Determined not to be defined by a disability

When Lachie was told he couldn't take part in a primary school swimming carnival because he wasn't able to swim 50 metres, he handled it like every other challenge he's come up against. With a determination not to allow his disability to hold him back.

Twelve months later Lachie was racing alongside his school peers and a year after that made a state swimming team. He is now a multi-class national swimming champion, swimming backstroke and butterfly with one arm.

The 16-year-old, who has cerebral palsy, has a lot to teach the world about resilience and plans to do this in his 'own unique way.' 

The aspiring primary school teacher has limited movement and coordination on the left side of his body affecting his leg, arm and torso. Walking is difficult but he doesn't require assistance.  

Lachie, who also has epilepsy, sees a paediatrician, occupational therapist and physio at The Royal Children's Hospital and will shortly have foot reconstruction surgery.

At a time when Lachie is also transitioning to adult care, a new research project led by the Murdoch Children's Research Institute (MCRI) has been created that will address the health care and service needs of adolescents and young adults with cerebral palsy.

CP Achieve aims to better understand how common physical and mental health problems are, learn how those health problems impact participation in the community, understand the long-term outcomes of some childhood treatments like surgery, how to deliver more supportive therapy and ways for children to better transition to adult health care.

Lachie said he was excited to see how the project would progress as it would make a huge difference to making sure those with cerebral palsy receive the best health care throughout their lives and not just in childhood.

 "I know many of the researchers at MCRI who are working towards finding treatments for cerebral palsy but it's also great to hear this project will also create new guidelines and practices," he said.

"Transitioning to adult care has been a smooth process so far with a lot of support but I know others won't necessarily have that same experience. I'm glad to know other kids my age will get the support they need because of this project."

Mum Julie Sayer said the project would also raise more awareness around cerebral palsy, which was a lot more common than people realised.

Cerebral palsy is the most common physical disability in childhood. In Australia, there are about 700 new cases each year and 34,000 people have cerebral palsy.

Ms Sayer said when she was told of Lachie's diagnosis, when he was nine months old, she worried about what the future might hold for him.

"I just had this doom and gloom position but 16 years on nothing could be further from the truth. Lachie is a very healthy, robust teenager," he said.

 "There are things I still worry about. How will he get a job and hold a licence but he says to me we will work it out and find a way.

"He has always been able to adapt and modify things so he wouldn't be held back. He is a phenomenal person."

Lachie, who also has a passion for martial arts and gym workouts with friends, said he doesn't let his disability define him.

 "If you can find determination and courage within yourself you can achieve anything, no matter what life throws at you," he said.