Opportunities for Movement with the Rifton SoloLift

June 01, 2010 by Lori Potts, PT

Janine Brouwer, MS PT, has been a Physical Therapist for 22 years and worked in a variety of settings, including adult and pediatric neurological rehabilitation. For the past four years she has enjoyed seeing the students she works with at Lincoln Developmental Center in Grand Rapids, Michigan acquire new motor skills.

Many students at Lincoln Developmental Center face multiple challenges to independent mobility. Challenges may include: decreased balance, tight joints, poor muscle strength, decreased vision and/or hearing, limited cognitive skills, or altered muscle tone.

Another challenge is simply the limited opportunity to move. Such was the case with two of our students.


Lydia is a young woman with developmental delay. She also has a seizure disorder which requires her to take strong medication. Lydia is often sleepy; it is difficult for her to maintain any level of alertness.

Lydia requires support at her trunk to sit, and customarily it has required two people to transfer her. Transfers have been very challenging for staff because Lydia fluctuates between the relaxed posture she assumes when sleepy and the thrusting into extension she occasionally does upon waking. Because of the difficulty these transfers presented, Lydia did not get positioned in standing very often, and her opportunities for movement were very limited.

When our school acquired a Rifton SoloLift, Lydia was one of the first students to try it. It was immediately apparent that this piece of equipment was well–suited for her. The SoloVest and leg straps were easy to apply. Once Lydia’s transfer was underway, no matter how much she started to move about, she was secure, her body in a position of flexion, and the staff were not at risk. The leg straps could be easily removed in order to position Lydia in a Rifton Pacer, something she had used only rarely in recent years.

With repeated use, Lydia’s teachers found the SoloLift easy to use and began to get Lydia up in the Pacer on a regular basis. Imagine their surprise when one day at a school dance, Lydia proceeded to pick up her head from its usual lowered position and walk across the dance floor! No one had any idea that Lydia had the ability to step; yet here she was, moving herself with no help from anyone! It was thrilling to see what she did when given the opportunity.


Wendy is a young woman with cerebral palsy and seizure disorder. Wendy tends to arch into extreme trunk, neck, and hip extension. Over the years her joint flexibility has decreased to the point where she can no longer sit in upright positions. In the past she has taken steps in a modified Rifton Pacer, but she can no longer tolerate the Pacer due to her extension posture. In fact, almost the only positions Wendy has been able to tolerate in recent years are lying on her stomach and sitting in her reclined wheelchair.

On one of her visits to our school, Linda Bidabe of MOVE™ International visited with Wendy and suggested that we experiment with the SoloLift a bit. While Wendy lay on the floor mat, we helped her put on the SoloVest. While she lay on her tummy, she was lifted slightly off the ground, much to her delight! We continued to raise her off the ground, eventually bringing her to a vertical position and attaching the leg straps to her legs in such a way that her feet touched the floor. A pillow placed between her head and the SoloLift’s lift arm, and some foam padding between her pelvis and the leg strap-attachment bar, completed the configuration.

Wendy was now in a standing position, and happy about it! The ability of the SoloLift to "give" with Wendy’s extension arching seemed to make her much more tolerant of this than traditional standing equipment. This amazed us, as the last time we’d attempted to place Wendy in a vertical position it had required four of us and she had protested vigorously! This was over a year ago. Now that the SoloLift was available, Wendy had a new opportunity to stand and to move while upright.

We at Lincoln Developmental Center have valued the Rifton SoloLift as a means to reduce our staff’s risk of injury and ensure that our students are lifted in a safe and functional position. Perhaps an even greater benefit to our students has been their increased opportunity for independent movement. There’s no telling what our students can do when they are able to get up and become active!

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