David Earle

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David tells us that in 2004, Cerebral Palsy Alliance (then known as The Spastic Centre) opened an Armidale office in one of the buildings at the old Teachers’ Training College but thanks to the generosity of Sargents Pies Charitable Foundation, they have just moved into their own brand new building.

How long have you worked for Cerebral Palsy Alliance?

I’ve been working here for 18 months now. My wife and I moved from Queensland to Armidale so I could take up this role.

Many of our team members are locals, or people who grew up here and have decided to return to the area.

Exactly what services are offered by Cerebral Palsy Alliance?

Cerebral Palsy Alliance’s rural teams work with children with Cerebral Palsy from birth until the age of 18 years. We also work with school-age children with significant or complex multiple disabilities. Our main aim is to provide services that are family-focused.

This means we work closely with each family to get to know and support their unique style and needs. From there, we can support them to help their children reach their full potential. Ways we do this include: therapy and exercise programs; access to specialised equipment like wheelchairs and walkers; assisting with designing home modifications; and finding the most appropriate technology solutions to overcome challenges in communication or accessing the world we live in.

At our Armidale office we have a Physiotherapist, two Occupational Therapists, a Speech Pathologist and a Team Administrator. Our region covers the New England tablelands and the Northwest slopes and plains, an area of more than 93,000 square kilometres. Our team visits families anywhere from the New England Highway to the edge of the outback, including the Great Dividing Range between Tamworth and Tenterfield, the Namoi and Gwydir River Valleys of Inverell, Moree and Narrabri, to the Queensland border in the north.

Our team also provides services to a number of indigenous communities throughout this region.

We also offer families access to a broad range of specialist assessment and support services based in Sydney and online. Cerebral Palsy Alliance is a large organisation with a huge amount to offer in supporting families.

What is Cerebral Palsy, and how many New Englanders have this condition?

Cerebral Palsy is a permanent condition which affects a person’s movement. Its impact can vary from a slight weakness in one hand, to almost a complete lack of voluntary movement. In some people it is so mild, that very few people may know of their challenges, but in others it can be so severe that they require a sophisticated wheelchair to move around and need assistance with everyday activities such as eating and communicating.

Children are usually diagnosed when they are delayed reaching physical milestones like crawling, walking or talking. More children have Cerebral Palsy than any other physical disability, with an Australian baby born with cerebral palsy every 15 hours.

Each year we work with over 100 children with Cerebral Palsy and their families across our region.

What is the history of the Alliance?

Cerebral Palsy Alliance was formed in 1945 by a concerned group of parents who were seeking support and therapy for their children with Cerebral Palsy. From those small beginnings more than 65 years ago, Cerebral Palsy Alliance has grown to be a world leader in providing therapy and support for children and adults with Cerebral Palsy throughout metropolitan and regional NSW and the ACT.

Despite advances in medical science, the rates of Cerebral Palsy have remained virtually unchanged. There is no known cure, and the causes are usually unknown. In addition to providing vital therapy, equipment and support services, Cerebral Palsy Alliance is directing worldwide research projects into Cerebral Palsy prevention, cure and intervention through the work of our Research Foundation.

How has the centre improved the delivery of its services?

In 2004 Cerebral Palsy Alliance (then known as The Spastic Centre) opened an Armidale office in one of the buildings at the old Teachers’ Training College, now part of the University of New England. But that space was less than ideal, especially for some of our clients with more severe Cerebral Palsy.

Our new centre in O’Dell Street is such a beautiful change. It has been designed with our team and clients in mind. The new centre is environmentally and family friendly. It is fully wheelchair accessible with lots of space and feels lovely and welcoming for kids and adults.

It has three therapy rooms, an open plan office and a meeting room. It is also in a much more convenient location – right in the middle of Armidale’s medical precinct, which means we are more visible to the local community and can establish stronger links with other service providers and medical professionals. This will enable us to better serve families living in the New England area and surrounding regions.

How does Sargents Pies help make a difference?

The generosity of Sargents Pies Charitable Foundation has been life changing for thousands of families living throughout rural NSW. Sargents has now donated over $7 million since 2004, which has enabled us to build or buy and renovate eight rural centres, including our new site here at Armidale.

This rural network of state-of-the-art therapy centres provides vital services close to people’s homes. This reduces travelling time and costs for families that are often already pushed to the limit both financially and emotionally.

On behalf of every family we support throughout the New England region, as well as those in other rural areas, I’d like to extend a big thank you to Sargents for their support. Their generosity has, without a doubt, changed the lives of thousands of Australian families.

How many clients will your new Armidale centre service?

Currently we see up to 100 families over the course of a year. We are really excited about having this new centre, as it gives us the opportunity to run more activities on site such as our new MyTime support group for parents and carers.

Are you having an open day?

Although we have already moved in and are providing services out of the new building, the official opening will be on Tuesday 5 March. We are also hoping to hold an Open Day on World Cerebral Palsy Day on 2 October 2013.

We would love people to drop in, meet the team and see our new building. Visitors are always welcome.

Thanks David.

This article was published in issue 70 of New England Focus

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