The positive effects of early powered mobility on children's psychosocial and play skills

Assist Technol. Spring 2013;25(1):39-48; quiz 49-50. doi: 10.1080/10400435.2012.685824.


Powered mobility can have an important cognitive and psychosocial impact on young children who are unable to move independently. Twenty-three children with physical disabilities between the ages of 18 months and 6 years participated in this study. Data evaluating social skills, frequency of mobility play activities, frequency of interaction with toys/objects, and play/verbal developmental levels were collected at wheelchair evaluation, wheelchair delivery, and approximately 6 months later. Significant increases were found in parental perceptions of positive social skills for younger children after receiving a wheelchair; slightly older children showed improvements in social skills before the wheelchair was received; no changes were found in negative social skills. Parental ratings also indicated a significantly greater difficulty remaining engaged in tasks after receiving a wheelchair. A significant increase was noted in the number of mobility activities during indoor free play but no difference was seen in interaction with toys or objects. Improvement in the qualitative level of outdoor interactive free play was reported but there was no change in verbal interactions. This article discusses the potential positive impact of early powered mobility. These findings may be helpful in justifying the recommendation of powered mobility to young children and in justifying medical necessity of powered mobility for reimbursement by third party payers.

MeSH terms

  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Disabled Children / psychology*
  • Education, Continuing
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Play and Playthings / psychology*
  • Qualitative Research
  • United States
  • Wheelchairs*