Joanne’s cerebral palsy story

Joanne’s cerebral palsy story: “I was accused of being drunk due to a lack of understanding of my disability”

Joanne, 50, was diagnosed with cerebral palsy when she was 18 months old.

She battles muscle weakness, difficulty walking and issues swallowing on a daily basis.

Growing up during the 70s meant that there wasn’t a great deal known about her condition and when she went to school, Joanne was bullied by other students for being different.

Last year, Joanne was refused service in a pub because staff thought she was drunk due to her slurred speech – a result of her condition.

She said there is a lack of awareness around conditions like cerebral palsy and an unwillingness to engage with people with less visible disabilities.

Joanne said: “I’ve had people in bars and clubs think I’m drunk before.

“The staff didn’t apologise or even listen – it felt like I was back in school being bullied.

“At the time I felt like I couldn’t stand up for myself, and I hate to think that other people might be in a similar situation.

“Even if this happened to one other person, that is too many.

“I want everyone to be more aware of these invisible conditions so people with them can be treated with more dignity.”

The movement disorder meant Joanne, from Walton, Liverpool, had to leave her job as a support worker two years ago.

Her condition caused her to become fatigued, and it had become impossible to continue working in that environment.

Earlier this year, Joanne was introduced to The Brain Charity’s employment team.

Working across the Directions and New Horizons projects, staff get those with neurological conditions back into workplaces, education and placements by helping remove the potential barriers that exclude many.

Since earlier this year, Joanne has taken part in one-to-one confidence coaching sessions with Mandy, The Brain Charity’s Employment Confidence Coach.

She said: “My confidence was at a 2 out of 10 before doing my sessions with Mandy.

“Now I’d say I’m an 8 or even a 9.

“It’s been a struggle to accept my cerebral palsy even though I’ve had this diagnosis pretty much my whole life, but these sessions have helped me come to terms with it.

“I’ve been able to shift my focus from what I’m not able to do and open my eyes to the skills I can offer.

“It’s a slow process as I still have to manage symptoms like fatigue, but I look forward to The Brain Charity matching me to the right employer.”

Category: Employment

Published: 5 October 2021

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