We’re about to kick off a series of ‘Youth Lab’ virtual events where young people with cerebral palsy and similar disabilities will have the chance to co-design a set of recommendations that makes school, university, and the transition into the workforce more inclusive.
At this first Youth Lab on Wednesday July 27, we’ll be asking for your help to design what an inclusive education looks like. What do we need to change in the classroom? And what about outside of class?
The Youth Lab events will also be an opportunity for young people with cerebral palsy to share their experience, connect with each other, and be part of co-designing a pilot advocacy and leadership program for 2023.
If you’re a young person (under 30) living with cerebral palsy or a similar disability – please fill out the registration form and we’ll be in touch with the event Zoom link.
On 21st June, we held a Town Hall event with Australian of the Year Dylan Alcott and hosted by Elly Desmarchelier.
Our panel of CPActivists spoke about their lived experiences of social inclusion at school, how they have had to advocate for themselves and the power of networking to get into the workforce. Watch the highlights video now:
We’d love to see you at our next event.
The future of the NDIS is a hot topic, but what does this mean for young people with disability and have we heard enough of these voices throughout this Federal election campaign?
So how do we turn this attention from a ‘moment’ into longer-lasting momentum for the change we need to see to create a better future for young people living with disabilities?
Are you a person with a disability aged 16-24 and have ideas you want to share?
Register now for CPActive’s Youth Future Forum from 7pm on Monday 9 May.
The Forum is your chance to join other like-minded young people for a discussion about what the future could look like.
It could be something local like making a local sporting oval more accessible. Or discuss your experience in areas like education and employment. Or the lack of media representation of young people with a physical disability.
Or it could be something else entirely … it’s up to you and others in this small group chat.
This is your opportunity to be part of something new and co-design and grow a movement from the very beginning.
Register now for this free online event from 7pm on Monday.
Captions and Auslan interpretation will be provided.
The future is unwritten – we’d love you to be part of this.
Yours in action,
PS. If you can’t make it on Monday night but would like to be part of this new movement, email Teigan at email@example.com
On 30 November CPActive hosted our final event of 2021. After a very strange year, it was fitting to look back on everything we’d achieved together.
To relive some of our best moments and biggest achievements, check out the highlight video below!
We also took a look forward to all the exciting opportunities for change in 2022! If you couldn’t make it, here’s a wrap on a few things we discussed.
Teamwork Works is a new national campaign from National Disability Services, uniting people living with disability with service providers to oppose funding cuts to the NDIS.
Emma Dawson, Director of think tank Per Capita, joined the CPActive event to present their new report for the campaign False Economy: The economic benefits of the National Disability Insurance Scheme and the consequences of government cost-cutting.
“It’s fundamentally about shifting our understanding of investment in this kind of social service to a frame of investment. Of seeing it as an essential social infrastructure, rather than, as is too often the case in the rhetoric coming from our political leaders, a burden or a cost for the community,” Ms Dawson explained.
“Public health measures typically have… a return on investment between about 0.8% and 4%. And we calculated quite a conservative return on investment for the NDIS… of $2.25 returned into the broader economy for every dollar spent, or I prefer the term invested, in that scheme.”
“If we proceed down that very dangerous path of seeing this as a cost to be reined in, rather than as an investment that lifts us all up, then for every dollar cut from the NDIS we see a loss of over 10,000 jobs in our economy, and a drop in economic activity of over $2 billion a year.”
“That’s just for every dollar cut from the scheme.”
It’s been a challenging year for all Australians, but especially for people living with disability and their loved ones. Three of our campaign Champions Jerusha Mather, Johanna Garvin and Lia Sintras shared some of their own struggles and triumphs in 2021.
“I’m really passionate about helping people and sharing my story in order to help as many people as I can. So I think the whole idea of CPActive, for me, is an amazing opportunity because we can help each other share stories and really work on these issues that are really complex.”
“A really big highlight for me was just the impact that we were able to make being online. Maybe not accessing everything in a normal way, but being online and adapting to being online, and just making a big impact as a group together, and really tackling these big issues. Because I feel like the more we speak up, the more we’ll be able to really see some change.”
“One negative thing to me would have been the fact that we weren’t able to access our support workers in the normal way, face to face, that we were able to before. But I think… we were able to adapt to being online. Being there for one another and just finding different ways of achieving similar things.”
