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.
Limited Mobility. Unlimited Ability.
Description of the video:
Anna Catahay: When I was pregnant with Miana, I went into your routine ultrasound, and then they had noticed there was something going on as far as the hydrocephalus. So she has spina bifida with hydrocephalus, she has a Chiari II malformation, neurogenic bladder, so there's a lot of things that are going on. We don't know anybody where we're from that has spina bifida. It was a new world for us. I mean we've been really blessed with just how our lives have kind of unfolded. Despite her challenges, she's really been able to get out there and do things from Girl Scouts to — she loves theater. She's very comfortable in her own skin. In the past, it's, "Okay, can she have an IA at the school, someone that's going to be around her?" But she's getting at the age where she's like, "Mom, I don't want someone hovering over me all day." So her being able to even just do that simple skill — getting over like a little bump — I'm not so worried or concerned about having someone right next to her to make sure she gets over it, or that she's going to tip over.
Jonathan Catahay: Because of the program, her confidence level to even attempt to do certain things that — she just turned 11-year-old a few days ago, and up until the time before we came to this program, we never really attempted to do a wheelie or to remove her anti-tippers and let her try to get over a curb, and she was always afraid. She wouldn't try it, but because of this, and the people that are working with her, very encouraging, she's got a lot more courage to try and do things. And her actual skills — we could be out and about, and there's a bump or a crack in the pavement that normally would stop her dead in her tracks, but she's just zooming right over it, doing a little hop over it.
Anna: After I think a couple of sessions, I was literally chasing after her because she was going, and then she would do her little wheelie and then get over that crack in the sidewalk, and it was an amazing feeling. It was really really awesome.
Jonathan: Even just going through the exercises, she may not master it now, but it's something that we can build on or continue to practice at home. I think I would say if you ask me what's the most important thing take-away from this, it's her mindset — the way she thinks about things now, problem-solving, right? That's a big deal, like an attitude or maybe I don't know what you call like a paradigm shift in the way you think. Thinking "Man, I don't want to try that." Now she's
thinking, "What can I do to solve this problem?"
Anna: When we say Miana has gained confidence, it's not just because of the skills itself. It's because of the way the interaction is with all your people — Maria, Mary — they just work well.
When you have a program like this, you're teaching the kids skills that are needed for just being part of society, your everyday necessary skills. It's not a program that's going to teach you something extra like I'm learning a skill for a sport or I'm learning to dance, you know, things of that sort. It's a necessary skill like learning to walk. You should be able to have access to learn how to navigate your community and your environment with those foundational skills.
Jonathan: If I need to go to navigate through the insurance process to get my daughter into this program, I'd do it. There's a lot of parents that would go through that too. They understand the value of something, a program like this. But there's other kids whose parents may not entertain the thought because of other priorities, but those kids would definitely benefit from it.
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Staff & Trainers
- IU Health physicians and therapists
- IUPUI faculty and students
- Community volunteers
- Children ages 8-17
- Manual wheelchair users
- Greater Indianapolis area residents
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.