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On track to better health

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Teens with a disability can slip on their joggers and race towards better health and wellbeing after the launch of a unique program in the Hunter Region.

The 12-week Run for Life initiative involves an individual assessment by a physiotherapist, including a video analysis of the participant’s running style, to strengthen their body and boost movement skills and mental stamina.

Run for Life is a partnership between the Cerebral Palsy Alliance and the nib foundation, which funded the program.

Sessions are available once a week for 13-to-18-year-olds in Newcastle, East Maitland and Tuggerah.

Cerebral Palsy Alliance Therapy Manager, Sue Cook, says the program aims to improve young people’s quality of life.

“Children with disabilities are nine times more likely to report cardiovascular disease and diabetes due to common symptoms such as chronic pain, as well as physical limitations like walking and talking, which can impact the amount of activity they can do,” Mrs Cook says.

“Run Squad, as the kids like to call it because they like the idea of being part of a ‘squad’, aims to improve these statistics by helping young teens to develop gross motor skills that will help them get to the point where they can participate in school activities and build social connections at the same time.”

Newcastle mum Symone Cunningham says the program has already been of benefit to her son, Joel, as well as her daughter, Maddie, who gets to join in with him.

“I find, in Joel’s case, it’s developed his running technique and also strengthened his abilities,” she says.

“He is already limited in what he can do, so this squad has helped to break down the barriers a little bit.

“It is a really positive environment for him to achieve anything; it’s not a competition and is very empowering.
“For Maddie, she gets to be a part of his progress and development as well, she’s not just sitting in the shadows, so that makes her feel important too.

“The Cerebral Palsy Alliance, as a not-for-profit, relies on the community’s support, so for them to give that back to the kids is really important and we appreciate it as parents.”

The Cerebral Palsy Alliance operates from 112 sites throughout metropolitan, regional and rural NSW and the ACT.

Families who want to get involved in the program can email [email protected] or contact the Cerebral Palsy Alliance on 4979 4333.

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