Bubbly Shari?s a princess in anyone?s eyes


SHARI Durbidge is a typical bubbly 16-year-old who loves horses and really enjoys going to school.

But the Bellingen High School student has quadriplegic atheoid cerebral palsy, which confines her to a wheelchair ? not that she lets that get in the way.

"She's a really well adjusted, incredibly happy young lady with a wonderful sense of humour," mum Helen Durbidge said.

"If everyone in the world was like her, it would be a better place."

While caring for a child like Shari can put some serious pressure on a family, Mrs Durbidge believes it has shaped her other children, now aged 26, 17 and 15, to be better people.

"Trying to have normality in our life was always difficult," she said.

"Having someone in the family who requires so much of their parents' time meant our other children had to become independent early.

"As parents, you try to compensate, so you're the one who's often frazzled trying to be a normal family.

"But I think as a result, our children have become more understanding of other people's needs.

"She's a princess in their eyes. There is nothing they wouldn't do for Shari."

Being unable to communicate verbally is a huge frustration for Shari.

She can only answer closed questions that only require a yes or no answer, which she answers by either raising her hand for yes or turning her head for no.

"She's able to get her needs across," Mrs Durbidge said.

"She has different noises for different situations. We then ask her direct questions to confirm what she wants."

As Shari has grown, some activities, like going to the beach, have become more difficult but the Spastic Centre having recently established a branch in Coffs Harbour has made the Durbidge family's life slightly easier.

"When Shari was young it was easier, because we could carry her. But now she's older, it's more difficult to go to some places.

"We used to have to go to Sydney for things like therapy, but the distance made it very difficult," Mrs Durbidge said.

"It was a huge deal, we couldn't take the wheelchair on the plane, then we had to struggle on public transport."

The Spastic Centre provides services to assist families affected by cerebral palsy, including technology and equipment, therapy, respite, accommodation support, employment, and intensive family support.

"Having the Spastic Centre here, and have them come to our home, has been a huge help," Mrs Durbidge said.

On Thursday, August 18, the Coffs Harbour Spastic Centre team will celebrate National Cerebral Palsy Awareness Week and the centre's 60th anniversary with a display at the Palm Shop- ping Centre 10am to 3pm.

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