As a runner, when you have children you know the running game changes. The days of solo running or "travel light" running are few and far between. Being a mother runner or father runner means ushering in either a single or double running stroller and all runs with the stroller are then strength training runs, not just for the fact of the added weight, but children want interaction. An infant might get fussy and older children are either chatty or want to stop and pick up every little speck of nature that you whiz by. Therefore, preparing for those stroller runs takes thought. Snacks, blankets, entertainment - which for some that means toys and others it might be a tablet or something similar. It's all about the bonding with your child/children but also making sure those miles can happen.
Yet, what type of planning is needed for a child who has special needs? Does one need a specialized running stroller? What does it all look like? As a mom of 4 children I can tell you my stroller running mindset was flipped on its head when my 4th was born and was diagnosed with a rare chromosome deletion. All that previous experience, although helpful was at times not helpful. Shopping for a running stroller took more thought and consideration. Reclining options for reflux, feeding tubes, respiratory issues. Seat support for muscle tone. The list goes on.
When my first son was born, we had purchased a straight forward, utilitarian jogger. The two other sons after him also used this stroller. We packed the typical snacks, drinks, toys, etc. When my fourth was born, he hated, yes hated the stroller. The seat was to far recessed for him, didn't offer a lot of support and I couldn't see him at all. We barely could get down the block without him screaming. One day I ran 3 miles with him screaming half the time. I was in tears, he was in tears. I just kept thinking maybe I'm not moving fast enough, maybe he will eventually tolerate this, maybe he will go to sleep. None of those things happened. After that I knew that the stroller had to go. Besides the fact that he came with extra stuff - feeding machine, breathing machine, extra blankets, clothes for his reflux and so on, he did not like not being able to see someone he knew. We were able to find a stroller for this past year that allowed him to always face me when running which was atypical because with most strollers, only infants in carriers are to able to parent face in a running stroller. Him being 3 it was a challenge, yet him being small for his age helped him parent face for this last year will minimal stuggles. He has hit a growth spurt as of late which made him a little taller causing us to realize the parent facing time would need to transition to a conventional running stroller fairly soon.
In comes the BOB Duallie stroller! I will admit, at first the double stroller was intimidating. Obviously it is so much more than a single in size and weight. I'm not a tall woman, 5'3" at best so upon opening the stroller for the first time I was unsure I would even be able to push it. Yet, I was ready to take on the challenge of the push and of having him no longer face me when running. The perk? His older brother would be sitting right next to him which has proved more valuable than almost anything. With my nerves high, I set out for my first double stroller run about a month ago and have since run 65 miles with my new BOB.
I will let you know that the Duallie has been great, yes it really gives me an upper body workout, but it has been perfect in piling in all the items that are needed with a child with special needs. There are plenty of pockets to put extra clothes and medical needs. The inside pockets next to each seat has been great to store his portable nebulizer. Easily accessible and in the best location to use when needed. The pockets, along with the oversized canopy make it perfect to set him up for a breathing treatment and to keep running. Typically at a stoplight, I can set him up for a treatment when needed, fold down the large canopy that covers him almost entirely and keep chugging along down the street. It has been a time saver when running with my youngest and he is needing a treatment. *Side note: He is very familiar with his breathing treatments and although he cannot not talk or hold his nebulizer accessories, he is very good about communicating his need for treatment and has learned how to turn his body to receive the treatment.
I should back track a little before continuing on with storage. Each seat has a sort of trunk "brace" for lack of a better word. For my child, with low muscle tone and in need of a little extra trunk or waist support it has been wonderful. He doesn't slouch or fall to the side having that little extra around his hip/waist area.
Back to storage, the large, easily accessible basket in the undercarriage cannot be overlooked. During the past month, I have been running when it then starts to rain. Most of the time it has been a quick sprinkle but less than week ago it was a downpour. Besides picking up the pace because my kiddos were with me, all his medical needs were stored in the stroller and I didn't want them to get wet. Well despite me getting soaked, everything yes everything in that basket stayed dry. I was amazed and grateful.
Another benefit, has been the multiple positions the seat can recline. Yes, this is not a new perk and many might think how beneficial it is for their child without special needs, but I want to bring light to how huge an aspect this is to parents with children with needs. As with many children with health and/or developmental needs, angle and reclining position make a big difference in whether the child screams the entire time or smiles or even falls asleep. Our son has both serious respiratory and reflux issues along with developmental delays. The first day we took the stroller out, he was fussy and had 2 big, messy reflux incidents. I'll admit, I felt defeated. Starting, stopping, cleaning him up (which was a struggle because he is a non mobile 3 year old so I had to hold him while trying to clean up "breakfast" with the other hand). I wasn't sure the stroller was going to work for him. Yet, later that day, I put him back in the stroller (yes he was fussy) and after a little over 5 minutes of raising and reclining the seat and we found the perfect angle. Small, incremental adjustments that to some might drive them crazy, but this family is so grateful that the BOB strollers are able to recline easily and in such a variety of angles. Since that first day, we has never (knock on wood) cried in the stroller again, has not had a reflux issue and has even taken a nap. Winning!
It is the small things that with use, we have come to truly appreciate about the BOB Duallie. The red rings for toys to be clipped to since our youngest doesn't have the fine motor skills to hold items for a long period of time, not to mention his excellent skill at throwing things overboard. I know all parents can relate to that skill. The option of having a swivel wheel or a fixed wheel. Swivel when we are walking, cooling down after a run is great, because it makes turning two kids and a stroller that equals nearly 100 lbs easier. Yet, the fixed wheel while running offers so much more stability for him, a smoother ride helping him stay upright and having no reflux issues. The high weight limit is also a perk. It allowed me to transition the youngest from a parent facing, single stroller to a forward facing double stroller because he was able to sit next to his brother. Without such an experience, I am not sure how the transition would have happened.
I have to expand a little on the maximum weight and height topic just slightly. I had posed the question: Does one need a specific stroller for children with special needs? The answer is yes and no. Depending on the need, but for our son who is 3, he is quite small for his age. A specialized stroller would be extremely big for him, he would sit very recessed in the seat, little to no pockets for things that he would need and many other things. The BOB Duallie has been wonderful in transitioning him to forward facing. He's getting taller, he's gaining weight but he is still a little guy who is just not ready to be in a specialized running stroller. And really, for his medical challenge, he might not be ready for such a stroller for many many years. So we owe a thank you to our new BOB Duallie for giving Asher - giving us the next step in our stroller running adventures.
Disclaimer: We received this stroller from BOB Gear in exchange for our honest and unbiased review. All opinions are genuine, truthful and our own based on use with a child having special needs.