Ashton ‘AJ’ McPhee image
Ashton ‘AJ’ McPhee

Ashton ‘AJ’ McPhee, who was born with quadriplegic cerebral palsy, and his mum Kerry have shared their story of keeping spirits high through three national lockdowns as part of Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month.

The seven-year-old from Paisley, Scotland, was deemed highly vulnerable to COVID-19 due to his history of chronic lung disease since being born 23 weeks premature.

This meant Kerry and her partner were unable to work for over six months due to the nature of their jobs as frontline emergency workers for the Scottish Ambulance Service and Police Scotland.

They also stopped all support from external carers, who would usually help look after Ashton three times a week, to limit any chance of him contracting the virus.

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Kerry, 37, said: “I definitely think this lockdown has been harder on all of us this time round. I think many people thought we were over the worst of it so it’s been a huge setback – this coupled with winter and has made for a bit of a depressing time.

“We’ve done lots of sensory play, virtual music classes with friends with singing and dancing which has really lifted all of our spirits. We’ve also started doing an online morning group every weekday with Ashton’s best friends via Zoom.

“Every morning, Ashton and his friends sing the ‘Hello Song’, they use Makaton to sign good morning to each other, talk about the days of the week, the weather and how they are feeling. To finish, they then listen to a story and sing the ‘Goodbye Song’.”

Ashton uses the Multistander by Jenx, a bespoke three-in-one standing frame, in order to enjoy many of his daily activities. This has proved an ‘invaluable’ piece of equipment during lockdown.

Kerry added: “When Ashton went back to school after the first lockdown restrictions lifted, his physiotherapist told us how delighted she was that Ashton hadn’t developed any postural problems despite not having access to his usual physical therapy resources for so long.

“The Multistander has definitely played a huge role in this. Having this amazing piece of equipment at home means it has continued to play a big part in his daily physiotherapy.

“Standing allows him to view things from a different perspective and lets him get involved.  He can look out the window and watch the cars go by, he can stand at the fish tank to feed his goldfish, he can stand at the kitchen counter to help bake cakes.

“Realistically, without the Multistander, Ashton would have spent the best part of a year sitting.”

Richard Harvey, National Clinical Training Manager at Jiraffe, commented: “Children with cerebral palsy who have a high muscle tone may gain numerous health benefits from being part of a standing programme like Ashton. Regular stretching of the hamstrings within the hips and knees can have a really positive impact when it comes to maintaining good length in the muscles.

“Being able to stand will help to give Ashton another perspective to interact from which will have all sorts of benefits for his wellbeing, but evidence also shows that being in an upright weight-bearing position can improve bone mineral density and help with hip formation.”

Jiraffe launched in 2014 and is the UK distribution division of Jenx, a family-run company with headquarters in Sheffield established in 1982 by a paediatric physiotherapist and a product designer with the aim of enriching lives and changing perceptions about disability.

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