As a younger learner I was unable to continue my secondary education at a mainstream school due to health problems that started to become an issue at the age of 10. At that time I was diagnosed with M.E (myalgic encephalomyelitis) although I have since been diagnosed with joint hypermobility syndrome and fibromyalgia too. I had to leave school at 12 years old and was out of school for two years whilst another suitable place was located for me.

I became involved with a health needs education service based in Kent (UK) and was found a place at a small unit with flexible hours, supportive staff and a class size of about 8. This was great and enabled me to complete some high school education but the subjects available for GCSE study were very limited. Despite this I did get some GCSEs, albeit not in the subjects I particularly wanted. Due to the nature of the education unit there was no option to study for any A levels. College study was my only option.

I applied for a college course, met the tutors and spent time looking around the campus on several occasions. All the while, I was dealing with a lot of health issues and a lot of joint pain. Walking around the college itself was exhausting. I had no choice but to forget about doing the course due to lack of understanding and provision for my physical health needs. Being unable to cope with college sent me into a deep spiral of anxiety and depression.

After a long time I did realise that there were other things I could do to keep my brain active and occupied. I started doing free online courses as well as some cheaper ones that I have paid for. It gives me a sense of pride that I can do the coursework, although it can still be very isolating.

When my daughter started school in 2016, a group was brought to my attention. It was a local mums group and although I was very anxious I decided I would go along. I am glad I did as being part of the group has helped me to learn about lots of different things. I have learnt about cooking and healthy eating, about stress and I have also learnt some crafting skills too. Although not a strict teaching environment with qualifications, the learning process is both informative and enjoyable. The friendliness and informal setting helps me to feel relaxed about learning and takes my mind off my severe anxiety and other physical health problems.

I do not believe there was enough education provision for those with a mental or physical health problem and I believe this is still the case. I think a lot more could be done to be more inclusive and give everybody equal opportunities. As a result of the issues I have had throughout my teen and adult years so far I feel I have no job prospects due to the lack of education provision for those of us with disabilities, despite being extremely eager to learn. I believe there could be more done to include those of us with disabilities and help them to achieve their dreams.

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By pbindo