Assistive Technology/Seating & Wheeled Mobility SIG
Mission & Objectives
To enable Academy of Neurologic Physical Therapy Members to increase knowledge, improve evidence-based practice, and foster the development of new practitioners in this specialized area of practice. This SIG will also empower members to serve clients with neurological conditions at the highest level and to perform research activities to grow the evidence related to the efficacy of Assistive Technology/Seating & Wheeled Mobility (AT/SWM). This will be necessary to meet current and future needs of those we serve professionally. Practitioners will have greater confidence and competence in this area of practice and ultimately, education will be available across all levels of training – pre-professional and post-professional. The existence of this SIG will provide a structure for educating current and future practitioners as well as engaging physical therapists and physical therapy assistants who are already practicing in this focused area to share experiences and improve their skills.
Although many members of the Academy of Neurologic Physical Therapy serve individuals with conditions that impair their long term function – oftentimes leading to the need for assistive technologies (e.g. SCI, MS, MD, CVA) - there is currently no special interest group (SIG) within the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) focused on developing knowledge and fostering evidence-based practice in the evaluation, prescription, and training of individuals to effectively use AT/SWM.
Due to the aging of the US population and the increased longevity of individuals with disabilities, reliance on many types of assistive technologies exists and will continue to grow. Physical therapists serve this population in many settings, including hospitals, in-patient rehabilitation, out-patient and home care. Neurological conditions are a leading cause of long term disability, therefore we feel it is the most appropriate “home” within the APTA for a SIG dedicated to Assistive Technology and Seating and Wheeled Mobility (AT/SWM) practice in physical therapy.
There is a significant and growing need for education and training of physical therapists and physical therapy assistants to foster more evidence-based AT/SWM practice. In a 2011 survey facilitated by the Academy of Neurologic Physical Therapy (524 total respondents), 41.5% indicated 3 hours or less of pre-professional training in wheelchair assessment and another 41.1% indicated 4 – 8 hours of combined lecture/lab training. Only 3.7% indicated the inclusion of a full course on Assistive Technology in their pre-professional education program. Physical therapists entering the profession frequently lack adequate training and confidence in recommending appropriate AT/SWM and they are frequently relied on to provide this critical service to their patients. Desire for post professional education in AT/SWM is demonstrated by the 2014 CSM Conference. There were five conference sessions dedicated to seating and wheeled mobility across three sections (Neurology, Clinical Electrophysiology and Wound Management, and Geriatrics) and 457 conference attendees pre-registered for these courses, with 544 actual attendees during the conference.
There is also an unmet need for additional physical therapists in this critical area of clinical practice. Third party payment systems that fund the purchase of Assistive Technologies, particularly wheelchair and seating devices, rely heavily on an independent and thorough functional mobility evaluation provided by a financially independent physical therapist (i.e. one who does not work for the company supplying the device). Limited access to a well-qualified physical therapist workforce has been impeding consumer access to appropriate wheelchair and seating devices in many communities around the country. Physical therapists are ideally suited to provide this critical service for their patients, however many lack the pre-professional education, have limited opportunities for post-professional education, and do not enter the profession with a level of confidence to provide this very important service.
To this end, a group of physical therapists who specialize in this area of practice, many of whom are Academy members, put forth a proposal for a new SIG dedicated to this unique purpose. This SIG will allow the gathering of PTs and PTAs with a common interest in this critical practice area to improve evidence-based practice, discuss legislative and regulatory issues, and participate in education and research activities related to AT/SWM.
An on-line petition was distributed to the Academy and several other sections (including Geriatrics and Pediatrics) to survey physical therapists and PT assistants regarding support for establishing this SIG. This petition was also distributed to physical therapists who are not current APTA members to assess their support and intention to join this SIG should it be established. The petition was posted on Survey Monkey from March 20 through April 6, 2014. There were 105 total respondents to this survey, 70 of whom indicated Academy membership (see attached appendix for petition details). Of these, 68 were verified as current Academy members, exceeding the 50 minimum required for establishing a new SIG.
This practice area may also appeal to current members of other APTA sections, including the Pediatrics, Home Health and Geriatric sections. Seventeen respondents who are not currently Academy members indicated intention to join the Academy of Neurologic Physical Therapy to be a member of this SIG. This SIG may also appeal to physical therapists who are not currently APTA members, but who specialize in this area of practice, including many who are members of the Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America (RESNA) and hold RESNA certification in this specialty area of clinical practice. An additional 18 respondents indicated intention to join the APTA and the Academy to become a member of this SIG. Therefore, the creation of this new AT/SWM SIG will result in drawing additional members to both the APTA and the Academy of Neurologic Physical Therapy.
Barbara Crane PhD, PT, ATP/SMS
Laura Cohen, PhD, PT, ATP/SMS
Allison Fracchia PT, ATP/SMS
Patricia Henley Garven, MPT, ATP
Cathy Carver, PT, ATP/SMS
Stay tuned for more information to come. If you wish to be a part of this SIG and or support their efforts in education, research, legislation, and communications, please contact any of the officers shown above.