When I started my business, Flyinglady Training, my primary focus was delivering Disability Awareness and Equality Training. After a few years, I started being approached by schools to offer mentoring to SEND pupils. I hadn’t really thought about it before but I began to realise that sharing my experiences could help others facing the same challenges that I had in the past. Hearing my story may help raise their aspirations.
I was recently asked to visit a pupil with Cerebral Palsy who was struggling a little in mainstream education. Feeling isolated from both peers and siblings, the pupil was lacking in confidence and struggling to see the point of school. The future appeared so bleak that the school were failing to keep the pupil engaged. I agreed to meet with the pupil to provide some mentoring.
It became apparent that we had many shared experiences. Feeling isolated from peers was something I’d been very familiar with. I had often wondered and worried about the future – would I achieve the same as my peers? Would I be able to work? Or would I live at home with my parents whilst my siblings lived their own lives? The pupil in front of me was thinking all the same things and fearing a very unfulfilling future. They were also struggling to communicate their views and feelings to both the school and their family.
Whilst I’ve faced many challenges and have sometimes despaired, I’m living independently, have my own family and run my own small business. I explained that although it hadn’t been easy to get to where I am, I’d tried to see my disability as a positive. I hadn’t let it hold me back. If I wanted something, I went for it. My disability was my strength. It had given me unique experiences and insights which I was now using to help others and build a business.
A new perspective
By the time I visited the pupil for a second time, everything had changed. It was like meeting a different person. The pupil was now engaging positively with the school, was feeling much more confident and making plans to continue into Further Education. The school were amazed by the change and felt that talking to me and seeing my success had provided what was needed to turn things around.
I didn’t realise until recently that the SEND Code of Practice advocates for using mentors and guest speakers to help raise the aspirations of SEND pupils. I’m glad the work I’m doing is making a difference and hope I’ll be able to work with many more schools and pupils.