Georgia'S Entry - independence
December 4, 2020
It’s been a while. I hope everyone is well and looking forward to what will be a different Christmas this year. The theme for this post is independence, and I always have a lot to talk about when it comes to this topic and this year in particular I feel like I have more to discuss due to my experiences in 2020.
A few months ago I passed my driving test, which was a big achievement for me considering that by the point I passed I’d been on my journey to driving for four years! Driving will offer me so much more independence, for example, now I have my own car with a hoist, my electric wheelchair is a lot more accessible. Even if I’m not driving I can still have access to my wheelchair and it gives me a lot more freedom than relying on someone to push me.
In terms of driving my car all by myself and independence I haven’t quite got there yet. However, I know that this is okay and using my occupational therapy knowledge I wanted to make sense of my situation with driving during this post.
Jennifer Creek defines independence as "the concept of being able to perform everyday activities at a satisfactory level". I can apply this to driving. Yes, I wish I was more confident with driving, and feel like I probably could have gone out more (if my car wasn’t playing up) but I’m satisfied with the improvement I have made since passing my test. This is because I have been grading this activity and increasing the demands of driving.
For example, as my car was adapted before I started having driving lessons I still have an emergency break in it. I have decided that I still want it there because at the moment I don’t feel confident enough. I will remove it eventually, I just need to to improve my confidence.
1. Drive with someone in the front seat.
2. Drive with someone in the back seat.
3. Drive independently.
4. Remove the brake.
This is my plan to improve my independence with driving. The last time I drove, my Dad sat in the back seat and that was a big step, I was so proud of myself after that drive. But since then my car has been playing up and I haven’t driven in a while, so I may have to decrease the demands and go back to step 1 and I am satisfied with that.
I know that I will eventually get to step 4, it might take a little longer than most but I will get there. I’m a lot more Independent with driving than I was a year ago and therefore I am satisfied with my independence for the time being and that’s all that matters.
Thank you for reading,
Gavin'S Entry - independence
November 20, 2020
I hope you are all well and staying safe. I don't know about you but I'm getting a sense of déjà vu writing in this diary. Let’s just say, the last six months have been really quiet for me in comparison to other years. Although I have been able to continue to work, study and train (either from home or socially distanced) during this year despite the pandemic which
I’m very grateful for.
All the Ambassadors have been given the theme of independence to incorporate into their latest blog. This has got me thinking about what it means to me to be independent and more importantly, what allows me to be independent. Everybody will have their own idea of what the word ‘independence’ means and looks like to them. There is no right or wrong answer. Your independence is unique to you and nobody else shares it.
Personally, independence means that I am able to do certain tasks on my own and if not, I have the right to access support in order to help me become as independent as possible. I would like to stress the latter point as I think this can be often overlooked. Just because I’m unable to do something in the conventional way doesn’t mean I can’t do it another way or
get appropriate support if the conventional way is the only method, but 9 times out of 10, I’m able to come up with an alternative.
For me, finding alternative ways of doing things is all about accessibility. It’s so important to enabling people to become more independent. Even the simplest of adjustments can make a big difference such as ramp access into a building or an adaptation in a home. When I was younger, we had a stairlift installed in our home. This meant that I no longer had to wait for someone to come and help me go up and down the stairs. I still use it today.
Accessibility has moved forward from where it once was but it definitely could be better. The only way accessibility is going to improve is through being willing to adapt and being open-minded as a society.
Talking about adapting, this is something that we have had to do a lot of in recent times. I feel it’s very apt to look at independence in the current context. We are having to find new and innovative ways to adapt as we navigate ourselves through a global pandemic. For some, it has meant they have been able to become more independent than they were
before. If we can take anything positive away from our time in isolation, it is our ability to adapt. Whether it’s working from home, having Zoom calls with family and friends or doing online learning, we all have found alternative ways of doing things during this period. We have a lot to thank technology for!
I have been amazed to see how the world has adapted during this time. Of course, I wish it wasn't under such devastating consequences. However, I couldn’t help but I feel a twinge of sadness when I saw everybody become accustomed to working from home - knowing that for decades some disabled people haven't had that option available to them – or when
students were told their grades were going to be based on assessed coursework this year but yet this couldn’t be done for a small percentage of students with physical disabilities who are significantly disadvantaged by the exam system every year.
As we start to move forward and think about life after lockdown, it is more important than ever that we consider everybody’s needs. We must not forget about those who have been shielding for many months now and as a consequence, they have been the hardest hit by the pandemic.
