A 12-year-old Nova Scotia girl has brought an international scoliosis peer support group to the Maritimes.

Scoliosis is a sideways curve of the spine that occurs most frequently during the growth spurt just before puberty. Cases can range from mild to serious, with some requiring surgery.

Jessica Moores, 12, was diagnosed with idiopathic scoliosis in 2012. Within thirteen months, she had undergone a full spinal fusion.

Following the surgery, she started the Atlantic chapter of the support group Curvy Girls in January.

“My doctor suggested it to us because he thought that since my family and I had such a hard time with ours that we should start a group,” says Jessica.

“He told us all about it and said ‘Jessica, I really believe you would be a person who would do well bringing this to Atlantic Canada,’” says Jessica’s mother Sherri.

One of the Curvy Girls' missions is to reduce the emotional impact of scoliosis. Sheri says, seven months after surgery, that remains the biggest struggle.

“She can't be outside doing what all the other kids are doing,” says Sherri. “Where she wants to be on a trampoline, well she can't jump on a trampoline, you know, she can't go back into horseback riding yet. So those are the challenges we deal with now.”

Sophie Collins and Lahna Mestdagh are also members of Curvy Girls.

Twelve-year-old Sophie Collins had surgery two weeks ago. She says hearing about Jessica’s experience helped her prepare.

“It was easier, like I wasn't like as scared because, like, I knew what was going to happen,” says Sophie.

Lahna was diagnosed with scoliosis when she was three. Now eight years old, she wears a brace to help correct her curve. Her mom, Lisa says the parents also benefit from the group meetings.

“We come here and we share our stories and the kids are downstairs playing and it's good to hear that there are other kids out there,” says Lisa. “I'm glad they got the group together so we can chat and hear different experiences.”

Jessica acts as group leader, taking charge of the discussion.

“It starts out as an easy talk like, 'what's been going on at school? How are you at home?' But then we go in like, ‘how's your brace? How's your back? Are you excited or scared for surgery?’”

While her focus is helping others, the group has made big difference in her life.

“I think it's more important for them because they would have someone to talk to and then again, I would have someone to talk to, so it's kind of nice,” says Jessica.

“She's seeing now, when she goes to the clinics, that her posters are up at the clinics for raising awareness on this and truly helping the other kids. It's fantastic how she has come around with it,” says Sherri.

Scoliosis can also be difficult for siblings of those living with the condition. Jessica’s nine-year-old sister Paige has also started a sibling group within the Curvy Girls.