A specialist buggy and car seat mean that a five-year-old from Bexleyheath, Kent, can get out of the house in safety, thanks to the support of a partnership between Newlife, the Charity for Disabled Children and River Island.
Sam Bickerstaffe was just two years old when he was diagnosed with Autism – he lost his ability to speak, couldn’t make eye contact and walked everywhere on tiptoe. As a result of his disability, Sam has no understanding of danger and will run away from his mum without realising that he is putting himself and his mum at risk.
Mum, Keeley, said: “We did have a standard pushchair that we were using but it split because Sam was too heavy for it – but I can’t take him out without one. I used to feel that people were staring at us, presuming Sam was just a naughty child. But now we have the new pushchair, you can see what its purpose is. It’s lovely and comfortable for him and he’s nice and safe.”
Sam also needed a specialist car seat to keep him safe while travelling. Again, he had been using a standard seat but he was able to get out of the strap and would either try to get into the front of the car with his mum or onto the parcel shelf.
Keeley said: “I had tried everything to keep him safe – I even tried to fashion something out a men’s trouser belt but nothing worked. Now we have the specialist car seat everything has changed. Where before it was a battle just to get Sam into the car, now he is more than happy to get in his seat and even tries to help me fasten the buckle. I think it gives him a sense of security that he didn’t have before. We are able to do so much more together now.”
Thanks to funds raised by fashion chain store River Island, Newlife was able to provide Sam with the £1,074 needed for the two pieces of equipment.
River Island is supporting Newlife through a ‘fantastic plastic’ initiative, donating the profit from the sale of 5p carrier bags – from every store in the UK – to the charity, specifically to fund vital equipment like Sam’s.
Newlife’s head of Charity Operations, Stephen Morgan said: “It’s great that we could help Sam and his mum, but right now there are another 12 children in Kent who are in need of specialist equipment and we need to raise £11,176 to help them too.”
He added: “We really want to help these children, so we are calling on local individuals, groups, clubs and companies to get involved and support them. If you think you could help by donating or fundraising, please visit www.newlifecharity.co.uk/kent. Alternatively, contact a member of the team on 01543 462777 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.