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UK Disability History Month 16th November - 16th December

“Disability need not be an obstacle to success.” – Stephen Hawking 

“When haters go after your looks and differences, it means they have nowhere left to go. And then you’re winning! I have Aspergers (a form of autism) and that means I’m sometimes a bit different from the norm. And – given the right circumstances – being different is a superpower.” – Greta Thunberg

Last month, 16th November to 16th December, marked UK Disability History Month, with this year being particularly focused around the experiences of children and young people living with a disability. According to the Family Resources Survey (2021 to 2022) there are 16 million disabled people in the UK and around 11% of children are disabled. As such, our assemblies in Novemberwere presented by the school SENDCo, Miss Bullough, with a focus on this important issue.

It was my pleasure to be able to meet with some of our students with a special educational need of disability to help prepare for this. The students were articulate and honest about their experiences of life, particularly within school. They were able to share some of the strategies that are helping them succeed, as well as the misconceptions that they can carry with them. The sentence that really struck me though, their key take home message, was the following:

“It’s not that I don’t get it, I just need other ways to get it.”

Having sustained an injury as a student myself, I have spent the past 15 years living with a hidden disability. I therefore have experienced first hand the prejudice mentioned by some of them, which is unsurprising given the staggering statistic that 72% of disabled people have experienced negative attitudes or behaviour in the last 5 years.

It is, however, great to hear the difference moving towards a social model of disability is making. As society works to understand that this is not an individual problem that needs ‘fixing’, rather a requirement for cultural change to allow for inclusivity the impact is being felt by our students. They are being given the equipment, such as ear buds and fidget toys, which allow them to access the education that is rightfully due them. More than this they are being equipped with the language needed to articulate the challenges they are facing. I can still recall the feelings of isolation that my continual illness and hospital appointments created but lacked the ability to vocalise these experiences until much later down the line. Yet here they are discussing their sensory needs and the way that sounds could be completely intrusive to them and the discomfort they can find within social situations.

Of course, there is still room for further learning, from everyone within the school community, to continue to allow everyone to succeed. However, I will continue to proudly wear my sunflower badge and look forward to being able to join the SEND lunch club in future weeks.

“Disability need not be an obstacle to success.” – Stephen Hawking


Mrs Calverley

Maths Teacher