Meet some of our children...
Joshua, Age 7
Seven-year-old Joshua has been attending Stick ‘n’ Step in Wallasey for just over 4 years and Mum Unah recently acknowledged the huge difference that this has made to Joshua’s life as well as to the lives of their whole family.
Unah first heard about the charity from a friend whose son was attending regular Conductive Education sessions at the centre, and after bringing Joshua for his initial assessment she said that she didn’t really know what to expect, however, she hoped that the programme would help her son to get around a bit better.
Joshua was born prematurely at 28 weeks and over the first 12 or 18 months Unah noticed that he wasn’t doing all the same things that his older brother and sister had been doing, but she felt that this was probably just due to his premature birth. It was in 2014 at the age of two and a half that Joshua was diagnosed with cerebral palsy.
Unah is really happy with the progress that Joshua has made so far and told staff recently that he had definitely become more independent and that his confidence has really improved since coming to Stick ‘n’ Step. She added “He used to be scared to do any climbing but now he will do that without any hesitation which is great. He moves around the house far more independently holding on to things, and from a sitting position he will now just get up on his own without being asked. It was brilliant when I saw him take his first independent steps down the corridor. I felt so proud of him”.
Heidi, Age 11
Eleven-year-old Heidi from Runcorn has been attending Stick ‘n’ Step for almost 8 years. Heidi, who was born 14 weeks prematurely, was diagnosed with cerebral palsy after her 2-year assessment at which point she was still not able to sit up on her own. Mum Kirsty was told about Stick ‘n’ Step from a doctor at the Liverpool Women’s hospital after her assessment.
After the initial diagnosis, Kirsty admitted that looking back now, she was probably in denial to a degree about the likelihood of Heidi being able to walk. She said, “I kept telling myself she would catch up, that it was just a delay in her development due to having been born so prematurely, but my husband Hayden was probably more realistic about the situation and he focused on getting Heidi the help she needed”.
Kirsty said “Heidi loves coming to her weekly sessions because she really benefits from the exercises and activity based tasks which are part of her Conductive Education programme, and it is also an opportunity for her to spend an afternoon out of her wheelchair, which she really benefits from. She also enjoys the social aspect of meeting up with the friends that she has made over the last six years. They have formed a very strong bond and it is lovely to see the way they encourage each other in the classroom.”
Harley, Age 14
Fourteen-year-old Harley lives in North Wales and has been attending Stick ‘n’ Step for almost 10 years. He was diagnosed with cerebral palsy aged 11 months after his parents, Jonny and Christina realised he was struggling to crawl due to his fist being clenched most of the time. Jonny said “Harley was referred for an MRI scan after we had expressed our initial concerns and it really was a huge bombshell when we were given the news. I think the consultant gave us the worst possible scenario which included telling us that Harley’s growth and social skills might be affected due to his type of cerebral palsy, schizencephaly. Thankfully neither of those predictions have come to fruition”.
Harley was having physiotherapy at Rhuddlan Children’s centre when his parents first heard about Stick ‘n’ Step and after making some enquiries about the charity and about Conductive Education (CE) generally, they took Harley to the Wallasey centre for an initial assessment when he was 6 years old. At this point Harley was unable to sit up unaided and when asked what his initial expectations were from the CE programme Jonny said “I just hoped we would be able to get some further help towards strengthening Harley’s muscles so that one day he might be able to become more mobile."
Harley has the most amazing and infectious smile ever and other achievements have included him learning to take his own socks and his top off, simple tasks that most people take for granted, but which were huge things for Harley to learn. When he first managed to stand up from a sitting position, the classroom team clearly remembers his beaming smile! He is always such a happy boy, but is even happier when he has achieved another one of his goals.
Olivia, Age 20
“Stick ‘n’ Step are like my second family” - that’s what 20-year-old Olivia from Wallasey said recently about Stick ‘n’ Step, the charity which has supported her for more than 16 years. Olivia was born prematurely and spent the first 9 weeks in hospital in an incubator, needing oxygen and being tube fed. Following a hospital review visit, Olivia was diagnosed at 8 months old with spastic diplegia, a form of cerebral palsy.
Olivia was just four years old when she started attending Stick ‘n’ Step and when asked what she remembers about her first few weeks at the centre she said “I was very shy as a young child so I remember feeling quite intimidated when I first came. I didn’t properly understand why I was coming, but that feeling was only short-lived as I soon got to know all the staff and the other children in my group. It is a very friendly, welcoming place where I felt comfortable and safe, and I soon started really looking forward to coming to my regular sessions. Although I was initially reluctant to attend the Summer activity camp, when I got there, I loved it! Being able to be independent and getting to try out things like rock climbing that I had never done before, was just brilliant. I enjoy any activity that gets my adrenaline going!”
Although Olivia is now in her second year at Leeds University studying Linguistics and Phonetics, she still comes back to Stick ‘n’ Step for her Saturday morning session whenever she can. “She added “When I come back after I have missed a few weeks, I feel so much stiffer, and I really benefit from the stretching and other activity tasks which help improve my mobility. Also, it’s great to be able to catch up with the classroom staff and the other girls in the group!”
I will never be able to thank Stick ‘n’ Step enough… They have been incredibly supportive over many years and have helped to shape the person I have become.