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Voices of Fostering: What’s it like to be a disabled child in care

This is an interview with Tanisha who is a disabled 14 year-old placed with a Five Rivers foster family in the West of England. She talked about what it is like being a disabled young person to Olivia,  our participation officer.

Do you go to school?

I go to a specialist science college. Some people are in a special school. We can go into mainstream school if we want. Mainstream is a bit harder – a special school is easier.

What was  difficult about mainstream school?

What I found difficult about mainstream is that sometimes I got caught up with the wrong people. Some people do things for a tease and sometimes people get bullied and I don’t think it’s right. For example I have a scar due to a heart operation and someone was being mean to me about it.  I feel like bullying is really wrong and I don’t know why they do it. Some people think that having disabilities is wrong but it’s not. Sometimes I feel like I fit in and sometimes I don’t. I Iike my year 10 drama group as I feel I fit in there. I love my drama group. I got a merit from my performance last year.

What helps you in your life ?

I feel my advocate has really helped me in my speech because sometimes I’m not that confident. I’m more able to get my point across now I have my advocate. I don’t go to my meetings – ‘Children In Care reviews’ etc –  as I sometimes don’t understand what’s going on. It takes a lot of time to process everything. Basically, it takes a bit of a while to understand, to process and think about things and I sometimes get a bit upset doing that.I sometimes I feel like I know what I want, but I can’t express it. The right people are so helpful – people in school are helpful.

What is your advice to other people meeting a disabled person?

Slow down – it helps people to understand. If people are working with a disabled person my advice would be to listen and think about what you are saying first. Take your time –  you might not understand them perhaps at first.  In short – if you are working with a disabled person:

  1. Listen
  2. Understand
  3. Take time

Don’t ignore us.

What do you like to do in your free time?

I do quite a lot of activities such as sport, drama, walking the dogs, reading loads of books and watching DVDs,  cinema and theatre. Drama –  lots of performing arts – dancing, singing – the whole creative arts thing. I go to productions,  particularly musicals. I like how they do it and how it goes. I’m quite a busy bee and I have quite a lot of stuff to do. I’m a good swimmer –  the only problem is the deep end!

I hear you are on a special Olympic team?

Yes!  I’m on the special Olympic team for Boccia which is French bowls for disabled people. I play for Cornwall. We are going to Sheffield to take part in the special Olympics. I have a few friends in the team. I would suggest it to anyone.  My coach is quite funny and nice to us and he teaches us.

What makes you most different from other young people?

Most 14-year-olds don’t do as much as me. I’m different because I do so much with my time – I am such as busy bee. I’m more active than most 14 years olds. Just because I’m disabled it doesn’t mean I’m any different.  It doesn’t matter that I’m a disabled person  – we are all just ordinary people.

Where would you like to be in the future, Tanisha?

In five years’ time, I’d like to be at college. I’d like to be in foster care until I’m 18. It helps me to acknowledge who I am. I like living with Judith and Peter now and I’d like to stay here until I go to college and push myself to the limit, push myself to the next level and if I can achieve it then to the next level again.

Remember who you are, remember who you are at this very moment – remember who you are.

(Tanisha’s real name has been changed to protect her identity)

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