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Category: Flyinglady Training

Challenges of a Disabled Mum: Game of Cat & Mouse!

Posted in Accessibility, Cerebral Palsy, Disability and kids, Disabled Parent, Family, Flyinglady Training, Motherhood, My writing, and Personal

Like most parents, I’m breathing a sigh of relief now that the kids are back at school. It’s a challenge for any parent, trying to keep kids entertained whilst not spending an absolute fortune. This was also the first time that I felt confident in taking Jack out and about independently, using public transport – though you might like to read more about that particular issue here. Jack is now of an age where, for the most part, he listens to me and understands the need to stay close to me when we’re out. With the exception of the soft play, that is.

On the last day of the holidays, I decided to treat him to a McDonald’s followed by a session in the soft play centre. We normally go and meet other kids and their mums, so he has someone to play with and I have the moral support of other parents. I wasn’t entirely sure if it would work on his own but as the weather was dodgy, I decided it was a good way to pass a few hours.

I made sure Jack knew where I was and that he needed to listen out for the lady, who would call out our colour when it was time to leave. All was well and I kept an eye on him from where I was sitting. Jack kept coming back to me, mostly to complain that he was hungry! But time ticked on and it was almost time to go so I decided to gather our things and get Jack out.

As it had got slightly quieter, they weren’t enforcing the time limit so Jack had no way of knowing when to come out. So I went to the edge of the play area and starting trying to get his attention. But do you think I could catch his eye or make him hear as I called! Nope! It was like a game of cat and mouse – he’d run the other way just as I’d got in a position to catch his eye! He couldn’t hear me call him above all the noise and after 10 minutes or so, I was ready to give up! Then another mum kindly offered to go in and tell him to come to me.

Another cat and mouse game commenced as she entered the soft play and tried to find him for me. She was anxious about approaching the wrong child, as I tried to follow her and she pointed kids out! I was now trying to keep track of two people from the ground and directing her towards him! It was all quite funny but eventually the kind lady tracked Jack down and he came out.

It’s not a major issue and it provided some entertainment but it’s just one of the things that make me slightly anxious about venturing out alone – those unexpected challenges!

Cerebral Palsy: The good, the bad and everything in between

Posted in Accessibility, Cerebral Palsy, Disability Awareness, Disabled Access, Education, Equality & Diversity, Fighting for Change, Flyinglady Training, Making a difference, My writing, Personal, Social Model of Disability, Uncategorised, and World CP Day

This is my life, my feelings, my achievements and frustrations of living with Cerebral Palsy

Campaigning – I’ve spent the last ten years supporting and campaigning for the rights of Disabled People. I ran a campaign to improve the accessibility of my local area – taking it as far as No. 10 Downing Street.  Find information about my “Great Barr Great” Campaign here

Exhausting – Having CP means every day tasks can take me longer and I get tired easily. But I don’t let it stop me!

Rebel – You tell me, “You can’t” and I’ll tell you, “Just watch me!” I thrive on proving people wrong and achieving what might be considered the impossible!

Exciting – I truly believe my life wouldn’t be as fulfilling and as exciting as it is without my Cerebral Palsy. Life has taken me down many exciting paths so far and I’m grateful for that.

Brave – Please don’t call me brave. I’ve always had CP and I’m just living my life the only way I’ve ever known – I’m not brave or special. I’m just Aideen.

Regrets? – Would I have a life without CP if I could? Not a chance. It’s made me who I am and I wouldn’t change that.

Awareness – My training business is focused on raising awareness of disability and making life easier for other disabled people by changing attitudes. And believe me when I say, here in 2017, that there’s still a lot of work to be done in changing how people view disability.

Living – I’m just trying to live my life. I hope World CP Day will make that a little easier by making people more aware of CP and it’s implications.

 

Passionate – I’m guessing you know by now the passion I have for making a difference to the lives of others with disabilities. The Social Model of Disability made huge headway in changing the way society views disability but unfortunately, discrimination is still occurring regularly. This has to change and disabled people have to be put on an equal footing with everyone else in society.

