Dr Sian Williams
“It feels more like play than work.” This is how Sian Williams describes her job as a researcher at Curtin University, where she studies bio-mechanics , and cerebral palsy in children among a variety of other topics. From an active background, Sian’s sport of choice in high school was swimming and she still maintains an active healthy lifestyle. She cites her love of working with children and her desire to create an inclusive environment for children in sport as her source of inspiration. Being able to do the thing she loves for a living, Sian says hat the best thing about working in her area would be knowing that she is making a difference in the life of kids who may not have the same opportunities as others their age.
“It really comes down to the individual and the environment and the opportunities they are given.”
Sian’s main focus is working with children who have cerebral palsy, a condition resulting from a brain injury that affects how much control one has over their muscles. Many children with this condition experience muscle weakness and loss of vision among numerous other effects. There is no current cure for cerebral palsy, therefore, Sian’s research investigates early diagnosis of the disease in children, so that treatment can be administered earlier. “One of the tricky things, Sian states, “is that you could have multiple children diagnosed with the same condition, but could experience entirely different symptoms, and on a different scale of severity.”Not only are there different “levels” of severity, because children are constantly growing, their condition can also change as they get older. Currently, Sian is looking for ways to diagnose cerebral palsy as early as three months old, as opposed to 1 year.
There are several tools that can be used for early diagnosis, including an MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) which uses magnetic pulses to detect evidence of brain trauma. There are also several assessment tools such as the Hammersmith infant neurological examination that can be used for cerebral palsy diagnosis with a high amount of accuracy. One surprising result that Sian has found is that students who had a milder form of the condition, often noticed their disability more. “They can be put in schools and competitions where they don’t have the support that they need and therefore they find themselves drawing comparisons between themselves and others a lot more.” For Sian, it changed how she approaches cerebral palsy, “it really comes down to the individual and the environment and the opportunities they are given.”
Three potential problems
- How can we identify and remove barriers that prevent children with or without disability to participate in sport?
- How can we manage misinformation on cerebral palsy and promote awareness of programs that actually benefit the individual?
- How do we keep children with cerebral palsy engaged with their strengthening programs and therapy?
Problem Solving Tips and Tricks
- Write down the outcome you are hoping to achieve by solving the problem
- Brainstorm ideas with others and with lots of different people
- Make sure you have a clear goal in mind