Last Sunday, I flew out from Heathrow to Northern Ireland, along with Renata Blower, our columnist and writer of one of my favourite blogs, Just Bring The Chocolate. It was the first time I've travelled since I've been ill and using a wheelchair. I was so worried about it that I forgot all about the need to declare your liquids at security.
Several embarrassing and lengthy bag searches later... and Renata didn't complain at my idiocy even once... we arrived in the beautiful city of Belfast, where you can just feel the buzz in the air that this is an up-and-coming place to be.
Our trip, courtesy of Leckey, who make inspirational products that improve the lives of children and adults with special needs, was to attend the launch of their Firefly brand's UpSee, a revolutionary device invented by Debby Elnatan, from Israel, for her son Rotem.
Debby, a musician, went through multiple versions of the design before she brought it to James Leckey to see if he could help her bring it to market because she knew if it helped Rotem, it would help thousands of other children like him. Try as they might, the team at Leckey couldn't improve on Debby's design, and the launch was, for her family, a dream come true.
Rotem has Cerebral Palsy and could not support himself to walk unsupported and the UpSee did just that - provided him with the support he needed, alongside his parents - to help him build the strength in his legs and core.
In this one minute video clips, Debby explains why she developed the Upsee
James Leckey is an extraordinary man. He was a florist who became obsessed with making mobility and accessibility items for people with disabilities in a 'coup de foudre' or 'bolt of lightning', the instant he handed over a cheque to Mencap he'd raised in a sponsored run.
And that's exactly what he did. Now he runs a fast-growing, multi-million pound business in Belfast providing work for 145 people. They are the global leader in paediatric postural support rehabilitation equipment.
The designs are well thought out, colourful and fun - they look so attractive and innovative that you actively want to use them.
Their Firefly off-shoot that is behind the Upsee, is aimed at being affordable to families with their slogan "Together we make a difference". The team is always looking out for new ideas to develop.
For me, as well as this opportunity to see the Upsee and report back to you, it was a chance to meet up with friends and make new ones. As well as my gals, Hayley and Renata, those gathered included among others, the writers of the popular US blog, Love That Max and the online magazine Parenting Special Needs and UK blogger and academic, Joe Reddington.
Most important were the families who had travelled with their children, one from Manchester and another from just up the road in Belfast.
They had being testing the UpSee with their special needs children and only had the highest praise. This video below shows Charlotte, who came along to Belfast with her family, showing off the UpSee.
The Upsee is available to buy from April 7th. If you want to know more, you can register to join therapists and parents from around the world for a free live online discussion on Upsee at the beginning of April
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- How the National Tutoring Programme can be a powerful tool to help SEND pupils during lockdown - January 15, 2021