Helping children and youth to achieve a Life Without Limits is an integral part of Diane Wickenheiser’s life. As a result, she has joined the Cerebral Palsy Association of BC and currently serves on the Advisory Committee as a member. She advises on issues related to cerebral palsy, helps provide advice in regards to the Association’s events and the overall direction of the organization.
Diane was a university student volunteering at BC Children’s Hospital when she first witnessed the amazing work being done to better the lives of children. She loved seeing children smile and instantly knew that she wanted to be a part of this rewarding work.
Diane has now been an acute care physiotherapist for 23 years at BC Children’s Hospital and is involved with child rehabilitation at Sunny Hill Health Centre for Children. She has also been involved with various research studies designed to support positive life outcomes for children and youth living with disabilities. In addition, she has helped create opportunities for children with disabilities living in other countries to reach their full potential, and has mentored students training to become health care professionals. When Diane is not busy with work, she enjoys adventuring in the outdoors.
There are 10,000 people living with cerebral palsy in British Columbia and the condition affects each individual differently. It is estimated that over one in five hundred babies are born with CP. Cerebral palsy impacts the ability to move in a coordinated and purposeful manner. CP can affect breathing, bladder and bowel control, speech and eating. CP is not hereditary or contagious, but is a life-long condition. Depending on the person, communicating and participating in daily activities such as school, work and recreational opportunities may be challenging.
The need for improved access
Diane believes that attitudes surrounding disabilities are positively changing; however, more education, awareness and understanding in the community still needs to occur. There is a large need for improved access to education, transportation, work opportunities and recreational activities for people with disabilities. It is essential to create adapted programs that provide children and young adults with the same opportunities to be as active as their able-bodied peers.
By participating in adapted programs such as CPABC’s Dance Without Limits or Yoga for youth, Diane believes that children with special needs will learn how to communicate and express themselves with people of all abilities, reach their full potential and have fun at the same time! “This can help with creating an environment where people with disabilities, like their able bodied peers, are limited only by their own level of commitment and desire,” Diane says. “In my role as a health care professional, it is my duty to empower people with disabilities, by providing opportunities for improved mobility, self-esteem and confidence to persevere and reach their full potential.”
An integral voice
Despite the difficulties associated with CP, Diane enjoys seeing the progress that children with disabilities are able to make. She feels a great sense of satisfaction knowing that children and their families are able to achieve their goals, gain confidence in their abilities and participate in enjoyable activities.
“The programs at the CP Association are important because they are inclusive for children of all abilities; they teach acceptance and perseverance, they offer opportunities for new learning and growth; and most of all they are fun.”
Diane has seen improvements in terms of accessibility to facilities, sidewalks and the workplace over the last two decades in Vancouver and across Canada. Recreational and sports opportunities have made an effort to include programs for people with disabilities and some include a mixture of disabled and able-bodied participants. She believes that athletes with disabilities now receive higher funding and are more widely-recognized for their achievements. As well, schools continue to work towards appropriate models for inclusion. She believes that a continued effort is needed to help integrate, educate, and motivate society and the government in accepting and supporting people with disabilities.
Diane’s voice is integral to the CPABC Advisory Committee, helping to inform and advise the Association on programs and activities. To add your voice, contact us and inquire about joining the Committee.
Learn more about the Advisory Committee