What are some common concerns when it comes to mobility training and a new power chair at school?
There are some common concerns that I find when it comes to mobility training and this new power chair showing up school. The most common concerns tend to be safety of the other students and behavioral issues on the part of the driver. Now training in context, as part of the school day, means that students will bump into the wall. They may even bump into other students. Here are some suggestions. We do not want to start that in-context training as part of the school day with other students around right away. We want to start in those quiet areas, help the child build some skills, and then start moving more into context.
You can also reduce one or two settings on the chair to help the power chair have less force. One is called power and the other is called torque. Torque is like driving in low gear. These chairs have so much power in them that you can literally move furniture across the room with a power wheelchair. They can be turned down so that if a new driver bumps into a wall, they will simply bump the wall rather than put a hole through the drywall with their footplate. It is important with the new driver to have this chair turned down, not just in power and torque, but also speed and acceleration. That gives a new driver time to respond to movement of their chair. If the chair is too responsive, then the driver will be less successful. As they build in their skills, the programming can be changed. Also power chairs tend to have more than one drive; sometimes that is called a profile. It could be that drive 1 is set really slow. Drive 2 may be a little faster and drive 3 might be for outdoors, when the client wants to really book it. It could be that this new driver is regulated to drive 1 for a while. If you are not familiar with wheelchair programming this is something that the supplier can help you out with.
In general, I recommend that if the student is acting up that the people around them try to address this the same way they would a typical student whenever possible. For example, if a child is running down the hallway, the child is required to return to their starting point, back to the beginning and they have to then walk down the hallway. If a student is driving their wheelchair too fast, then that student can be required to come back to the teacher, for example, put that chair at a slower drive and go down the hallway at an appropriate speed. As much as possible, we want to address it the same way as their typical peers. I get many calls from people saying we need to take this chair away because the client is driving too fast, has bumped into something, etc. Instead of removing the wheelchair, we need to intervene on these behaviors.