Be my leg to stand on

When Alex was six months old he was diagnosed with Prader-Willi syndrome, a rare genetic disorder that affects development and growth. Lacking muscle strength, he was unable to lift his head off the ground or play with toys.

His mother Diana took him to Noah's Ark, a disability services centre in Melbourne. It was there that Alex met Alice Hill, a paediatric physiotherapist.

Alice graduated from La Trobe University in 2005 with a Bachelor of Physiotherapy. Working with Alex and his family, she set goals for his development, focusing on muscle and core strength.

'When Alex and I first started working together he hadn't yet developed enough muscle strength to lift his head off the ground,' says Alice. 'Initially we focused on neck strength, then getting him to sit independently. When he achieved that milestone it was really exciting, and he was able to communicate with everyone around him.'

Be the difference - Alexander's story

'La Trobe students are educated to provide holistic care to patients,' says Alice. 'We're taught to look at the whole person… and tailor our intervention to meet their goals.'

Alice encouraged Alex's family to follow through with his treatment strategy and work together to achieve his goals.

Two and a half years later Alex can now stand independently and walk, something Diana always hoped for.

'Your hopes and dreams for your child is that they can achieve anything,' she says. 'You need to encourage them, but you can't push them. When he was small we had no idea what to do.  Alice has been an amazing help, she's made a huge difference to Alex's life.' 

For Alice, Alex's achievements are part of the reason why she loves her work. 

When you're a physiotherapist there's not a single day where you don't feel like you've achieved something,' she says. 'You always feel like you're helping people, and it's a rewarding career knowing you helped a family achieved their goals.

Alice now lectures in paedeatric physiotherapy at La Trobe, working to educate students about a holistic management approach to treating patients.

'It's great that students are taught to look at the whole person and work with them to establish their goals, not just treat the injury or condition,' says Alice.  'It's an important thing to empower a patient and help them achieve what they want to achieve.'

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