Introduction: Child Therapy Chair

About: The Utah Assistive Technology Program (UATP) is part of the Institute for Disability Research, Policy & Practice at Utah State University. Our mission is to put assistive technology into the hands of people wh…

ATP's, PT's, and OT's working with children with physical disabilities often need an appropriate seating system to provide support to enable the kiddo to engage with their environment and participate in strengthening exercises. In the past we measured each child and built it, usually out of triwall, to their size to ensure a good fit. The benefits of this new design is the chair is more durable/easier to clean than triwall, and is adjustable. It resembles swiss cheese to allow placement of laterals virtually anywhere. It can work as a chair or floor sitter. It can incline forward 5 degrees, or lay all the way back flat. At the time we are writing this, the cost came in around $100/chair for 7 chairs that we made. This isn't going to work for every kiddo, but we leave it up to you to adapt it further for your unique situation.


We have added here a list of the materials we used for this project. Most everything can be swapped out for similar items (plywood instead of plastic sheets, etc). Thought to mention if you do swap out materials: If a thicker material is used, pay attention to how far you seat the set nuts. Don't seat them near as far or purchase longer bolts to accommodate the extra thickness.

Step 1: Cut PVC Pipe

5 - 11.5 inches for frame

4 - 3.875 inches for laterals

2 - 3.875 inches for head support if needed

1 - 4.125 inches for abductor

Sand off any burrs.

Step 2: Cut Sheet Plastic

We used a CNC router to cut our out. We have attached files for you to do the same. If you need it in a different format, simply reach and ask us.

The grid of holes in our design are simply there to allow the laterals to be adjustable. A "quick-and-dirty" version could forget all the holes and add them in as the child grows.

Step 3: Drill Holes in PVC Pipe

Drill two 3/8 inch holes in two of the 11.5 inch pipes, 2 inches from each end. These will become the hinge pipes for the seat base and back. Keeping the holes straight here will save grief later.

Step 4: Inserts, Caps, and Foam

Pound in the barbed inserts into one end of the 3.875 inch pipes.

Pound in the caps into other end of the 3.875 inch pipes.

Cut foam to length and add over the pipes.

Pound in the barbed inserts into both ends of the 4.125 inch pipe.

Cut foam to length and add over the pipe.

Pound in the barbed inserts into both ends of all the 11.5 inch pipes.

Twist in the thread inserts into the two 11.5 inch hinge pipes.

Step 5: Assembly

Connect the hinge pipe to the seat back and bottom using the bolts.

Connect the two sides together using the other 11.5 inch pipes and bolts. Don't snug tight yet.

Add the seat base and back using more bolts.

Add the laterals.

Loop the seat belt around the seat base and back. Once you have the belt in the correct spot/height, feel free to tighten all the bolts and it will stop the belt from moving around.

If desired, add the anti tipper/foot rest mount onto the front of the chair. (rectangle plastic added on the front)

Use the knob to secure the tray into the abductor.

Add twisty ties onto the top of the seat back if needed to stop from rocking forward.

Add straps through the back and bottom of the chair using the slots to secure it to a chair if desired.

Step 6: Adjustments/Operation

The overall height from floor to seat bottom can be adjusted by moving the seat bottom and seat back up and down.

The seat depth can be adjusted by repositioning where the hinge pipe bolts onto the seat base.

The seat back angle can be adjusted by moving the support pipe near the top of the seat back forward or back.

The seat base angle can be adjusted by moving the pipe near the front up or down.

Any of the laterals can be repositioned by unscrewing and bolting in a new hole.

The anti-tipper/foot mount has an arc of holes in it. If the child is put into a reclined position and their feet need something to sit on, you can raise and rotate the anti-tipper/foot mount to the appropriate position. From there, you will need to add on your own support, whether you use more sheet plastic or more pieces of PVC pipe to go between the foot mounts.

If the kiddo needs a 5 point harness instead of a chest belt and lap belt, we have one listed on the parts list that was inexpensive. Wrap the straps around the seat back and secure the straps to whatever is appropriate (lateral bolt, pvc pipe, etc).