Accessibility – Getting around in a wheelchair is far from simple and I think I’m getting a name for myself in trying to identify and put right the problems! The Equality Act 2010 intended to address such issues and yet I still find accessibility issues a major barrier to me leading a “normal” life – whatever that is!

Lonely – I don’t mean this in the traditional sense, but sometimes it can feel quite lonely fighting for change and it can feel like an uphill struggle. World CP Day is an opportunity for people to pull together and raise awareness in oppose to being a lone voice, as it often feels.

Scary – There are times, when as confident as I am, having Cerebral Palsy can be scary. When I’m meeting someone new and not sure if they will understand my speech; when I’m in a new environment and unsure how others will react to me. Awareness of CP really helps take away that fear.

Yes – My mum always told me there was no such word as can’t so if I can find a way to do things, the answer is always yes!

 

See what I did there?!

 

If you or someone you know has CP, please get in touch and if there’s anything I can help you with just let me know.

Corporate training and support also available – please contact Flyinglady.

Disability Etiquette equals good manners & common sense

Posted in Accessibility, Cerebral Palsy, Customer Service, Disability Aids, Disability Awareness, Disabled Access, Equality & Diversity, Fighting for Change, Flyinglady Training, Media, and Personal

My latest book, “A disability Etiquette Guide” is something I’ve been wanting to write for a while now and last week, I was reminded why it’s so important for me to write it.

I was on my way to Nottingham, to the Charity CP Sport, of which I am a proud trustee. I asked for the ramp to be put down  as I use an electric wheelchair. It’s a popular train but I was absolutely astounded by my fellow passengers, who proceeded to rush on to the train whilst the customer service guy was attempting to put the ramp into position for me.

They all rushed past him and me, desperate to claim a seat and a place for their luggage. Never mind thinking about me and how it might be easier for me to get into the wheelchair spot when the carriage is relatively clear of passengers and luggage.  Never mind simple manners and common sense.

One passenger even walked up the ramp in front of me! Unbelievable!

And that’s the essence of my book: Good manners and applying common sense can go a long way in improving the lives of those with disabilities.

Please offer me a seat – improving travel for disabled people?

Posted in Accessibility, Customer Service, Disability Awareness, Disabled Access, Disabled Parent, Equality & Diversity, Flyinglady Training, Media, Personal, and Public Transport

 

Whilst browsing through my twitter account yesterday, I became aware of a new scheme which Transport for London are trialling, which encourages passengers to give up their seat for someone who needs it more, particularly disabled passengers.  Participating passengers will have a card and wear a badge, saying “Please offer me a seat.”

As a disabled wheelchair user who regularly uses public transport, albeit not in London much, I have very mixed feelings about this.  Although I am fortunate enough to at least always have my own seat, (thankfully!)  I am often left very frustrated by my fellow passengers attitudes, who fail to consider my needs by pushing on to trains or buses in front of me and using the designated wheelchair space as a dumping ground for their luggage. (Rather than taking the time to put it in the designated space for luggage)  It is much easier to manoeuvre my wheelchair before everyone else gets on but few people ever consider this.

So on the one hand, I think Transport for London should be generously applauded for taking the initiative to improve things for disabled people; they have identified this as a significant problem and are taking proactive steps to improve the experience for disabled passengers, particularly those who may not feel confident in speaking up to tell people what they need.

But on the other hand, I feel sad and frustrated that it’s considered that such schemes are needed. If people were more considerate and thoughtful, we would all have a much more positive experience of public transport, including disabled people.  If we all moved as far as possible, leaving the front seats available for those who need them, as is the intention, there would be less need for people to move – and be torn away from their Smart Phones! 🙂

Common sense also plays a big part.  We all need to be aware of those around us and be prepared to assist those who may need a seat or even assistance with luggage etc.

I think many disabled people may also feel self-conscious about wearing a badge which advertises the fact that they have a disability. Others may feel cheeky about asking for a seat, particularly if their disability isn’t immediately obvious. And although I understand that the scheme relies upon goodwill, unfortunately this isn’t always forthcoming and some disabled people may fear confrontation from those who question their greater need for a seat.

Despite my reservations, I hope the scheme is successful and at the very least, encourages people to be a little more considerate of the needs of their fellow passengers.

