Communicating With Colours

mental health

When I am at college I sometimes find expressing my emotions to others very challenging. As I can feel threatened in this environment due to my past experiences at school with being bullied. The bullying affected me so much doctors diagnosed me with PTSD. To help me process and communicate with others I sometimes use communication aids to help me express myself in ways I feel safe and comfortable to do so.

To help me communicate with others I have done Lego Therapy with my support staff but also in small groups with other students. Lego Therapy is all about trying to identify your emotions by putting a colour to it. For example my happy colour is yellow and my safe colour is green. I use Lego because sometimes I might be feeling more than one emotion so we stack the Lego bricks onto each other.

Lego helps me because in the past whilst doing this with other students I have had to do our whole week in colour. By seeing my week visually using Lego has helped me to understand that my emotions can be mixed and that is ok. Doing this has helped me to identify why I might be feeling upset and other emotions during the week. Talking it through with colours makes me feel more relaxed in sharing how I maybe feeling to others. By dong group sessions it has helped me to understand that I am not “silly” for feeling some emotions as others can feel similar emotions to me in some situations.

By using colour I have been able to cope better with my feelings and thoughts rushing around in my head at 100 miles an hour. Sometimes when this happens I don’t know what’s going on.However if I can find a colour that best describes how I am feeling this can help to slow down my thought process into a more manageable way and it becomes less scary and less overwhelming for me.

I use this to also help me to tell others how the voices I live with are making me feel. I have coloured circles attached to my bag which I take with me all the time. Each circle is a different colour with the emotion it makes me feel on it too. So if I am out and about and feel I can’t tell someone how I am I can show them the coloured circle I am feeling. By having the circles with me makes it more discreet when out and about as I don’t need to get Lego out.

I find using this resource also really useful after I have had a seizure as I can find it very hard to communicate with others because I find it hard to speak or I am hard for others to understand.

I am now able to use this if I need to when I’m out and about with support workers, my family and friends. Using Lego has helped me a lot in understanding emotions and that it is ok to have mixed emotions!

A Letter To The Education System

disability

I want to talk about the actual practical experiences of a disabled student with mental health conditions applying for courses at college and the frustrations/challenges I encounter.

I am a young adult who is frustrated about the way the education system treats disabled students even before a student officially joins the college. Disabled students have more hurdles to go through compared with able-bodied students and the process takes a good deal longer than normal.

These experiences damage our self-esteem and self-belief and stress the people who care for us, having an impact on the young adult’s family. Not being able to fulfil my ambitions makes me tired, wears me down, makes me feel useless and worthless as I feel like I cannot contribute to society. I might be disabled but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to have a career and be as independent as possible.

I feel that I am being denied an education compared to my peers. For example when I’ve gone for course interviews in various subjects I always get told I am unable to do the courses because:

1. I will find it too physically active or demanding.

2. I will not be allowed/the college are not prepared to allow me adaptations to be able to do courses.

3. I will find course work or exams too hard or stressful.

4. Colleges I have been to are thrown when I talk about my mental health conditions as they do not know how to respond to this, let alone how to help me with this on a daily basis.

Going through constant rejection with no after-care support or guidance on courses we could do instead deeply impacts on our mental health. This then can turn into a vicious circle which seems to never end and you can’t see a way out. It becomes scary and frightening and this makes me feel more stuck and trapped as well as extremely fearful of my future: from not only job searching but making sure that I do not become more unwell, unable to give back to society.

We all have dreams and hopes for our future and this isn’t any different for people with disabilities, mental health conditions or long term illnesses.

This makes us feel concerned about the future because we know we can give back to society and,yes, that might not be in a highly paid job but we want to feel valued and feel more accepted by society. We are all different with different skills to bring into different industries for example, catering, health care or retail. Just because we are disabled doesn’t mean we don’t have anything to offer!

In fact we are have a lot to offer; we are determined, resilient and strong. Due to our disabilities we have to come up with new ways to be able to do something an able-bodied person may find easy so we are also great at problem solving! Sometimes our brains work in different ways so we see things differently to others. This means we may be able to notice things others may have never noticed before. Some of us are really good at remembering information and routes like buses and trains timetables or maybe information on other countries. This means that maybe someone with a disability could actually be a fantastic asset to a business!

