Stationary Movements

There are a number of actions that can be done while in a stationary position in a wheelchair. While most of the skills listed below are more advanced, attempting and understanding them can be helpful. Spinning and pivoting are excellent options in games like Simon Says. 


Spinning is one of the easiest skills to grasp (it's stopping kids from doing this that might be the biggest challenge). This is easily performed by pulling on one wheel continuously. Kids should be able to do this clockwise and counterclockwise while under control. Under control means being able to stop immediately. Most games involve very quick changes of direction and being  in a stationary position then reorienting the chair in any direction and instantly being in the ready position to move in the direction required.

Spinning is also a great alternate movement to use as a modification (e.g. instead of hopping, spin clockwise). Spinning can be done with the hands on or off the chair. Ideally a spin is done quickly with both hands close to but not touching the wheels with the arms bent and the trunk leaning over the legs for greater balance. The head and eyes should remain focused on the surrounding environment for strategic and safety reasons.

  • To turn clockwise, place the right hand at 3:00 and the left hand at 9:00
  • In unison pull the right hand up to 12:00 and the left hand to 12:00


Pivoting is similar to trying to do a three point turn, which can be an activity itself. Pivoting is a slightly more advanced skill that requires hand-eye coordination. As the child becomes more familiar with the skill, precision and speed should be focused on. Make sure the child doesn't touch the obstacle being pivoted around and make the turns less severe and more powerful.

  • Pull back with one hand and push forward with the other hand
  • Turning while occupying the same space
  • Hands move opposite each other


While sitting still, the child grasps both wheels with hands clenching the handrims while trying to rock side to side. Some children may be able to lift their wheels briefly off of the ground (the greater the angle of the wheels, the more difficult this is). While most kids may not be able to actually lift a wheel off the ground, just trying the motion can be beneficial and prepares them for being able to do this in the future.

Rocking is both great exercise and useful when involved in games with other chairs or obstacles. Chairs can become interlocked so being able to rock the chair, even slightly, can dislodge them. It may also be useful in lifting over a very short obstacle (like a hula hoop).


Tilting is basically a progression of rocking and is really intended for more advanced athletes. It involves lifting the far wheel off the ground while grasping the near wheel. Advanced youths and adults are able to actually balance in this position while shooting or trying to block a shot.

Check out the fun video of Patrick Anderson tilting.


Because of the fifth wheel in the back of the chair, "popping a wheelie" is limited to the distance between it and the ground. This wheel helps protect the child from going over backwards. Popping a wheelie involves a quick recoil motion where the chair is lurched forward and then quickly lurched back. The shift in the centre of gravity lifts the front casters off the ground and allows the child to get over obstacles in their path.


As with rocking, the chair itself may not move but practicing the motion is beneficial. Again, grabbing both wheels, the child tries to lift the chair in the air. They should start low and bound up.

Understanding the Range of Skills

Stationary movements will start with a lot of thinking. They need to be broken down into the smallest pieces and put together as the child becomes more comfortable and the skill becomes more automatic. Progression towards performing these skills more quickly and with greater precision should be stressed. It may be easy to spin but it's another thing to stop in just the right position. The real test comes when having to deploy these skills inside activities. These movements are great adapted movements that can be used when playing games with instructions like hop, skip and jump.