Mum Claire Shillito, from Analby in Hull, says: “Newlife Foundation for Disabled Children threw me a lifeline when they provided my son Declan with a specialist buggy so I could finally get him out and about.”
Declan, aged five, has a severe sensory processing disorder, social and communication difficulties. Mum and son had become virtually housebound, with Claire not able to take Declan out to do even the most everyday of activities like buy a pint of milk or go to the park.
Declan had broken his standard high street buggy and Claire didn’t have the £600 needed to buy a specialist replacement. She said: “Mainstream pushchairs just aren’t big enough for older children, but I still needed to be able to get out with Declan.”
The month before she applied to their local statutory services for the specialist equipment, the application criteria changed. Claire said: “They no longer provide equipment for children who have independent mobility. Declan can walk – but because of his sensory processing problems he covers his eyes with his hands and often has to wear ear defenders to block out noise, which includes the sound of cars going by, to help reduce his panic attacks.
“It just wasn’t safe to take him out without a pushchair because he would run off or just sit down in the middle of the road or the pavement and go into a meltdown. In the end, we stopped going out – anywhere.”
Claire added: “In saying ‘no’ to my pleas for a specialist buggy, our local statutory services didn’t take into account Declan’s sensory processing disorder and the fact that he only walks with his hands over his eyes. They are looking to support children with physical disabilities and not those with mental disabilities.”
So Claire applied to Newlife for the equipment, which she describes as “a godsend”.
She said: “No parent wants to see their child in a state of distress – crying, screaming and not being able to breathe properly. The specialist buggy means we can do ‘normal’ things like go to the shops and the park – just have a normal life.
“Declan feels safe in the buggy, which has a five-point harness to keep him secure. It’s like a security blanket for him and loves going into the pushchair. He will even go and sit in it at home if he is feeling stressed.”
Recently, the buggy has enabled Claire to take Declan on holiday for the first time in four years. She said: “Going through an airport would have been out of the question before. He sat in the buggy all the way through to the plane; he did get a bit stressed when it had to be folded up to go on the aircraft, but the whole process was made possible thanks to this piece of equipment.”
Right now, there are a further four children with disabilities or terminal illness in the county who need your help to get the specialist equipment that will really change their lives.
The Newlife East Riding of Yorkshire Fund supports equipment provision for under-19s in the county facing any significant disability, whether acquired through birth defect, prematurity, accident or illness. The website – www.newlifecharity.co.uk/eastridingofyorkshire – enables local people to find out who needs help in their county right now and includes contact details for the Newlife County Liaison Team – tel no 01543 431 444 or email firstname.lastname@example.org – and shows specific ways people can help support local disabled children and their families.
Pictured: Declan Shillito