is inflicted below the point of damage (or sensation). Simply put, although you may not feel the irritant, your body will react to it. The following lists, compiled from personal experience and inquiries into the troubles others with various physical difficulties face, may assist parents in narrowing down the discomfort their child is experiencing.
Potential Signs of Discomfort / Autonomic Dysreflexia
With any new behaviour, always consider the potential for discomfort as the cause.
Potential Causes of Discomfort
An important point to note is that if only certain areas of the body are felt, these areas and the senses belonging to them are hyper sensitive. Sound and light, or the absence of these, can be extreme irritants. Exercising the senses your child does have (by reading a book, for example) can be calming. Also, keeping people out of the personal space bubble may relieve stress, as individuals in wheelchairs are seated much lower than the average human stands, which therefore can give an extreme feeling of claustrophobia in a crowd.
For comfort in the case of…
Cold or other respiratory issues:
Muscular pain / skin irritation:
Always monitor changes, such as a new medication or antibiotic, and consider the possible symptoms resulting from this. Doing so is often key to discovering the factor of irritation. Ask your doctor if these methods/procedures would be beneficial to you.
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