Disability Awareness Month – Question and Answer with Learner

Disability awareness month. Learner diagnosed with Colitis

Today, we would be having a conversation with one of our learners, and asking them questions to better understand their journey and learn from their challenges.

Let’s begin with the Case Study questions for this learner.

Can you provide a brief overview of your educational background and the qualifications you completed?

I didn’t pass my GCSE Maths, so I continued my Level 1 FS Maths at college alongside my Performing Arts course. I achieved my Level 3 PA at college and avoided my Level 2 FS Maths at all costs. When I dropped out of college, not wanting to continue my Performing Arts course, I was afraid of going back into the education scene because I didn’t want to have to do Maths again. Now, during my apprenticeship, I achieved my Level 2 FS Maths, im First Aid Trained, I have my Level 2 Safeguarding, and I’m certified in Health and Safety.

When did you become aware of your disability, and how has it impacted your learning journey?

I started my apprenticeship in February 2022, and I became aware of my condition June/July 2022. It impacted my learning heavily, as I couldn’t get comfortable enough to focus on any of the tasks I was set. It also impacted my ability to do the physical work, where I was constantly having to be near a bathroom at all times.

What specific challenges did you face due to your disability while pursuing your qualifications?

The general embarrassment is what was the most overwhelming for me. I was always so worried that the girls at work were secretly judging me for constantly needing the toilet. Havingvto leave work early or being late to work due to having an accident, the embarrassment was more extreme for that than actually having the accident itself. Finding the energy to complete my coursework was another factor. I’d settle down to begin working, then I’d have to immediately leave the room again. I couldn’t ever get comfortable enough to focus.

How did these challenges affect your motivation and confidence in your ability to succeed academically?

I felt terrible that I’d started this apprenticeship and suddenly had to take so much time off work to recover. I didn’t want to admit that I needed a break from my coursework to recover, mostly because it felt like I was admitting defeat and I hated letting my condition win like that. When I was diagnosed as diabetic, I was told I could control it. It didn’t affect my life as much as you’d think. But my colitis took over every aspect of my social life, my home life, my work life, and it left me feeling like I wasn’t in control of myself anymore.

Did you develop any specific learning strategies or adaptations to address your challenges?

I was given a break from learning for a couple weeks while I recovered in hospital and at home. I was offered to pause my learning at any point until I felt well enough to continue.

How did you manage stress and maintain mental well-being during challenging times in your learning journey?

I spoke lots to my room leader and the other girls that were also completing their apprenticeship. They helped to support me with my coursework and gave me lots of reassurance, which was very welcomed. When I was offered to take a break from my coursework, I agreed with lots of thought and I’m glad I did, it helped a lot while I was struggling to manage it all.

Can you share a specific accomplishment or milestone that you are particularly proud of during your academic journey?

I’m proud that I passed the 1 year mark of my apprenticeship, and that I’m nearly finished! I’m also impressed with the fact that I managed to earn my First Aid certification, and most recently my safeguarding certification.

How did you celebrate your achievements, and what impact did they have on your confidence and future goals?

I brought in a chocolate cake to share with the girls for my 1 year anniversary of joining my setting and starting my apprenticeship. The girls were very excited for me and it inspired me to continue pushing through the hard times to finish!

How did your relationships with peers and your trainer contribute to your overall experience?

I’m very appreciative for my assessor. She’s very kind and understanding, and she gives me as much time as I need to complete my work. She’s been amazing throughout my learning journey and I know I couldn’t have asked for someone better. The girls I work with are extremely kind and caring, and they’re always making certain that I’m comfortable while working, asking how my learning is progressing and offering any help that they can.

Were there specific instances of support or understanding from your peers or your trainer that stood out to you?

When I had an accident at work, my room leader reacted faster than I did and covered me up and immediately had someone step into the room so she could take me home. She didn’t make a fuss about what had happened, which really helped with my overall embarrassment of the situation. While I was in the hospital, following up from this incident, she contacted me to assure me that nobody was judging me for what happened. It gave me the confidence that I needed to know that when I would return to work that nobody would care in negative light.

How do you envision your career path after completing your qualifications?
I’m hoping to stay on at my setting for years to come. Maybe after a few years of gaining experience from the girls I work with, I could go into being a nanny or a childminder. One of the girls has encouraged me to continue and achieve my Level 5, which I am considering to do.

Have your experiences overcoming challenges influenced your aspirations and goals for the future?

Yes. I was always insecure at school and college, believing that I wouldn’t ever amount to anything useful, and this negative thought process hit me again when I was diagnosed with colitis. But, the girls have encouraged me and continue to do so, which has really influenced the appeal of maybe achieving my Level 5.

What advice would you give to other learners with disabilities who are facing similar challenges?#

That using PTO is NOT taking advantage of your employers, and asking for help from your assessors isn’t a bad thing. If you’re not well rested and feeling completely yourself, you won’t be able to do much aside from weighing yourself down. Rest and recover is extremely important during burnouts and flare ups.

Is there anything you wish you had known or done differently at the beginning of your learning journey?

I wish I had gone to the doctors sooner to ask about my, at the time, mild and very small symptoms. It would have helped a lot more knowing what I was dealing with rather than ignoring and hoping it would go away by itself. I also wish I had asked for help more rather than waiting until I was falling behind with my work.

Looking back, how would you describe the overall impact of your disability on your learning experience?

Considering I was very close to dropping my apprenticeship and leaving this field of work behind, I’d say my disability impacted me a lot. I felt like I’d have to choose between my health and my work, and I hated that it might have had to be a choice.

What lessons have you learned that could be valuable to others facing similar challenges?

That it’s okay to take your time and ask for help. I always thought I’d be able to finish my work independently, but I’m relieved that I’ve received the help that I needed.

Posted in: Case Studies, Community, Health and Wellbeing, Support