Some members find that, as their child gets older, they become too big for a standard pushchair, but, because of their heart condition, they still need a pushchair to help them get around. This article is based on parental experience of looking at alternatives to help.
The NHS Wheelchair Service includes the supply of buggies. You will need a referral from your GP, and can find out more by phoning NHS direct on 0845 4647 or, in Scotland, NHS 24 on 0845 4242424. Their standard issue for a child who needs help with mobility, but who doesn't have any other special needs (eg support with posture), would be the Maclaren Major buggy. Once your GP has referred you to the Wheelchair Service, you and your child may need to go for an assessment. You can discuss your specific needs at the assessment appointment. Providing the Wheelchair Service agree that your child needs a larger buggy, they will provide one for you free of charge, and will probably deliver it to your home address. You may have to purchase accessories (including raincover) yourself.
The Maclaren Major is tested to 50kg, so will easily hold a child up to the age of 10. It folds flat, like an umbrella-fold buggy – but is a bit longer than normal. However, some parents find that it isn't very good for use in slightly rugged terrain, ie anything other than pavements.
If you do feel you need something other than the Maclaren Major, there are some alternatives. One product is the Axiom 2, suitable for 5-10 year olds, available from various specialist retailers such as Kidsense (http://www.kidsense.co.uk/ – their website has a Special Needs section, and they are based in Leicestershire if you would like a demo before purchase), or the charity Fledglings (http://www.fledglings.org.uk/, tel 0845 458 1124). Another product which has proved popular with our membership is the Ranger Mountain Buggy, available from Delichon (http://www.delichon.co.uk/). Chariots all terrain pushchairs are a Devon based web stockist of the Baby Jogger Advance Mobility range and Mountain Buggy range (http://www.specialneedspushchairs.co.uk/ - this website has a brilliant ‘links' page or visit http://www.pushchairs.co.uk/). The Advance Mobility Independence model is available under the wheelchair voucher scheme and is eligible for VAT relief. Both The Independence (3 fixed wheels) and Freedom (4 wheels, 2 of which swivel) models suit 5-10 year olds (to 45kg) and accessories are available for both to help your buggy grow with your child e.g. extended footwell, highback headrest or roll cushion to extend the seat depth. Once your child has outgrown these models it may be worth considering the Advance Mobility Freedom model for age 10 yrs+ (to 90kg).
If you do wish to pursue an alternative product, in England there is a wheelchair voucher scheme, which allows you to pay the difference between what is offered by the Wheelchair Service and what you think your child needs.
It is well worth looking into NHS funding (via wheelchair vouchers if available), or any other routes you have as these pushchairs are expensive, typically costing over £500. Other tips for saving money are to look on Ebay or any other second hand places you know (you might even save some money on a raincover), and to remember that you the product should be sold to you without VAT.
If you have more than one child needing a pushchair, and you need something bigger than a standard double buggy, the selection is more limited. The NHS Wheelchair Service may be able to help, but their help is likely to only be available when both children are older, and if they both have special needs. A specialist health visitor, paediatrician or physiotherapist may also be able to offer advice.
If none of these routes are successful for two children, products I have found are as follows. Delichon will provide you with a ‘unification bar' to join the Ranger Mountain Buggy to a standard Mountain Buggy. I think this would give the children a very comfortable ride, but the whole package would be very expensive and it is certainly too wide for some pavements and shops! A Maclaren Major Double exists, but has fairly limited retail availability. It folds well for its size (umbrella style), and can be purchased from http://www.lotsofbabies.com/ for around £600. Another option would be to contact the charity REMAP (http://www.remap.org.uk/) who will adapt products for people with special needs if nothing is commercially available.
Please contact the office if you would like to discuss your child's needs in more detail, or if you'd like to chat to other families about their experiences. Good luck with finding something suitable for your family.
Isabel Baumber, Andrea Harris and Gill Cloke.
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