A special wheelchair made it possible for a two-year-old boy with cerebral palsy to go into the sea for the first time.
Joey Leathwood from Sheffield can be seen laughing in the waves at Skegness Beach in Lincolnshire on video from Friday.
He doesn’t usually like going to the beach because he doesn’t like the way the sand feels on his skin, even though he loves water.
Cerebral palsy can cause hypersensitivity, which makes certain textures, noises, or crowded places feel overwhelming.
It also makes muscles tight and stiff, which makes walking very hard.
But Joey was able to play with his 11-year-old brother Connor and 8-year-old sister Maisie in the sea for the first time. “Instead of feeling left out and different,” his mother said, “he didn’t feel left out and different.”
A local charity gave them free use of an off-road, water-resistant wheelchair. This made it possible for them to get around.
The wheelchair, which costs more than £3,200, comes with a headrest and harness to help people with conditions that make it hard for them to move, like cerebral palsy, sit up straight.
It also has big, heavy-duty plastic “balloon” wheels that float on top of the sand and can go through water without getting stuck.
It was given by BeachAbility, a neighborhood charity established in 2012 by Sharon Gray, who donated the first wheelchair after learning she had motor neurone disease.
Joey’s mother Helen, 34, who provides for him full-time, said today: “He is unable to do anything for himself and has massive sensory issues.”
‘He doesn’t like certain textures, such as grass, sand, snow, and fluffy things, so we normally avoid the beach as he will make himself sick if he can’t process a feeling and he just ends up stuck in his pushchair far away from the sea.
‘With him being unable to sit up it’s impossible to play with my other kids and have Joey be part of it until we hired the Hippocampe beach wheelchair from BeachAbility.’
The video shows a wave crashing onto the beach as Joey laughs out loud.
While his mother laughs behind the camera and his welder father Tom, 37, smiles down at him, another person enters, gently rocking the chair, and the boy shrieks in delight.
He was using the French company Vipamat’s Hippocampe beach wheelchair.
The stainless steel frame of the wheelchairs weighing 17 kg (37 lb) is resistant to rusting when exposed to water.
Numerous wheel options are available, with Joey’s model’s balloon wheels being specially made for fine sand.
For fun in the snow, the wheels can be replaced with skis.
Ms Butterfield said: ‘It gave him the body support he needed, and it was so easy to push over the sand and of course go into the water. It was also a good barrier for him to not have to touch any sand.
‘He was able to be just as happy and part of the day with his brother and sister, he loved watching the waves splashing over the top of the chair but still felt safe.
‘I honestly can’t praise the group enough and wish there had been equipment like this available years ago as it would have helped so many people.’