Using equipment developed by Sheffield-based Jenx can be a life changing experience for families as well as their children.
Among the products developed by the firm is a special pressure relieving mattress, called the Dreama, that has 94 separate sections that can be individually positioned so that a child has a comfortable night.
Children that haven’t got full control of their muscles can end up with problems with their joints because of the forces the muscles exert while the child is still growing, so passive and comfortable positioning is vital, explains Catherine Jenkins.
Without the Dreama, children as young as five or six may never get a full night’s sleep and nor will the parents who are continually having to reposition them.
“Families have told us that they have got their lives back. Because the child is well supported, they sleep better and if they sleep better, their mums and dads sleep better,” says Catherine.
“We were told of one 15- year-old who had had to be checked every 15 minutes and, with the mattress, slept for six hours before they had to be turned over and then slept for a further two hours.
“If the child is positioned well it is better for their body and it is better for everybody. They sleep better, eat better and take their medicines better.”
While the Dreama can also be used by adults, most of Jenx’s products are designed for children, but they still need to be very robust.
“A lot of children have involuntary movements, which can be very powerful,” says Clive Jenkins.
“Some have behavioural issues or patterns of movement that can be very repetitive. I have seen them bend steel and break joints.
“People have measured the pressure they can exert.
“One child, an ordinary nine-year-old who was quite slim, moved a head rest 17 inches and exerted a pressure of 340 lbs.
“Products need to be very sturdy as children get bigger and a lot of thinking behind the design is to give the child a better posture, so that they are not constantly responding with a reflex action.”
Fashion is also important – both in terms of making products that are attractive to the children and that they want to use and in terms of responding to changing fashions in the health market.
“We try to make something which is acceptable for parents in their home, attractive to the child and will fit in to a class room and allow the child to use an ordinary school table,” says Clive.
“It might have to come down to floor level so that they can play with their brothers and sisters and come up high enough to allow them to eat at a breakfast bar.”
The company also has to understand different funding regimes as, in many cases, Jenx’s products will be bought by a funding body like the state or a local authority, the health service, or an educational organisation.
That can also mean designing a basic products to which accessories can be added. Fortunately, health regulations are similar around the world, but there are also fire regulations to think about.
Increasingly, purchasers are concerned about how green and recyclable products are – which is not an issue for Jenx.