Disability Awareness for Kids – Its not weird, just different.

Posted in Cerebral Palsy, Disability and kids, Disability Awareness, Disabled Access, Family, Flyinglady Training, Making a difference, and Personal

I was on a train recently, travelling home from visiting my sister and best friend in London.  After a good night out the evening before, I was feeling quite tired and hoped to pass the journey quietly with my Kindle for company.

At one of the stops, a mother with her young daughter got on and sat opposite me.  The daughter must have been around six or seven and was very chatty! There went my quiet journey home but I smiled as the little girl asked her mum question after question,  no doubt driving her mum mad!  Being so inquisitive, the little girl’s attention soon turned towards me and she asked her mum “why does that lady need a wheelchair?”

Staring out the window, I waited to see how mum would reply all the little girl got was “I don’t know” so I decided to try and help. “I have something wrong with my legs, they don’t work properly.” I told the little girl cheerily.  I hoped her mum might engage with me, if only a little bit.

Instead, the little girl turned to her mum, telling her “I sounded weird”.  I’d hoped mum might correct her and explain that the word weird wasn’t very polite but mum just asked her to be quiet – not too much avail.

The incident made me smile but it also saddened me.  Mum didn’t seem interested in engaging or educating her daughter but perhaps, more likely, didn’t know how to and maybe, was afraid of offending me.  But it really was a missed opportunity for the little girl, particularly as I showed my willingness to engage with her.

That’s why I’m so passionate about my “Disability Awareness for Kids” sessions and have decided to offer them for free until the end of this academic year.  Parents and even teachers may feel awkward about talking about disability, but it really is important that they understand the issues and get honest answers to their questions.

They need to know it’s not weird. Just different.

Cerebral Palsy: An Introduction

Posted in Cerebral Palsy, Disability and kids, Disability Awareness, Disabled Access, Disabled Parent, Does it wet the bed?, Flyinglady Training, and Making a difference

This month is Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month so I’m going to be sharing a number of articles to raise awareness of the condition, what it’s like to live with it and the challenges that it presents.  Later this month, I’ll also be sharing advice for parents who have a child with CP and maybe some of my favourite bits from my memoir about living with the condition – “Does it wet the bed?”

What is Cerebral Palsy (CP)?

Cerebral palsy is a general term for a number of neurological conditions which affect movement and co-ordination.

Cerebral Palsy is caused by problems in the parts of the brain which is responsible for controlling muscles.  The brain becomes damaged either before, during or just after birth, or sometimes, during early childhood.

What are the three main types of CP?

Ataxiaa lack of muscle control when performing voluntary movements.  (National Institute of Health, 2011)

Spasticity Causes stiff or tight muscles and exaggerated reflexes.

DyskineticCharacterised by fluctuation in muscle tone which is either too loose or too tight.

What are the causes of CP?

  • An infection caught by the mother during pregnancy;
  • A lack of oxygen;
  • A difficult or premature birth;
  • Bleeding in the baby’s brain;
  • Changes in the genes that affect the brain’s development.

 

There will be lots more information coming over the next month, but if you’re a business who would like free staff training on Cerebral Palsy, please Contact Flyinglady to book your session.

Ten misconceptions about people with disabilities

Posted in Accessibility, Cerebral Palsy, Disability Awareness, Disabled Access, Disabled Parent, Equality & Diversity, Fighting for Change, Flyinglady Training, Making a difference, and Personal

 

 

  1. Disabled people need someone to talk for them

“Would she like a drink?” or “How old is she?” were common questions posed to my mum when I was growing up.  People assumed just because I am disabled that I can’t speak for myself. I soon piped up with the answers, making sure they knew I had a mind of my own!

 

  1. We need to have a “carer”

Disabled people may need assistance with some daily tasks but it shouldn’t be assumed, as is often the case, that we need full time care. Before getting married, I lived completely independently in my own flat and I am very capable of looking after myself.

 

  1. Disability prevents you from leading a normal life

Disability doesn’t exclude normality! I’ve achieved all the things that anyone else might expect to achieve, my disability hasn’t got in my way.

