Thursday, July 19, 2018

Review of a Special-Needs Chair for School or Home

Drive Medical First Class School Chair

Disclaimer: I was not paid to write this post. I'm simply sharing information about a chair that worked for my family.

My 4-year-old son has cerebral palsy, and before he started preschool in August 2016, I needed to purchase a special chair for him to use at school. At the time, low muscle tone in his trunk caused him to slide down in a typical chair, and left-sided weakness caused him to slump to the left side, especially when tired. He needed extra support.

After doing a lot of online research, I ordered the Drive Medical First Class School Chair for him from (The chair is also available on other sites.)

Based on input from the school, his occupational therapist at the time, and my own intuition and experiences with my son, I was looking for a chair that...
  • was compact enough to work in the classroom environment
  • had adjustable lateral supports
  • had adjustable hip guides and a seat belt
  • had arm rests and a removable tray
  • had a footrest
  • had wheels so that the teaching staff could easily transport him around the classroom
  • had anti-tippers
  • was financially feasible

This chair fit the bill.

I especially liked that this chair was customizable. I paid a base price for the basic chair and then paid extra for any additional features that my son needed, for a grand total of $782.14 back in July 2016. Here's the current price breakdown on

Small chair (a large one is also available)
Support kit (trunk harness, and abductor & lateral supports)
Hip guides
Mobility base (i.e., wheels)

The lateral supports could be easily adjusted in and out using the black handles on the back of the chair:

adjustors for hip guides (not shown) are beneath the seat

Here are photos of the other features:

removable wooden tray

footrest; the 2 platforms can be rotated up and out of the way when not in use

wheels with locks, plus anti-tippers

Available features that I chose not to get include push handles ($74.45) and an adjustable headrest ($101.39).

The chair was relatively easy to assemble, taking about an hour. The chair was also easy to adjust by turning the various black handles (e.g., the "adjustors for lateral supports" in a photo above).

In practice, this chair worked well, according to the teaching staff. Eventually, though, my son decided on his own that he no longer wanted to sit in it; instead he wanted to sit in the regular chairs that his classmates were sitting in. This was a healthy development, and by then, sitting in a regular chair was something he could safely do, as long as an adult was close by to supervise in case he lost his balance.

A year after he started using the special chair, he could get into and out of a regular chair with minimal assistance:

A few minor criticisms of the Drive Medical First Class School Chair: I would have liked to have been able to purchase the lateral supports separately rather than as part of the "support kit," as my son didn't need the other features in the kit. Also, there are a few features I would have liked to have had available for the chair:
  • a 3-point harness
  • a contoured seat
  • a high-low mechanism (e.g., hydraulics that allow you to adjust the height of the chair while your child is sitting in it)
  • a foot board that a child can step on to get into the chair

However, some of these features, such as a high-low mechanism, can be prohibitively expensive. 

For the price, this is a good, sturdy chair. It was certainly the most affordable chair I could find that met my son's needs.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Decorating Your Home to Encourage Your Child's Development

My 4-year-old son has cerebral palsy, and I want to encourage his development as much as possible, starting in our home. My husband and I recently purchased our first home, and I've been loving decorating it in ways that will be educational for our son. Here I share with you my ideas for decorating your home in a way that will encourage your child's development.

Kid's bedroom

1.) Create an accent wall depicting a scenesomething that is interesting to your child but is also educational

This doesn't have to be complicated, and you don't have to be artistically inclined to do this. For the accent wall in my son's bedroom, I painted the top half of the wall an aqua color ("Spa" from Sherwin Williams) and the bottom half a dark green color ("Shamrock" from Sherwin Williams), depicting sky and grass, respectively. I then placed a wall decal of a "number train": 

My son loves trains, and he needs to learn to recognize numbers 1-10, so this decal seemed perfect. To complete the scene, I put up some cloud wall decals(I'm not paid for any of the links in this post, by the way.)

2.) Hang a sign or wall decal of your child's name

Place it at a level where your child can easily see it, such as right above his bed. Having daily exposure to seeing his name on the wall could encourage your child to recognize his written name, learn the letters of his name, and/or learn to write his name.

