Category Archives: my story

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My Story: Paul Moore

1149275_10153150546995557_1189271222_oPaul Moore hasn’t looked back since winning a place on The Network, the future talent scheme of the Guardian Edinburgh International Television Festival and is currently working for ITV Entertainment on a new primetime gameshow.  

From Able Magazine #110 (March/April 2014), Words: Paul Moore

“So Paul,” said my English teacher, my essay on ‘An Inspector Calls’ on the desk in front of her, “what do you think went wrong?” What had gone wrong, it turned out, was that my essay – while fun and engaging, in a teenage sort of way – had neither answered the question nor adhered to the set of skills that the mark scheme was so keen that I should demonstrate. I suspect that’s a fairly typical experience for dyspraxic people in general; good ideas, but the wrong ones.

Eight years and some tense exams later, and I’m better at balancing the benefits of dyspraxia (like thinking outside the box) with the downsides, like the struggle to present your ideas in a way which will be remotely useful to whoever is on the receiving end of your handiwork. Enter Turner Broadcasting. I’d been playing with video cameras from the age of nine, making shows on one of those camcorders only found in the 90s, presenting and producing a YouTube news show called NewsHit. Turner offered the chance to turn an interest into a career; they proposed to fund my place on The Network.

Tough Lessons

Two months later and I was sat in Edinburgh, at a CV clinic. In front of me was Cheryl Woodcock, a talent manager for ITV Entertainment. She took me through my CV, explaining why about 60% of it had to go. Oh, and the font was all wrong. It was a painful process, and it was among the most useful 20 minutes of my professional life so far.

We had format development sessions, networking advice, masterclasses with the wonderfully approachable Jay Hunt of Channel 4, John Bishop, the guys who made Pointless, and my hero Graham Norton’s producer.  We went to talks by Kevin Spacey and Breaking Bad creator, Vince Gilligan, and made an episode of Sky News under the direction of executive producer, Neil Dunwoodie, and anchor, Martin Stanford. At one event Charlie Brooker (another hero) reduced me to a blithering burble after he tried in vain to make conversation.

The four days that I spent at The Network were life-changing; I’d now got some of the skills that I’d need to actively look for a job in the industry. Television needs fresh perspectives and disabled people are one of the most untapped resources in that respect, so it’s fantastic that Turner is investing not only in the futures of individuals like me, but also in the future of the industry as a whole.

More:

An episode of Brilliant Britain, produced and co-presented by Paul, is airing on the Community Channel (Sky and Virgin viewers only). It will also be available online at communitychannel.org/video.

Paul Moore is on Twitter: @_PaulMoore_

Seren on Power Plate 5

My Story: Feeling the Power

Seren on Power Plate 5Seren, 9, was born with mild cerebral palsy, although her symptoms did not become apparent until she was analyzed for delayed walking.  At that point, doctors realised she had limited movement in her left lower leg and foot.

 From Able Magazine #109 (January/February 2014)

Seren has little control of her left foot, due to nerve pathways being interrupted at the hip.   In addition to her foot being slightly turned inward, her left leg is weaker than her right leg as the muscles are less well-developed.  This causes Seren to use her right leg to bear most of her weight and manage her movement.

She is able to walk, with a limp, and can partake in most school sports and activities, with the exception of hopping or balancing on her left leg. Seren has learned to cope with her weaker left foot and leg and will manage this imbalance for the rest of her life.

Whole body vibration training with Power Plate® has substantially helped Seren’s ongoing healthcare.   Engineered precisely to apply the science behind a body’s natural response to destabilisation, Power Plate technology uses a vibrating platform to amplify the effects of any exercise performed.  It creates a consistent, controlled level of vibration – referred to as harmonic vibration – that moves the platform up and down, forward and back and side to side. The platform produces 25 to 50 vibrations per second, at precisely controlled amplitudes, which triggers reflexive contractions in the muscles, the body’s natural response to the destabilisation.

Seren’s mother Dani was inspired to try Power Plate with Seren, based on her own positive experience of the training method.

“I use Power Plate for its fitness benefits and enjoy the sense of the vibrating plate and the response of my muscles as they stabilise my body,” says Dani, 36.  “Knowing that Seren has little control in her left foot and her muscles are weaker on that side of her body, it occurred to me that the Power Plate might help,” she says.

As the muscle contractions are involuntary, reflexive, rapid, and repetitive, even people who lack strength or control of their body and cannot exercise in the traditional way are able to use the device to gain the health benefits including increased circulation, muscle toning, and strengthening.  In many cases, training on a Power Plate machine can help build sufficient strength and mobility to allow the individual to begin exercising independently.

Seren started off very gently under the guidance of Chrissie Rees, a personal trainer at ActiveVibe in Caerphilly.  She immediately felt the muscles in her left leg being activated involuntarily in response to the vibrating plate.  She thoroughly enjoys using the Power Plate and has one 25 minute session per week.  In addition to stimulating her left foot and leg, she uses it to strengthen her core muscles and encourage better body balance.

“Power Plate helps Seren to be fully aware of her entire body and by strengthening her core and leg muscles, it can help her cope with the weakness in her left foot and leg,” says Chrissie.  “Power Plate enables us to isolate Seren’s left foot and leg and really work these muscles specifically.  As she gains more strength through her involuntary, reflexive muscle action she can minimise the impact of her weakness.”