 

  1. Disabled people aren’t capable of being in employment

This simply isn’t true; there are countless jobs that disabled people can do – employers just need to start putting ability before disability! I held down a full time job for seven years before becoming self-employed and I helped dozens of other disabled people to find employment.

 

  1. People in wheelchairs can’t walk at all

I love the looks of surprise I get when I get out of my wheelchair in the company of strangers!  Wheelchairs are often used because walking is difficult, not because it’s impossible.

 

  1. Disabled people aren’t able to become parents

Being a disabled parent presents additional challenges but with time and thought, these can be overcome.

 

  1. Disabled people will pass on their disabilities to their children

Not all disabilities are hereditary so in many cases, it isn’t possible for a disabled parent to pass on their disability.

 

  1. If you have a disability, you must be on medication

Although medication can sometimes help to control some symptoms of some disabilities, it shouldn’t be assumed that all disabled people take medication. And it definitely shouldn’t be assumed that we can’t enjoy a tipple or two!

 

  1. If you are born with a disability, you’re extremely brave

Lots of people have said to me, “You’re so brave.”  But I don’t see myself as brave because I’ve always had a disability and it’s part of me – I wouldn’t know any different.  If you have a disability, you just get on with life in the best way that you can.

 

  1. Living with a disability is always bad and negative

Far from!  Speaking personally, I wouldn’t change my situation for anything, my life wouldn’t be as good without my disability. Although I’ve experienced discrimination and ignorance, the positive experiences far outweigh the bad.

 

If you have a disability and could add anything to this list, please contact me.  If you’re interested in Disability Awareness Training,  please contact Flyinglady Training.

New writing projects – feedback very welcome!

Posted in Accessibility, Cerebral Palsy, Disability and kids, Disability Awareness, Disabled Parent, Does it wet the bed?, Flyinglady Training, Making a difference, and My writing

This time last year, my new year’s resolution was to get my memoir, “Does it wet the bed?”, published. It was an ambitious goal as the manuscript was barely finished. But with lots of hard work and determination,  I fulfilled my resolution . . . for once!

This year, I have two writing projects which I want to pursue, though I am not going to promise that either will be finished, as I have other work projects in mind.

Firstly, I plan to write a “Disability Etiquette Guide”, to help people gain a better understanding of the issues surrounding disability. I know from experience, lots of people find disability awkward; they don’t know how to approach disabled people and worry about doing or saying the “wrong” thing.  The aim of the guide will be to put people’s minds are rest and to honesty answer the questions that they have.  The guide will cover communicating with disabled people, how and when to offer assistance, the correct language as well as the language to avoid and best practice in a number of situations.

This is my basic plan for the book but I’d really like suggestions from you as to what you would like to see included.  If you have a few minutes and would like to help me, please consider the following questions and contact me with your thoughts:

  • What would you most like to know about disability?
  • What concerns you about interacting with disabled people?
  • What do you think are the common misconceptions about disabled people?

 

I’d really love to hear your thoughts and will do my best to cover all the points I receive.

Secondly, I plan to start a Children’s Book to help teachers and parents to explain disability.  I recently spoke to a mum who was unsure about how to answer her son’s questions about me – she wanted to give him the answers he needed but was worried about offending me. I hope I was able to offer her some reassurance as I explained the best things to say and it cemented my desire to write a book which will help parents to answer those tricky questions with confidence. I haven’t quite decided on the format or style, but if you’re a parent and have any thoughts, please get in touch.

With other training projects and my new role as Trustee of CP Sport, 2016 is set to be a very busy year

The Secret to Self-Respect

Posted in Employment Support, Flyinglady Training, Personal, and Uncategorised

One of my favourite TV Shows at the moment is The Secret Millionaire on Channel 4.  After a long day, I love to watch as the latest millionaire leaves behind his comfortable lifestyle and goes in search of people in need of help.

I’ve recently watched a repeat episode which particularly struck a cord with me.  It featured John Elliott, a self made millionaire and life long supporter of the Conservative Party.  John travelled to Kensington, Liverpool which is an area known for high unemployment.  He desperately wanted to find people in need of his help but this proved difficult.  Why?  Because as he looked around, there was no shortage of jobs available for people to apply for.  The high unemployment rate wasn’t down to a lack of jobs – they were there in abundance.  John met various residents of Kensington but none of them seemed in desperate need – the state were taking care of their basic needs.

