Is It Dangerous for a Young Child to Drive a Power Wheelchair?

We know any young child requires constant supervision and that is no different when they are driving a power wheelchair. Under proper supervision and a safe environment, always encourage them to do as much as possible on their own, so eventually, they can do and learn these things without assistance. If you keep worrying about any kind of accidents, then children will lose the opportunity to learn and be independent.

In a recent study, it was proven that children as young as 14-17 months old have shown the ability to learn power mobility skills when provided with frequent opportunities to practice (Casey et al., 2013). Although children with complex developmental delays and cognitive limitations need longer time to practice, they still successfully develop the skills to drive powered mobility (Bottos et al., 2001; Guarrera-Bowlby & Deutsch, 2007). So, just give them a few more opportunities to try powered mobility.

There are many ways to ensure the safety of a new driver:

  • Find an appropriate and efficient part of the body to control the power wheelchair.
  • Equip the chair with front bumpers to reduce the force of any potential collisions.
  • Program the driving parameters with some modifications (i.e. reducing speed and power).
  • Have a remote stop system equipped and a stop switch handy for any emergencies.
  • Find safe and open environments while the child is learning to drive. It’s better to choose level and firmer surfaces with few obstacles.

Adjusting the speed and finding an open area to practice are just some of the precautions you can take for first time drivers.

The training approach for powered mobility for children is incorporated with the child’s own motivation and curiosity. So try not to reach for the drive control and take over driving, unless there are in danger of hurting themselves or someone else. Be patient and believe they can drive independently one day in the future.

Ken Chen, PT, MS, ATP

Global Product Training and Development Manager

Ken has 10 years of experience as a physical therapist in the area of wheelchair seating/mobility. Ken took on the role of Product Manager for Karma in 2012 and was responsible for the research on user needs and market trends for product development. In 2015, Ken got certified Assistive Technology Professional (ATP) accredited from RESNA.

In 2018, Ken was transferred to the sales department in Taiwan to provide custom products and services for disabled users. He has provided a variety of continuing education courses and lectures in the area of seating/mobility for Taiwanese therapists.

In 2020, Ken was appointed as Product Educator in Karma Group. Now he provides a variety of product training and clinical education courses to the global dealers, distributors, and therapists with Karma’s clinical consultant Pau-Lee.

Ken Chen
PT, MS, ATP

Global Product Training and Development Manager

Ken has 10 years of experience as a physical therapist in the area of wheelchair seating/mobility. Ken took on the role of Product Manager for Karma in 2012 and was responsible for the research on user needs and market trends for product development. In 2015, Ken got certified Assistive Technology Professional (ATP) accredited from RESNA.

In 2018, Ken was transferred to the sales department in Taiwan to provide custom products and services for disabled users. He has provided a variety of continuing education courses and lectures in the area of seating/mobility for Taiwanese therapists.

In 2020, Ken was appointed as Product Educator in Karma Group. Now he provides a variety of product training and clinical education courses to the global dealers, distributors, and therapists with Karma’s clinical consultant Pau-Lee.