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Most of us rely on being able to take our children out safely in the car – whether that is on the school run, to the shops or out for a day trip. But for Helen Casey and her son, 16-year-old Thomas Birch, even a short journey in the car came with the fear of an accident.

The family were driving along the motorway when Thomas became very distressed, released his seatbelt and attacked his mother. The incident left the family unable to travel further than a few miles by car, until Newlife Foundation for Disabled Children were able to provide Thomas with a special harness to keep him safe.

Thomas, who lives in Middlesbrough, has a brain disorder that has resulted in profound learning disabilities and low muscle tone in his lower limbs – he may look his age, but his development is that of an 18-month-old. Unable to make sense of the world around him, in particular his own emotions and with no concept of safety, Thomas will take out his frustrations by displaying very challenging behaviour.

Being in the car is one of the situations that Thomas finds difficult to cope with and this was resulting in his aggressive behaviour, mainly targeted towards his mum. But thanks to a grant from Newlife Foundation for Disabled Children – the UK’s largest charitable provider of essential equipment to meet the specialist needs of children with disabilities and terminal illness – Thomas and his mum can now travel in safety.

Helen said; “The safety harness is absolutely fantastic and has made a huge difference. We can go out together now without worrying that Thomas is going to get out of his seatbelt. We were in very real danger of being in an accident before and Newlife recognised that and acted very quickly. Now we have the safety harness, Thomas seems more settled in the car – I think it helps him to feel safe and secure and that keeps him calmer. We are very grateful for all of Newlife’s help.”

In response to the growing number of enquiries in the North Yorkshire area, Newlife set up the Newlife North Yorkshire Fund to support equipment provision for under-19s in the county facing any significant disability, whether acquired through birth defect, prematurity, accident or illness. The website – – enables people to find out who needs help in the area right now and highlights support given to local families.

Newlife has already helped 247 children in North Yorkshire, with equipment worth £208,171. But more help is still needed and there are currently nine children in the county who are waiting for specialist equipment totalling £2954.

For more information about the Newlife North Yorkshire Fund, go to or email Alternatively call the Newlife County Liaison Team on 01543 431 444

Pictured: Thomas Birch