“But just seeing the impact that we can all make being online has been really amazing, and I can’t wait to see what’s in store for 2022.”
“One highlight for me this year was doing a course at RMIT on digital marketing strategy. That kept me really motivated through lockdown, because I found that last year in our first lockdown I wasn’t feeling very motivated, so I was determined to find different ways to keep me motivated and get out in one piece.”
“A challenge for me this year was trying to secure funding through the NDIS for a manual wheelchair. My first application was rejected, but luckily I’ve had more success in the last couple of weeks in resubmitting, and I’m going to get a new manual wheelchair, hopefully before Christmas. Fingers crossed!”
“I think what’s motivating me for the new year’s just hopefully continuing this motivation that I’ve had over the past lockdown thanks to the course, and keep making new goals and achieving them.”
“I really suffered this year because I was uncertain about changing things in the environment in the world that were very challenging for me and others in the community.”
“I would love to see change, and it’s really important that we stand for justice and change the world for positivity.”
“I have learned so much about the world around me and I have done some very deep reflection on what I want to do, and how I want to do it. I think there are really exciting times we’re living in, and I think for next year I would like to see more change in society, driving inclusion and accessibility… to help people with disability achieve their goals.”
“I’m so excited for what’s to come, and I hope we can keep supporting the NDIS because it’s just a great solution for many people. It’s supported many lives, and a lot of people have seen a great improvement in their lives.”
Jean Cochin from the Every Australian Counts campaign dropped by at the event to share what’s on the horizon in 2022.
“People in our community… not only fought so hard for the NDIS to be established, but continue to feel a very strong sense of ownership over it. And we all want to see the NDIS working as well as it possibly can,” she said.
“So we’re still here to help facilitate communications between people on the ground who have busy lives and know what’s going on, and the people that make decisions in Canberra and at the NDIA.”
Jean invited everyone in the CPActive community to get involved in campaigning next year.
“Before I was in this sort of behind the scenes role, I always wondered how much actually an individual can make a difference and I know it sounds so cheesy, but it really, really does, so I would strongly encourage everyone to get involved in any way that’s easiest and most accessible,” she said.
“But also, do you own things too. Contact your local MPs, tell them what’s going on in your life. These things all really to help paint a picture for them of what the real world looks like, and you know, they’re elected to represent you!”
“Stay tuned we’ll have more for you to participate in, but you know don’t be afraid to do things on your own and feel confident.”
Australia’s Paralympic team put in an inspirational performance at the Tokyo 2021 Paralympics. They lifted the hearts of millions of Australians watching at home, struggling through a new wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.
At the CPActive Virtual Ticker Tape Parade, we asked young aspiring athletes with cerebral palsy to interview some of their Paralympic heroes returning from the Games: sprinter Evan O’Hanlon, swimmers Matt Levy and Lakeisha Patterson, retired Paralympic champion Katrina Webb-Denis, and two members of our Pararoo football team, Christopher Pyne and Ben Atkins.
These Paralympians shared their wisdom on training, resilience, representation and inclusion for people living with disability, the importance of activism, and how to set and smash your goals.
For those who missed out, we’ve put together a video with some of the highlights from the event! Check it out below.
At CPActive’s Window of Opportunity launch event, four parents of children with cerebral palsy bravely told the story of their child’s diagnosis and treatment.
Some were able to receive an early diagnosis, giving the family the answers they needed, and their child the chance to receive the early treatment that can drastically improve their health and mobility outcomes as they grow up.
Sadly, other parents weren’t so fortunate. Their families endured long months of fear, stress, and desperation as they sensed something was different with their baby, but were forced to seek answers on their own as they tried to help their child.
You can read about their stories in detail in our wrap-up article, Stories from the Launch.
Watch the highlights from the parent panel at the Window of Opportunity launch below.
The stories of Eden, Kylie, Marelle and Anne prove how early detection can change lives. Families can’t just ‘wait and see’ – they need answers so they can give their child the support they need to thrive.
That’s why Australia needs BaMS for Bubs: to open the window of opportunity for every baby, and every family. With your support, we can make it a reality.
If you haven’t already, sign the petition to the Federal Government here!
If you have experience with receiving a CP diagnosis and treatment, either your own or a family members, you can share your story with CPActive here.
