What Is The Difference Between A Walker And A Gait Trainer?

paediatric walker child

Many clients wonder, what is the difference between a walker and a gait trainer? Sometimes these terms are used almost interchangeable; at other times they are applied in order to distinguish one device from another.

An Introduction To Walkers

When talking about assistive mobility devices for conditions such as Cerebral Palsy, we are usually referring to pediatric walkers. These walkers are relatively simple and compact, providing both stability and support to users in their daily activities.

Typically, these users are unable to walk without walking aid due to a lack of control and strength in the required muscles. Besides therapy, walkers are used in indoors and outdoors activities, empowering the user to move around independently.

An Introduction To Gait Trainers

A pediatric gait trainer on the other hand is used mainly in therapy and clinical settings, with many highly adjustable features. These features cater for different levels in a user’s condition of mobility impairment. This makes the device generally a bigger, heavier, more technical and costly equipment than what is considered a walker.

A child gait trainer is therefore not always well suited for activities in daily life, and such products are not used as much outside of the clinical and therapeutic setting. They are often essential in very early and critical phases of physical therapy to gain motor function and skills. Subsequently, users begin progressing towards independent walking with or without aids.

A Difference in Terminology

This terminological and technical difference in the adaptive equipment used for mobility impairments might unduly reinforce the gap between clinical practise and everyday life for affected users.

Is it optimal to use one type of device in therapy and another one outside of it? Is there a solution that addresses the functions of both devices?

The Need For An Integrated Solution

Perhaps it is time for a more hybrid and integral approach for such assistive technologies and devices. Progress of clients made in therapy sessions need to extend seamlessly into enhanced movements and motor function in daily tasks & activities.

Strength gained progressively through improved everyday mobility and activities should enable further progresses in therapy. The mental energy gained through a more mobile lifestyle with greater autonomy serves as “fuel” and motivation which in turn serves to sustain a higher level of therapeutic effort and achievements.

The Benefits of using a Singular Device

Our mobility ‘warriors’ are really comparable to athletes. Daily practise and training lets them progress to better performance. Persistence and frequency of training is key for success. They need the best material possible for that. The adaptive devices which work for and with them are not simply interchangeable.

Currently, users swap between devices when moving between home, leisure, school and therapy. It would help them to rather work with one personal device, acutely adjusted and tweaked to their individual needs. This device should also evolve with them. It is part of their life, not just a tool which is quickly swapped with another one, based on the situation at hand.

A highly personal device the user knows and trusts instinctively, like an athlete is in tune with his gear or a musician with his instrument. It needs to be sophisticated and should avoid a purely additive approach to features. Such a walker / gait trainer should promote particularly its usage in leisure activities, which are most valuable for development, enjoyment and motivation.

Bridging the Gap Between Gait Trainers and Walkers

If costly devices are used mostly in the limited time of therapy their value is not used very effectively. It would be more effective to deploy such resources over longer periods of usage or training by integrating them deeper into general activities and mobility.

Therefore, the child walkers and/or child gait trainers must have a variety of adjustable support features, but these should be designed innovatively in such a way that the device remains compact, light and very suitable for activities of daily life.

Designing a User Centered Device

The device must be in tune with the needs of daily life and movement as much as with the physical needs in therapy; promoting valuable motor learning and strength gains. To be customisable for the individual users without extensive mechanical gear hanging from it and bumping into the furniture when used in a home is important.

However, it must be ‘roadworthy’ also in outdoor terrain, and rugged. Additionally, it should be sleek, instead of bulky and intimidating. The design should enable it to evolve with the users according to their equally changing capabilities and needs; it should physically grow with them for as long as feasible.

Users should be able to identify with the design emotionally and aesthetically as it is typically the case with consumer mobility products, say a mountain bike. This aspect is rarely considered in adaptive equipment. It should promote functionally and emotionally active participation of the user in a wide variety of settings.

Introducing Voyar’s Frog Walker

At Voyar we are building the FROG up as an open-ended mobility system with many customisable modules and features, which we introduce progressively. The FROG walker is designed to be customised to the needs of the individual and to evolve with them without becoming cumbersome or heavy. The investment in equipment and practise is this way maximised over its period of usage.

FROG is conceptualised to be both a medical walker and gait trainer for cerebral palsy and other mobility impairments and to enhance foremost independence of the users; to continuously empower them.