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Professorial Chair: Associate Professor Catherine Elliot

Thanks to the support of our generous donors, Perth Children’s Hospital Foundation is able to employ specialists as part of the Professorial Chair program at Perth Children’s Hospital.

The program helps bring experienced health professionals to Perth who can treat patients, teach the next generation of specialists and lead clinical research projects. One of the Foundation supported Professorial Chairs is Associate Professor Catherine Elliot who is bringing her knowledge and experience to the Chair of Allied Health.

Professor Elliott aims to improve the health and wellbeing of children through research, evidence-informed practice, knowledge translation and implementation in the area of Allied Health – which broadly includes physiotherapy, dietetics, occupational therapy, social work and speech therapy.

“My role is to bridge the gap between research and clinical practice in order to ensure we’re translating knowledge and using the most-up-to-date research findings in practice when treating children here in WA,” Professor Elliott explains.

One of the studies that Professor Elliott is involved in is looking at sensory re-education in children with cerebral palsy.

“Many children with cerebral palsy have trouble with the different types of sensations in their hands. For example touch, identifying objects without vision and the position of their hand,” she says.

“This makes it difficult to perform functional upper limb tasks, like writing or doing your hair. So this study is looking at helping to improve sensation amongst children with cerebral palsy through very specific therapy called goal directed sensory re-education.”

So far 10 children aged five to 15 years old have been involved with the trial, which is producing positive outcomes. The next stage of the trial will use Functional MRI’s to examine the children’s brain function during sensory tasks, to see if their brains are changing through the therapy.

Supporting children like Ruby

One child who has been a part of the trial and will hopefully see the benefits of Professor Elliott’s research is six year old Ruby, pictured with Professor Elliott above. Born prematurely at 27 weeks, Ruby was referred to Perth Children’s Hospital (formerly PMH) when she was three months old where she was diagnosed with cerebral palsy.

For Ruby’s parents, Naila and Leo, the early years of Ruby’s life were the most challenging.

“For the first few years of Ruby’s life, all we could do was continue with physiotherapy and wait and see what milestones Ruby would reach,” explains Naila.

“Only time would tell the severity of Ruby’s cerebral palsy. We just had to monitor her development and abilities to see where she would sit on the Gross Motor Function Classification System (which classifies the severity of a child’s cerebral palsy).”

Ruby frequently visits Perth Children’s Hospital for botox treatment, speech therapy, OT and physiotherapy to manage and improve her condition. Luckily Ruby is a very bright and outgoing six year old, who thrives on the challenge of her therapy. She loves meeting new friends and visiting her therapists and doctors during her many visits to PMH.

Pictured above: Professor Catherine Elliott with Perth Children’s Hospital patient, Ruby.

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