Adaptive seating has been defined as the customized prescription and application of sitting support devices based on therapeutic principles. It is recognized that for children with neuromuscular disorders that result in poor postural control, a comfortable adaptive seating system that provides them with the support needed to maintain a sitting position can be essential for raising their overall level of well being. These systems are also used to try and prevent or to slow the progression of skeletal deformities. However, problems with current adaptive seating systems do exist. After extensive research into these problems we developed a novel adaptive seating system which aims to improve on current designs. It includes a number of innovative features including
• Active dynamic supports: The backrest and headrest are mounted on gas springs, allowing them to move in order to accommodate the user's task induced movement or abnormal muscle tone. The forces applied to and the position of the supports are monitored and used to control motors attached to the gas springs. This means that the user can, when required, be returned to their original position in a controlled but still dynamic manner. The “floating” nature of these supports, especially the backrest, is also intended to allow for some growth of the user.
• Novel backrest shape: In an attempt to positively influence abnormal hip extensor tone, the user's trunk is given a predominantly lateral rather than posterior type of support. Preliminary results suggest that this approach could have some beneficial effects in terms of reducing abnormal hip extensor tone.
• Multi-planar tilting seat base: Tilting of the base in the saggital and coronal planes can be actuated manually or pre-programmed to do so automatically at set intervals. This aims to improve user comfort and prevent the development of pressure sores and could also be used to accommodate deformities such as pelvic obliquities.
Through these features the novel system has the potential to provide improved comfort, support and functionality for the users and to reduce the burden place on those who care for them.