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6 Types of Adaptive Equipment for Children With Cerebral Palsy

Cari Jean lives in North Dakota, has a daughter with cerebral palsy, and works as a freelance writer.

Equipment and Home-Care

Many children with cerebral palsy and other physical impairments need adaptive equipment for therapeutic services or even day-to-day living. Such equipment not only allows a little more independence but can also be vital for their well-being; for children who cannot stand on their own, for example, weight-bearing exercises are important to help keep their bones strong.

Two pieces of adaptive equipment that work well for weight-bearing are the gait trainer and the stander, which I will discuss in further detail, along with other types of adaptive equipment.

Bath chair

Bath chair

1. Bath or Shower Chair

Some children with cerebral palsy cannot sit up on their own. This can make even the simplest task of taking a bath somewhat challenging. Thankfully there is adaptive equipment such as bath chairs and shower chairs to enable those with physical challenges to bathe or shower.

Bath and shower chairs come in a variety of sizes and cost hundreds of dollars. The most important factor when choosing which bath or shower chair to purchase is the size of the child and how much support that child needs. Some chairs come with more support for the head and can come with adjustable straps and belts.

It is helpful to discuss the best option with the child's physical or occupational therapist. As with most adaptive equipment, there are different sizes to choose from and can usually be adapted as the child grows.

2. Toileting Systems / Positioning Commodes

Some children with cerebral palsy may never have the ability to be potty-trained due to the fact they cannot control those particular muscles. For these children, when they grow out of diapers, there are youth-sized briefs that can be worn for their toileting needs. These can cost around $70 for 90 pairs of briefs.

If the child is able to become potty trained, there is adaptive equipment to help support them as they go to the bathroom. Again, in choosing this type of adaptive equipment, it must first be determined how much support the child needs. If a child cannot sit up on his/her own, support needs to be in place for the child to sit up on the toilet.

Some children may just need a special type of commode to place over the toilet. Some of these commodes can help with things like leg positioning. These adaptive commodes and toilet systems can cost anywhere from $100–$1,000.

There are also toilet systems that can be a combination of a toilet system and a bath/shower chair. These combo sets can be expensive and cost from $1,500 to over $4,000.

Gait trainer

Gait trainer

3) Standers and Gait Trainers

Both standers and gait trainers are excellent ways for children with cerebral palsy who cannot stand on their own to do weight bearing. As mentioned previously, weight bearing allows the bones to remain strong. Standers and gait trainers also allow the child to be in a different position which can enable participation in different activities.

With standers, the child can be stood completely upright or at a certain angle. Some standers come with the ability to move from a sitting position up to a standing position. These can be expensive and cost over $2,000. Regular standers can cost anywhere from $700–$2,000.

Gait trainers are not only important for weight bearing and exercise in general but also allow the child who cannot walk on his/her own to be able to take some steps. It is sort of like training the brain to send the right signal to the child's muscles to enable them to "walk." Gait trainers cost between $500–$2,000, depending on the size and support needed.

It is very important to discuss with the child's therapist the best type of stander and gait trainer to use at home. Equally important is knowing how to get your child in and out of the stander and the gait trainer, which can sometimes be very involved.

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Modular chair

Modular chair

4) Modular Chairs

Adaptive equipment such as modular or positioning chairs can come in handy, especially for children in school. Some kids with cerebral palsy are in their wheelchairs for most of the day, but modular chairs offer another kind of seating system. These modular chairs are at a lower level than typical wheelchairs and allow children to sit down at the same level as their peers. In their younger years, kids often sit at lower tables, and a modular chair would allow the child to sit at a different height and sit up at the table.

Again, the chair must have the right amount of support for the child. Many modular chairs can be adapted as the child grows. These chairs can range in price from $200-$900.

The special tomato adaptive car seat

The special tomato adaptive car seat

5) Adaptive Car Seats

It is the law that children be properly restrained when traveling anywhere by car. What about kids with cerebral palsy and other special needs who cannot be supported in a regular car seat? What about those whose parents don't have an accessible van? An adaptive car seat is the answer.

When buying an adaptive car seat, you must make sure that it meets or exceeds the US Federal Safety Standard MVSS 213 (Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard) where required. You can't just use any adaptive chair in the car; it must have a proper latching system so that the seat can be secure in the vehicle.

Some adaptive car seats come so that footrests and headrests can be attached, although you may have to purchase those pieces separately. Also, some adaptive car seats can be used when traveling by airplane. Again, it has to meet the Federal Safety Standard.

