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Standing and sitting in comfort

Several clients in the Port Macquarie area are benefiting from the combined skills of TAD’s strong local group of volunteers. One is Freyja, who has epilepsy, cerebral palsy and spastic quadriplegia.

Freyja has poor trunk control and developmental delay, but she loves to be upright. When she was less than two years old she tried out one of TAD’s standing frames, which worked very well for her.

The frame had been made by volunteers John Brumby, Mayo Brumby and Ken Webb, originally for trial purposes. Freyja’s therapist, Jeannie Bennett, now asked for it to be customised with pads to support Freyja’s head and reduce lateral movement and footcups on the base to keep her feet in the correct position.

John also added a foam insert to the tray to reduce the size of the cut-out and protect her elbows from rubbing against the edges, and a felt tray cloth to stop items on the tray from slipping backwards when the frame is tilted.

Jeannie also asked for separate leg wraps to help keep Freyja’s legs straight when she is in the standing frame. TAD physiotherapist Brendan explains it’s important for her knees to be straight to maximise the benefits of standing.

Made by Mayo in a bright, attractive fabric, the leg wraps have vertical aluminium splints encased in individually seamed sections. They are padded throughout with light foam and fasten with hook and loop fasteners. Mayo has since made wraps with different dimensions to suit other children in the area.

Freyja was growing quite quickly, and was likely to outgrow the standing frame before too long. John showed Jeannie an extension that had been made for another standing frame, and she asked for a similar one for Freyja. This was made by volunteer Mike Atkinson and fitted by John.

Freyja also needs supportive seating, and for some time a structured bean bag was found to be the best solution. Mayo made this from a basic pattern she was given by a local occupational therapist, and has since made similar bags to suit other clients as well.

Also made from cheerful fabrics, the bean bags have five separate compartments. Each compartment has a zip, so it can be filled individually with greater or lesser firmness to suit the postural requirements of the user. The seams are double stitched and covered in bias binding to protect them and provide maximum strength.

John says he noticed a big change in Freyja shortly after she was first placed in the bean bag. “Before she had been restless, and she just settled back and relaxed beautifully,” he said. “She was very contented and peaceful, and her head was quite stable.

 “The TAD equipment has helped a lot to develop Freyja’s head control,” Jeannie said. “The bean bag was useful to put her in a sitting position with as little intervention as possible, to help her gain sitting balance, encourage her to sit up straight and develop her ability to bring her head back from the side.”

“The standing frame has also been very successful, to the point where we have been able to reduce the tilt. As well as assisting with head control it enables her to use her arms and hands with items on the tray. The padding on the tray has also been helpful. John and Mayo were great – they came out to see exactly what was needed and took a lot of care. And Mayo’s leg wraps are just beautiful!”

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