Researchers create program to help babies with cerebral palsy walk and talk

A groundbreaking therapy program developed right here in Australia is changing the lives of children with cerebral palsy in the most incredible way.

The early intervention program aims to significantly improve the walking, hand use and thinking skills of babies diagnosed with cerebral palsy, like Sydney boy Daniel Aughton.

Professor Nadia Badawi, Professor Iona Novak and Dr Cathy Morgan from the Cerebral Palsy Alliance together created a new early intervention program called GAME, or Goals Activity Motor Enrichment.

As one of the study’s first participants, Daniel was referred to the program when he was four months old. Daniel’s mum Sandra says the intervention program has been “life changing”.

DanielAughton

“Being involved in the intervention program was the most amazing thing that has happened to Daniel,” she says. “Early intervention enabled Daniel to do things he otherwise could not do. When Iona started working with Daniel, we weren’t sure he could stretch out his right arm. She made me work so hard on improving the use of his arm, and today, you can’t tell the difference between his left and right arm.”

Cerebral palsy is a physical disability that it is often diagnosed when a child is 19 to 24 months of age. The late diagnosis means little research has been done to develop interventions, specifically for young babies.

“If we can detect and treat cerebral palsy in the first few months of life rather than waiting to begin treatment at the usual age of two years, we know we can significantly improve the future outcomes for a baby diagnosed with cerebral palsy,” says Professor Novak.

The researchers have been introducing the program in hospitals to help detect cerebral palsy in children as young as three months of age.

“It has been introduced into all Sydney Neonatal Intensive Care Units, enabling us in many cases to bring down the age of diagnosis from 19 months to three months of age,” Professor Novak says. “If a baby is assessed as being at risk of having cerebral palsy, then intervention can start early – with potentially much better outcomes for the child.”

The GAME intervention program helps improve a baby’s motor skills through an individual therapy program that can be done at home.

Think you can take 10,000 steps a day for 28 days? You can help raise money for equipment, therapy and services for those with cerebral palsy by joining the Steptember fundraising challenge. Registration is $25.

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