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Rehabil Psychol. 2013 Nov;58(4):405-11. doi: 10.1037/a0034088.

Efficacy of a powered wheelchair simulator for school aged children: a randomized controlled trial.

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School of Nursing & Midwifery, The Queen's University of Belfast.



To determine the efficacy of a custom-made wheelchair simulation in training children to use a powered wheelchair (PWC).


Randomized controlled trial employing the 4C/ID-model of learning. Twenty-eight typically developing children (13M, 15F; mean age 6 years, SD 6 months) were assessed on their operation of a PWC using a functional evaluation rating scale. Participants were randomly assigned to intervention (8 × 30-minute training sessions using a joystick operated wheelchair simulation) or control conditions (no task), and were reassessed on their PWC use after the intervention phase. Additional data from the simulation on completion times, errors, and total scores were recorded for the intervention group.


Analysis of variance showed a main effect of time, with planned comparisons revealing a statistically significant change in PWC use for the intervention (p = .022) but not the control condition. Although the intervention group showed greater improvement than the controls, this did not reach statistical significance. Multiple regression analyses showed that gender was predictive of pretest (p = .005) functional ability.


A simulated wheelchair task appears to be effective in helping children learn to operate a PWC. Greater attention should be given to female learners who underperformed when compared with their male counterparts. This low-cost intervention could be easily used at home to reduce PWC training times in children with motor disorders.

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