Disability Awareness with Brownies
When I was approached and asked if I would be willing to speak to a local Brownies group about Disabled But Still Able, living with a disability whilst having a positive attitude & this would enable the girls to work toward their “Disability Awareness Badge” I jumped at the chance…..
The date was February 7th 2013 and even though I was a little nervous about speaking in public for the first time I knew that this was an amazing opportunity for me to spread my message. I decided that instead of trying to fit my whole life story in to 60 minutes, I would focus a certain period of my life, my school years so that they could relate somewhat and maybe compare some of their own experiences with mine.Once I started talking I relaxed immediately the girls were so engaging, inquisitive and asked me some brilliant questions and as talk progressed they also started asking questions about other areas of my life.
Here are some of the questions the girls asked me….
How old were you when you had your first and last operation?
I had my first operation at three years old and my last one at fourteen years old.
Did staying in hospital scare you?
I’m not going to lie sometimes it did but my parents were with me all the time and I knew I was there so that the doctors could help me walk/stand better, whenever I got scared or was in pain from my surgeries I just thought of that and it got me through because I knew it wouldn’t be forever. Believe it or not as I got older each hospital stay got easier and I started to see the doctors and nurses as a second family.
What was your most painful operation like?
I had my major surgery at seven years old. This was a procedure called a Double Osteotomy where both of my hips were broken, my legs were twisted and my hip bones were then sewn back together using plates and screws. I will say that this procedure was by far the most distressing and painful procedure of all of my surgeries.
It was the intention that once I had undergone this surgery the plates would stay in my legs for life however, after a few months I started experiencing a lot of pain in my right leg to the point where I was unable to walk on my right leg because any kind of pressure caused me excruciating pain.
My parents took me back to the hospital and after further investigation it was discovered that the plate was rubbing against a nerve in my leg hence the pain and it was removed. The plate that was put in my left leg is still there to this day.
Did you ever use any special equipment?
Yes. I wore splints and special boots called Pierdo boots to keep my legs straight and feet flat on the floor otherwise I would walk with my legs bent and on my tip toes. I also used a forward walker for a period of time because even though I was walking my balance wasn’t there and it allowed me a little independence.
Did you ever use a wheelchair when at school?
Yes, I used a wheelchair for a few years so that I could get around just like my friends without getting knocked over by big crowds of people in school halls and the school playground.
Did you like using your wheelchair?
I didn’t mind using it because I knew it was there to help me but friends liked my wheelchair more than I did as they thought it was funny to push me around the playground at lightning speed. I have to admit I secretly enjoyed it!
Could you do P.E (Physical Education) at school?
I found some activities hard but I always took part in some way. My favourite piece of equipment was the trampoline because I was able to jump without the being scared of falling and getting too tired. The activity I found the hardest was running because I struggled to keep up with everyone else and I got tired easily. However, I always gave everything a go because I refused to let my disability stop me from doing the things my friends were doing.
Did you ever get bullied at school?
The first couple of years of high school was the worst for that, I used to get people staring, laughing and whispering and as much as I tried to pretend it didn’t bother me, some of the things some of my peers said did hurt my feelings. I started approaching those responsible and I explained that my disability was nothing to be afraid of and that I was just the same as anyone else.
Did you have a helper at school? (Learning Support Assistant)
Yes I did but they weren’t there to help me in class, they were there to help me move around school and the playground safely. This meant that I would sometimes leave class a few minutes early so that I wouldn’t struggle in the crowds once the bell rang.
What kind of things did you like to do when you were growing up?
Even though I spent a lot of time at home with my parents, I still liked doing the same thing as my friends, I liked going to the cinema, swimming, sleepovers. Having a disability did not stop any of that.
Does it hurt when you walk now?
Not all the time. I tend to experience the most pain when the weather is cold simply because the temperature can sometimes affect my bones and muscles; my legs are also stiff when I first wake up in the morning so it takes me a while to start moving at my normal speed.
Are you able to drive even though you are disabled?
Yes. I learnt to drive just like everyone else does but the only difference is I drive a car using hand controls and this means that I don’t use my feet or legs at all whilst driving. (You can imagine the confused look on the girl’s faces when I said that.)
I have a steering ball on the steering wheel and using push a pull hand controls to control that the speed I am travelling. I pull the lever to go, push it to break ad also have a little switch on top of the lever so that I can tell other drivers on the road when I am turning left or right.
