I am 39 years old and I work as a campaigns support officer at learning disability charity, Mencap. I have a husband, a hamster and I’m a Kylie Minogue superfan. Oh, and I have a learning disability!

This is me, and over the next few months I’m going to be taking you on a journey to look at my life, living with a learning disability – the challenges, the triumphs, the highs and the lows.

I want to show the world – but for now, I’ll settle for the Able Magazine readership – that people with a learning disability can achieve their dreams and make a real difference, so long as we’re given the right support. I’m human, I’m not perfect, and I’ve made mistakes, but I’ve grown through my experiences and I want to inspire others to do the same. People with a learning disability deserve the chance to live a normal life like everybody else.

My learning disability diagnosis came about when I was 10 years old and struggling through mainstream school. I was bullied by other pupils and misunderstood by my teachers. I found lessons difficult and my confusion was often misread as laziness.

Thankfully, after my frustrations peaked during a French lesson, my teacher realised something wasn’t right, and I was assessed and eventually diagnosed with a learning disability. I left mainstream education and went to a school for people with special educational needs, where I received the support I needed. There I met lifelong friends, made some wonderful memories and successfully passed five GCSEs. Since then I’ve gone on to live independently in my own flat, I’ve married the love of my life, I have a fabulous job and I couldn’t be happier.

At 39 I’m feeling reflective: I’m looking back on my life and what I’ve achieved, despite the barriers I’ve faced. But I’m also looking to the future. I wonder what else it could hold for someone like me. How far can I go? How will the world change? More importantly, will attitudes towards learning disability change going forward? Tune in over the next few months as I frankly and openly discuss topics such as sex (yes, we have sex!), starting a family, forging a career and healthcare.

About Ciara Lawrence

Ciara Lawrence is one of the most well-known campaigners in the UK with a learning disability. She writes on disability issues as has been published in The Guardian, The Huffington Post, and The Independent. Ciara works as a campaigns support officer for Mencap, and led their campaign to make OKCupid remove an offensive question about people with low IQs. She gained national press coverage and the dating website eventually bowed to public pressure. In 2016 she won the CharityComms Inspiring Communicator Award for her campaigning work.

Twitter: @ciarale01