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Two year old Harvey sitting in a highchair with the VitalStim device attached to his outer neck, holding a lollypop and smiling, next to an image of him sitting in a highchair holding a tub of yoghurt with a spoon in his mouth.
August 2, 2023

“Leaps and bounds” – new therapy makes a huge difference for Wollongong clients 

A few weeks ago, two-year-old Harvey had never eaten a biscuit or enjoyed a lollypop. Two-thirds of kids with cerebral palsy experience dysphagia – a condition which can make swallowing and chewing safely difficult. 

Now, he is one of several CPA clients working with our Wollongong therapy team to receive VitalStim, a non-invasive device that uses NMES (‘neuromuscular electrical stimulation’) to treat dysphagia and improve swallowing.  

CPA Wollongong is one of the few places in Australia with the equipment and trained speech pathologists able to support clients with VitalStim, which is considered a ‘green light’ intervention – meaning it is a proven, safe and effective treatment for people with CP. 

In his first three sessions, Harvey ate his first-ever biscuit, lollypop, and jelly, and by the end of the block of intensive therapy he has taken his first-ever sips of water and even weaned off feeding through his gastronomy tube! 

“We are just amazed at the progress Harvey is achieving already – he’s come on in leaps and bounds!” says mum Stacey. 

Harvey and his family worked closely with the Wollongong therapy team, including Jo Grayson, who is part of CPA’s clinical educator group – a specialised team of allied health experts who ensure we are introducing the latest innovative and evidence-based interventions to our clients. 

“We are so thankful to have had Jo train in Vitalstim but to also have walked this journey with Harvey from day dot. It’s just as huge a moment for her and speaks to her incredible dedication and commitment to our family and Harvey’s unique case. We’d be lost without her!” 

As our first VitalStim client, Harvey is experiencing lots of ‘firsts’ – first time eating with friends at daycare, first time going to a restaurant and having pancakes, and even his first ever visit to Maccas! 

Over time, repeated therapy will build new neural pathways meaning Harvey will be able to swallow safely even while not using the device.  

VitalStim is available through our Wollongong therapy centre, which provides supports and services in the Illawarra, Shellharbour and southern coast. Head here to find out more about CPA Wollongong.  

At CPA we have matched the appropriate programs and services at every life stage. To find out more about the services and programs for each stage, view our Cerebral Palsy Treatment Guides.