To earn the Disability Awareness badge the girls were spoken to by someone who is blind, someone with hearing problems and I covered the mobility aspect. At the end of my session one of the Brownie leaders asked one simply question…….What have you all learnt over the last few weeks? One little girl raised her hand I said “I have learnt that it doesn’t matter what someone looks like on the outside, it is what’s on the inside that really matters”This response was echoed throughout the group.
Hearing that response I smiled and realised that I had achieved exactly what I set out to do. Along with two other amazing, outgoing individuals, I had given the children a better understanding of what can be achieved with the right attitude whether a person is disabled or not.
On February 7th 2013 I did my first talk re: Disabled But Still Able to a local Brownies group to help them work towards their ‘Disabled Awareness Badge’. It was such an honour & such a privilege to be asked. The children were amazing and asked so many questions! I am in the process of writing up the days events and I cannot wait to share them with you!
When Life Gives You Lemons….Make Lemonade
This post is from one of my old high school teachers; she heard about my blog/mission and I contacted her to ask if she could contribute in some way. As you know when I first started “Disabled But Still Able” I said that I was going to ask a few people from different areas of my life to write a little something about my disability from their perspective. So let me introduce to you, Mrs Barker, my former Child Care teacher whom I got on really well with……
Before I met Kayleigh the staff at Horbury School had been briefed about her “special needs” in order that we could make her time with us as as productive, and happy, as possible. The briefing did not prepare me for the arrival of the smiling dynamo that came through my door!
Yes, Kayleigh had problems that had a marked effect on her life - but neither she, nor her family were going to let those stop her reaching her goals ! one of my regular sayings to pupils was “if life gives you lemons, make lemonade !”- Kayleigh could have filled a tanker ! It was never a question of “I canT do that” more a question of “how can I do that”..
Kayleigh always strove to do her best never wallowed in what had gone before, or may be ahead of her in the future -she just got on with. She made the most of all her opportunities always ready to go the extra mile, was a popular pupil, who made school friends who are still friends today. you are an inspiration Kayleigh, and deserve all the good things that may come to you —especially the friendships that I know you value so much.
Mrs B. X
I enjoyed school on the whole. I’m not going tell you that it was a complete breeze but I’m also not going to sit here and tell you that it was the hardest time of my life because it wasn’t, who can say their school years went without the slightest hitch?
The schools I attended during my school life between the age of five when I first started full time school to sixteen years old when I finished high school were very inclusive; reasonable adjustments were made and strategies were put in place to allow me to go about my school days near enough the same as my friends and peers. For example - Hand rails were fitted on each staircase within school so I had something to hold on to and support me whilst moving from classroom to classroom, I was allowed to leave class a couple of minutes before my others to and go to the lunch hall a couple of minutes before others to allow me to avoid crowds as I sometimes used a wheelchair. I also had a constant 1:1 support whilst in Primary School to help me move around safely, the support carried on through the first few years of High School and then during a annual review of my statement it was decide by myself and professional involved that the 1:1 support could be decreased . These small adjustments helped me immensely.
Starting High School can be very nerve racking for anyone so with me having additional physical needs I was extremely worried that I wouldn’t be able to manage. If you can imagine going from a school that was all on one level to a huge school that consisted of four floor with eight or more classrooms on each floor. It absolutely petrified me.
My main concern as an 11 year old was, would I get bullied because of my disability? The first couple of years of high school was the worst for that, I used to get people staring, laughing and whispering and as much as I tried to pretend it didn’t bother me, some of the things some of my peers said did hurt my feelings.I started approaching those responsible and I explained that my disability was nothing to be afraid of and that I was just the same as anyone else. Believe it or not I saw small changes emerging.
Back in December 1997. When I was invited to fly to Lapland, Finland by the charity Make a Wish Foundation along with a group of other youngsters to meet Father Christmas himself! The Make A Wish Foundation grant wishes for children suffering from life threatening/terminal illnesses. http://www.make-a-wish.org.uk/
In November 1998 I was lucky enough to be chosen to become part of a small group of youngsters who were given the chance to experience the trip of a lifetime to Orlando,Florida. Each young person on the trip had there own individual medical/physical needs. It certainly is a trip I will never ever forget and I am so thankful to Destination Florida for giving me the opportunity.
What is Destination Florida?
Destination Florida is a small Northern based charity which specialises in bringing a bit of sunshine into the lives of children who are suffering from life threatening illnesses.
Every 2 years we take a group of about 75 children to Florida, literally for the holiday of a lifetime. Each trip is meticulously planned and involves taking a large support team consisting of doctors, nurses and other carers.
Whilst we are in Florida the parents and siblings of the children will hopefully be enjoying a week’s respite at home. The benefit of this can never be underestimated.
For more information on the charity please visit :