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Last Updated: Thursday, 22 February 2007, 12:08 GMT
Disabled girl's wheelchair plight
Sophie Anderson
Sophie Anderson is able to crawl but cannot walk unaided
The parents of a 21-month-old girl with a genetic condition which means she cannot walk say they are struggling to buy the electric wheelchair she needs.

Sophie Anderson, from Camberley, Surrey, has spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) - a muscle wasting condition.

Her parents want her to have a powered wheelchair so she can join in with other children her age.

But she is too young to qualify for a powered NHS chair and the 15,000 cost is proving an obstacle for the family.

"Sophie was diagnosed in November last year, which was very, very difficult," said her father Richard.

"She has problems eating and cannot walk, although she can crawl.

"But for a 21-month-old, it is quite degrading for her when her mum takes her to toddler group and all the other children are running around.

All assessments will take into account the users' safety and the safety of others around them
Surrey Primary Care Trust

"She needs a wheelchair quickly, with playschool coming up - we can't have her crawling around playground while other children are playing."

SMA causes muscle weakness and is regarded by many as the leading genetic killer of infants and toddlers.

Mr Anderson said Sophie would be unable to operate a manual wheelchair because of her condition.

"Sophie doesn't fall into the wheelchair services criteria because they deem her too young to be able to control a powered wheelchair safely," he said.

Applied to charities

The cost of the chair, with accessories, is 14,300 but maintenance and third party insurance is extra.

Mr and Mrs Anderson have applied to three charities for help but are awaiting replies.

Mrs Anderson, a part-qualified accountant, is now a full-time carer for Sophie and is expecting a second child.

"My husband's income has gone down as well since we had the diagnosis as he often attends doctors' appointments with us and being self-employed does not get paid for that," she said.

Surrey Primary Care Trust said children were referred to wheelchair services if they were not walking by an "age appropriate" time.

"All assessments will take into account the users' safety and the safety of others around them," it said.

"In most cases there would be an assessment of driving skills from 24 months onwards."

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