Occupational Therapy: Helping a Client Navigate Rough Terrain

Thursday, November 22, 2012 - 3:27pm

Kyle Baker received his new power wheelchair in October, 2012. He has been working with Donna MacLeod, an occupational therapist on Neuro/Spinal Cord Injury Program, and Amy Poole, an occupational therapy assistant, for the past seven months. Kyle progressed from using a wheelchair that was operated by head controls, to one he can drive with his hands, due to increased strength and function of his upper extremities.

The occupational therapy wheelchair seating and mobility assessment is an involved and comprehensive process. It starts with a physical assessment and postural analysis, trial equipment set-up, wheelchair skills training, and completion of final prescription. Donna also gives consideration to Kyle’s lifestyle needs such as: Where will he be living and where does he plan to drive his chair? Kyle said it was important to be able to navigate rough terrain. “I need to go over tree roots when I’m hunting,” Kyle said.

To optimize Kyle’s mobility, his chair has to be able to combine comfort and practicality. One way that his chair is able to provide comfort is by tilting, this helps to relieve pressure off his buttocks, provide spinal support and help him with his balance. Kyle’s chair also has Infrared and Bluetooth capability, which would allow Kyle’s joystick to control his laptop, TV, radio, lights and any other technologies with Infrared/Bluetooth capabilities.

Amy Poole, the occupational therapy assistant, was very involved with Kyle in the wheelchair skills training process. This consisted of indoor practice in the Rehab’s wheelchair skills lab where Kyle could practice ramps, curbs, rough terrain (gravel/sand) to prepare for community outings. The next step was to complete numerous community outings so Kyle could practice safe operation of the chair to maximize independence with mobility.

Kyle is excited to get his laptop and other Bluetooth compatible devices programmed into his chair, but what he really can’t wait to do is to get out into the woods and go hunting.

Visit Rehabilitation & Supportive Care Services for more information about Occupational Therapy and the many other services we offer.