As I try to explain to people again and again, the spectrum for Cerebral Palsy and for disability is so broad. Each disability is different to the next, and each disability is different in its self. They affect children, young people and adults in different ways and to different degrees.
When I was four years old, my parents took me to an educational psychologist to asses my needs and to give their professional opinion on whether I should go to a mainstream school or a special school.
My parents spoke to various educational psychologists and were adamant that I should go through mainstream education with special adaptions to enable me to manage to get the most out of it. However the educational psychologists didn’t share their views.
They saw my disability and my physically state and gave their ‘professional’ opinion that I should be at a special school and see out my education there. A strong discussion went on for quite a long time, but my parents remained adamant that I was able to handle and I was capable to be in education at a mainstream rate. Hearing about this day made me very angry and it goes back to the theme of ‘stereotyping’ towards children and young people.
Children and young people who are in wheelchairs are seen often as incapable, dependent people, needing twenty-four hour care and supervision.
This is all about prejudice and lack of awareness and knowledge of different disabilities and the different scales. Disabilities in children and young people are different on paper to how they are seen in person and even then its hard for anyone to fully judge and be able to understand the abilities of that person and therefore make such an important decision.
In my case, the ongoing and strong debate continued and the way it was resolved was actually quite funny. The educational psychologist was about to submit papers stating that in his professional opinion I should go to a special school when I turned to my parents and told my dad that I needed to use the toilet.
Only when the educational psychologist heard me ask my dad to take me to the bathroom did they realise that my parents were right and I was capable of telling people what I wanted and when I wanted it. It was decided that I would be sent to mainstream education.
In my younger years, I spent an equal amount of time at a local special school as I did at my mainstream school. Though I was managing in mainstream school, I attended appointments and extra curriculum activities at the local special school as they had the facilities that my mainstream school did not.
The sport clubs and extra curriculum activities at the local special school has the different facilities catering for different disabilities, based on each in the spectrums to enable the participants to take part in the extra curriculum activities on offer. Also the members of staff are amazing as they are exactly aware of the different needs of the participants and how best to assist them in the activities.
Also by attending particular appointments at special schools, we were able to speak with different specialists who are well informed with what needs to be addressed within the appointment, including accurate answers and advice.
As I grew, though I still participated in sports adapted to my needs, I became more involved in mainstream education, concentrating on achieving the best results I could.
Though I was in a mainstream school, my parents were warned that I might not be able to achieve high as my disability may restrict me mentally.
In primary school I was always put in the lower groups in subjects, where we did simpler forms of tasks and excises set by the teachers, they made automatic assumptions about my abilities and what I’d be able to manage, they didn’t let me try first before assessing which group I was best suited to be in.
As I’ve mentioned before, I didn’t have a good secondary school experience and was put in a few of the lowest skill groups, assuming I needed more support and assuming that I wasn’t ready to study my GCSE’s, assuming I couldn’t keep up with fellow students if I was to put in the higher groups.
Just because I can’t always achieve to the same standards as others, doesn’t mean we can’t achieve at all. A obstacle that I faced within my GCSE’s that I had to try and overcome was the choices of the GSCE’s I wanted to study. One which caught my attention was Art. I really wanted to do an Art GCSE.
However some encouraged me not to complete Art at GCSE level, I was told I may not be able to achieve a high enough grade, because of my motor skills and my abilities in my hands. I was beyond irritated by this opinion as I enjoy art very much and love being creative and was very hurt to be told this and encouraged not to take it at GCSE level.
I already have small doubts in the back of mind without other people telling me to my face, making me feel deeply uncomfortable.
Though I was encouraged not too, I still chose and studied Art at GCSE level. I accepted that I wouldn’t get the highest grade, but the way I saw it is not all about the grades, it about doing what we enjoy. I don’t have the opportunity to express myself because my disability, as much as I don’t want to admit and it accept it has its restrictions.
Despite this, I was adamant that my Art GCSE was my chance of freedom of expression. I felt that I was able to express myself in a way my words couldn’t thought my art coursework. Through it was tough, I am able to carry the achievement and the pride in me ignoring opposing opinions against me completing art and I was able to do what I wanted to do.
A few teachers and TA’s were very supportive to me and helped me achieve the best I could, adapting the lessons and leaning methods in a way that I would understand back and apply to my own leaning style to apply it more effectively to my work.
Though people did doubt my abilities, I completed all of my GCSE’s and on receiving my GCSE results, I became a little smug to see I’d achieved six GCSES, showing that I can prove myself and prove those people who doubting me including people including the educational psychologists wrong.
Teachers were constantly requesting for my full attention and focus to be on my lessons and studies, only by doing this could I achieve the best results possible which would help shape my future.
On the other side of the table, my physio’s argued against this and said that there was nothing more important my physical welfare and it should always take priory. It has been such a continuous debate that has often become heated resulting in my mom, dad or myself being beyond anger or in tears from stress. It was always the same argument, studies or physio. Which is the most important?
Compared to my experience at secondary school, my experience at college was fantastic. I was able to achieve higher than I ever thought and ever dreamed. The support I received was brilliant and the friends I made were great. Our friendship groups were strong and I had so much fun at college. Within my two years, I did face some difficulties. Unfortunately, due to the exam board at my secondary school, marking my English paper down by one mark, I missed out on achieving a grade C in my English Language GCSE.
As it was the key requirement for my chosen course at college, I took up the challenge of retaking the English Language alongside my Level 3 Extended Diploma Creative Media Production course at college. I felt considerably apprehensive knowing I’d have to secure at least a C in English Language and achieve high in my Level 3 Extended Diploma Creative Media Production.
However, thanks to all my tutors on both courses and extra support from disability tutors, I was able to study my Level 3 Extended Diploma Creative Media Production course, but also able to retake my English language GCSE at the same time. I didn’t only pass both courses, but I exceeded all expectations.
Originally, I was predicted a triple merit in my Level 3 Extended Diploma Creative Media Production and a grade C in my English Language resit. At the end of the degree, I achieved a grade B in my English Language resit and triple distinction grade in my Level 3 Extended Diploma Creative Media Production.
Then there was my university experience at Southampton Solent University that I had completed. Though I suffered from a hard year at university and wasn’t sure whether I’d try a different university and complete a different course, I had to remind myself that I had still managed to pass everything and though my university experience didn’t go quite to plan I still finished year and had become wiser and stronger because of it.
Having this experience under my belt, I feel more prepared for the future whatever that may hold.
Outside my academic education I have also been able to achieve a lot more things that I didn’t think I would be able to because of my disability.
My highlights of my non-academic achievements was being able to volunteer for the local charity, Birmingham PHAB Camps, becoming a media ambassador for Bournville College as well as Birmingham PHAB Camps. I have wrote pieces and been able to have them published in local magazines.
Then of course I was asked and given the tremendous opportunity to attend an interview on BBC WM radio on behalf of one of Birmingham PHAB Camps.
I have been through a lot to this point, but instead of sitting on my own, wallowing in self pity, I try to concentrate and channel the fire inside of me correctly and effectively, looking towards the future whatever that may hold.