Coat Weather: To Zip or Not to Zip

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by Michael Casten |

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Kevin Casten Five Servings of Strength

Cold winds are beginning to blow the leaves off of the trees. A circus of colors swirl in the air, never resting on the ground. Winter is on its way.

Getting Ella ready to leave the house during the summer and spring is relatively easy compared to the seasons of fall and winter. During these months, the gear required by every child does not exclude Ella. Getting her into her coat, putting on her mittens, and getting her wheelchair chest strap on can be a tricky endeavor. Last fall and winter, as the heavier coats came out of the closet, we would embark on the task of putting the coat on her while she sat in her wheelchair.

The first step is raising both of her arms, so we can get one of her arms into the sleeve; arms go down and the first arm is fed the rest of the way through the sleeve. Then you have to raise her arms again to get her second arm into the sleeve. The part of the coat that covers the back of the neck is now resting on top of her head. There’s a slight adjustment there, while bringing her arms down completes the second sleeve.

Now you have to pull the back of jacket down between her and the back of the wheelchair seat. Finally, when the coat is properly around her body, you have to pull it tight to zip it up. That can be challenging because of her thoraciclumbosacral orthotic (TLSO). Once you have it zipped up, you make any final adjustments and we’re ready to go. Phew!

It can, however, be a pain for all involved.

A little research led us to, where we found an adaptive jacket made for kids in wheelchairs! The sleeves zip on and off, transforming the coat into a vest and vice versa. If you unzip the sleeves about halfway and undo the Velcro on either side of the coat, you can easily slip a person’s arms into it while they hold their arms straight out in front of them or even feed the arms through the sleeves without having to raise the arms. Slip the jacket over their head like a shirt, quickly tuck the back down between the person and the chair, Velcro the sides back together and voila! There is a functional zipper in the front that can be used as well. The jacket looks like any ordinary jacket and getting it off is just as easy as putting it on!

Someone was really thinking when they developed this winter coat!

coat image coat velcro coat inside coat on wheelchair. Images courtesy of Michael Casten.


Note: SMA News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of SMA News Today, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to spinal muscular atrophy.


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