We are fortunate to live in a country with a universal health care program, and, we are blessed to have of the equipment of special needs – walkers, stroller, wheelchairs – partially funded through government programs. We are very lucky. We realise this, and the stuff of special needs – those walkers, strollers, and wheelchairs – can be very expensive.
Nearly four year old Little Miss Adorable and now six year old Mr. Sensitive are the non-walker/semi-walkers of our family. Little Miss Adorable has Prader-Willi Syndrome and as a result, has hypotonia (poor muscle tone) that affects all her muscles. She *should* be walking now, but she’s not. That’s why she uses a shiny pink walker to zoom through her day.
Mr. Sensitive is our semi-walker. He has Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, and is currently able to walk in the community and on outings, but his muscles cramp and fatigue with excessive exercise. We manage this through frequent breaks and reducing the demands of activity on him to help conserve energy. For summer camp outings I drove Mr. Sensitive to the fire hall or police station or library or wherever the campers were going to explore that day. The campers hiked through the town to meet us. He’d hang out with the campers, and at the end I’d pick him up and bring him back to the main facility for closing activities. It was win-win. Mr. Sensitive could still participate in the activities, and he had the energy to do it.
Our family also includes The Dunk, a toddler who is, by all accounts so far, typically developing. Almost two, he has mastered all toddler moves such as the drop-and-run, the climb-out-of-the-stroller-and-run, and the drop-and-pretend-to-be-dead. Add hitting, biting, and hair pulling to the mix, and you have The Dunk.
Outings in our family can be challenging. We use a side-by-side double stroller for Little Miss Adorable and The Dunk (providing he’s not climbing out of it or pulling Little Miss Adorable’s hair). Mr. Sensitive walks beside it, and when he’s tired he rides and The Dunk gladly runs around maniacally. It’s great for shopping malls, sidewalks, and flat terrain.
Three kids, one stroller, rotating them in and out as needed; we’ve travelled this way for a couple years (When The Dunk was a little baby he’d ride in a sling). One adult can manage (more or less) three children. We also have a heavy double bicycle stroller for cross-country outings that holds two kids plus some outdoor gear.
Trips to the zoo, busy community events, the Ontario Science Centre, conservation areas, provincial parks, beaches and wetlands, we do it all. If there are two adults on hand, we do even more. Divide and conquer is our motto, and Hubby and I are masters of it. He’s carried exhausted children through city streets and over rolling hills, while I follow with a stroller pushing two others. We try not to reach that point and plan accordingly.
As our family has grown and our needs have changed, we’ve gone through several different strollers, some for lightweight duty, some you could haul heavy machinery with. We’ve given away hundreds of dollars of discarded strollers that no longer fit our needs. We now own three different strollers – the side-by-side for daily use, the bike stroller for rugged terrain , and a single for those rare days when you only have one kid (usually when taking them to the ER). They take up a significant amount of storage space (we’re fortunate our new place has a garage for stroller parking). You can’t imagine what it was like in an urban apartment.
An occupational therapy team recently did some ‘seating assessments’ on Little Miss Adorable and Mr. Sensitive. What came out of it were recommendations for specialised strollers for both of them. They would be used for school, to help with transportation at home, etc. Which is fine, but I’ve only got one set of hands, and I can only push one stroller at a time. Which leaves two kids sitting on the sidelines (or in the case of The Dunk, running amok).
Mr. Sensitive will eventually need a mobility device more and more, while Little Miss Adorable will need one less and less. They are nowhere near the same size so one stroller does not fit all.
What our family needs is one heavy duty, all terrain double stroller. We have plans to ‘pimp’ our bike stroller and reinforce it. Unfortunately it does not fold easily, so Hubby is in charge of assembling and dissembling it as we pop it in and out of our van. We like the flexibility of the double bike stroller, simply a large enclosure on wheels that you can pile kids, clothes and lunches into. It works well with our rotating kids in and out strategy, and is almost one-size fits all. And it was relatively cheap, Hubby bought it on sale for $130.
The therapists recommend two very expensive (think small used car prices *gasp*) specialised strollers that are custom fitted to each child. Single strollers, fancy straps and padding. No room for the Dunk, or any other children who may come our way. These therapists kindly secured government funding for thousands of dollars.
And, we don’t need them.
There, I said it. We don’t need them. Or, honestly, want them. When would I use two single strollers when I have three kids who are semi/non-walkers? (The Dunk is a toddler, after all.) I don’t have the storage space for them in my garage (which houses the usual garage stuff, kid’s toys, and three strollers). Space inside my minivan is pressed as it is, and although we can carry two strollers or Little Miss Adorable’s walker and one stroller, there’s only so much stuff we can haul around.
Let me step back – we don’t need them, right now. I know Mr. Sensitive will need a heavy stroller or wheel chair in a couple years. Let’s deal with purchasing something that fits him at that time.
I know Mr. Sensitive’s new school will need a stroller for him there, so he can join his class on community walking field trips. I know Little Miss Adorable will need a stroller when she’s in Kindergarten in case of emergencies or field trips. But they will have the staff to push it. I don’t.
In our province the public school system has funding for this type of equipment purchase, providing a number of conditions are met. I’d be happy to let the school purchase the equipment, and they can store it and do whatever they’d like with it.
Because I don’t need them. Right now.