Story 99

We are all individuals

I was born with cerebral palsy (CP for short). The condition is caused by a problem with the brain that occurs before, during or soon after birth. In my case, there was a lack of oxygen to my brain just before I was born.

Diane Thompson

In the UK, 1 in 400 children have some form of the condition. Cerebral palsy can affect different people in different ways. For me it affects my mobility and my speech.

Growing up in Hull in the 1950s, you didn’t see many disabled people. But my parents tried to give me the best start in life.

When walking around, I’ve always needed to hold on to something. I remember my dad brought home this tatty old doll’s pram and weighed it down with a brick.

My speech impairment has always been the most difficult thing for me. Sometimes children could be a bit mean — they would hear my voice and try to mimic me. People would think they knew what I was trying to say and would speak for me, which could be very frustrating. I just wanted people to speak to me like they would with any non-disabled person.

I went to a special school for disabled kids and I’m really pleased that today some disabled children are going to mainstream school. My school concentrated more on mobility and speech therapy that they did on the actual teaching.

My parents passed away when I was a teenager. I went to boarding school for a while, spending holidays with my uncle and my sister. When I left school I went to live at Godfrey Robinson House. This was before Leonard Cheshire Disability took over the home.

When I first arrived it was like an institution – unlike today it was very strict. Lights had to be out at 10.30. Through the years it has changed for the better and we have more say.

I was so embarrassed about the fact that I hadn’t learned to read. I pretended I could read but I think everybody knew. Slowly I began to learn, reading aloud at first. I remember the first book I read on my own – a true story called A Bridge Too Far (thankfully it wasn’t). I cried when I finished it. Part of me wished my parents could be there to see it. Mainly I was just so pleased!

Some years later, Fred came to live here. We didn’t get on at first. He would try to help me to do things a bit too much, and I would just try to be independent. Then we started talking and got to know each other. Something clicked. After a while, we became a couple. Fred was older than me but it didn’t matter. I’d fallen in love with him.

We got married in 1987. Sadly, Fred passed away two years later. We’d been together 7 years. We’d started off as a ten day wonder and then everyone got used to us being together. The relationship just blossomed.

I hope my story has helped you to understand more about the challenges facing disabled people. While we may share some difficulties, we are all individuals with our own story. This is mine.

While we may share some difficulties, we are all individuals with our own story. This is mine.