We were privileged to have some of the world’s leading experts on cerebral palsy: Dr Cathy Morgan and Professor Iona Novak from Cerebral Palsy Alliance Research Institute, and Professor Rod Hunt from Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, join us at the launch of the Window of Opportunity campaign.
They spoke to our CPActive community to explain the science behind early screening for cerebral palsy, the impact of early treatment for infants, and why Australia doesn’t yet screen babies for CP.
“We want to start a [cerebral palsy] screening program for every baby in this country… irrespective of where they live, their postcode, whether they speak our English language or not,” said Dr Morgan.
“What we’re hoping to do with this program is put an opportunity into the hands of every parent.”
In Australia, cerebral palsy is the most common physical disability in childhood. But while we screen babies for hundreds of conditions when they’re born, CP isn’t one of them.
The reason: Australia’s policy hasn’t kept up with the science.
“Until fairly recently we just didn’t have the tests that allowed us to pick cerebral palsy with the accuracy that we can now detect it at a very early age,” Professor Hunt explained.
“Twenty years ago, when I was training as a paediatrician, we were deliberately taught that we shouldn’t make a diagnosis of cerebral palsy until children were two years old – because it was impossible to be certain about the diagnosis any earlier than that.”
Our campaign is asking for a national program called BaMS for Bubs: Baby Movement Screening for every baby born in Australia.
There are a few different steps involved in detecting cerebral palsy in infants. BaMS for Bubs begins with a simple short video of a baby, which can be captured by their parents on a smartphone.
“There are three tests that, when used together, can predict cerebral palsy with 98% accuracy,” Dr Morgan said.
“We can watch a video of a baby, just for a few minutes, three minutes, and people who are trained scorers whether… those spontaneous movements of a baby are typical or atypical.”
We have the technology to detect cerebral palsy at a very early age. However, some people still question the benefit of doing so.
Professor Novak had three answers for them.
“Early diagnosis is the gateway to early intervention. We think of three important things when it comes to early intervention,” she said.
“Number one: neuroplasticity. To help the child to learn the skills that they want. So, to smile at their mum and dad, to give them a hug, to sit up.
“We think about parent support because it’s a really stressful time and we know that parents that are supported have better wellbeing in the long run.
“The third thing is there are complications that can happen with cerebral palsy, so by starting intervention early we can prevent many of those complications.”
The science is in: Australia needs BaMS for Bubs to open the window of opportunity for every baby, and every family. With your support, we can make it a reality.
If you haven’t already, sign the petition to the Federal Government here!
If you have experience with receiving a CP diagnosis and treatment, either your own or a family members, you can share your story with CPActive here.
Check out the highlight video from the expert panel below!
The amazing performance of Australian athletes with cerebral palsy at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics has inspired a new generation of young children with CP and similar disabilities. To celebrate the return of our Aussie Paralympians, CPA recently held a virtual Paralympic Ticker Tape Parade, pairing aspiring athletes with some of our most successful Paralympians living with CP for an uplifting evening of community and conversation.
Culture and community
Kicking off the event were Christopher Pyne and Ben Atkins, represent Australia’s Para-football team, the Pararoos. They spoke to up-and-coming CPA athlete Matty Engesser, discussing the special bond that athletes with cerebral palsy have, and the importance of building and connecting our CP community.
“You need to find that special thing for a team to succeed, whether it be in football or athletics. With [the Pararoos], the drive, the determination, the spark was already there, it was just a matter of moulding and developing it. When we come together as Para-athletes we’ve all been through the same sorts of things, we’ve all faced challenges throughout our lives that able-bodied people don’t have to face, and that gives us a special connection”
– Chris Pyne
“We’re in such a fortunate position as athletes with CP that we have direct contact with our mentors, our inspirations, the people we look up to. If you can take anything away from this call – reach out to the current Paralympians. We were all once a 9, 10 or 11-year-old aspiring to get to the Paralympians or that World Championship. We’ve got the team spirit built in, it’s just taking advantage of that, and getting that advice and helping hand”
– Ben Atkins
Resilience and determination
Lakeisha Patterson had to overcome a difficult 18 months of injury, illness and lockdowns to make it to the starting line at the Tokyo Paralympics. She went on to win gold in the women’s 400m freestyle. She said that resilience was all about finding the “creative solution” to a problem:
“We’ve all got to overcome obstacles and it can be difficult to see past them at times and focus on the road ahead, but I think I’ve definitely learned [that] there’s always another way around situation… It’s just about giving things ago and finding that creative solution.
