Some of the things to consider when picking a buggy from an autistic perspective.
Added on Monday 11 July 22
Over the past few years I’ve had a few different buggies. They have been one of the most effective tools in my life for helping me get to places I wouldn’t otherwise be able to access.
I was recently asked about them on twitter:
“I remember you talked about buggy recommendations previously … I can’t find it but would massively appreciate top tips for choosing one of you have the spoons . Thank you. (14 yr old with massive sensory issues and foot pain… )”
I eventually found the article I’d written, but its very specific to my needs. A top tips format sounded good so that inspired this post :)
The first tip is all about the different types of pushchairs. In our experiences there are three types of pushchair, each with different pros and cons..
My trotter chair is a stroller type design. It’s very useful in that I can go into way more places than either of the buggies.
However it’s very exposed and extremely uncomfortable for me to use. Feeling so exposed saps a lot of spoons and it impacts my speech. The angle causes a lot of pain.
However, It enables me to get into places like the pharmacy which I wouldn’t be able to access any other way.
To us, an indoor buggy is a jogger style buggy which is mostly intended for indoor use. Sometimes we’d call them a ‘small buggy’ but that’s a bit of a misnomer. They are still pretty darn big.
They can be used indoors or outdoors and are generally narrow and tall.
The rider sits deep inside the buggy in an enclosed seat. The handle is above the riders head with the person pushing being able to see right over the top.
They often have baskets, cup holders and more sophisticated harnesses.
Good examples of the type would be an ‘axiom endeavour 3’, [advanced mobility liberty](https://www.babysden.com/advance-mobility-liberty-special-needs-stroller-push-chair-navy.html ) or an advanced mobility independence.
This is the type of pushchair we use most. I have a red axiom endeavour 3.0 and it was life changing. It’s more or less the middle ground between the stroller and outdoor buggy.
It’s effective and comfortable. The harness in mine is very good as It holds me back in the seat and applies good pressure.
My friends really like it. They say It handles very well and has good brakes. It even has cup holders and the basket is huge. One of my friends likes taking me to Tescos in the buggy as it’s easier than a trolly or carrying a basket. I enjoy the adventure too :)
One downside of being so enclosed is that I can’t always be part of a conversation. If I’m out with friends and reclined (the least painful position) I can barely hear what they say.
A full size outdoor buggy is designed for use off road. Perhaps with running, hooked up as a bike trailer or some other sporty situation. They normally have three or four big spoked wheels and bike tyres.
The outdoor buggies are wide and long. The rider is often reclined to 45 degrees. They are very comfortable and relaxing places to sit, often with a full size canopy to keep the sun and rain out.
They are the strongest style of buggy and can easily bump up and down stairs and curbs with a heavy (90kg) rider.
My outdoors and off road buggy is an advanced mobility freedom. We have had it ages since before my injury. It’s really useful for going to parks, zoos and places like centre parks. I may consider one of the more modern designs in the future. It depends how my injury develops.
It’s not very good indoors and it’s very clunky to use day to day. My friends like using it when it’s the right situation, but it’s much harder to use than my axiom endeavour.
My second tip for picking a pushchair / buggy is to consider the seating angle.
If the rider is upright they can be more engaged in what’s going on and see forward. However it may be painful going over bumps or it may be hard for the pusher too see over the top of the rider.
A reclined position is more comfortable, but the rider won’t be able to see much except in sky… or sometimes up the nose of the person pushing.
We like going for buggies with angle adjustment. It’s make them more flexible. For example, in my axiom I have one position for using it at a desk or table and a more reclined position if we are going from one place to another.
Different pushchairs / buggies fold in different ways and what style of car you have can be a big factor.
Most of the larger buggies can’t go on public transport as they lack the tie down points and crash testing. Strollers normally can go on buses and trains.
Something we wish we had done much sooner was getting good quality custom fitted cushions and headrests.
The cushions where expensive (£100-200 each!), but they make a big difference to the long term comfort of the buggy. They reduce the neck strain and also help with things like overheating.
I am often sat in the buggy a very long time (6-8 hours) so it’s important we avoid causing secondary injuries.
Harnesses are also a massive complex topic of their own. We have tired a few and my favourite tends to be a bib harness which covers my chest.
We wish we experimented with them sooner. I resisted using a harness as it felt too restrictive. They are absolutely a faff, but a good harness holds me in the best position within the buggy. Using the harness means a lot less pain.
These days I mostly like the harnesses. The chest compression is nice. It’s meets a nice autistic sensory need there. However I find them hard to get in and out of. It’s one of the areas where we will keep experimenting.
Sometimes the only way to know if something will work or fit is too try it.
Some suppliers will have test models which can be very helpful. For my axiom we did a massive road trip and visited freedom4kids to try a few options.
For other things we have brought stuff on eBay. If it didn’t work we could always put it bank on eBay. There’s often a few different options on eBay at different times and we keep an eye out. It’s also useful for getting spare parts. We use my buggies a lot and we have already worn out sets of wheels and brake components.
The buggies / pushchairs have been a really impactful tool for me. They help me with both autistic and mobility needs and they have made a big difference to my life.
For example, using the buggy at the hospital has saved a lot of spoons and often means I am better able to communicate with doctors. I’ve been going through the diagnostic process for cancer this year and I couldn’t image how we would have managed so many appointments all over the place without the buggy. Even if I could walk far enough, the buggy would still be beneficial in that sort of environment. The support folks really like the buggy too. It’s make their job a lot easier.
The buggies are one of the few places where my pain levels go down and I gain spoons / energy the longer I sit in them. Compared to a wheelchair which drained my spoons rapidly, the buggies are a complete game changer.
I hope that more folks explore and try them in the future. They have proven to be a great tool to enable my autonomy and allow me to thrive.