Most adaptive car seats cost between $600-$2,000. As with some adaptive equipment, insurance nor Medicaid will cover this cost.

6) Adaptive Beds

Adaptive beds not only offer the sleeping child a comfortable place to sleep but also give parents peace of mind, knowing that their child is safe in bed and will not fall out or get his/her limbs caught in the railings.

Adaptive beds usually come in standard twin or full sizes, which include the mattress and box spring. Mattresses can come with features found in hospital beds, such as being waterproof. They're also designed to reduce pressure sores and come with an anti-bacterial covering. When purchasing an adaptive bed, make sure it meets or exceeds federal safety standards and the FDA's seven zones of entrapment guidelines.

Some adaptive beds can be electronically adjusted so that the head/feet can be set at different angles for further comfort and a better sleeping position. Adaptive beds can range from $4,000 to over $5,000.



More About Adaptive Equipment

Adaptive equipment makes it easier for children with cerebral palsy to get all of their needs met, including bathing, sleeping, going to the bathroom, being able to stand or sit in different positions, and being able to be transported by car.

Adaptive Eating Utensils

Other adaptive equipment includes eating and drinking utensils. There are many different kinds and variations of utensils. There are adaptive plates, forks, knives, spoons, cups, straws, bowls, and any and everything that a child might need to feed him/herself. If your child needs any of this type of adaptive equipment, it would be best to discuss all of the options available with the child's occupational therapist.

Research Thoroughly

It is good to do your research before purchasing adaptive equipment. It is also good to discuss adaptive equipment issues with your child's physical/occupational therapist or any other professional who works with your special needs child. If the adaptive equipment is not supportive enough or does not help your child, it can cause huge frustrations and can even be dangerous for the child.

Adaptive equipment can be great for children with cerebral palsy as it allows them to be a little more independent and helps them take part in different activities. Adaptive equipment also helps these children get their everyday needs met, making them both happier and healthier.

Further Reading

As a mom of a child with cerebral palsy, I have a lot of experience advocating for kids with this condition. Here are two more of my articles that you may find useful:

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.


Tamra on June 08, 2017:

Connie, I know this is old or that you posted a long time ago, but I have made knee pads for my daughter who crawls or walks/runs on her knees if on her own as she has Cerebral Palsy. Couldn't find anything. If still need or know anyone else who needs, let me know. Maybe I can help. These really stay on. I'm just still testing with different fabrics.

Younis on November 24, 2016:

Hi every one i am the father of CP patient son name Zakki i love my son and to much care but i can not buy these type of equipment itsvery expensive becasue my monthly salaray only 500 USD so please i request you make the low price for cp patients kids

Cari Jean (author) from Bismarck, ND on June 20, 2016:

Katrina - I'm honestly not sure - it was a chair my daughter used at school many years ago. It may have been Rifton but I'm not sure - sorry I couldn't help you further.

Katrina on June 06, 2016:

Who makes the modular wooden chair in the photo? The extra wide headrest could be very useful to us, but I can;t find a vendor.

Cari Jean (author) from Bismarck, ND on March 12, 2015:

Elaine - I apologize I cannot give you any advice regarding a hoyer lift as I have no experience with using one. I would recommend calling the company who made the hoyer lift or your nearest medical equipment provider who has more experience and knowledge with this type of equipment.

Elaine on March 12, 2015:

hi I care for an adult child with ceberal palsy. Is it safe to give this child a shower in a hoyer life? Please help as I'm really concern

Cari Jean (author) from Bismarck, ND on January 18, 2012:

Debbie - thanks for your comment. What kind of help would you be needing? Publicity? Financial? LEt me know and I'll see what I can do. Another good resource is Joni Earickson Tada's ministry called Wheels for the World that helps supply wheelchairs and other adaptive equipment to children in impoverished countries.

Cari Jean (author) from Bismarck, ND on January 18, 2012:

Connie - I would say the best thing to do is just search for the right equipment on or do a google search on adaptive equipment made by Rifton. Hope that helps!

Jan Tyer on January 13, 2012:

what a great site! I am a medical foster parent and have been looking for used equipment, as we do not have funds for us to use. I need all sorts and sizes. Where else can I go to look for used eqipment?

debbie mayanja on January 07, 2012:

thanks for that great work,i have a child with cerebral palsy but of recent i begun a project to support such kids in Uganda,i need you to join me because they're so many parents who are desperate with such children and they need advise,can u do it???????

