Cerebral Palsy Doesn’t Keep Young Girl From Water Skiing

waterskiingAs the most common motor disability in childhood, it is no surprise there are children with cerebral palsy with all different interests. For one cerebral palsy patient, 23-year-old Effie Corriveau, almost nothing is as exciting as water skiing. She experienced her first water ski at the age of 16, thanks to the joint efforts of the Ottawa Children’s Treatment Centre and SkiAbility Ottawa in Canada. Effie and others like her are showing all children that cerebral palsy does not have to get in the way of having fun.

Cerebral Palsy and Recreational Activity

Cerebral palsy affects motor function in children. It is a group of neurological conditions that can cause physical and cognitive disabilities. The wide-ranging effects cerebral palsy can have on a child’s movement, balance, and functions can make children believe they can never experience things such as water skiing. A deeper understanding of cerebral palsy and technological advances, however, is changing the landscape of living with cerebral palsy.

Many different types of recreational activities can benefit children with cerebral palsy, including horseback riding and playing sports. Recreation can improve a child with cerebral palsy’s social skills, mental health, emotional stability, and physical fitness. It can exercise a child both physically and mentally, providing many of the same benefits as professional therapy. Sports and recreation are vital to a child’s muscle development and sense of self-worth. Unfortunately, it hasn’t always been easy for children with cerebral palsy to participate in these activities.

One Child’s Thrilling Experience on the Water

Thanks to establishments such as the Ottawa Children’s Treatment Centre (OCTC) and SkiAbility Ottawa, many children with cerebral palsy have been able to enjoy the same experiences as their non-disabled peers. One child made the news in 2011 when she was able to water ski for the very first time at age 16. Effie Corriveau was born with cerebral palsy, and had been receiving treatments and support from the OCTC her entire life. Effie’s mother, Tilly Corriveau, says she can’t imagine where Effie would be without the OCTC’s support.

One of the most invigorating experiences for children with cerebral palsy is possible through the OCTC and SkiAbility Ottawa’s innovation, allowing children with the condition to water ski. The not-for-profit SkiAbility program uses advanced adaptive technology to help disabled people balance and hold onto the water-skiing rope. SkiAbility equipped its water skis with small cages for safe sitting, and shoulder harnesses to help square the shoulders and improve balance. The company uses other equipment and technology to help disabled children water ski as well.

Mrs. Corriveau says Effie has gained a lot of confidence through the OCTC, and is always enthusiastic to try anything new through the leisure services. Effie isn’t the type to turn down a challenge. When the chance to water ski arose, 16-year-old Effie jumped on the opportunity. She wasn’t the only one – Alex Marta (15) also skied that day. Alex, another cerebral palsy patient, had been water skiing through the OCTC for three years. Celina Salamani (15) also water skis through the program, after a virus affected the nerves in her legs.

SkiAbility helped ensure Effie’s success by equipping boats with ski booms to optimize learning. Participants can choose from sit-skiing, standing up, wakeboarding, or going barefoot. Effie chose stand-up skiing, and glided across the water with a big smile on her face. She then swam ashore with help from instructor Chris Holden, to applause and praise from waiting family and friends. Effie and others like her can enjoy the thrill and benefits of water skiing at any level of disability, thanks to the OCTC and SkiAbility.

About the Two Programs

The Ottawa Children’s Treatment Centre was established more than 60 years ago. The OCTC is a leading provider of specialized care for children with physical and developmental needs. It has around 4,000 clients in the Ottawa area, with multiple offices located throughout the city. The OCTC’s goal is to help children with special needs achieve their full potential, through a variety of services and events.

SkiAbility Ottawa began in 2003 as a local ad-hoc program. Its goal was to provide safe and fun learning experiences for everyone, regardless of disability or previous water-skiing experience. Today, it is a not-for-profit, volunteer-driven organization under the SkiAbility Canada program and Water Ski Canada. SkiAbility believes that age and disability are not limitations, but simply things that will change the way the individual engages in the sport. SkiAbility adapts the equipment to the skier, not the skier to the equipment.

More Stories Like Effie’s

Effie Corriveau is one of many children who are overcoming the challenges of cerebral palsy and enjoying exhilarating activities thanks to adaptive and assistive technologies. Children with cerebral palsy can become painters, golfers, comedians, and more. Today, Effie still enjoys water skiing and engaging in many other sports around Ottawa. She doesn’t let her disability limit what she can do. Through the OCTC, SkiAbility, and other organizations, Effie and other children with cerebral palsy can enjoy many different recreational activity experiences.