It seemed like John would be the first Secret Millionaire not to part with any cash.  He was reluctant to give away money unless he was sure that it would make a real difference.  Then he met a young couple with a baby.  They were up to their eyes in credit card debts and living in rented accommodation.   The husband was working 12 hour days driving a taxi to pay off his debts and provide for his family.  He didn’t come home until he’d earned the money he needed.  Though struggling and in debt, he wasn’t afraid of hard work and was paying the price for racking up so much debt.  Finally, John had found a family that he could help.  But he didn’t do the obvious thing and pay off the credit cards.  It would have been all too easy for them to just build up further debt.   Instead, he gave them a deposit for a house of their own.  They could get a mortgage and finally start enjoying the rewards of working hard.

John also befriended a young refugee who had been granted leave to stay in the UK.  He was a qualified accountant but despite his best efforts, he couldn’t find employment and so spent his time volunteering instead.  John decided to help him but not with a hand out.  He gave him a job in his company.  This gave him so much more than a handout – it gave him his confidence and self-respect.

I had to admire John’s approach.  He didn’t want to find problems and then throw money at it.  In his mind, that was pointless and a waste of money.   Although he had over £60 million, he didn’t want to see his hard earned fortune wasted.   He wanted to enable people to solve their own problems and give them their self-respect in the process.

I also agree with John Elliott’s stance.  In my time supporting disadvantaged people into employment, I saw many people who were desperate to work.  If I’d given them a handout, they wouldn’t have accepted it.  I also saw an equal number of people who were fairly comfortable on their state benefit and so had little interest in “rocking the boat” by finding a job.  If they did look for work,  they were only interested in jobs for less than 16 hours a week so that they could remain on state benefit.   But this approached failed to give them any pride or the self respect which John valued and rewarded.

The programme inspired me and made me more determined than ever to develop Flyinglady so that we can eventually set up employment support programmes to help people who really want to find work.  I think if there were more John Elliotts around, encouraging and supporting people to stand on their own two feet,  we could reduce the JobCentre queues.

“Mum, why is that lady in a wheelchair?”

Posted in Disability and kids, Disability Awareness, Disabled Parent, Equality & Diversity, Flyinglady Training, Making a difference, and Uncategorised

“Mum, why is that lady in a wheelchair?”

It’s a question I’ve overheard being asked by innocent kids hundreds of times.  The child looks quite weary of me and I pretend not to be listening as Mum quietly explains I have something ‘wrong’ with my legs.  Or that my legs don’t ‘work’ properly.  Mum is a little embarrassed whilst their little one remains unsatisfied.  These hushed conversations always make me smile.  None of the answers given offend me and I understand Mum’s embarrassment but I sympathise with the child’s curiosity.

As a child, I experienced bullying at school on a number of occasions.  Nothing too serious but it was bullying all the same.  At the time, it hurt although I tried to rise above it.  As an adult, it’s easier to understand why these other kids picked on me.  They simply didn’t understand why I was different, nobody had explained disability to them.   For unless children grow up with a disabled sibling or relative, it can be difficult for them to understand why someone is disabled and how they should react to disability.

And it’s these experiences that have inspired me to develop my Disability Awareness for Children Sessions.   Equality and Diversity are now vital issues in every workplace and it’s important that children, particularly teenagers, are given the opportunity to explore these issues before they enter into employment.  The sessions provide participants with an opportunity to ask me any questions they have and dispel some of the myths which still surround disabled people.

I recently provided one such session for a group of teenagers who were hosting a sporting  event for a number of people, many of whom had disabilities.  The group weren’t particularly fond of classroom sessions, much preferring to be outside so I was a little apprenhensive about holding their attention.  I need not have worried.  The group were very attentive and I was later told, it was the most engaged they had been in a classroom for a long time!

Their tutor said:  “Aideen delivered a fantastic session that focused very much on an interactive session.  The feedback was fantastic…and they learnt alot about working with others with disabilities.”

To find out more, please visit Flyinglady