“confetti started to fall”

People say disability is an individual thing and I could not agree more, two people with the same condition may have two very different experiences, and my experience with disability I believe in part is what got me to where I am today, the president of a successful FE union….. anyways enough rambling on to the actual story.

I have never really told this story before simply because I look back on the past and who I was and I am disappointed with myself for doing the things I did and more for not doing the things I should have done.

Unlike many I was lucky I was diagnosed with dyslexia, dyspraxia and ADHD when I was young so I had the opportunity to get support from my school and in a world where everything is hunky dory that would be the end of my story a student gets support and that would be that, but unfortunately its not the end…

I assumed that everything would stay the same for me, that I would get the extra support and that would be that, unfortunately this was not the case yes I received my extra support but then the questions started and would usually be along the lines of “Josh why are you having lessons with the special kids” and suddenly in a 10 year olds mind something that seemed to be amazing as I was getting all the help I needed to ‘oh my god I am different to everyone else and everyone is treating me different than they did before this isn’t good at all’, so I made what I felt was a rational decision in my mind I was going to hide this thing that was wrong with me I stopped going to my support sessions all together and refused all the help that was offered to me….unfortunately for me this trend of me hiding my disabilities continued into secondary school, instead of going to the learning support room I played with my friends on the playground instead, not because I didn’t want to go but because I was scarred of being branded as different by my peers. I had seen through my years of school the way people who where “different” were treated no one spoke to them, when they approached others conversations stopped until they either went away or people just walked away. With the years of hiding my disability came deep depression simply because I felt I could never be myself around my friends I felt I had realistically built my school life on a lie. I hid my disability throughout my time at school and it wasn’t till I went to college that I had my eureka moment as some may put it.
I have a distinct memory of something that happened when I went to enrol it went a little something like this,  the person signing me up asked me all the standard questions then right at the end the questions was asked; do you have any special educational needs the college could support you with?
My brain started whizzing I came to the decision I was going to keep my head down and not cause any fuss but then an odd thing happened, I didn’t care… I know it sounds odd to say I didn’t care but for the first time in education I didn’t care what people thought of me. I shouted yes I do have a disability. At this very moment confetti started to fall, a marching band came in, I leapt on top of my chair and everyone around me burst into spontaneous applause that I had finally come to accept that I was different!!! admittedly that’s what it felt like had just happened but in fact I just said yes and the women looked back at me and said what kind of difficulties did I have and that was it, even though I am pretty sure she thought I was high from the smile that suddenly appeared on my face when she asked me the question.
So after 10 years of hiding my disability here I am 4 years on from accepting who I am, I now use my experience of everything I learnt about myself those long years of lying to myself to tell students to be proud of who they are because its our difference that make us normal, they make us who we are and who we are going to grow to be. I am proud to be disabled and it has only taken 22 years to finally be able to say that, I hope this helps others to be able to feel it and say it sooner than me!

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