Cerebal palsy research sizzles at Hot Topics Forum

18 Dec 2017

A ground breaking research line-up attracted more than 120 researchers, families and clinicians from all over Australia and New Zealand to the inaugural Hot Topics in CP Research Forum hosted at The University of Queensland in November.

Local and international speakers kept the audience enthralled across a packed two day program that showcased the work being done to improve early diagnosis and intervention for children with, or at risk of, cerebral palsy.

Organiser, Professor Roslyn Boyd, said the forum was an initiative of the Australasian Cerebral Palsy Clinical Trials Network Centre for Research Excellence (AusCP- CTN CRE), a national network dedicated to improving outcomes for children with cerebral palsy.

Professor Boyd is one of ten leading Australian researchers to be leading the Centre.

“The forum was highly successful and highlighted the need for more information sharing about the incredible progress being made in identifying cerebral palsy at an early age to pave the way for early intervention,” Professor Boyd said.

“Topics spanned everything from identifying children at risk via general movements and standardised clinical neurological examinations using the Hammersmith Infant Neurological assessment (HINE), through to early prediction of stroke, new approaches to enhancing participation, muscle development, engaging families, and the epidemiology of CP in Australasia.”

The event featured international experts from the General Movements Trust - Associate Professor Andrea Guzzetta; a lead author of the HINE - Professor Leena Haatja; and a national expert on Childhood stroke - Associate Professor Mark Mackay. One highlight in the varied program was a non-research perspective from guest speaker, Mr Richard Ellenson, father of a 20 year old youth with cerebral palsy and CEO of the Cerebral Palsy Foundation in New York.

Mr Richard Ellenson, CEO Cerebral Palsy Foundation, New York

Mr Ellenson is a passionate advocate for children with disabilities and was behind the development of a range of assistive technologies and a purpose-built Cerebral Palsy Channel (APP) aimed at families that features videos from disability advocates and world experts on cerebral palsy.

He said the Hot Topics Forum was a fantastic opportunity for researchers to share the latest research with people from across the community.

“I was honoured to share my experiences - both as a parent of a child with CP and CEO of the Cerebral Palsy Foundation - with a room of researchers and clinicians at the cutting edge of cerebral palsy research,” Mr Ellenson said.

“The Cerebral Palsy Foundation seeks out the best thinkers in an area and forms collaborative networks to bring about transformation in the lives of people with CP.

“The AusCP- CTN CRE is certainly one of the exciting networks with whom we are very excited to collaborate”.

“Given progress already made, and the research we heard over the two day Hot Topics forum, it is certain the future will be much brighter for children with, or at risk of, cerebral palsy.

“In medicine and science, we so often look for cures – and that’s of course important – but there is so much that can be done today if we focus on getting information out there. As we look to the amazing futures on the horizon, it’s important that we never lift our gaze so high that we miss the amazing answers right before us."