The Cerebral Palsy Education Centre (CPEC) runs programs for children under the age of six with Cerebral Palsy (and like conditions). Early intervention is a high priority because developmentally, this is the most critical time of brain development and maturation and the vast proportion of learning occurs in the first five years of life. Appropriate and adequate intervention during the early years capitalises on the plasticity of brain development with greater functional outcomes.
CPEC also plays a very important role for the families as they learn about their child's disability. The grief this brings and the implications of it, means that intervention and support are essential for all family members to be able to function as a unit within their own style. CPEC helps children and their families (all programs require the attendance of family members) set the ongoing pattern of belief about themselves. This could either mean that they will see themselves as active, learning, interactive people who have a valued part to play in society (functioning with a disability), or they will see themselves as a person with a handicap, unable to participate in or contribute to society. Early intervention minimises the identified, negative consequences of a physical and/or multiple disability for children and their families.
In the longer term, especially when there has been little or no early intervention, these children may need 24 hour care as immobile adults or there are the associated problems with learned helplessness or co-dependency. Even a small gain from early intervention can have major functional significance, for example momentarily taking weight through the feet opens a whole range of independent options in dressing, toileting, moving from one position to another actively. The child, or adult, may only need minimal assistance rather than lifting.
The CPEC programs enable families and children to develop the knowledge, skills and confidence they need to be fully included in their community. The specialist environment supports the families' access to a range of community activities. All children of kindergarten age are supported to attend their local preschool in addition to the specialist service to maximise their opportunities for active participation and inclusion.
CPEC also plays an important role as a source of information. When a child is diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy (or a like condition), the family often has limited pre-existing knowledge about the disability, and needs information specific to their child's type of disability. Specialist group programs, such as those offered by CPEC, provide helpful information. A further benefit for families is the regular contact with other families raising children with the same type of disability.