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Cerebral Palsy support: Shining a light on the life-saving charities

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Cerebral Palsy affects movement and co-ordination abilities and its lifelong impact can have profound effects on whole families. 

In the UK, it is estimated that one in 400 babies will have a type of Cerebral Palsy, illustrating its prevalence in society and how great the need is for support to be delivered. 

Charities play a vital role in giving this support, with them often being described as a lifeline to families for whom the future for their child and their potential is unknown, which can be daunting. 

Offering a wide range of therapies and support, many of which are delivered free of charge, charities rely on fundraising to sustain their offering and ensure they can continue to help families now and into the future. 

Law firm Slater and Gordon works with many families whose children have been diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy, and sees first-hand the invaluable difference charities can make to their lives. 

For this reason, Slater and Gordon is a keen supporter of a number of Cerebral Palsy charities, supporting them in a number of ways to allow them to continue in their life-changing work. 

“The work of charities in supporting families through what can be unknown and daunting times is truly amazing,” says Emma Doughty, head of clinical negligence at Slater and Gordon. 

“From the earliest stages, from when children are babies, these incredible charities are there to deliver the bespoke support they need to maximise potential. 

“Our team at Slater and Gordon works tirelessly to enable families to access justice and to find the answers they need, and we’re so proud to work alongside charities in delivering another level of practical and emotional support along the way.” 

Here, we look at some of the Cerebral Palsy charities who are making such a difference to the lives of young people and their families across England, Scotland and Wales. Names of families have been changed throughout. 

Every five days a child will be born in Wales who has Cerebral Palsy. Cerebral Palsy Cymru is a national centre of excellence in the country for supporting these children and their families, with a particular focus on intervention from the very earliest opportunity. 

The charity’s Better Start, Better Future early intervention programme works with babies to optimise their potential, maximising the window of opportunity for each child to receive the support they need. Last year, 76 babies were referred onto the programme. 

“It has helped me do things no-one thought I could do,” says Ben, who is now eight and has been part of the Better Start, Better Future programme from five months of age. 

“Working with Cerebral Palsy Cymru has helped us become more confident as parents to a premature baby and has helped Ben develop beyond what we thought was possible,” says Ben’s mum, Claire.  

“Charities like CP Cymru are a lifeline. Without them none of this would have been possible. The support we have had as a family could never be replicated – we are so thankful,” adds Alan, whose son is also being supported by the charity. 

Billy has been attending Cerebral Palsy Scotland since he was two years old, and the charity helped him to take his first steps. He is now 25 and continues to attend its centre in Glasgow. 

“I came initially for a six week block of therapies. It was instilled into me about trying to reach my own potential, and I think the therapy helped us to learn how to cope with having Cerebral Palsy as a family,” he says. 

Billy’s brother, John, was also included in the therapy sessions. 

“As soon as you walked in the door it was so welcoming. Although most of the time I was observing, I was able to see the exercises Jon was doing and then trying to help replicate that when we got home,” says John. 

“But more than that, it was the learning about what Cerebral Palsy actually was, and the different elements of it that aren’t just physical.”

“Cerebral Palsy Scotland has had a massive impact on my life in how I have dealt with having Cerebral Palsy from childhood into adulthood,” says Billy. 

“I’ll always return because I think to keep on top of your Cerebral Palsy, you should keep on top of your knowledge and ways to help improve things.”

For 60 years, CPotential has been supporting children to reach their full potential. 

The charity has crafted its own integrated therapy model and adopts a holistic approach which tailors therapy plans to each child’s unique needs. 

CPotential concentrates on four key areas of development – gross motor, fine motor, social communication and emotional wellbeing – and puts together bespoke plans for each child, recognising their individuality.  

In the last 12 months, the charity has delivered 4,600 therapy sessions, supporting 280 families. 

“When they (medical professionals) tell you your child isn’t going to be able to do something, that doesn’t mean that is going to be the case,” says Alison, whose child has been supported by CPotential for several years.  