Connie on December 06, 2011:

I work with a preschool child who has Cerebral Palsy but he is fairly high functioning. My problem is finding equipment to help him do most of what the other children in his classroom do. I have looked for knee pads and gloves because he crawls around on the playground in the bark chips but haven't dound anything suitable. He can stand to wash his hands but is supported by a teacher. When using his gait trainer (while hand washing) he needs to hold onto it with his hands, therefore that won't work. Also would like some way for him to carry things and a way for him to sit on the floor without "W" sitting. Any suggestions I can get would be helpful. OTs seem to be at a loss for helping higher functioning children.

Cari Jean (author) from Bismarck, ND on November 19, 2011:

Kathy - I am so sorry for your loss. It sounds like you have some great equipment that families could definitely benefit from having. Have you tried posting this on other sites? There really needs to be an internet site where people can exchange such information, the only problem is that shipping the equipment could get very expensive. Again, so sorry for your loss.

kathy duncan on November 14, 2011:

i have all this special equipement my daughter passed away i would like to sell it to a family for reasonably price I have a stander threee postions with the table a wheel chair with head rest with clip on desk and the strap downs for using it as a carseat a corner chair for sitting with desk and a wonderful gait trainer with all the accessories that grows with the child including the ankle straps all of my equipment is in excellent condition we also have suction machines portable and stanard feeding pumps and lots more if anyone needs this equipment i will take offers thx good luck with your children 850-532-3063

Cari Jean (author) from Bismarck, ND on October 24, 2011:

Chris Gibbs - I think it is so expensive because such equipment is not produced in mass quantities. But even so, does it have to be that expensive? Thankfully we have good insurance that pays a little bit of money towards equipment every year - it's not a lot, but every little bit helps. Thanks so much for your comment.

Chris Gibbs on October 20, 2011:

Why is it that all these CP special needs equipment are so expensive, especially if the father doesn't live in the childs house 100% of the time. Insurance co won't even pay for equipment at the dad's house. Really is too bad!!!

Cari Jean (author) from Bismarck, ND on September 22, 2011:

Lindaot - thanks so much for your comment. I can't help but wonder if you are an occupational therapist? Just thought that might be what the 'ot' in your names stands for?

Lindaot on September 20, 2011:

How great of you to post this work!People as yourself alway's make the difference!


Cari Jean (author) from Bismarck, ND on June 08, 2011:

annie - I know, we have the same problem with our daughter which is why we currently decided not to fly anymore. The only thing I can think of is to purchase an adapted car seat that can also be used on a plane. Such as the one featured in this article, it is called a Special Tomato. Other than that I don't really have a lot of suggestions - maybe talk to your son's physical therapist or another specialist who works with him to see if they have any ideas. Sorry I couldn't be of more help.

annie on June 07, 2011:

how can i put my 7year old son in an airplane? he has cerebral palsy. he can't sit on his own and very poor head control

Cari Jean (author) from Bismarck, ND on January 19, 2011:

HealthyHanna - thanks so much for your comment - you are always very kind and supportive.

Cari Jean (author) from Bismarck, ND on January 19, 2011:

Lady_E - it really is amazing what kind of adaptive equipment is out there for these children to enable them to live the best life possible. And when you get into the technology that is available nowadays it seems almost miraculous!

Cari Jean (author) from Bismarck, ND on January 19, 2011:

Dian'swords4u - thank you so much for your kind and gracious words. I hope this article helps parents of cp children as well to find the right kind of equipment for their child.

Cari Jean (author) from Bismarck, ND on January 19, 2011:

Hello, hello - Thanks so much for your comment. It can be heartbreaking at times when a child has a physical impairment and can't live life like a "normal" child. But a lot of kids with cerebral palsy I've been around have so much joy inside and they spread it to others. I think all they need is to know people love them and are taking care of them the best that they can. They are truly inspiring children!

HealthyHanna from Utah on January 19, 2011:

How useful!! Great resource.

Elena from London, UK on January 19, 2011:

I am glad the equipment is available and hope those who are not aware of it yet, get to read this article.

Best Wishes


Dian'swords4u from North Carolina on January 19, 2011:

This is an awesome soufrce of information. I am a nurse and have done wome work with children with CP. This is a good encouraging hub. thank YOu so much for the information. I hope that those with CP children will find this and read it. Have a good day.

Hello, hello, from London, UK on January 19, 2011:

A wonderful hub about a heartbreaking topic. These equipments seem to be very helpful. Thank you for doing all these research and sharing it.

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