I believe when you are faced with challenges, you have three choices: you can either let it destroy you, let it define you or let it strengthen you, and I think I’ve definitely let all of these circumstances in my life strengthen me. They pushed me to become this better athlete so it’d be able to be able to get to Tokyo”
– Lucky Patterson
Matt Levy, a five-time Paralympian, also shared the importance of staying focused, in conversation with young CPA athlete Aaryan Shah. He spoke about how making the most of the experience.
“Getting ready for an event I really try and remember why I’m there in the first place. There can be self-doubt, you can second-guess yourself, I try and remember all the training and hard work I’ve done to get to that point. At the end of the day, racing is the most fun part of what we do and it’s really less than five minutes compared to years and years of training”
– Matt Levy
Setting goals and achieving success
Evan O’Hanlon is one of Australia’s most successful Paralympic sprinters, having won five gold medals. In Tokyo he won bronze in the hotly-contested T38 100m event at his fifth games, and he spoke with up-and-coming 14-year old track star Sybella Warton about the importance of setting goals:
“My process for going coming up with goals over the last probably 15-20 years has been to look around at what hasn’t been done and try and go and achieve that. So when I started in athletics, I said to myself, ‘no one’s run under 11 seconds as an athlete with cerebral palsy for the 100 metres – I want to go do that.’
So I set my mind on it and I started breaking up that goal into tiny little amounts that were more achievable – those tiny steps turned out to be 0.36 of a second, which I need to improve by, divided by 365 days and [broken down to] 0.001 of a second – and that meant that every day when I woke up I just needed to improve by that little amount and I’d be able to get my gold.”
– Evan O’Hanlon
Amanda Reid, who became the first Indigenous woman to win a cycling gold medal at Paralympics after triumphing in world record time in the 500m time trial C1-3, also spoke about the importance of breaking goals down into smaller, achievable steps. Amanda, who first represented Australia in the pool at the 2012 Paralympics before switching to cycling, said her strategy was to set herself short-term, medium and longer goals – such as winning a gold medal or breaking a world record
Representation and the gift of being different
Making a special appearance to round off the evening was Katrina Webb-Denis, who won gold medals at three consecutive Paralympics and is one of Australia’s best-loved athletes with CP. Now retired, Katrina was part of Channel Seven’s commentary team in Tokyo. She shared how much it meant to her that Paralympics was now getting the recognition it deserves, and also how CP has been her “biggest gift”:
“I just had the most incredible gift of being in Tokyo, where I interviewed Lucky and Matt poolside on behalf of Channel 7 and they were one of my favourite moments ever. To be a part of the media on the other side was extraordinary, because I know when I was an athlete I would have dreamed to have channel 7 waiting there and they never were. To be able to represent that as a Paralympian to be there in those extraordinary moments means so much to me.
“Cerebral palsy has been my biggest gift. My message is that this difference has been the thing that has powered me in so many different ways. It’s taught me to be strong, resilient, a problem-solver, it’s taught me how to have empathy and love for other difference… it’s great to be different.”
– Katrina Webb-Denis, OAM
Cerebral palsy is the most common physical disability in childhood, and behind every diagnosis is a story.
Right now in Australia, there’s no standard program for screening babies for CP. That’s why the Window of Opportunity campaign exists: to advocate for a national Baby Movement Screening program for every child born, or BaMS for Bubs.
At the launch event the CPActive community heard from four parents about their child’s journey to diagnosis and treatment. These are their stories.
Kylie’s daughter Anika had a stroke shortly after she was born. At the time, it was devastating for her family, but Kylie says it was also lucky in a way, because it meant her health and development was closely scrutinised, and she received her cerebral palsy screening at only a few days old.
By 6 weeks, Anika was receiving intensive occupational and physical therapy.
“We know through having done our own research how incredibly important neuroplasticity is in babies and children, so I really do think that that early start for her has made a world of difference,” Kylie says.
“We went from having a little girl who had no idea she had a right-hand side of her body – we would have to pick up her arm and shake it – to now a little girl who has worked very hard over the last four and a half years, that she is able to do just about everything that a little girl should be doing at that age.
