To determine whether it is worth while to encourage patients who have high-level spina bifida to walk at an early age, we compared the cases of thirty-six patients who had participated in a walking program with those of thirty-six patients for whom a wheelchair had been prescribed early in life. The patients in the two groups were matched for age, sex, level of the lesion, and intelligence. Only twelve of the patients who had been able to walk at an early age were still able to do so effectively at the time of this study, when their ages ranged from twelve to twenty years, but still these patients fared somewhat better than the other patients did. The patients who walked early had fewer fractures and pressure sores, were more independent, and were better able to transfer than were the patients who had used a wheelchair from early in life. However, during childhood and early adolescence, the patients who had always used a wheelchair had spent fewer days in the hospital than did those who had participated in the walking program. There were no major differences between the two groups with regard to skills of daily living, function of the hands, and frequency and severity of obesity.