This page is some of the stories that have been shared with Reach
I was born in Staffordshire, in 1998.
A few months after my mum gave birth to me, she noticed there was something not quite right with my movements within my arm. She made a doctors appointment as usual and asked to see a GP in regards to her concern over my disability. Shortly after the GP’s visit I was ‘diagnosed’ with mild cerebral palsy, but did that stop myself and my family from achieving great things?
It certainly did not.
Countless hours of physio at home and in a clinic, visits to Dr’s and specialists were all about to come. One doctor, told my parents that due to my disability I would be a failure at life, I wouldn't be able to play sports, work, ride a bike, swim and I’d struggle with every day life. Well. I proved them wrong.
As a child growing up my dad took me to every sporting club possible, swimming, boxing, football, rugby, you name it.. I was there! However, due to the time consuming travelling to all events I stuck to two of them. Football and rugby.
I’d train for rugby on a Wednesday evening and play on a Sunday, whilst also playing and training for Aston Villa Cerebral Palsy squad on a Friday at Villa park. It soon came to light that I had a talent for both sports. From a footballing perspective I was told by numerous coaches I’d be able to play for England Cerebral Palsy squad if I wanted, but after a few years I specifically chose rugby as I fell out of love with playing football.
My rugby journey
I was known in the local county for my powerful running game, my bone crunching tackles and my long range penalty goals. People were amazed on the side line what was achievable with myself in regards to CP and sport. A few years had passed, my name was circulating around the local county and my parents were getting phone calls left, right and centre asking for my signature to go and play for them. Throughout my rugby career I’ve played with many Semi pro players and a handful of professional, I was playing at a decent level. However, Even though I was better than some players that made it to the professional academies, I was discriminated against due to my disability, therefore I was never given the opportunity to progress my career other than Staffs County trials.
After leaving college with the highest grades for Sports and exercise science I turned to getting my level 2 Rugby union NGB. This was the start of my teaching / coaching career. From 2017 - 2022 I have been an Apprentice PE coach, sports coach, Head Sports coach and a director of my own company. Whilst COVID was about I had a spare few days to myself and I set myself a little challenge, obtaining my Fork Lift Truck Driving Licence, I passed it first time, both the theory and practical. I thought as you use both hands for a FLT it’ll be a challenge worth taking, which I did. I worked in a few FLT positions, the latest and last one was working with chilled ambient, sitting on a forklift for 11 hours a day whilst wearing 4 layers of clothes.. It wasn't pleasant! My current role - I’m currently a Healthy communities manager of a leisure centre, I oversee all of the communal sports, holiday clubs, engagement with SEND adults and children, dementia patients and soon to be GP referrals.
Personal Discrimination I’ve dealt with is off the scale, this can be jobs, meeting new people, buying a car.. You name it, Its happened to me! A lot of jobs have discriminated me in the past, whether its due to my disability or whether they don’t want me to be employee due to insurance purposes, its WRONG! Buying my latest car, the sales rep shook my hand after agreeing the deal and made a snide comment of “ Your hands weird, isn't it mate”, very pleasant!
Rounding up If your child has CP or a disability then please don’t listen to what the GP’s have to say in regards to what your child can or can’t do. If you a parents are strong willed, positive and are willing to push the boundaries for your child then they’ll achieve whatever their heart desires to do. The world is more accepting in this day and age but things still need a lot of work, especially from a SEND point of view.
Andrew's Story - January 2023
Andrew was born in Stafford and attended mainstream schools at Holmcroft Primary and Graham Balfour Secondary School but left with no qualifications and very poor literacy skills. Andrew was unable to read and write and suffered from severe emotional problems and low self-esteem. Andrew continued to live with his parents and older sister Catherine and began attending Stafford College for individuals with learning difficulties and slowly began to improve his literacy skills and also gained some entry level qualifications.
Andrew started to apply for jobs and over a number of years worked as a trolley man at Tesco, Housekeeper at Sainsbury’s and Catering Assistant at Asda and Stafford General Hospital. Andrew’s father died in 2009 following which his self-confidence took a knock and he experienced issues with anger management, low mood and anxiety. Around this time Andrew was referred by his GP for learning assessments and was administered the WAIS (Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale) and VABS (Vineland Behaviour Scale) as well as assessments for dyslexia and dyspraxia with which he was eventually diagnosed.
Having left his employment in 2010 Andrew then began a volunteer role with Food for Thought as a Café Assistant and when that opportunity ended took up a Customer Service volunteering role with the Shaw Trust. When that role came to an end, he took up another volunteering opportunity with the Furniture Exchange in Stafford but following the COVID pandemic the service closed and so he found himself without employment again.
Andrew retains a positive attitude, however, and on 2 days per week currently attends IT familiarisation classes in order to try to keep his skill levels current and is constantly looking for suitable employment or volunteering opportunities.