16 year old Jennifer began her placement as she was struggling with mainstream education. There had been a number of occasions where her level of frustration had escalated to a verbal or physical outburst. Jennifer’s passion for horses along with her challenging behaviour led to the school requesting support from Amelia Trust Farm.

Jennifer had a number of additional conditions that caused her difficulties therefore effecting her level of engagement in education and her quality of life. These conditions included dermatitis, epilepsy and cerebral palsy plus a number of allergies.  Physiotherapists hoped that the work completed at the Farm would develop Jennifer’s muscle tone, stamina and confidence.

Within the first term of attendance Jennifer was making excellent progress in her physical development and began to grow in confidence but was displaying signs of self-loathing which appeared to be due to the limitations caused by her cerebral palsy. Jennifer’s confidence in her self-image deteriorated rapidly leading to a period of self-harm. Jennifer’s mother shared her despair on a daily basis and felt unsupported by others with her daughter’s needs. Despite Jennifer’s difficulties she valued the guidance given by the Farm staff and battled on with her animal care routine in which she felt valued. 

In attempt to enable Jennifer further the Farm arranged for her to be supported by an adult volunteer who also had cerebral palsy. The impact of this relationship proved to be significant as Jennifer could clearly see that her disorder did not stop her from completing a task. Jennifer reflected on her experience by saying

“just because I can’t do a job the same way as others, it doesn’t mean that I can’t do it. I am actually finding it fun to work out how to do it! I love the face people pull when I push a wheelbarrow, I knew they thought I couldn’t do it!”

Unfortunately, Jennifer had been taken to hospital several times, however Jennifer refused to give up and attended every week as she was adamant that her seizures would not control her life. She commented

“if the Farm hasn’t given up on me, then I won’t give up on it!”

Jennifer continues to make frequent visits to the Farm with her mother and is keen to tell the staff how well she is doing.

Young people with special educational needs (SEN) have learning difficulties or disabilities that make it harder for them to learn than other children of the same age. Epilepsy is a condition that affects the brain and causes repeated seizures. Epilepsy is estimated to affect more than 500,000 people, 60,000 of them are children in the UK. This means that almost one in every 100 people has the condition. However, the condition can and does affect the lives of people with epilepsy, as well as their family and their friends. People with severe seizures that are resistant to treatment usually have shorter life expectancies and an increased risk of learning problems, especially if the seizures developed when they were young children.  Having epilepsy can impact a career choice, a person’s living and recreational activities (e.g. bathing and swimming alone) and if having break through seizures, the ability to drive a vehicle since having a seizure while doing these things could create danger for the individual or others.

Source: NHS.uk & Epilepsy Society