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.

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