What to include in seating for people with Cerebral Palsy
Cerebral palsy covers a huge range of serious conditions that have long-lasting effects. So what should you include in specialist seating that will cover all the bases for someone with cerebral palsy? Let’s take a look!
What is cerebral palsy?
Before we start, let’s recap on what cerebral palsy (CP) is and what it can cause.
It’s an umbrella term for numerous lifelong conditions that are caused by a problem with the brain either before, during, or very soon after a baby is born. This can be a bleed or reduced oxygen in the brain, or it could be caused by infections during pregnancy.
CP can cause symptoms like:
- Being too floppy or too stiff
- Weak arms or legs
- Jerky/clumsy movements and fidgeting
- Uncontrolled random movement
The severity of these things varies from person to person. So what should be included in specialist seating to help people with CP?
How should I position the pelvis?
When it’s positioned correctly, the pelvis acts as a stable base for anyone sat down. Making sure the pelvis is in the right place and well-supported is key to getting the rest of the seat right.
You should always measure your client for the most accurate seat depth and seat width. The seat size can make all the difference to how comfortable and supported your client is.
Another thing you may wish to include in the chair is a raked seat. This will cradle your client’s pelvis more securely and will prevent them from sliding out of the chair if they have involuntary movements.
If your client has more severe physical disabilities, then you may want to include a moulded seat. This will give them completely customised support and comfort.
How can I get good spinal positioning?
Specialist seating for people with CP must include something to help maintain good spinal positioning for your client. People with CP will spend a lot of time seated, and they may lean or slump to one side thanks to floppiness or weak muscles.
Removable or adjustable lateral supports can really help your client to keep as upright and straight as possible when sat down. These can be positioned on either side of the person to keep their spine as straight and supported as possible.
Your client may also need extra support around their neck and head. If this is the case, then you may want to look at chairs with head supports that will again help to relieve any unnecessary stress on their neck and will keep them as comfy as possible.
What if my client has different leg lengths?
Leg length discrepancies are also common in people with CP. If your client is seated for a long time and doesn’t have support for this, it can be particularly painful and can affect their spinal and pelvic positioning.
A two-level footplate might be the best thing here, as it can be adjusted to provide the right support to the legs individually.
How can I keep my client secure in the chair?
As we mentioned before, people with CP can be prone to involuntary movements and fidgeting. For clients who move around a lot, you might need to consider using a harness or belt.
As with all harnesses and belts, we stress that you should really consider whether they are completely necessary and safe for the client. These should only be used in the client’s best interest and the proper protocol should always be followed before you use them.
What should I include to stop pressure injuries?
Pressure ulcers are always something to consider in specialist seating, and that’s no different for people with CP.
Tilt-in-space is a good thing to have in your chair because it redistributes your client’s body weight over a wider surface area. This feature is also a good way to maintain your client’s positioning.
What chair do we recommend?
One chair that our team have recommended for people with CP is the Lento.
It’s a highly adjustable chair that can be easily changed to suit different clients. This is ideal for CP because it can cause such a big range of disabilities and needs.
The Lento can also be supplied with adjustable lateral supports and head supports to keep the spine in a good position.
Ultimately, CP is such a vast term that you can only specify seating on a case-by-case basis. But we would always suggest looking for a chair that’s adjustable so that you can really customise the chair for your client.
If you’d like some extra advice on this, these feel free to get in touch with a member of our team to book a joint seating assessment. You can find extra information on seating for other medical conditions here.