Cerebral Palsy, school & me

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Francesca Dean shares her perspective for parents on choosing the right school for their children.

Francesca Dean made her entrance into the world on September 28th 1994, weighing a tiny 2lbs 8oz not knowing yet what this crazy but spectacular world had planned for her, She didn’t know it yet, but she was brought into the world to be an advocate for children and so many other families who live with Cerebral Palsy.

What is cerebral palsy?

Cerebral Palsy is a neurological condition which occurs in the womb. As the placenta starts to deteriorate, consequently the baby doesn’t get the vital oxygen and nutrients that a baby needs to be able to survive. Therefore, after birth, this can affect core child development such as speech, language, motor skills, dexterity, and the ability to communicate.

Francesca’s story with Cerebral Palsy began 26 years ago, way before Google or social media exploded onto our mobiles and screens.

“I can’t even begin to imagine what it must’ve been like for so many families in the same predicament as mine. Waiting for weeks on end just to find out what was happening and the decisions surrounding whatever outcome awaited – without the quick fix and efficacy of computers, search engines and the rollercoaster of emotions that would follow suit – as well as this, how the decisions might impact on such an innocent but vulnerable child with tough mountains to climb later in life. Small things we all take for granted.”

“On the other hand, I was put on this earth to live my life to the absolute fullest not only just to educate others and their families, but also to demonstrate just how beautiful Cerebral Palsy can be, when you have an incredible support network around you with a plethora of tools and know-how to guide and anchor you along the way.”

“This, I believe, has helped me blossom into the fierce, passionate and determined young woman I am today – without a single sympathy vote in sight – and it’s this mantra I’m so proud to live by.”

Why choosing the right school for your child is key

Choosing an appropriate school for your child plays a key role in their overall development especially if your child has Cerebral Palsy or any other additional disabilities.

However, this all depends on condition severity and overall progress made from nursery but the best way to establish this is to gain insight from those who work with your child closely such as a social worker, teacher, teaching assistants, nursery nurse, physiotherapists or occupational therapists.

The best advice I can give to you is to always follow gut instinct and regardless of the outcome you’re giving your child the best possible start as they begin the next most important chapter in their educational journey.

Every child deserves to grow up in a world full of inclusivity, diversity and cohesion regardless of disability and to follow their dreams but this process can only start when the right choice of school has been finalised.

Whatever choice of school you make, please don’t put yourselves down. You know your own children best.

I must stress that choosing an appropriate school for children with additional needs is not easy in any way, shape or form.

When you’re given that life-changing prognosis from birth that your child has a condition that will never go away. 

Automatically, as a parent all you want is your child to be happy, healthy and to be equipped with the tools needed, in order for them to become the next generations of our tomorrow.

In addition, when a successful decision is made, the positive effects of this on the child or young person are outstanding. The young person can then, along with their support system, start to create a sense of belonging, increase self-esteem and reduce the risk of peer pressure in the future or unwanted stigma surrounding their disability.

I was extremely fortunate to only spend a short amount of time in a specialist school and began to make my first steps into full-time education because I’d coped so well with spending time in both a specialist and mainstream nursery. This was only possible thanks to the people who knew me inside and out – including my family.

The amount of structure, care and utmost precision that went into really getting to know me and my family before and after I left both nurseries and the specialist school were second to none, which is why I believe making these key introductions early to ensure a smooth transition into mainstream or specialist school is vital.

Lucy Meacock, Tony Morris and Me

From the very first few days of entering mainstream school, this is where my overall development really began to flourish. My favourite subjects in primary school were English and Art because from a very young age, I already knew how to properly express myself, be creative and make a stand on popular topics that resonated with me especially growing up in the society we live in today.

I‘ve never been afraid of standing my ground and using my voice to get clear and concise points across, as well as this, proudly advocating for those who don’t feel like they belong or have a voice purely due to the stigma or lack of knowledge that still encapsulates disability, we’re now in 2021, and this isn’t acceptable.

My love of English carried on during my time at high school. Drama was also another favourite subject of mine, because these are lessons in the school curriculum where you can continue to be yourself, shine, but most importantly the power of language, creativity, and use of words can help you to evolve everlasting legacies and positive change to inspire future generations without realising it.

All the way through primary and secondary school the rare ability to do this was acknowledged by my teachers due to the pride and efficiency I took in all aspects of my schoolwork. 

I also was a very popular and well-liked student who established excellent rapport with staff and students.

It didn’t matter to them if I used a wheelchair or not, I was just the bubbly and happy Francesca everyone still knows today and that’s why I think staff and students looked up to me as a key role model within the secondary school community.

When I was in my last few years at high school I became a prefect. This was a role I was extremely proud of because it prepared me for life away from school. Since leaving school 10 years ago now, I’ve learnt about the art of resilience and the importance of having a thick skin whilst smiling and loving life at the same time.

Disability is a journey, not our destination.

Francesca Dean
Author: Francesca Dean

Francesca Dean
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Francesca Dean is 26, living in Rossendale with her family. Francesca has Cerebral Palsy, unable to walk or stand but uses an electric wheelchair to help her get around.

Following school she went onto several college courses including Business and Travel and Tourism.

Francesca is currently employed at Blackburn Youth Zone as a marketing assistant.

francescadean@hotmail.com

 

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