Cerebral Palsy Alliance (CPA) has opened the doors to Australia’s first regional Early Diagnosis Clinic in Newcastle, providing a vital new service to families with children at high risk of cerebral palsy.
The clinic, located at the Cerebral Palsy Alliance Stuart Centre in Croudace Bay, was officially opened this week with the announcement of generous funding from the EA & N Hulak Foundation.
The foundation’s support will enable the clinic to provide a crucial service for more than 100 infants in Newcastle and the Hunter over the next three years.
Despite being the most common physical disability in childhood, affecting 34,000 Australians, there is no universal screening program to identify children with cerebral palsy. More than 50% of children aren’t diagnosed until over 12 months of age, missing out on crucial early intervention that can make a lifetime of difference to their movement, cognition and communication abilities.
As the global centre of expertise for cerebral palsy, CPA launched the first Early Diagnosis Clinic in Prairiewood, western Sydney, five years ago to address this urgent need. Following the success of the first clinic, CPA opened a second at Sydney Children’s Hospital at Randwick in 2021.
As the first Early Diagnosis Clinic in a regional area, the Hunter Early Diagnosis Clinic will provide a vital service to the 30% of children with CP who live outside of major urban centres.
Operated in partnership with the Hunter New England Local Health District, the Hunter Early Diagnosis Clinic is staffed by an expert multi-disciplinary team including a paediatric neurologist, social worker, therapists and speech pathologists.
We know that the earlier we can diagnose an infant with cerebral palsy, the faster we can provide life-changing support to them and their families
Speaking at the launch, CPA Chief Operating Officer Paul Henderson said new research was continually demonstrating the importance of early intervention for children with cerebral palsy.
“Our Early Diagnosis Clinic network has had an extraordinary impact in the past five years, supporting hundreds of families. Informed by our world-class research and therapy services, we know that the earlier we can diagnose an infant with cerebral palsy, the faster we can provide life-changing support to them and their families.”
“Before the opening of our first Early Diagnosis Clinic, the average age of CP diagnosis was 18 months – our team of experts have brought this down to eight months, and this continues to fall. We look forward to having this same impact in the Hunter and beyond,” he said.
The launch of the clinic also demonstrates CPA’s commitment to the Hunter, where it has provided services to people with disabilities and their families for nearly 40 years. Currently, CPA has more than 1,000 clients in the region across 20 group homes, two therapy sites in Croudace Bay and East Maitland, as well as regional and rural outreach programs.
Early diagnosis services are partially-funded by Medicare, but the clinics rely on the support of fundraising and donors to operate. Referral to the clinics can come from medical and allied health professionals or parents and carers can self-refer via Cerebral Palsy Alliance.
Since the launch of the first clinic in 2018, more than 400 infants have been supported by CPA, fast-tracked into early intervention therapy programs and offered ongoing support with regular check-ups.
The launch of the clinic also demonstrates CPA’s commitment to the Hunter, where it has provided services to people with disabilities and their families for nearly 40 years.