“The NHS physio told us our child might not be able to walk – but now he has just started taking his first independent steps, and he’s nearly six. It’s such a massive achievement.”

From its base in the North East, Heel and Toe supports children and their families across the region, enabling them to access a full range of therapies – including hydrotherapy and hippotherapy – to support their ongoing development. 

“The greatest impact is the joy is to see children playing in a setting that is suitable for them, for them to engage and participate in a way that makes sense to them, in a very supported and structured environment,” says Caroline Clay, occupational therapist at Heel and Toe.

Alice has Cerebral Palsy and has made significant progress in her movement and physical abilities – but for her mum Tania, the improvement in her confidence has had a particularly positive impact. 

“What coming here has done it has pushed her even further, her own determination combined with the support has been amazing,” she says .

“It’s never ‘That’s enough now,’ it’s always looking at doing that bit more. That is perfect for Alice. It has given our whole family confidence to manage Tara’s condition and help her live her best life.” 

Pace’s approach is geared around goals and goal setting, enabling children and their families to look at what is meaningful to them and look at ways to make that possible. 

The charity has a therapy centre and specialist school in Aylesbury, while also offering online resources and support to families from further afield. 

Director of education Claire Smart says: “The goals we set are based around ensuring they can go on to take their place in the world, to ensure they can access the world around them in a way that is as dignified and independent as it possibly can be. That looks very different from one child to the next.”

Parents speak of their confidence in their children attending Pace. 

“I feel very confident in my daughter coming here – she has a lovely teacher who has almost become like part of our family,” says Laura, whose daughter attends the Pace school. 

“I know she will be looked after, included in activities and will be worked hard because she is so motivated to some to this school. I can come home and rest because I know she will be happy.”

Paces supports children from six months through to adulthood, with children being able to progress through the Paces school through to its specialist adult services.

From its base in Sheffield, families come from across the UK to seek support from Paces School and Paces Living. 

Adult services has more than doubled in size since its move to a new building three years ago, and following a £1million fundraising campaign, its purpose-built school has also expanded to offer more modern facilities, bigger classrooms and better facilities. 

Conductive education is a key part of the school’s offering, to support independence and development beyond what was thought possible. 

“These are children who have all been told at some point they’ll never be able to walk, talk or hold their own weight – we can make that possible,” says David Hall, fundraising and communications manager at Paces. 

Seashell Trust support children and young adults with complex learning difficulties, disabilities and communication needs across the UK. 

Seashell educate and care for some of the most complex young people with profound learning needs. The charity has developed its own curriculum, created by its own team, which is geared around aspiration and independence, to help the students be the best communicators they can be. 

“In the last Ofsted inspection, it was pointed out we have no ceiling for the students and the staff don’t put any boundaries on what the students can achieve here,” says Emma Houldcroft, headteacher at Seashell Royal School Manchester. 

Supported by an array of therapists and rehabilitation workers, students are able to access a variety of therapies to help them achieve their potential. 

As well as its Royal School, young people are able to progress to the Royal College, which are both in Stockport, as part of the continuation of learning and development the charity offers. 

Stick n Step supports over 100 children every week through sessions designed to enable them to reach their potential in terms of mobility, confidence and independence. 

From its bases in Wallasey and Runcorn, it delivers conductive education sessions for children to work towards their own set of personalised goals. 

Maisie first came to Stick n Step as a baby and took her first steps with the charity. 

“I’ve no doubt my daughter has been able to walk and thrive because of coming here. The support they offer is invaluable,” says her mum, Anna. 

Paul has attended Stick n Step for the past year and has made strong progress. 

“He has really grown in confidence and has learnt new skills and the staff have been a wealth of information,” says his mum, Alisha. 

“It has also been really nice for us as a family to be able to speak to parents in similar situations who understand the worries and challenges our children face.” 

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