Intervention 3

Community-Based Wheelchair Skills

Intervention 3

This intervention aimed to evaluate the impact of peer-led, community-based wheelchair skills sessions and follow-up peer coaching on skills, confidence, independence and community participation / engagement.

Providing opportunities for developing skills to help lead a new life with a spinal cord injury

It must be acknowledged that people living with a spinal cord injury are on a new and unexpected journey in their life. Once they are ready to engage in the community, opportunities for skills development must be available at times that suit. Recovery is a long-term process that continues outside of the formal rehabilitation setting and living in the community comes with additional challenges that are not faced in the rehabilitation environment.

Readiness for life skills development often doesn’t fit within hospital recovery timelines. As a result, there is a lack of funded opportunities for skills development in the community. This suggests barriers related to environmental context and resources and skills. Behaviour change theory suggests that these barriers could be addressed through environmental restructuring - which involves making changes to the physical or social environment to facilitate the desired behaviour and make it easier for individuals to engage in that behaviour - and enablement - which involves providing individuals with the necessary skills, knowledge, and resources to perform the desired behaviour.

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What the intervention involved

We engaged young men living with a spinal cord injury in community-based wheelchair skills sessions to increase their level of independence and freedom, as well as follow-up peer coaching sessions to discuss the potential for further skills development.

Pre-course conversations were undertaken to ensure that the sessions were tailored to achieve outcomes that were meaningful to participants.

Following the session, participants were invited to participate in a follow-up peer coaching session, focused on identifying opportunities for skills practice, further goals, gaps and need for additional support.

What did we find?

Despite low participation in the intervention, the following results provide an insight into the benefits to those individuals who participated, alongside reflections on how intervention design and implementation could be adapted in the future:

  • Participants came to the sessions with varied goals, including general learning / improvement in skills to navigating different terrains and situations in the community.
  • Sessions were described as ‘well facilitated’ and appropriately tailored to participants’ needs
  • Self-reported skills improved
  • Self-reported confidence improved
  • The session also benefited participants’ buddies, who were also able to come along to learn skills around supporting people living with a spinal cord injury to practise their newfound skills.
  • Both participants who completed an interview had booked in a follow-up wheelchair skills session

Next steps

An evaluation tool - developed by the BehaviourWorks Australia research team, in partnership with AQA - will be made available for those seeking to build on future iterations of this program. 

Contact us to enquire about collaboration and partnership opportunities.