Riding for the Disabled Association: How Horse Riding Helps My Disability

Riding for the Disabled Association

I was about 8 or 9 when I started horse riding at my local RDA Centre; I am now 20 years old. Through my time horse riding with the RDA I have found that riding isn’t just something I love to do and I look forward to it during the week. It has helped me in many different ways: one of the big ways it has helped me is with my disability.

When I was younger, horse riding was great physiotherapy for me. It was also very clever because I enjoyed it so much I didn’t see it as having to do my daily stretches and exercises my physiotherapist gave me.

Over the years horse riding has helped me build up my muscles and core strength. Horse riding has helped me to improve my balance massively. I remember when I first started riding and my instructor got us to do lots of different activities to help not only build up confidence and communication skills but to also make sure we were working our muscles safely. For example we had to do activities siting on bean bags or balancing a bean bag on our riding hat and try and make sure it didn’t fall off. This helped me to develop better posture in everyday life. At school I used to have problems writing and making sure my posture at the table was good or when I was eating a meal. I found that over time horse riding really helped me to develop better posture and now I can do tasks so much more easily. Doing this also helped me to see if I was sitting properly on the pony. If the bean bag fell off I learnt that my balance was not even and that I was sitting too far over on one side.

Horse riding has helped and continues to help me with my visual perception. I find seeing shapes challenging and this can be confusing. In my lessons I do a lot of work on riding circles evenly as I can sometimes make one side of my circle a lot bigger than the other. During my lessons I may change the rein and to do this I have to ride diagonally across the riding school so now I understand more about what a diagonal is.

Horse riding helps me with my spatial awareness and planning as I have to take into account the other horses and ponies in the school. For example I have to make sure if we are all lined up behind each other that we leave a safe distance between each of us. As well as this sometimes some of the horses and ponies in the class don’t get on very well so we may need to prepare more about who we chose to stand behind. As well as this in some of the activities we do, we may have to halt between cones or on “X” so I need to prepare my halt in advance and make sure my legs are forward and that I am sitting back into the saddle and don’t tip forward.

Lastly going horse riding at the RDA has helped me to feel less alone and not to feel ashamed of who I am because at school other kids bullied me because of my disability. When I’m at RDA I feel accepted and I can be myself.

The Power of a Hashtag: #DisabledPeopleAreHot

disability

You might have heard about a very popular hashtag used in the disabled community at the moment. The Hashtag #disabledpeoplearehot created by Andrew Gurza has taken the online disabled community by storm. Disabled people from all around the world are now using this hashtag all over social media.

As a young disabled women I love this hashtag; I think it has such a powerful message that all of us disabled or not could learn from.

Just because we might not fit into the social norm doesn’t mean that we are not like other people our age. Yes we might have to go to more doctor appointments or use aids to help us get around but that doesn’t make us not “pretty” or “hot.”What is the definition of beautiful? What is the definition of hot? What makes us attractive?

We are all individuals if everyone was the same life would be boring.

This hashtag I believe really helps to challenge the stigma around disability and dating. Sometimes if a disabled person has a boyfriend or girlfriend others automatically think that their partner is also disabled. If a disabled person is dating an able bodied person others might just think they are friends or that the other person is their career. It can take others by surprise that a able bodied person is dating or going on a date with a disabled person. This hashtag helps to challenge society’s views on disabled people finding love and having a relationship.

Finally I think that this hashtag helps to empower the disabled community. The hashtag helps others to build up confidence as well as helping people to feel proud of who they are in a time where there is a lot of peer pressure to look a certain way that could be that  through the media or school life in the playground.

Riding for the Disabled Association: Billy‚Äôs First Ever Dressage Competition

Riding for the Disabled Association

At the moment I am helping to train the youngest pony at the stables: he is called Billy.

In my horse riding lessons I have worked with him a lot. He has now got so much better doing work in the school with other horses and ponies being in the same arena as him. I have done quite a lot of with him to improve his circles and also making sure he is on the track and goes into the corners. With Billy I do have to work more on making sure he is listening to me as he gets easily distracted and likes to look out of the school doors and see what’s going on.

Recently Billy and I took part in a dressage competition with Dressage Anywhere.This was Billy’s first ever time competing in a dressage competition.