Independence encompasses many aspects of our life, in more ways than we might think. However, it shouldn’t be taken for granted.
November 06, 2020
Gosh, I cannot believe we are already into November and soon it will be Christmas!! It might be a bit too early to think about it, but I think we need something exciting to look forward to!
I hope everyone has been staying safe and managing to keep occupied. It’s such a terrible time for everyone and we all need to support each other and help out where we can.
The past few months have fortunately been busy. When we are allowed out of lockdown, news soon came that pools would reopen – yay! I think I had about a week to get excited that I would be able to dive and coach again. Then one evening I saw an announcement on social media that the Life Centre was in desperate need of repair and wouldn't be opening until April next year. So all the staff and divers and swimmers were informed by Facebook before they had been contacted by the company who owned the Leisure Centre. It caused chaos ! Despite the centre being only 10 years old there were really bad problems. One of the journalists from the BBC contacted me and asked if I would do a radio and TV interview. I understood the work needed to be done but couldn't hold back my frustration when speaking on Radio Devon and BBC spotlight the following day. Nor my anger at having been informed by social media before receiving the official company letter. I really hope there won't be further problems and we can all get back next year. Currently the elite divers are training in Southampton and London but everyone else is unable to dive as there are no local centres with boards.
We managed a few trips away within the South West as our other holidays were cancelled like so many other people. But a trip to Dorset to stay with my aunt and then a few days away in Bath last month really cheered me up.
Last week I was able to get a few ski lessons in at Tamworth snow dome with DSUK (Disability Snowsport UK). They are such a great crowd and have really helped me get used to outriggers which has really improved my balance and skiing. It was so good to get back 'on the slopes' even if it was inside. We have decided to cancel our ski holiday at New Year but fingers crossed we can still go in March - has anyone else ever skied with outriggers? Would love to hear from you!
I'm so hoping to go up north again to ski and also visit family and friends once this second lock down is over. But who knows!
I do keep busy doing various things but I was really starting to feel down about having nothing specific to do then a few weeks ago I was offered a job! I was so excited to hear from the University where I studied offering me a part time job in one of their admin departments. My main job is assisting another ex-student with the University own Covid Track and Trace system. I've only recently started and it was quiet with Reading week and many student returning home. But many also self-isolating on campus. I suspect the next few weeks will get busier and already the new lock down rules are baffling everyone and we have so many student’s questions. I work with a great team and even though I am only in the office 3 days a week, we have a laugh and it makes the job fun, the other 2 days I work from home which is also good as I don't have to get up so early!
I've also started driving lessons again with an instructor who teaches in an adapted car. I have my theory booked for 2nd December the day we are supposed to come out of lock down so hopefully that will go ahead. Sadly, my lessons have stopped but I'm practising with my dad.
Anyway that's all for now. Stay safe everyone and remember there's always someone to talk to.
Gavin's entry - World cp day 2020
October 20, 2020
Type of CP:
I was born with ataxic cerebral palsy which affects my speech, balance and coordination. I communicate via a communication device as I'm unable to speak. I also use a walker day-to-day to help me get about.
In my early years, I was too young to understand my disability and what it meant. I was aware that I couldn’t speak but didn’t understand why. I was one of those kids who wanted to try every sport imaginable so I remember getting quite frustrated when I couldn't participate in sports the same way as my friends. However, my family and those around me helped me to see my disability didn’t mean that I couldn't be involved, it just meant that I had to do things slightly differently and more importantly, I could still have fun.
I was incredibly lucky to have a huge amount of support throughout my school years. This always made school a lot less of an isolating experience for me. I found as I got older, it became increasingly harder to make friends with my peer group. As for exams, I struggled against the very inflexible system which didn’t accommodate for my needs. Having said that, I am proud of the grades I did manage to achieve despite the challenges I faced.
16 - 18:
At the age of 16, I became Head Ambassador for CP Teens UK. This was a proud moment for me. In this role, I feel I have grown in confidence when discussing my disability which has enabled me to raise awareness of cerebral palsy and the challenges we face. Hopefully by sharing my experiences, I have inspired others to share their experiences too.
Going Into Adulthood:
Going into adulthood can be an especially challenging time when you have a disability. However, it doesn't need to be. My advice to anyone going through a transition in their life is just to take one step at a time. That is what I'm trying to do.