Boy at swimming pool wearing a black swim top and goggles with other kids in the background

Meet Will – taking the plunge with his never-give-up attitude

There was nothing out of the ordinary about Will’s birth, he was late to walk, and when he finally did get up on his feet he was walking on his toes. After a full assessment, Will was diagnosed with diplegic cerebral palsy, mostly effecting the right side of his body.  

Now 9 years old, Will is thriving and working on his goals with physiotherapist Jemma Ballinger and occupational therapist Kelly Kong at CPA in Prairiewood. He also attends the Healthy Kids sessions fortnightly, run by Jemma.  

boy sitting in a gym holding a football

Will completes an exercise circuit focusing on improving balance, coordination, strength and fitness, followed by some sports skills and game practice to finish the session which the kids get to pick – the top picks lately have been soccer, cricket, basketball and t-ball. Will participates in this group with other peers his age who also have CP, so they can all work together in a fun group environment,” commented Jemma. 

Will’s mum, JV commented “I love the fact that all the therapists at CPA are so professional, and caring. Everything we need is in the one place. Will’s CPA therapists are committed to working together, but also to working with his teachers and other allied health professionals to help address his complex needs.” 

The focus is really on life skills so Will can participate in social activities, make friends and get the most out of life. His team of supporters are working on getting him to develop skills to control his emotional responses. They want him to be able to recognise when things are getting too much for him, so he can walk away from a situation which might be triggering and find ways to calm down.  

“Swimming is a key goal, because it’s a physical skill which will unlock all kinds of other water sports, like kayaking, and surfing, boating and fishing. And he absolutely loves swimming which helps enormously with his motivation, said Will’s mum, JV.

The whole family join in doing Will’s physiotherapy exercises every morning; stretches like touching his toes every morning to help his flexibility, and practising the pattern of strokes he needs to use in the pool. They’ve converted different parts of the house into a mini physio studio to make his exercises fun.  

His mum commented that the extra work he does at CPA helps him keep up with the other kids at school, and means he participates in soccer games at lunchtime and plays with the other kids. He still has to work harder than any of his school buddies just to keep up, but he’s got a great never give up attitude that really helps. And, his current obsession is soccer!  

kids climbing a tree

Physically his walking has improved enormously, to the point where he walks with flat feet even without the AFO (ankle foot orthosis). This also means he can run, kick a ball and play sport with the other kids at school, which is great for his sense of wellbeing. Mum commented that the CPA sports programs give him a chance to enjoy activities without having to compete with more able-bodied kids, and he gets to win and be recognised for the effort he puts in.  

Because of his CP, it doesn’t matter how hard he tries in school-based sport… he’s almost always the last over the finish line, or the most likely to fall over when kicking a ball. His school buddies are lovely and they really encourage him, but you can tell it’s tough on him to keep positive when the other kids seem to get a better result for less effort,” commented JV. 

With his fine motor skills, Will’s goals are using a knife and fork, and writing. Although he can hold a pencil, and can use a knife and fork, this kind of activity takes a lot of energy and focus, so he needs to keep practicing.  His emotional regulation and fine motor skills are a work in progress, but as mum, JV commented,  

We’re getting there. It’s a juggle, but it’s worth it to see him getting on top of his challenges and blossoming into a wonderful young man.” 

He loves LEGO, trying to solve the Rubik’s Cube and anything to do with spies and code breaking. Mum, JV commented on her hopes and dreams for Will.  

I really want him to have agency, to be able to make choices for himself, and to have the opportunity to experience all kinds of different activities. I want him to be proud of the effort he puts in, and to have a strong growth mindset, so that he doesn’t feel that cerebral palsy is a limitation. I want him to understand and be proud of his own superpowers in overcoming his challenges, and to have a real chance at happiness.” 


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