On the day of the dressage competition Billy was fantastic. He was very curious and did enjoy looking at himself in the mirror at times. He was also very interested in the video camera. We joke a lot and say that we think Billy quite fancies being a model. During our dressage routine Billy did amazingly: he was alert but also listening to me. He seemed to take everything in his stride. I was so proud of him especially because it was his first ever dressage competition, so I wasn’t sure how he would react to doing things in the school by himself with no other horses or ponies around with him.

Here is a small clip of different things we did for our dressage.

Billy and I came 1st in the dressage competition which was brilliant: we scored 71.39%. I am so proud of him and how far he has come in such a short space of time. He really is a pot of gold!

Riding for the Disabled Association: How Horse Riding Helped Me Through Getting Bullied

Riding for the Disabled Association

One of my very first riding lessons at RDA. Here I am riding the beautiful Anya.

one of my very first horse riding lessons at RDA riding the beautiful  Anya.

I was first bullied in primary school however when I went into secondary school the bullying got a lot worse and on a whole new level. I was getting bullied physically, verbally and online. The thing was I wasn’t just being bullied by people in my Year I was also being bullied by the kids in the older and younger years too. I felt like I just couldn’t escape from it; I was always on edge waiting for the next horrible thing to happen. I felt suicidal it felt like I was living in darkness with no light. When I would come back from school in tears their where days I would cry myself to sleep and wish I wouldn’t wake up.

However there was one place I went to in the week were I just felt so happy, safe and not scared; that special place was going to my local RDA stables for my horse riding lessons. I would look forward to my Saturday horse riding lessons like crazy and when the bad things happened I would just try to think about the amazing horses and ponies at RDA.

There were days when I didn’t want to go horse riding because I was so upset and down from what was happening at school. Sometimes I didn’t think I deserved to go horse riding as the bullies made me feel like a horrible person; who deserved the things that would happen to me daily at school.

Forrester all tacked up ready for his lesson.

In spite of everything when I got to the stables and onto one of the ponies or horses everything changed for the better; I was able to forget about all the horrible things that were happening at school for a few minutes a week. The horses and ponies really helped me to feel like I was good at something. They made me feel that I was needed as they needed to be exercised. The horses and ponies also helped me a lot as I didn’t feel judge by them in anyway, they just accepted me for me and that was amazing in fact they still do!

I remember when I used to do trotting in my lessons, when I was doing trotting I would try and use it to help me to move on from the things I was having done to me during that week at school. Before trotting I wold think about the horrible things that week and then when I got the pony or horse to trot I would try and imagine trotting those experiences away and forgetting about them. I found this a really helpful coping strategy because I would tell teachers about what was happening but nothing was done about it.

The horses and ponies, grooms, riding instructors and other volunteers are all incredible. I don’t know what I would have done or where I would be now if it wasn’t for this amazing charity;that has helped me get through one of the hardest and most painful times in my life, SO THANK YOU!

Dance and Disability

disability

Every week I have dance class workshops at the theatre groups I attend. When I was younger I also did ballet class once a week. Over the past couple of years I have noticed that dance has a positive impact on my disability. Here are a few ways dancing has helped my disability:

1. Dance does not just help me to stay more fit and active; I find that sometimes dance can help me to express my emotions through a creative outlet without me having to talk to express my emotions and thoughts.

2. Dance helps me to improve my balance as we do a lot of warm up activities that make us need to focus on our balance but also I may need to balance when preparing to do high kicks in our dance routines or fast turns.

3. My disability makes it really hard for me to know the sequence of events. So having to do a dance routine really helps me to work on ways to try and remember a sequence due to the fact that our dances have lots of fast moves one after the other and can be quite quick.

4. I find that we have to use our core muscles a lot to help us stay up right when doing kicks or lifts. So I have found that my upper body strength is improving and that I am able to use my core muscles a lot better now when dancing.

5. I find eye, hand coordination tricky at times however dance helps me to use different parts of my body at the same time. I have found that listening to the music when dancing helps me to keep the rhythm and beat of the dance I am doing.

6. I have found that dance has also helped me to loosen and relax my hand strings. This has helped me a lot as I know can get dismount of the horses and ponies I ride as well as when I am in my riding lessons my legs are more relaxed and not so tight gripping onto the horse.

