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This specialty line of clothing really is the "Bee's Knees": while not the typical product one would think of when considering mobility equipment, this line of clothing certainly does aid in helping those with disabilities access their world more safely and comfortably.

Well now, that's just the bee's knees and the cat's pajamas, too, for that matter. Flapper slang of 1920s America that expresses exclamatory approval does seem to rise unbridled to my lips as I inspect the product samples of a unique clothing line launched by Canadian Tammany Atkinson, Bee's Knees President and founder. Picture pint-sized pants made of kid-friendly, durable fabrics like cotton, twill, denim, and corduroy in fun, fashionable colors; imagine a comfy, elastic waistband that moves with the wearer; now top the mental image off with the detail that makes these pants like no other on the market--a special pocket at the knees into which neoprene pads are snuggly inserted. That's right, kneepads built into the pants yet removable for washing!

This unique design was your typical "see a need, meet the need" a-ha moment for Tammany. She says, "I noticed when my first son was crawling on our hardwood and tile floors that his knees were always red, bruised, and dry. At first I thought of kneepads but then I knew they would irritate him; the pads had to be in the pants without him knowing they were there. I thought this would be a great business for me to be at home with my kids and still have an income."

So with a mother's determination, she launched Bee's Knees in 2003 when her son, Jackson, was just six months old. She immediately began research and development of the product, spending Jackson's naptime and late night hours learning the gargantuan and sometimes dizzying world of the textile and apparel manufacturing industry. Five months in and with progress on her product line gaining speed, life harshly intervened. "We found out Jackson was born deaf. Needless to say, everything was put on hold. Suddenly, we were consumed with grief, stress, and numerous appointments at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) in Toronto. Jackson would take two long naps a day. He was so tired from relying only on visual stimulation, and he couldn't hear anything to wake him up. During this time I found I was alone, scared, and crying all day."

Not long after Jackson's diagnosis of profound hearing impairment, Tammany and her husband made the decision to have Jackson implanted with cochlear implants. "The morning of the surgery we woke Jackson up at 3 a.m. I remember going into his crib and thinking we were taking him to get the best gift he would ever receive in his entire life. I carried him into the operating room and held him down as he cried and the anesthesiologist put him out. Looking back at his little body on the operating table was difficult, but it is strange how calm and strong you can be when you are doing what is best for your child."

The implant surgery was a success. Tammany says, "When the day finally came to have his sound turned on and for Jackson to hear for the first time in his life, we were filled with many emotions. This was a child who didn't know what sound was or that it even existed. He sat very still on my lap and held me tight as the first tones on his speech processor were activated. People often ask me if the first words I spoke to him were 'I love you.' Although that seems the most obvious thing to say, all I could get out was 'SSShhhhhh, SSShhhhh' because when I found out he was deaf I was devastated that all those nights when he was in his crib and would wake up crying in the dark, he couldn't hear me comfort him and 'SSShhh' him back to sleep." Despite the stress of those months after Jackson's diagnosis, Tammany "decided to get back to work on Bee's Knees; at the very least, it gave me something else to focus on. And I had dreams that it would enable me to use the business as a platform one day to raise funds and awareness about the early detection of infant hearing loss and the benefits of cochlear implants and auditory verbal therapy."

Today Jackson, along with his little brother Flynn, are active kids although years of therapy have been a daily challenge for the family. The company that their mom founded to meet the need she saw with her own little one is flourishing. She says in those early years of the company, "We started with a really basic design since we were manufacturing domestically. I actually lost money on the sale of every pair for the first while...Now after six years, we are producing some really fun styles! Comfort, quality, and customer satisfaction are our three top priorities! We love to hear from our customers and do our best to take care of their needs."


In fact, it was the company's willingness to listen to its customers' feedback that led to the launch of a whole new line that will be available later this year. Originally, the line was designed just for young children, and for parents of children with physical and intellectual disabilities, these pants seem a natural as their little ones experience even greater challenges in learning to ambulate compared to typically developing children. Padded knees would go a long way in protecting them from unnecessary bumps, bruises, and scrapes. But it's the new product line they are unveiling that really tipped the scales on the decision to feature Bee's Knees in EP. Tammany comments, "After the pants aired on The Today Show and The View, we received a great response from parents of children with various special needs." The trouble was Bee's Knees products were only available in toddler sizes, and for many children and even adults with mobility issues, floor time and a crawling motion are often a part of their lifelong ambulation and time spent out of a wheelchair. The company responded and Tammany says, "It is a great feeling to think your product could help a child with special challenges but so disappointing not to have the size they needed. I know first hand how great it is to find any little thing that can make your child's life easier. I remember when Jackson got his first cochlear implant. The processor was quite large, and most kids wore it in a little backpack. This was really awkward for sitting and changing, and we eventually found Jackson a neoprene waistpack that aerobics instructors used to hold their mikes. We were thrilled! It was more comfortable and fit snugly. When parents needed larger sizes for pants, I always sent them free kneepads, but I really felt I was missing out on an important market." This led to the development of larger sizes and Tammany explains, "Our sizes three, four, and five pants are really cool looking, and if the demand is there, we will keep producing new designs based on feedback and may do larger sizes as well. We finally took the leap into this market after learning that some therapists at hospitals were recommending the pants to their patients. With feedback from one therapist and from a few mothers, we designed the larger sized pants. One special difference is that these pants have padding in the bum as well as the knees." She says this new product will be available in late June with fashionable styles designed to suit children of all ages.

Bee's Knees habit of giving back doesn't stop there. Tammany hoped that Bee's Knees would give her an outlet to educate about hearing impairment, cochlear implants, and the various types of therapy available to those with deafness. The company accomplishes this philanthropically by making a donation from the sale of every pair of pants to The Learning to Listen Foundation ( as well as donations of product to other organizations in need. Now that really is the bee's knees!

For more information on Bee's Knees as well as ordering information, visit their Web site at, email to, or call 905609-1247.
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Title Annotation:MOBILITY
Author:Hollingsworth, Jan Carter
Publication:The Exceptional Parent
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 1, 2009
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