Positioning Components: When Looks Are Deceiving

To people whose frame of reference is a seat belt in a car or a lap bar on a roller coaster, the harnesses, straps and belts used in complex rehab positioning can look like restraints.

Jim Dyes of Therafin Corp. says that’s a common misperception of people unfamiliar with seating & mobility. Those folks think “these things are used as restraints… they’ll even refer to them as restraints in conversation.”

Actually, Dyes says, “In many cases, by holding the position it allows the freedom for individuals to actually be more active, to use their limbs properly, to be able to function at a higher level because of that support. It’s not restrictive; it’s almost freeing, by giving them that additional support.”

Dyes gives a real-life example of a child with cerebral palsy who was unable to communicate. The rehab team added a wheelchair tray to the system and strapped the child’s arm to the tray.

“By limiting some of that movement, [the child] was able to control their fingers and use a communications device to speak to their parents,” Dyes says. “Until they got that figured out, there was no communication at all. But by being able to restrict part of the movement and control the movement, it actually enabled a finemotor skill, which gave them communications ability for the first time in their life.”

Dyes says parents are sometimes disconcerted when they see what they perceive to be restraints being used on their child. “But once they understand the functionality and they’ve experienced it, [the components] almost become invisible to them.”

Success stories like this one can be helpful to share with consumers or caregivers who are just learning about the possibilities of these components.

“If you just allow the perception to rule,” Dyes says, “it’s just going to be looked at negatively.”

This article originally appeared in the April 2013 issue of Mobility Management.

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