Novita is proud of our history of supporting people with cerebral palsy (CP), which began back in 1944.
In this year, five years after we launched, we expanded our supports to kids living with CP. On 6 March 1946, we opened the first school for kids living with CP at the Adelaide Children’s Hospital, along with a clinic. Today, Novita supports more than 500 clients living with cerebral palsy and their families.
Today, on World Cerebral Palsy Day, we would like to introduce you to Jack, one of our Novita kids who lives with cerebral palsy. It also happens to be Jack’s birthday on World Cerebral Palsy Day! It’s a milestone this year too; he’s turning 18.
Jack, who lives in the Barossa Valley, came to us at the age of two because his family was keen to ensure that he received the right interventions and support. This involved a range of therapies, including physiotherapy in and out of the water. His family and therapists incorporated therapy into his play and routines to make it fun and easy to practise.
In addition, Jack has received Botox injections to reduce muscle spasticity in his legs, often followed by courses of serial casting whereby a fibreglass cast with padding was applied to his lower legs in a position that stretched his tight calf muscles. Jack has also used a variety of NovitaTech’s assistive technology, including Ankle Foot Orthoses (AFOs), walkers, sticks and wheelchairs.
In recent years, Jack has accessed robotic gait training. He has continued to be reviewed by our physiotherapists with expertise in working with kids living with physical disability and cerebral palsy, to monitor and address any issues, such as tightness of muscles, pain, and changes in mobility, as they developed. Jack has also had various surgeries to lengthen muscles as he grew, when Botox therapy and serial casting couldn’t keep up with his growth.
Throughout it all, Jack has enjoyed the support of his family who have a balanced and pragmatic approach. Jack’s mum Marianne says “From my perspective, there was a conscious decision not to wrap Jack in cotton wool. If he dropped a paint brush at kindy, it was about getting him to stretch and pick it up himself.
Whilst watching your child struggle is intensely difficult, it really helped him to develop his independence and a mindset of ‘how can I make it work?’ and looking for solutions, rather than being overwhelmed by obstacles. Part of this was also making sure that those around us were on the same page, understanding that we wanted him to be included in everything and adapting to make this happen. Participation was key.”
As a result of this support, interventions, and Jack’s brilliant attitude to life, he has enjoyed a variety of activities. Throughout primary school, Jack was a keen swimmer and participated in the Rapid Swim program, as well as a skills development program which was about teaching and developing sporting skills for kids living with disability. At the age of eight, Jack was part of a boccia team that represented SA at a national competition in Sydney. He was the youngest competitor, and his team came second.
Now in Year 12, Jack is a school leader and has a part-time job at Seppeltsfield Road Distillers in the Barossa Valley. He enjoys anything to do with computers, including building his own and fixing up an old one for his brother. Jack’s an anime fan and loves playing video games. He’s really enjoying driving and is working on getting his P licence. When Jack finishes school, he has his sights set on an Agricultural Science degree specialising in entomology.
Jack discovered his passion for entomology in a Year 10 science lesson, when a discussion about sustainable futures and, in particular feeding the world sustainably, piqued his interest. It made him think about how insects can be used as good food for humans in a sustainable way. Now Jack has a longer-term ambition to run a successful cricket farm.
Jack is an impressive young man, and he has a message for all of us and it comes from experience living with cerebral palsy. Jack wisely says “Every person is different, with different challenges. Some of these challenges may be visible physical challenges, as mine is, and some may not be visible. However, don’t treat people with physical challenges differently, or look down on them because of their challenges.” We couldn’t agree more, Jack.
So, on 6 October 2021, we are not only celebrating World Cerebral Palsy Day but also Jack’s 18th birthday. Congratulations Jack! We can’t wait to see what you will achieve next.
Novita has many therapists who specialise in supporting people living with CP, including occupational therapists, physiotherapists, psychologists, social workers, educators and speech pathologists. We can support you, or your child, with motor skills, mobility, communication, family support, daily routines, self-care, and much more. We can also provide assessments, early intervention and transition support from preschool to school and equipment.