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Seating and Mobility Equipment
Children, teens and adults who have disabilities often need custom seating and mobility equipment, including manual and power wheelchairs, standers, walkers and lifts. At Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare, our certified seating practitioners work in teams with therapists and other Gillette experts to assess needs, recommend equipment and create custom solutions.
Why Choose Gillette?
- We have extensive experience working with children, teens and adults who have disabilities and complex conditions.
- Our experts collaborate to provide comprehensive services.
- We offer access to expert assistive technology and rehabilitation therapy services at clinics throughout the Twin Cities and communities in greater Minnesota.
- We believe that people who have disabilities deserve a lifetime of excellent health care—from birth through adulthood.
About Seating and Mobility Equipment
Seating and mobility equipment helps patients improve function, comfort, mobility and health. Options include manual wheelchairs with custom seating, power wheelchairs with custom seating and controls (including “sip and puff” breath-controlled technology), walkers, standers, lifts, feeding chairs, and other equipment.
Candidates for Seating and Mobility Equipment
Anyone who experiences difficulty walking independently or maintaining an upright, comfortable position while seated might benefit from seating and mobility equipment. We serve children, teens and adults who have disabilities and complex conditions or injuries that began during childhood.
Gillette patients who benefit from seating and mobility equipment often have the following conditions:
- Brain injury and related neurotrauma
- Cerebral palsy
- Muscular dystrophy, spinal muscular atrophy and other neuromuscular conditions
- Spinal cord injury and related neurotrauma
- Other disabilities that affect muscle tone, sensation and walking ability
Because proper mobility equipment helps children explore and learn, we recommend an evaluation if a child can’t walk or crawl by 18 months—even if the child will eventually gain the ability to walk.
Even patients who can walk might benefit from a seating and mobility evaluation if they tire easily or are at risk for excessive wear and tear on their joints.
To learn more about the conditions we treat at Gillette, search Conditions and Care.
Evaluations and Fittings for Seating and Mobility Equipment
Before patients obtain wheelchairs and seating equipment, it’s important that they undergo comprehensive seating and mobility evaluations. In the evaluations, experts gather information about a patient’s abilities, help select appropriate equipment and technology, and design modifications to meet the patient’s needs.
During a seating and mobility equipment evaluation:
- An occupational or physical therapist assesses a patient’s ability to operate mobility equipment.
- A durable medical equipment vendor demonstrates options for mobility equipment. (Note: Patients and families select their own durable medical equipment vendors.)
- A certified seating practitioner helps with equipment-related decisions, such as recommendations for modifications, new custom seating, and other wheelchair adaptations and controls.
We encourage parents and caregivers to participate in the evaluation. Other supportive people, including community and school therapists, teachers, and group home staff members, often can provide useful information and insights.
Assessing Abilities and Environment
During a seating and mobility evaluation, a therapist assesses functional abilities and examines positioning needs. For example, we look at a patient’s:
- Ability to balance when seated
- Range of motion
- Level of activity
- Level of spasticity
- Body measurements
- Ability, with training, to operate manual and power wheelchairs, including various types of switches and controls
We also talk about a patient’s home, school and community settings to help determine what mobility system features will be best for all environments.
Learning About Options
A durable medical equipment vendor will discuss equipment options, demonstrate various types of equipment and talk about insurance coverage. For example, a vendor might discuss and/or demonstrate:
- Manual and power wheelchair options
- Frame size options
- Foot and arm rest options
- Options for transporting the wheelchair
Families choose their own durable medical equipment vendor based on their insurance coverage and the vendor’s service locations (to make maintenance more convenient). Gillette can provide a list of vendors if your insurance company has no recommendations.
Determining Equipment Needs
With a vast knowledge of all available options, a certified seating practitioner will help to determine the best option for a particular patient’s seating and mobility needs. We take into account a patient’s:
- Concerns about and history of pressure sores
- Expected growth and function
- Need for body and head support
- Needs related to mobility (to determine if a manual or power system is the best choice)
- Additional equipment, such as an existing augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) device, ventilator tray or lap tray
In collaboration with patients and their families, our team will make recommendations about seating and mobility equipment. After an evaluation, we might suggest:
- Using a manual or power wheelchair for the first time
- Replacing an existing manual or power wheelchair
- Adjusting or replacing seating or equipment on a new or existing wheelchair
- Developing additional skills before considering new mobility equipment (especially in the case of power wheelchairs)
No matter the outcome of a mobility and seating evaluation, addressing needs is an ongoing process as skills change, bodies grow and technology advances.
Undergoing Fittings and Receiving Training
Once patients receive their seating and mobility equipment recommendations—and once an insurance provider approves ordering the equipment—we schedule fittings. Fitting sessions involve receiving the equipment, modifying it to fit your needs, and learning how to use it. Depending on the type and complexity of the equipment, appointments can occur over one to three days.
Preparing for a Seating and Mobility Equipment Evaluation
Before undergoing a seating and mobility evaluation at Gillette, a patient needs an order from a health-care provider—whether that provider works at Gillette or is a provider in the community.
Families also are responsible for inviting a durable medical equipment vendor to the evaluation. Families choose a vendor based on insurance coverage and the vendor’s service locations (to make maintenance more convenient). Gillette can provide a list of vendors if your insurance company has no recommendations.
Once we have an order and a family has chosen a vendor, we send a questionnaire to fill out and return. The responses help to structure the evaluation session in a way that best meets each patient’s needs.
What to Bring With You
If you have any of the following items, please bring them to your appointment:
- Back-up wheelchair or equipment
- Current mobility system (manual or power wheelchair, stander, walker, etc.)
- Communication devices and mounts
- Information about your home or environment that might affect equipment choices
- Lap trays
- Medical records and medical history
- Respiratory and feeding equipment
If any areas in your home or environment post special mobility challenges, consider measuring those areas or taking photographs. We encourage school staff to attend your evaluation and provide input on equipment decisions, if possible. You might want to get statements from caregivers who can’t attend your evaluation.
Insurance and Prescriptions for Equipment
Insurance companies and third-party payers typically expect prior authorization (previous permission) before they will pay for durable medical equipment, including manual and power wheelchairs. Sometimes insurance companies require that you test equipment in your home and community to make sure that you’ve selected the best equipment for your needs.
Once you receive and approve of your team’s recommendations, Gillette will submit prior authorization for custom seating, and your durable medical equipment vendor will submit prior authorization for your mobility base (wheelchair or stroller). This process can take several weeks. If your insurer denies the prior authorization or requires more information, a Gillette therapist will respond on your behalf.
Once coverage for Gillette custom seating is approved, we’ll set up your fitting session and, if needed, coordinate the appointment with your durable medical equipment vendor. We also can connect families with a social worker, who can help you find other resources if your insurance coverage is limited.
For more resources about preparing for your visit to Gillette, visit Patient Preparation and Support.
Choosing seating and mobility equipment involves collaboration among patients, families and experts in various Gillette specialties.
The disciplines most often involved in seating and mobility evaluations at Gillette include:
To learn more about the services we provide at Gillette, search Conditions and Care.
Locations of Service
763-496-6000 or 888-218-0642 (toll free)Learn More »
952-936-0977 or 800-277-1250 (toll free)Learn More »
651-291-2848 or 800-719-4040 (toll-free)Learn More »
651-636-9443 or 800-578-4266 (toll free)Learn More »
218-824-5001 or 800-578-4266 (toll free)Learn More »
218-728-6160 or 800-903-7111 (toll free)Learn More »
Services vary by location. For all of our locations, visit Directions and Locations.
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