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A simple piece of specialist equipment – provided with support from fabulous local fundraisers – means three-year-old Frankie Harkness is making more of life’s opportunities.

Frankie, from Westerhope in Newcastle, has autism spectrum disorder and sensory processing difficulties, disliking loud noises.

Having outgrown his high street pushchair, mum Kayleigh struggled to get him out of the house to do even the simplest of things like going to the shop. If she put him in his (too small) pushchair he could undo the harness and run off, but if she took him out without it he would lie down and refuse to move, especially if he was scared by the noise of passing vehicles.

She needed a specialist buggy and was put on the local statutory services waiting list. But the situation was brought to a head when Frankie got out of his old pushchair as they crossed a road one day, and lay down in the carriageway.

Kayleigh said: “Someone at our local autism toddler group told me about Newlife Foundation for Disabled Children so I gave them a call, spoke to one of their nurses about Frankie and the pushchair problem – and we got the specialist buggy we needed within a week. It was amazing!”

She added: “It is now so much easier – and safer – to take Frankie out. And because he feels secure in the specialist buggy I now only have to say we are going out with his ‘big boy pram’ and he gets his coat and he’s ready to go. Before, it would have taken around 45 minutes just to get his coat and shoes on because he hated going out.”

The buggy has full weather protection, so the family can use it throughout the year.

Kayleigh said: “We recently went on a nursery school trip to a local farm. It is somewhere we have been several times before, but Frankie hasn’t gone into the barn where they keep a lot of the animals because he has been too scared and threatened to have a meltdown. This time, with the new buggy, he was happy to go into the barn and see the animals. In fact, the meltdowns he used to have when we were out have now stopped altogether.

“The buggy has made him more confident about going out, so he will have lots more opportunities to explore our local area.”

Newlife Foundation is the largest charity funder of specialist equipment for children with disabilities and terminal illness in the UK. Due to the growing need in the Tyne and Wear area, earlier this year the charity launched its Newlife Local Tyne and Wear Fund – specifically to help local children.

Frankie is one of the first three children to benefit; the other equipment provided is a standing frame and specialist seating.

However, there are currently a further ten children in Tyne and Wear waiting for specialist equipment totalling more than £6,600. To find out more, go to

The website enables local people to find out who needs help in their county right now and highlights the support the charity gives families. It includes contact details for the Newlife County Liaison Team – tel no 01543 431 444 or email – and shows specific ways people can help support children with disability and terminal illness and their families.

Pictured: Frankie Harkness