What is it about?

The rollercoaster adventures of parenting three kids, dealing with disability and mental health - and discussing disability discrimination and how to tackle it.

Sunday, 29 June 2008

Big Week - Monday

On Monday our trial period finished, and Scott from Northcott Equipment Solutions came to pick up the Koala. We had bitter tears, it was truly sad.

"Me" "More" "Car" "Car!" "CAR!" And then lots of crying.

Thankfully, we still had access to the Roller Rad we're borrowing from The Spastic Centre. But Boo Boo knows which chair is better.

That evening, we sat around the table with Oma Ineke and Opa Keith, in which we discussed all the prices and specifications of the various wheelchairs we trialled.

It must be said, we came to a fairly quick solution – the Koala is the clear winner all round. It's such a versatile chair, and the fact that it is clearly designed for young children shows in daily usage. It is a gorgeous little chair, very easy to drive and manoeuvrable, and cute to look at on top. It's lower than most other chairs, which means the child is closer to the level of other children, yet the chair can be moved up to reach a table.

This might not seem like much, but on the weekend we had some kids visiting, and Boo Boo was on their level, which is unusual for her. She also manages to drive the Koala into the pantry, pick up a plate or bowl, and place it on to the kitchen counter all by herself by lifting the chair up. Also, once we hit the shops and cafes, we won't have to transfer to a high chair anymore, or have her sit on my lap while I balance a wriggly child and eat food with one hand. We can simply move a chair out of the way, and raise Boo Boo's wheelchair up to the table.

So, that was an easy decision. Then to the money side of things.

We were working hard on the paperwork to put in an application with PADP, the NSW government programme that funds equipment for people with a disability. But in the end, we decided against it.

You see, the inside knowledge on PADP (coming from someone working for the Department in charge of PADP, the therapists at The Spastic Centre and other parents' experiences) is that they fund powerchairs only about 6 months before a child goes to school. That's right. 6 months before school, to give the kids 6 months to learn how to drive the chair before school. This means the child will be about 5 years old. Yeah, right. Whatever happened to the Early in Early Intervention?

I've been reading up on introducing powered mobility to young children, and basically the research suggests that children with a physical disability should be introduced to a power chair at about the same time other children learn to walk. Children of 20 months were found capable of handling electric wheelchairs if they were taught how to use them. So, with Boo Boo 2 years and 3 months and a bright little button, we felt she was perfectly ready. But our chances of actually getting a chair funded were very small. I thought about putting in an application anyway to make a point, but...

You see, it takes about 3 months or so for PADP to decide on an application. And in the unlikely event that our application would get approved, the average delivery time for a wheelchair is 18 months. So, we decided that wait was not worth it. Luckily we have some very generous family members helping us out (and here goes a big thank you to Opa Keith and Oma Ineke, Oma Helma and Opa Manfred, Tante Anita and Marianne!).

On Tuesday morning, I rang Scott and ordered a Koala for Boo Boo.

And didn't we get lucky!

As it happens the Koala is undergoing a makeover, and a new model is coming out soon. Which means the current demonstration models will not be of use much longer, and guess what, they are for sale! So, we are buying the very same chair we had in the house this week, slightly under the full price. Scott will give it a good service, fix a broken tail light, and add a bumper bar, and when it's ready, he will come and install an attendant control (which is a joystick device which overrides the normal operation and gives an adult control over the chair). Then he will come and deliver the chair early next week. Yes, early next week! Possibly as early as Tuesday. Can you believe that!


Dianne said...

That's so great! I love the look of the chair. It's quite funky. And Boo Boo clearly loves it. I hope it's not too long until it's returned to her.

As far as the funding goes, definitely agree that early intervention should mean early access to whatever equipment promotes mobility and equal opportunities. It's a shame that isn't what happens...

terriblepalsy said...

The chair looks great (and of course Boo Boo in it). What a stroke of luck for you to pick up an ex demo. And thanks to your very generous relatives. It's a shame that PADP don't seem to consider importance with early mobility or timely service. Sounds a bit like what happens up here. Our kids seem to start school a bit younger though (Moo will still be four when he starts prep).

It's a heavy chair though isn't it? Love to hear what you've come up with re the vehicle.

Heike said...

Yeah, it sure is heavy - but i don't intend to ever lift it up, so the weight of the chair was not an issue for us, all the power chairs are way too heavy. We ordered attendant control, and anyway, because the chair comes all the way up, it's actually fairly easy to drive if you take it up to adult height.
We're going for the Tarago V6, which allows 3 kids and wheelchair, and plenty of extra space. We're getting a ramp that folds in 4 and a little threshold ramp to cover the small lip - although the Koala is versatile enough to drive over it, it does about 5 cm.