One in every 700 Australian babies is diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy each year, yet staggeringly, half of these babies get no intervention before their first birthday.
Cerebral Palsy is the most common physical disability in childhood that affects movement and posture. While there is no single cause of cerebral palsy, it is the result of a combination of events either before, during or after birth that can lead to an injury in a baby’s developing brain.
Cerebral Palsy Alliance (CPA) is playing a vital role in closing the early intervention gap through the delivery of programs that, through the introduction of telehealth services, are now being rolled out to families across regional NSW.
From their centre at Tuggerah on the Central Coast, a team of passionate and dedicated physiotherapists are conducting their Baby Movers program that is designed to support the developmental needs of children aged up to two years who have or are at risk of cerebral palsy, whose movement skills are delayed.
Conducted online via the videoconferencing platform, the group provides a socially interactive environment that involves songs and play to provide the motivation to assist young children to learn to move.
Cerebral Palsy Alliance physiotherapists, Therese Everton and Jess Toby, guide and prompt parents in assisting their child to gain body and postural awareness and optimal ways to assist transitional movement patterns.
According to Therese, telehealth services are playing a critical role in extending the reach of the program far beyond the local region.
“The telehealth program was established last year to allow us to continue running programs throughout the COVID lockdown period. It is now allowing us to connect with and support families in regions such as the South Coast, Mid North Coast, New England and Central West. This is in addition to the face-to-face services we continue to provide families here on the Central Coast,” Therese said.
“This has proved to be life-changing for many families based in rural and remote locations. Previously they would have needed to travel many hours to take part in these types of sessions. For some, this just isn’t practical or even feasible, meaning their children simply miss this vital, early intervention.”
In delivering the program, Therese and Jess engage with families of children as young as two-weeks old, firstly to reassure and teach them about bonding and attachment with their child.
“The majority of families we work with have endured a traumatic birthing experience, which has usually involved medical procedures and intensive care. Through our initial contact, the priority is to provide reassurance and confidence into being a parent to their new child.
“We then use the sessions, be it face-to-face or through telehealth, to work with them to demonstrate basic movements, which we do through songs and play activity. We also provide a program that families can continue to undertake outside of clinical hours that they can practice and refine.”
Greater Charitable Foundation Chief Executive Officer, Anne Long, said the Foundation has been supporting Cerebral Palsy Alliance for 10 years and is constantly amazed by the wonderful work it conducts with these families in great need.
“Greater Charitable Foundation has a strong and proud tradition of partnering with organisations that provide practical, life-changing initiatives that directly support families and communities. Cerebral Palsy Alliance provides such a critical early intervention service that can reduce the physical impacts this condition can have on children and provide a bright and positive future for them and their families.
“The introduction of telehealth is also a wonderful demonstration of innovation in the delivery of a program to significantly increase its reach into the community, and in particular to those in remote locations who would otherwise not have access to these vital services.”
“We are exceptionally proud of the positive impact this program and our partnership has made in supporting so many families across NSW.”
Since 2011, Greater Charitable Foundation has allocated more than $1 million annually to 31 charity partners, impacting more than 32,000 beneficiaries.