Will he or she walk?

This is a question of tremendous importance to most families with a disabled child. An important role for the clinician is to help families refocus the goal to gaining maximal efficiency and independence in mobility. The therapeutic team can then use this framework to help the child and family determine how best to optimize mobility at each stage of the child's development. For example, while a particular child may ambulate in the home and in the classroom, his ambulation may not be efficient enough to hang out with peers on field trips or to keep up with others on a family outing.
When the family understands this, they can begin problem solving and may be guided to an effective solution (e.g., continued ambulation at home/school but utilization of a wheelchair when it provides for more optimal societal inclusion).
Mobility goals and the need for adaptive or orthotic equipment are driven by what is age appropriate. Evaluation for equipment to support independent sitting might occur at 6-9 months, standing around 12-15 months, and mobility over the second year of life.
For the child who has cerebral palsy or any condition which impacts tone and gait, regular (e.g. yearly) monitoring of the child's gait pattern and musculoskeletal exam by a physiatrist or orthopedist experienced in gait analysis is critical to ensure appropriate interventions necessary to optimize gait efficiency.
Interventions may include:
  • spasticity management
  • orthotics
  • physical therapy
  • surgical interventions


Information & Support

The following link is to, where registration is required but is free. Once on this site, there is a helpful article called "What you should know about the first wheelchair" that covers many considerations in choosing a chair, including mode of propulsion (power vs. manual), style, stability, sizing, handles, leg/arm rests, bus accessibiltiy, etc.

For Parents and Patients

EP Magazine (Exceptional Parent)
A monthly publication that provides practical advice, emotional support, and up-to-date educational information for people with disabilities.

Authors & Reviewers

Initial publication: October 2008; last update/revision: May 2011
Current Authors and Reviewers:
Author: Lisa Samson-Fang, MD