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Eating with the family

Diane has always been keen for her 11-year-old son Liam to sit at the table for family meals with his sister Hayley and brother Shaun.

Liam has global developmental delay and needs supportive seating to maintain correct posture for eating, so when he was younger he had a customised seat insert made by TAD. “Otherwise we have to sit and hold him, which is difficult now he is older and doesn’t make it so easy to eat yourself,” Diane said.

When Liam grew out of his previous insert, a new version was required. TAD staff met with Liam, Diane and Liam’s therapist and decided that a larger version of the previous insert design would work well.

Made by volunteer Walter Quinlan, the new insert has a plywood back set at a 10° recline, a plywood base and footrest, height-adjustable thoracic fins and cushions made from fabric covered 25mm foam. There are also a range of harness mounting points, and Liam uses the chair with a waist harness in the position determined by his therapist.

The insert is attached to the dining chair using two 25mm buckled straps, one under the seat and one at the back. Walter also added a base to the dining chair itself, with lockable castors on the rear. This means the chair-and-insert unit is easy to move in and out from the table, and to other places in the house as needed.

Diane has found the chair also comes in handy when she is alone with Liam and is unable to supervise him momentarily. “If I leave him on the lounge while I am cooking or something, he can climb off or fall off,” she said. “I can put him in the chair and he can come into the kitchen with me and I know that he is safe.”

Liam also has a Freedom Wheels bike. This enables him to join in riding with his sister and brother on family outings, and provides an enjoyable and different way of moving which also improves his muscle strength.

As well as the standard outrigger wheels, Liam’s bike has a number of supports including hip and thoracic fins and belts, a head rest and foot cups. It also has extended handlebars which are easier for him to reach, and a tow bar with a brake.

“He really loves the bike, and we try to go for a ride every day,” Diane said. “I tow him initially, but if I let go after a while he keeps pedalling himself, which is really good exercise for him. He’s a happy little boy, and we take him everywhere.”

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TAD acknowledges the traditional owners of country throughout Australia and recognises their continuing connection to land, waters and community. We pay our respects to them and their cultures and to elders past, present and emerging.