I purchased a customized wall decal of my son's name. I was happy overall with the quality, but some of the letters ran together like cursive writing, which I felt wasn't conducive to my son learning to recognize his written name. Therefore, I trimmed the letters with scissors before placing the decal on the wall. Here's the finished product:

3.) Set up a night stand containing a shelf for books

Having books at such an easy-to-reach level could encourage your child to read or ask to be read to.

4.) Put down an area rug depicting a scene or other graphics of educational value

This could inspire your child to play pretend or to ask you the names of the pictures on the rug.

I purchased this area rug/playmat for my son:

My son likes to play with his toy cars and trucks on this playmat as well as point to the various vehicles and buildings on it, as a way of asking me their names or sharing with me his excitement about seeing, say, the school bus or fire truck.


5.) Put up a shower curtain of an underwater scene or world map

For example, I put up this shower curtain in the bathroom where my son takes his baths:

Kitchen/dining area

6.) Place an educational placemat at your child's spot at the table

The "Numbers" placemat above comes in a set of 4 educational placemats, which I rotate out periodically for my son:

Living room

7.) Install various kinds of knobs on the furniture

You could start with larger, easier-to-pull knobsall matching if you preferand progress to smaller, more-difficult-to-pull knobs to encourage development of your child's motor skills. Hide preferred toys in drawers or cabinets accessed using these knobs, as motivation for your child to try to pull them.

8.) Store toys in various kinds of compartments or containers

For example, store some toys in drawers, some in cabinets, some in curtained-off bookshelf compartments, and some in bins or baskets, with or without lids. By doing so, you encourage your child's cognitive development: Your child has to figure out how to open the compartment or container in order to access her toys. 

IKEA's KALLAX bookcases are especially good for storing toys in a variety of ways since they can be easily (and relatively inexpensively) customized to contain drawers, cabinets, bins, and any combination thereof.


9.) Install coat hooks down low where your child can reach them

This may encourage your child to independently hang and remove his coat and backpack.

Any room

10.) Put up a full-length mirror 

My son has used full-length mirrors for various activities in his therapies, like drawing on the mirror with window markers, reaching for suction-cup balls that have been attached up high on the mirror, and practicing vocalizing while looking in the mirror. All of these activitiesand morecould be done with a full-length mirror at home, too.

11.) Mount a chalkboard (or magnetic chalkboard) to a wall 

Leave the chalk out to encourage your child to draw whenever he feels the urge, or periodically draw on the chalkboard yourself if that would motivate your child to draw.

My son has a magnetic chalkboard in his room, and in addition to leaving out chalk and an eraser, I like to leave up a magnetic letter activity for him to do if he chooses:


I hope you found these ideas inspiring and useful. If you have any ideas of your own on how to decorate your home to encourage your child's development, I'd love to read them in the comments section below!

Thanks so much for reading!

Saturday, July 7, 2018

How to Modify Push Toys for Taller Kids

For developmentally delayed kids, it can be hard to find toys that are both developmentally appropriate and the right size. For example, I wanted to get my almost-5-year-old son a play lawnmower, which developmentally is a good fit for him, but I was having difficulty finding one that would be tall enough. I ended up getting him this Little Tikes lawnmower:

Sure enough, once I assembled it, I found it was indeed too short for my son. So, I decided to do a little DIY project to "extend" the handle.

I went to a hardware store and bought these PVC pipes and connectors.... some black duct tape:

I connected the PVC pipes and connectors....

....and then wrapped the resulting structure with black duct tape:

I then attached the above handle extension to the play lawnmower using more black duct tape, and voila:

Now my son can push his play lawnmower without having to bend over. Bonus: our neighbor's typically developing 6-year-old enjoys pushing it around, too.

This same
or a similarmethod could be used to modify other push toys, such as doll strollers and play shopping carts. Of course, you'd want to make sure the modified toy is sturdy enough for your child to push safely.

Here's another photo of my son with his play lawnmower, just for cuteness sake 😊:

revving it up
Thanks for reading!