The safety of 12-year-old Gemma Butterick and other passengers on her taxi ride to school is assured, thanks to a special ‘Houdini’ vehicle harness from Medifab.

Gemma has Angelman’s Syndrome, a rare neuro-genetic disorder characterised by intellectual and developmental disabilities, plus a happy demeanor.

The syndrome affects around one in 20,000 people, with many, like Gemma being non-verbal.

She lives with her mother Janet at Doyleston, in Canterbury, and travels to Waitaha School near Templeton on the outskirts of Christchurch five days a week.

“Gemma is in the taxi van for about an hour in the morning and again at night. This is when she used to get bored and started to wriggle,” says Janet.

An ordinary car seatbelt and seatbelt guard is enough to keep Gemma safe when they are travelling in their own car. However in the taxi van on the way to school she used to pull her seatbelt out, stand up and move around the van, disturbing the other children and potentially distracting the driver.

The danger prompted Janet to search for a solution and while browsing on the internet she came across the Medifab website.

“I rang Medifab and made an appointment to discuss the options with them. We trialed one harness first which wasn’t quite right, so went to the next model up, the Houdini 28 harness which is brilliant.”

Now Gemma’s taxi journeys are much more settled with the use of the harness, she says.

“It only took her a couple of days to get used to it. Now she is quite calm and travels along nicely. I think it helps her to feel more secure.”

The Houdini 28 vehicle positioning harness is suitable for children and adults with a range of special needs, such as Autism Spectrum Disorder, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Downs’ Syndrome, Asperger’s Syndrome, developmental delay or other challenging behavioural needs where the person has difficulty with attention and safety.

The harness can also provide postural support and assist in seating people with physical disabilities, who may have difficulty sitting upright.

“The harness goes over Gemma’s shoulders, up between her legs and around her middle. She can move her arms, legs and head freely but that’s all.”

The Houdini harness fits most types of vehicle seating, including single and double seats. It is suitable for taxi, bus and plane transport, and can also be used with booster cushions.

“We leave the harness in the van most of the time, but it’s really easy to put in and take out around the back of the seat when required,” says Janet.

Although Gemma doesn’t require the harness in their private car, Janet says she would take it on long trips or holidays for extra security.

“I totally recommend the Houdini Harness for any family who wants their special needs child to travel safely, without the worry they will move around or be distracted on a journey. It’s a great product and Medifab are excellent to deal with. They were extremely caring, supportive and helpful.”