More: powerplate.co.uk

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My Story: Getting To The Top

rocks_1Sam Frears was born with Familial Dysautonomia (also known as Riley-Day Syndrome), a rare genetic condition that affects the nervous system. Familial Dysautomia has left Sam, now 41, with various physical impairments. He is partially sighted, and has mobility issues, as well as being more vulnerable to illness and exhaustion. Despite his physical problems, however, Sam is determined to live life to the full. His passions are acting, football (West Ham in particular), and since 2011 … rock climbing! 

From Able Magazine #109 (January/February 2014)

Sam’s climbing career all started in autumn, 2011. A close family friend had been impressed as he cycled past climbers at a North London climbing wall, and, bringing it up in conversation with Sam, had teasingly told him that he “wouldn’t have the guts” to make it to the top. Not one to pass up a challenge Sam decided to prove his friend wrong. Sam called his carer, Courage, and asked him to book them in for a climbing session. Courage, who also has restricted movement of one of his arms, was initially hesitant, but was motivated by Sam’s enthusiasm and agreed they should give it a go. They booked a session with James from R&J Adventures, and so their climbing adventures began.

Persistence

Since his first session climbing has become a large part of Sam’s life. He now climbs regularly at indoor walls around London, and has successfully moved into climbing outdoors too. He’s recently climbed in North Wales, the Peak District, and New York. He has completed several long abseils (going down rather than up), including a 200 foot descent into the Avon Gorge. In the Spring 2013 Sam took part in a British Mountaineering Council Paraclimbing competition. Whilst not coming away with a medal, Sam showed remarkable persistence in the later climbs of the competition, and may well be back next year. It is testament to Sam’s give-it-a-go mentality and his continued determination that he has achieved so much in the rock climbing world.

Of course, climbing isn’t always easy for Sam. On his first session it took almost an hour for Sam to reach the top of the wall. Two years on, Sam can now reach the top in less than five minutes but there are still challenges to overcome. Sam can’t see the holds in the same way most climbers do and some movements are more difficult for him. However, through practice and perseverance, and with the help of James and Courage, Sam has developed techniques to overcome these challenges. Sam has and continues to well and truly prove that he does indeed have the guts, and more, to get to the top.

Climbing is known for both its physical and psychological benefits. Sam finds that climbing has impacted positively on his exercise routine and has improved his health and fitness. It also gives him the mental satisfaction that comes with taking on and overcoming new challenges. Along with this sense of personal achievement is the camaraderie, mutual trust and understanding that’s developed between Sam, Courage, and James as they undertake various sessions, trips and challenges together.

So, what would Sam Frears say to someone who fancied giving climbing a go but had worries about it? In the words of one of his acting heroes (David Jason, as Only Fools and Horses’ DelBoy) Sam declares “He who dares, wins!”. He goes on to say “Be brave, and do what you can; all you need is a good teacher to support you”.

More: R&J Adventures

Sam’s instructor is James from R&J Adventures. R&J Adventures run adventure activities including indoor and outdoor rock climbing, camping, hiking and mountaineering. We aim to be able to offer activities for people of all ability levels.

RosieandJimAdventures.com/ability-for-adventure

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My Story: The De Assis Family

unnamed1Until three months ago, the De Assis family lived in their own house in Borehamwood. It would have suited them perfectly if it wasn’t for the fact that both their children were born with the genetic disease, Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA), which causes severe muscle weakness and loss of movement. 

From Able Magazine #109 (January/February 2014)

Adi and Rosicleia moved from Brazil to the UK in 1997. They settled into jobs and life in this country and bought a house. Hamane was born in 2007 but before long they realised she wasn’t developing as she should. She was diagnosed with SMA when she was two and life quickly changed for the family. Hamane would never be able to walk but their house was too small for a wheelchair. They looked at buying a bigger house but simply couldn’t afford one on Adi’s salary as an electrical engineer, especially since Rosicleia had stopped working to look after Hamane.

Rosicleia explains: “We had always wanted two children. When we talked to Hamane’s doctors they told us that the odds against us having another child with the disease, were in our favour.

Progress

When Shaya came along in 2010 she started crawling and progressed to walking with a baby walker but by the time she was two she had not walked unaided. Shaya had SMA as well, although in a slightly milder form than Hamane.”

With two children that needed wheelchairs it was now obvious to them that they couldn’t stay in their house. “It was a nightmare getting the children in and out of the house, from room to room and upstairs. The children had no independence and we had no time to ourselves.” They approached Hertsmere Borough Council, who agreed to try to find them a suitable home.

Hightown Praetorian & Churches Housing Association got involved with the family as they were building 85 new affordable homes at the time in Borehamwood. They were already adapting one house for disabled occupants but the Council asked if they could adapt another for the De Assis family. Hightown agreed and worked closely with the family to ensure their new house met their needs.

The Adaptations

unnamedAll doors and corridors in the house are wider for the girls’ wheelchairs. Hoists run through the house and link both girls’ bedrooms to the bathroom, which is a wet room with an automatic bench for bathing the children. A lift that Hamane loves to use, connects downstairs with upstairs and they have a disabled parking space. The adaptations were paid for by the local authority with a Disabled Facilities Grant for which they had to sell their house to be eligible. Finally they were handed the keys to their new home in July 2013.

Adi said: “We’ve been in the house a couple of months now and it is great. Although the house looks big to most people, for us it’s just the right size, as the girls have room to turn their wheelchairs. Having this house gives the girls some independence as they can go upstairs on their own and play. It also gives us some much needed peace and quiet, a bit of comfort and some privacy.”

It’s so much better having the space, and being in this house gives us an easier life. The last six years have been emotionally draining. There seemed to be no light at the end of the tunnel but now we feel that we can relax. This is now a new chapter in our lives and we are very relieved and thankful that the Council and Hightown were able to give us the help we needed.”