The parents of a toddler who needs specialist equipment to help him learn and grow are continuing to fundraise to help give him a “comfortable and normal life”.

Ralph Ellard, known as Ralphie, was born nine weeks premature and, as a result, suffered many complications following his birth.

Having suffered severe brain damage, he was later diagnosed with cerebral palsy. It affects his whole body, meaning he needs specialist equipment.

Ralphie’s parents Sian and Dominic, from Weymouth, regularly need to fundraise to provide Ralphie, who is now aged 20 months, with the equipment he needs.

Last year, the couple to turned to the public for help to raise £4,500 for a specialist Stingray pushchair. Now, with the help of charity Just 4 Children, they are aiming to raise £5,000 for a a specialist cot.

Sian said: “Ralphie has outgrown his cot. The one he needs now is bigger than a normal cot but not as big as a bed. He’s constantly growing and he’s also becoming more independent.

“He’s going to need a wheelchair that he can use himself and sensory equipment. There’s always something. For now, our aim is to get him the cot, but anything that is left over will go towards more equipment. We’re hoping to get adaptations on the house and, hopefully, life will become a bit easier.”

Cerebral palsy is caused by a problem with the brain that occurs before, during or soon after birth and there is a higher risk of premature babies - born 37 weeks or earlier - developing the condition.

Ralphie was delivered at 31 weeks and spent six weeks at Dorset County Hospital’s Special Care Baby Unit. During that time, he suffered multiple bleeds and a blood clot in his brain. He also suffered a pneumothorax needing a chest drain and was ventilated for 48 hours.

But Ralphie fought through and overcame the odds against him. As a result of the injuries, Ralphie sustained substantial brain damage, called periventricular leukomalacia, and as a direct result was diagnosed with spastic quadriplegia, a severe form of cerebral palsy.

He is unable to crawl, sit or walk unaided and his sight and hearing are affected. He is also fed using a feeding tube.

Sian and Dominic - who also have two other boys Charlie, eight, and six-year-old Freddie - have to fundraise regularly for equipment for Ralphie.

“Until you go through it yourself, you can’t imagine how difficult and how expensive it is,” said Sian. “Not a lot of specialist equipment is available on the NHS. Most people only have to spend £30 on a pushchair but we have to pay £3,500. It was the biggest shock, and you don’t often about other families struggling, but I don’t know how other families cope.”

Although Ralphie is often in pain, for which he has medication, Sian says that despite his problems, he is a “cheeky and happy” little boy. “He is a typical two-year-old,” said Sian.

“He knows what he wants and he loves playing with his brothers. He’s learning to talk and sign language. His brothers love him and are very protective of him. They don’t treat him any differently.”

To donate, visit just4children. org/children-helped2017/raisingfor-ralphie