An assistive device has the purpose of supporting your child’s development, increasing independence and letting the child explore the world despite of its disability. The NF-Walker and the Innowalk are two devices developed to encourage activity and participation. You might be asking “which of the product suits my child”, and in this article I will explain the differences and give some recommendations to help you choose.
The NF-Walker provides hands-free social interaction
First and foremost, the NF-Walker enables the child to move around independently in an upright position. Being able to move around with hands free, the child can more easily participate in and perform different activities. The NF-Walker can be used already from the early age of 12 months, which gives the child a unique opportunity to explore its surroundings as it grows up. The device is mainly used by children with disabilities where independent walking or walking with light support is not achievable, for example CP, GMFCS levels IV and V.
Being in an upright position gives the child an opportunity to interact with others. It enables the user to play, participate, and communicate with peers at eye level, which can create a better sense of control, safety and connection. Having the ability to participate in social interactions can also lead to a higher sense of well-being for the child (Pin, 2007).
Why is the NF-Walker a good choice for children with severe disabilities?
The NF-Walker is unique when it comes to supporting the child. The braces assure correction of the legs whether the child is weak, have low muscle tone or has a high degree of spasticity.
The device is individually adapted to the child and its needs. This means the NF-Walker gives a lot of support all the way from the feet to the head to encourage alignment in both standing position and while walking. You may also gradually remove support to initiate and stimulate motor development.
The Innowalk provides physical and emotional well-being
The Innowalk is like a robotic cross-trainer for people with disabilities. The child is safely supported in an upright position with natural weight-bearing, and the devices allows guided, repetitive movements of the legs with the help of a motor. In addition, handles for the arms can be added to give movements for the whole body.
Being in an upright position has its benefits, but adding on movement gives even more positive outcomes. It is physical activity! Physical activity boosts the metabolism and brings many health-related rewards. As for the NF-Walker the Innowalk also have an individually fitted support system from feet to the head, to endorse alignment when standing in the device.
Children with all levels of motor function can benefit from using the device where the aim is to increase the physical activity level, increase strength and stability, improve range of motion in low-extremities joints and influence muscle tone among others. No ability to stand or walk is needed to use the Innowalk.
What are the main differences between the NF-Walker and the Innowalk?
The NF-Walker is a walking device offering mobility and allowing the child to move from A to B. When first starting out with the NF-Walker, the child might not be able to walk, and just standing is enough challenge to start with. Walking is a complex task and the child’s strength and physical limitations will of course impact potential mobility. It can take time for the user to find his or her own way of walking and build enough strength to achieve it. Some users are able to walk during the first fitting, while some adapt little by little. However, the most important thing is that the child has the opportunity to explore being in a standing position and walking in one product.
The Innowalk is a stationary, robotic device that assists the child with movement using a motor. This allows the child to experience repetitive movements, that the child might not have the capacity to do on its own. For some children this might be the only way to achieve enough movement and activity during the day, whereas most of the time is spent sedentary in a wheelchair.
Both devices are developed to be used by children with severe disabilities and can already be used from the age of 12 months, which is the recommended age for getting into an upright position.
Which product suits my child?
Children’s and families’ needs are different and this should be taken into consideration when choosing either the NF-Walker or the Innowalk. Some children might even have both devices as they are different and complement each other.
So, you should be asking yourself questions like “aim of use”, “functional level of the child”, “where to be used”, “who will be supporting the child while using the device”, “what other devices is the child using”, “What funding options are there” and so on.
Example of questions you may ask:
1. What is the aim of using the device?
AIM: Walking from A to B and let the child be independent!
SOLUTION: NF-Walker might be the right choice.
AIM: Increasing physical activity level, as the child is severely disabled and spends most of its time in a wheelchair!
SOLUTION: Innowalk might be the right solution to increase daily physical activity level in a safe manner and with enough support to ensure proper alignment.
AIM: My child is losing its ability to walk (diagnose-related) and at risk of developing contractures in lower extremities!
SOLUTION: Innowalk might be the right solution to stimulate full range of motion in joints in a safe and comfortable way and at the same time allowing physical activity.
2. Where is the device to be used?
If you have very little space and limited options for walking outside with your child, the Innowalk might be the correct solution for you. It takes little space, as it is stationary, but allows the child to move with many repetitions.
3. My child likes to explore and wants to use the device in the kindergarten?
It might be that the NF-Walker is right for your child. She or him will have the possibility to play with peers both indoor and outdoor in the kindergarten. It encourages activity with hands.free walking. You can even play a ball while being in the device.
Some children even have both devices. Using the NF-Walker in kindergarten to explore surroundings and play with friends, and using the Innowalk at home for physical activity when this is the preferred activity for the child and family.
Some children start with the Innowalk to develop motor function, head and upper body control, and when the child has improved its conditions for more independent movement, it is transferred into an NF-Walker.
So as you can see, the NF-Walker and the Innowalk are two different products with different aims, but does also supplement each other, to give the child the best options when it comes to activity and participation.