Ben shares his story to raise awareness for World CP Day
Ahead of World Cerebral Palsy Awareness Day (6 October), we spoke with CWP colleague Ben Adams about his experience of living with the condition.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your role?
I’m Ben, and I currently work as a Business Support Officer with the All Age Disabilities & Mental Health Service, based at the Stein Centre. I have been involved with mental health services in various capacities, both paid and voluntary, for the last 24 years.
I’m also part of the CWP Disability Network. I live with Cerebral Palsy and have always been passionate about promoting what we can rather than cannot do as individuals. I know people close to me who have been discriminated against in their jobs before the ‘protected characteristics’ section of the 2010 Equality Act was published. This was a big motivation for me to play an active part in standing up for equality and diversity in the workplace and beyond. I recently designed a logo for the network, which I really enjoyed doing as my work will help others and the process has provided an interesting alternative to my normal role.
Can you tell us a little bit about Cerebral Palsy and how you were diagnosed?
When I was born, the umbilical cord was wrapped around my neck, starving my brain of oxygen for a few moments. This is basically the cause of Cerebral Palsy (CP). Some people are more affected than others.
I cannot remember when I was diagnosed, but from what my parents told me it was due to concerns with my development from the age of two. I was sent for various tests with many specialists at different South London hospitals where I was eventually assessed as having Cerebral Palsy.
How does having CP affect you?
Cerebral Palsy affects my speech and coordination, particularly during periods of stress. As a child and during early adulthood I struggled with my Cerebral Palsy, causing me much frustration and confusion. However, as a middle aged man, I see as this as my biggest asset in life. I have achieved many things, because this ‘condition’ has given me massive determination in life – despite disbelief from some people that I could achieve anything such as a degree in Architecture, that eventually I gained a Third Class BA Honours in 1994.
What support have you received at work e.g. from managers/colleagues/staff support etc.
Cathy Trevor, who has been my line manager for the eighteen years since I started paid employment, has been a very big professional support to me. If I have any issues, I can approach her straight away and feel confident I will be listened to and actions will be put in place to minimise/resolve things.
Without exception I have felt part of the teams that I have been based in. I can have a good laugh and experience mutual support with all my direct colleagues. Everyone has accepted me for who I am.
Is there any advice you’d like to give to others living with CP?
Try and be yourself as people will accept you for this. Be honest about the bad and good things about living with Cerebral Palsy. Having a sense of humour and being able to laugh at myself has got me a long way in life.