After a bit of organising and schedule adjusting, we managed to have our first special needs pram trial before Christmas. I was very excited because I was finally going to get my hands on some of these pushchairs, instead of just looking at them online. We arranged to do it at FECS, so that Lil Z’s physios could be there to give their opinions as well. I know what will work for me, but I don’t always know what will work best for Lil Z, so it was really good to have a second opinion.
The supplier who was giving us the demonstrations was bringing three pushchairs: the Pixi and the Zip (as mentioned in my previous mobility post) and the Bingo. The supplier also had a three-wheeler with her, the Liberty, which we tried just to see what it was like. So, here are the initial conclusions:
1. The Medifab Bingo really fit Lil Z well, but the chair was still adjustable for growth, so it would last her for several years. The physio described it as an armchair on wheels – it looked really comfortable and Lil Z was very content to sit in it. It gave her great support and she looked very good sitting in it. There is also an indoor high-low base to which you can attach the pushchair seat, which means you could also use it as an indoor supportive seat as well (which could come in particularly handy when she starts school). It was easy to push and steer and didn’t look too “special needs”.
On the downside, to collapse it, you have to lift the seat off and then fold up the wheelbase. It was huge and only just fit in the back of our car, even though it is a station wagon.
The biggest issue (at least initially) was the price – which could run as high as A$10,000! Although the quote we were eventually given was A$6,000, that was the bare bones pushchair without any of the extras or the indoor base…
2. Lil Z’s physio and I had the greatest hopes for the Pixi because it provided the right level of support, was fairly lightweight and foldable, and was less expensive than the Bingo. Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be… It was just too small for Lil Z. Even the size 2 – which is meant for children up to 6 or 7 – was tight. I’m baffled by that, since Lil Z is very tall but she is also very slender, so for a buggy to be too snug for her around her hips and shoulders makes me wonder who exactly it would fit. With no growing room and an already snug fit, this one just wouldn’t work.
3. The Zip was more or less the opposite of the Pixi. It was ENORMOUS! Lil Z’s feet didn’t reach the footplate and because there was minimal support and the seat was so wide, Lil Z slumped to one side when she sat in it. It is a pity because this one was even easier than the Pixi to fold and was the lightest of the three. Maybe when she’s older…
4. The supplier also had a Liberty Jogger in her van, since she had an appointment later in the day to show it to someone else, so we decided to have a look. It was even bigger than the Zip, although Lil Z had a bit better support. It would fit her until she’s an adult – I could have sat comfortably in it! The stroller was so big and so long that it just wasn’t practical. It would be good for running (which is its main purpose), but you couldn’t take it into a shop or really anywhere indoors because of its size.
Overall, I was a bit disappointed by the trial. I had sort of expected them all to work, and my biggest challenge would be to figure out which one would be best. Instead, we were left with only one workable option – and that one was pretty pricey and not the most convenient option… Lil Z’s physio suggested that we try some different brands – which would involve starting all over again with a different supplier (each special needs equipment company carries different brands, so you have to arrange appointments with each one separately). But as it was getting close to Christmas, we probably wouldn’t be able to do anything until after the holidays.
I was worried because not only did our Mountain Buggy no longer fit Lil Z, but the backs of her legs rubbed against the footplate. On two separate occasions, I’d taken her out in the Mountain Buggy, only to discover that she’d rubbed the skin off the back of her legs. So, I felt like I couldn’t take Lil Z out in her buggy anymore – apart from very brief trips. A delay in finding a special needs stroller meant that Lil Z would be home-bound for longer.
And then our physio came through with nothing short of a miracle. He talked to a friend who worked for an organisation that has a large stockpile of equipment. And she agreed to loan us a Kimba special needs stroller. The physio brought it over and it fit Lil Z perfectly (much to his disappointment since he’d brought all his tools to do the adjustments). And I love it. It folds easily and fits in the back of the car. Lil Z sits upright in it very nicely and is comfortable and happy. It has recline and tilt in space options, so it can be adjusted if she falls asleep, too. And in fact it fits her so well that she only needs a lap belt – and sometimes I don’t even use that.
It isn’t perfect. It is heavy – so not entirely easy to lift into the back of the car. And after pushing a Mountain Buggy for both girls, its lack of off-road capabilities too me by surprise – no more jumping curbs or bouncing down stairs. In fact, it was a bit of a challenge to get it off and on the train because it is hard to get across the gap between the platform and train. But these are all minor issues when you see how good Lil Z looks in it.
So, in January we are meeting the Kimba supplier. Lil Z currently has a Size 1 and although it fits her now, she will outgrow it soon. So, we’re going to try a Size 2 with a bit of lateral support to keep her sitting upright. I feel hopeful that we’ve found the right stroller at last.