The aim of this blog is to talk about my experience of living with a learning disability, from the age of five onwards. My aim is to help people living with a learning disability. Also to demonstrate that everybody has a story.
When I was five I had chickenpox on the brain that led to encephalitis. Soon after recovering, I was left without the ability to walk and talk, I was also left with a brain injury.
School and ongoing education
Later when I regained some of these abilities I was moved to a school for people with additional needs. The junior school was really good, but the secondary school wasn’t as good, all of the teachers were still really nice. I felt like I was taught to survive not to thrive. Where it should be, survive and thrive like mainstream schools i.e schools for people without additional needs. When I went for a Dyslexia test in year 11 to help with my exams at school and college. I was told there was no point in testing me because in there opinion people with learning disabilities had low IQ anyway. I was also told that I will never cope in a mainstream college and need to go to their six form. This was all very insulting so I ignored them and went to college after I finished.
I left school with little to no qualifications and still not being very good at reading. But despite this, I went straight to Hadlow college that is a land-based college. Where I studied for five years and got two diplomas and one extended diploma.
during college, I visited my junior school where I was introduced to their new reading and writing teacher who kindly taught me to read.
In 2015, not being able to get a job in agriculture. Decided to do a humanities access course at the open university. After finishing i decided to go back in October 2020 to study law.
I believe it is so important to carry on learning, not only to gain new skills, but it is also good for mental health. Unfornently it is not always easy for people.
Inclusion and confidence building
I strongly believe having the right inclusion at the right time can help improve a person and in some cases improve their life chances. It allows people to look at the world differently and builds up confidence.
When I was seven I joined the scouting movement (Medway Towns) where I learnt a lot of life skills and survival skills. When I turned fourteen I moved up to explorers, that is one of the top sections. Soon after moving up, I was asked if I wanted to go to South Africa. In South Africa, we built a water hole for a local school providing them with water. We also built a play area for an aids orphanage. The whole expereonts not only improved my confidence, but it also opened my eyes to the amount of poverty and disadvantaged people in the world.
Finding a job
Once I left college I tried to find a job in agriculture or horticulture. But like many other people finding work that I studied in was not easy. I eventually found a job as a porter at ASDA.
In 2019 my friend set up a forest school called BushKraft that i help with i have learnt a lot of outdoor skills and it has built my confidence greatly.
In April 2018, there were 938 people over the age of 18 recorded on GP registers in Medway who have a learning disability. Only 2.3% of learning disabilities were in paid employment.
Mental health and learning disabilities
Mental health problems can affect anybody. Evidence suggests that mental health problems may be higher in people with a learning disability than in those without a learning disability. Some studies suggest the rate of mental health problems in people with a learning disability is double that of the general population (Source Mencap). This can be due to several different reasons that are mentioned on the Mencap website i.e Biology and genetics may increase vulnerability to mental health problems, A higher incidence of negative life events, Access to fewer resources and coping skills, The impact of other people’s attitudes.
For me, it is the stigma of having a learning disability and other people’s lack of understanding of invisible disabilities. An example of this could be making and keeping friends and finding a paid job. Fortunately for me, this has eased as I have got older.
Another thing that can lead to health problems is what you are told at school and through the media is that you go to school, get good GCSEs, then go to college or university, get a good job, get a house, get married. But things do not always turn out that way and that can lead to mental health problems.
Disability Medway Network CIC
During the European referendum, I started a blog called every vote matters to try to increase the vote among people with learning disabilities. After that I started Disability Medway Network, the aim was to increase the visibility and awareness of people with learning disabilities in society. After a couple of months, I ran my first signposting event As time has moved forward the aims of Disability Medway Network has changed slightly. But I still believe strongly that people with disabilities especially people with learning disabilities and other hidden disabilities. Should use their vote or be supported to use their vote. Because it will increase our voice both locally and Nationally it will also stop us from being ignored when it comes to making decisions. The other aim is to encourage people with disabilities to run for leading positions in the community and Nationally.
Standing for local office
In 2019 I stood to become a local councillor for the first time and got 816 votes and came forth.
See my post on standing for local office here https://www.disabilitymedwaynetwork.org.uk/2019/05/05/2019-local-elections-in-medway/