Huge step for regional children

HOPE: Archie Sims walks and runs independently in his custom-fit walker and can now access specialised physiotherapy in Australia's first regional service. Picture: Kate Healy

HOPE: Archie Sims walks and runs independently in his custom-fit walker and can now access specialised physiotherapy in Australia's first regional service. Picture: Kate Healy

SIX-year-old Archie Sims would love to turn corners and walk about school with his friends.

He is gradually building up leg strength to walk upright and now has hope to get turning sooner.

Disability advocate Scope will launch the first mobile specialised physiotherapy for rural children this week in Ballarat. GoKids Mobility Van Service will travel to families to work with regional Victorian children who have profound, complex physical disabilities.

Archie, who has cerebral palsy affecting his lower body mobility, would have to travel to Melbourne each time he had a growth spurt for adjustments to his equipment. This would mean a whole day off school, and a day off work for his mum Anna, to keep him walking.

Ms Sim said it had been logistically tough and check-ups closer to home would make a massive difference.

“As a parent, you always want to do what’s best for your child. And what was best for Archie was to go to a specialised physiotherapy service that understood and could assist with the complexity of his disability, even if that meant making a three-hour drive,” said Anna.

“Families that may have never been able to drive up can now access the same services Archie did.”

While Archie uses a wheelchair and a mobile stander at school, the past 10 months he has been using his new Hart Walker about home. The walker has more than 1000 moving parts and allows him to move independently, hands free.

Ms Sims said traditional walkers, needing hands for control, would become a game for Archie who would lift and jump his legs. 

The Hart Walker allows him to run, walk, play and stand upright.

At the moment, Archie can use the Hart Walker for about 40 minutes before he tires. Ms Sims hoped easier access to his specialised physiotherapy would help Archie be able to get out and use his Hart Walker more.

“For Archie to walk around with his peers would be phenomenal,” Ms Sims said. “We turn automatically, without really thinking, but Archie has to make his brain shift his legs to turn. But, the Hart Walker means he is able to build up strength and stand upright.”

COMPETITIVE: Archie Sims (right) loves a chance to run against his brother Jake in speedy corridor showdowns now he is growing stronger in his specialised, custom-fit walker. Picture: Kate Healy

COMPETITIVE: Archie Sims (right) loves a chance to run against his brother Jake in speedy corridor showdowns now he is growing stronger in his specialised, custom-fit walker. Picture: Kate Healy

Archie loves to now race his older brother Jake, aged seven, in the corridor – Archie in his walker and Jake on a scooter. Most of the time, it is a close finish.

In the Hart Walker, Archie hands are also free to do one of his favourite hobbies, baking. He can cook up a storm with his mixmaster.

Archie showed The Courier how he could also walk and play with his fidget spinner at the same time.

Scope’s specialised physiotherapists will support regional families through initial consultations for mobility devices, ongoing reports, equipment implementation and after-care.

Scope chief executive officer Jennifer Fitzgerald said previous limited services had meant many regional parents opted our of essential fittings and physiotherapy.

The GoKids mobile service will the the first in Australian to provide specialised physiotherapy for regional and rural children.

Scope will launch the service for regional children at Ballarat South Community Hub, Sebastopol, on Thursday from 11am.