YOOCAN: A Supportive Online Community For The Disabled

disability

I remember when I first found out about this online community through Instagram. On Instagram they share stories of many different disabled people from around the world. When I looked at the website a big smile grew across my face. This was because I found a place where disability was embraced and not laughed at.

YOOCAN is an online community where people with disabilities from all over the world can share empowering stories about living life with a disability. Here people write about many topics for example they might do a product recommendation . Or write about what it is like to travel with a disability. Another topic I love to read from is all about other people’s hobbies.

I can’t say how many stories I have read about covering so many different topics. When reading others stories and experiences I feel that I am not alone. I also feel that others get it and understand. It’s a great way to get tips and tricks on things I may find hard to do such as cooking. I have got some good fashion styling tips as well. For example when I wore a splint at school I was bullied for this and wearing one made me feel very self-conscious. I didn’t like showing it so wore trousers quite a lot even in summer. Kids bullied me because I couldn’t wear girls and women’s shoes I had to wear boys shoes as my splint made my shoe size bigger etc. By reading other people’s stories I realised that I wasn’t alone in feeling self- conscious and being bullied for wearing a splint. Reading others experiences made me feel that I was not a freak. I felt like a freak a lot of the time at school as that was one of things other kids called me.

One of the big reasons I love YOOCAN is how people write about their stories and their experiences they have had in a positive way but also keeping it real.

Being part of this community definitely helps me with my confidence and self-esteem as I can also write about my experiences; I find I can really relate to others with thoughts about being a disabled young adult on topics such as having to need more support than others my age. Or when my friends wear high heels but I have to wear flats. Just the simple small day to day things that you wouldn’t really think about or notice.

Lastly I think YOOCAN slogan “do anything” is so positive and sends a very powerful message to everyone. Just because someone has a disability that doesn’t mean they don’t have ambitions and dreams. It doesn’t matter who you are your dreams can come true!

Website: https://yoocanfind.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/yoocandoanything/?hl=en

 

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The Joy Of Baking

mental health

From a young age I have loved baking especially with my mum. As a young child I found it magical to see how the cakes in the oven would change and get bigger and bigger. Or seeing how the biscuits got all golden; not forgetting the wonderful smells they created coming from the oven.

My mum used to come into my primary and do cookery lessons, we learnt how to make lots of different things from cheese scones, jam tarts and marble cake to name a few.

A few years ago I went into a mental health hospital for a couple of weeks. I had 1:1 sessions with the occupational therapist (OT for short). The OT and I had quite a few sessions together baking. We would bake party food together such as cupcakes,biscuits and brownies. I would make party food because when someone was due to leave the ward we would have a little leaving party for them. I enjoyed doing baking activities whilst in hospital as it helped me with my anxiety as I started to feel more comfortable around others. I found by baking it helped me to talk to others and start conversations. People would ask me questions like “what recipe book did you use?”Or “how much chocolate did you use ? “. From just these few questions the conversations I was having grew and before I knew it I had made new friends. I loved seeing others enjoying my baking!

Last year at college I did baking sessions to build up my independent living skills. I would make all the recipes from scratch and my 1:1 helper would help me to make each recipe. I made things such as Victoria Sponge Cake, Black Forest Gateau Cake and Pineapple Upside Down Cake. At college before I made anything I would go on the computer and look at a supermarket website to see how much the ingredients cost and how much I would be spending to make each recipe. I would then go to that supermarket and buy the ingredients I needed.

Chocolate Fridge Cake.

Baking doesn’t just make me feel happy, it helps me build up lots of different skills:

Baking helps me to improve my maths as I have to weigh each ingredient correctly to make sure the recipe turns out right . I also need to make sure the oven is on the correct heat and I have to manage my time efficiently because my baking needs to be done and cooked properly before the end of the day.

Sometimes when baking I will need to rub butter into the flour with my finger tips to make a crumble type mixture, by doing this with my hands I am building up my hand strength; I need to make sure I am building up my strength as I am weaker on one side of my body due to my disability.

I find following recipe instructions sometimes difficult to understand so by trying out new recipes I am not only building up on my reading skills but I start to understand the sequence of the instructions.

At college I enjoyed baking things for when we did cake sales . We raise money for Children in Need, Comic Relief and local charities that helped disabled people and their families.