Skills on Wheels

Program overview

Skills on Wheels is an evidence-based training program delivered by trained occupational therapists (OTs) from Riley Hospital for Children to help kids maneuver various life situations in their wheelchairs.

Staff & Trainers

  • IU Health physicians and therapists
  • IUPUI faculty and students
  • Community volunteers

Participants

  • Children ages 8-17
  • Manual wheelchair users
  • Greater Indianapolis area residents
A trainer assists a Skills on Wheels participant in maneuvering her wheelchair over an obstacle.

Background

Developed by Tony Chase, Ph.D., Skills on Wheels was launched in the spring of 2021 by the IU Department of Occupational Therapy and Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health. Adapted from a wheelchair skills training program for adults developed by R. Lee Kirby at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, Skills on Wheels is the first wheelchair skills program offered for children in the United States—and only the second worldwide.

While licensed OTs were responsible for most of the instruction in the pilot program, the IU OT graduate students provided essential physical and moral support for the young participants.

Participants benefited from 1:1 skill training, and their parents or caregivers also learned through a feature of the program called "caregiver's corner." This allowed them to meet as a group each week to discuss topics of interest and included a roundtable discussion with Riley physicians and rehabilitation specialists, a discussion focused on coping strategies for caring for children with medical needs, and a presentation from representatives of the wheelchair industry on chair fitting, maintenance, and features.