“That early intervention, as far as I’m concerned, has set her up for a life that she should have.
“I can’t believe there are so many kids who slip through the gaps because they don’t get that opportunity.”
Eden knew early on that her son Kingston wasn’t like other children. For months she was told that all children do things in their own time, that there was nothing to worry about.
But when Kingston’s first birthday arrived he was not hitting the same milestones other babies his age were, like sitting up independently, and Eden’s anxiety reached a fever pitch.
Finally, as Kingston was receiving his one-year vaccinations, the paediatrician remarked casually: “I think he’s got CP.”
“It hit me like a ton of bricks,” says Eden.
“I felt anger and disbelief. I just didn’t understand it. It wasn’t the world that I had ever thought that he would be in. I actually had no knowledge of CP at that time and everything that popped up [in my research] was very, very scary.”
In the months that followed, Kingston finally received his CP screening and assessment.
“Absolutely every baby in Australia born needs to have early screening… It’s so important for our future because that would have saved me. It would have given me peace of mind, at least knowing what path I was taking from 6 months onwards, not waiting, not every day pushing him… hoping that he would walk at 10 or 11 months and it just never happening.”
Eden has this message for the Federal Government:
“It is our duty of care to help create a better future for our children. We need to use science and health education to prevent any misleading diagnosis.”
Marelle’s daughter, Katie, is 44 now, but when she was born early screening wasn’t heard of.
Like many parents, Marelle knew Katie wasn’t typically developing, but struggled to have her concerns taken seriously by medical professionals.
“We were told all along the way that she was a slow starter, that we just had to wait and see,” Marelle says now.
“I spent 9 months searching for an answer to what I believed to be a problem with my baby. I had a gut feeling from day one that there was something not quite right.”
After taking Katie to see two more paediatricians, several GPs and a chiropractor, they were finally referred to a cerebral palsy specialist, where Katie was diagnosed almost immediately.
Katie is now living happily in specialist accommodation and close to her family. But forty years later Marelle still feels the pain of her family’s struggle to get Katie diagnosed.
“Perhaps if there was such a thing as an early screening program life could have been different for Katie,” she says.
“That window of opportunity that we talk about was lost for her. There was nothing in that 9 months for her. Had somebody taken up her cause and sorted out on day one, when a mother says there’s something wrong with my baby, there could have been a different outcome.”
Grace hardly had a heartbeat at 35 weeks, meaning that even after she was born her mother Anne was always on the lookout for health complications.
“I really knew from the night Grace was born that it would be a different journey… I was always looking for things, milestones that Grace wasn’t hitting,” Anne says.
After “a diagnostic odyssey” they finally arrived at Cerebral Palsy Alliance, when Grace was 18 months old.
“We tried to make up for lost ground with really intensive therapy,” says Anne. “It wasn’t as early as what it should be by a long shot, but I was searching for a measured approach for helping Grace develop.
“My wish is that families don’t have to go on those sorts of journeys because… we really did miss those early years. Grace has done extraordinarily well… but I really feel that we lost those critical early days and weeks and months.
“When we were on our journey there was this concept of protecting the parents, and I really don’t understand that concept. I think that the earlier parents know and can be supported in the early stages of this journey… is the best start you could hope for.
“My message is the earlier [CP is diagnosed] the better… I wonder where we might have been if we could have put our energies into supporting Grace and really understanding Grace’s needs much earlier than what we were able to.”
We are so grateful to Anne, Eden, Marelle and Kylie for courageously sharing their stories and driving home why the Window of Opportunity campaign is so important for us.
If you have a story of your own, please share it with us at our Share Your Story page.
Every baby born with cerebral palsy has a window of opportunity that makes a lifetime of difference. But in Australia, we’re missing it.
Every baby born is tested for hundreds of health conditions, but not for cerebral palsy. It’s the most common physical disability in childhood, yet across Australia the approach to diagnosis is just ‘wait and see’.
Treating cerebral palsy in those first few months of life has a massive impact on that child’s wellbeing for the rest of their life. Every baby deserves that chance, and every parent deserves to know how to help their child thrive.
Register now for the launch of our new Window of Opportunity campaign at 7pm on Thursday 19th August. We’re calling on the Federal government to provide universal cerebral palsy screening for every baby born in Australia.
We’ll share stories and discuss how we can work together to create lasting change
Hope to see you there!