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February 28, 2024

I have CP and I’m a researcher

Join us as we delve into the little understood world of cerebral palsy (CP) through a series of enlightening videos titled "What is CP?" hosted by Georgina Henry and Tash Garrity, passionate researchers and advocates for disability inclusion.

Tash Garrity is keen to set the record straight about cerebral palsy. For Tash, the biggest misunderstanding is that because someone has a physical disability, particularly a severe physical disability, it doesn’t mean they’re intellectually impacted.  

Tash believes that society’s understanding on this issue is, thankfully, changing. But, she’d love to meet Bill Shorten, the Minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme of Australia (NDIS) or Prime Minister Anthony Albanese to have them understand what it’s like for people with cerebral palsy, and to address the unnecessary barriers that are put in place because of lack of consultation with people with lived experience.  

Contributing positively to improving society and correcting inequalities are really big drivers for me.” 

Tash is helping to improve outcomes for people with cerebral palsy through her work at Cerebral Palsy Alliance as a researcher and as a disability advocate for CPA’s advocacy community; CPActive. Both these roles involve shifting societal expectations and government policies – research helps prevent disability and lessen its medical impact. Whereas advocacy helps shift societies’ views on disability and inclusion.  

Her work in genetics is a new field emerging into the public domain. One of her major projects is working on a genetics paper alongside Yana Wilson and Sarah McIntyre from Cerebral Palsy Alliance Research. This year they’re creating a community reference group for cerebral palsy with people with lived experience, so that they have a voice to help guide the direction of genomics research. 

“Getting people with lived experience involved in the direction and the dissemination of research is a big value of mine.” 

Tash has been involved in research since she was a child. She was diagnosed at a year old, and in 2000 there was very little known about CP research or therapy. When the Research Foundation was set up in 2008, Tash became a research ambassador, which introduced her to researchers at the top of the field; like Professor Iona Novak and AM Nadia Badawi.  

“This fuelled my interest and passion even more, and I got access to some cutting-edge interventions.”

As well as having an analytical brain – well suited to the research field – another of Tash’s qualities is being a great planner. This is partly out of necessity because of her disability. Tash is classed as GMFCS level 2, so she can walk around the house and environment by herself but needs support. For example; she wears a carbon fibre splint on her left leg on uneven ground and middle distance, she uses a walking stick, a handrail for stairs, and for longer range she uses a mobility scooter. 

But this doesn’t mean she can’t be spontaneous or included in anything she chooses. In fact, she admits to being a bit of a thrill-seeker, having done river rapid jetboating, parachuting, and climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge. 

Tash commented that if she could go back and tell her 10-year-old self something, she’d say:  

“You did it, honey. I’m so proud of you; being a CP researcher. But I’d also say university is not the be all and end all. For me, on the job work is magnitudes more valuable.” 

When contemplating what she can do to help contribute positively to society, a phrase her mum said when she was younger comes to mind:  

“ I can if….” 

like if I’m given enough time, I can. Or if the correct allowance is made there’s nothing I’m barred from!”  

 

Keen to find out more about cerebral palsy? Head to the “What is cerebral palsy” web page for more information and to watch the video explainer series.