Medically Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on December 14, 2021
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Walkers

Some children with Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) can walk on their own with arm and balance support from a rolling walker. Walkers come in anterior (support bars in front) or posterior (support in back) styles. Your therapist will help you pick out a walker and teach your child how to use it to stay mobile.

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Standers

A stander supports your child’s belly, back, and head to allow them to stay in a standing position. Standing improves bone strength, breathing, and bowel control. Some standers allow kids to rise from a seated position. A stander also lets your child see eye to eye with other kids, which helps them socialize.

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Adaptive Stroller

Adaptive or medical strollers offer extra body support for children with SMA so they’re more comfortable and can sit in a stable position. Adaptive strollers are strong enough to support the weight of older children too, but they’re still easy to fold up and stash in your car’s trunk.

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Bath Chair

Stability is especially important at bath time. A bath chair supports their head, neck, and trunk so they don’t slide under the water. Adjustable straps let them recline with comfort. A mesh seat keeps water from pooling under their bottom so they can just relax and enjoy their bath.

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Wheelchairs

Wheelchairs may be manual, which you push by hand, or have an electric motor. The electric type are more expensive. An older child can operate their own power wheelchair with a joystick placed near their stronger hand. Power chairs can be adapted for children as young as 18 months old.

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Adaptive Bikes and Trikes

Adaptive bicycles and tricycles support and balance your child so they can have fun while getting cardio and muscle-building exercise. They’re light, so they’re easy to pedal and steer. Some trikes have lower body supports or footrests. Adaptive tandem bikes let you steer and pedal while your child sits in front of you.

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Orthotics

Orthotics are braces or splints to support your child’s weakened muscles and keep their feet aligned when they walk or stand. Custom-fit, lightweight plastic braces can fit snugly inside their shoes. Braces allow muscles to stay flexible. This helps to keep contractures -- stiff, shortened muscles and tendons -- from forming.

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Car Beds

Infants or toddlers with SMA may not be able to breathe comfortably if they sit upright in a standard car seat. They may temporarily stop breathing. Car beds can be adjusted, so your baby can recline or lie flat. Some car beds or adjustable car seats have extra head or neck support attachments.

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Feeder Seats

Children with Type 1 SMA can have trouble sitting upright to eat and swallow food. A feeder seat is soft and cushioned. It holds your child in a safe, comfortable position while you feed them. Feeder seats can be easily adjusted to fit children of any age.

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Modified Vests

Once your child outgrows their car bed or adjustable car seat, a modified vest will support their body to keep them safe. The comfortable vest buckles into the back seatbelt holders, so they can lie flat while riding in any car.

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Potty Chairs

Potty chairs, cushioned seats, or handrail bars support your child’s body as they use the toilet. These devices fit over your regular toilet. Urine deflectors or splashguards can be installed around the seat to direct pee into the bowl and cut down on messes.

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Computers and Gaming

Kids with SMA can do schoolwork or play video games with adaptive devices or computer software. Some software or smartphone apps allow kids to control their games with their voice or eye movements.

Show Sources

Photo Credit:

JohnnyGreig / Getty Images

SOURCES:

Columbia University Spinal Muscular Atrophy Clinical Research Center: “Physical/Occupational Therapy.”

Cure SMA: “Support Services.”

Pulmonary Hypertension Association: “Professionals Give Insights on Adaptive Strollers and Push Chairs for Children With PH.”

Accessibility Medical Equipment: “Bath Safety for Children With Special Needs.”

Treat Spinal Muscular Atrophy: “Adapted Trikes.”

D. Dan and Betty Kahn Foundation Special Needs Resources: “20 Bikes, Trikes, and Tandems for Children With Special Needs.”

NYU Langone Health: “Mobility Aids & Orthotic Devices for Muscular Dystrophy.”

Living With SMA: “Car Seats,” “Washing & Toileting, Dressing & Clothing,” “Electronic and Computer Equipment.”

Living Made Easy: “Toileting Aids.”

Boston Children’s Hospital: “Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA).”