Writing my book Cerebral Palsy: A Story ‘Finding the Calm after the Storm’ breaks down barriers not just around disability, but also in wider life. Sensitively written, it charts my journey page by page, breaking down barriers as I go.
Having struggled throughout my life to find a place living with a disability I didn’t know I had, I didn’t realise how stigmatised my life had become. Although things weren’t said, it became obvious from an early age, living with something and it being ignored meant I would continue to face stigma.
Not expecting to do well, I was stigmatised because I was left to cope and adjust with no help. Where schools could and should have followed things through, they abandoned the idea and I was left to fend for myself.
It is important we teach children how to break down barriers, because that’s where stigmas start. Preparing children for the outside world used to be more straightforward. If schools were delivering on academic goals and pupils left with an understanding of what was right or wrong, we would consider that a job well done. Fast-forward to 2020.
Through necessity, schools are becoming more responsible for students in a far wider sense. When it comes to mental health, they have moved from raising awareness to proactively tackling mental health and in doing so, are empowering the next generation to talk about mental illness.
But schools need support if they are to cope and deal with mental health issues, to ensure they can work within their area of expertise. With the right guidance and support, schools and school staff are well placed to make a difference, but we must all work together.
Hindsight on what we deal with isn’t always a good thing, but on another level, it can bring about understanding when we look back. Through new understanding, it is a possibility that we look back on those times fondly, primarily because we understand where we’ve gone wrong.
Breaking down barriers is important if we are to improve communication between people. We must actively break down the barriers between health and education, and work together to find a way forward, putting children’s interests first.