Growing up is a unique time when all young people are grappling with enormous physical, emotional and social change, and trying to make sense of themselves and the world with limited life experience and a brain that is still maturing. An ‘ordinary’ life is faced with its challenges and responsibilities. Not kept away from any risk and being over protected. It’s about optimism and hope for a bright future, mixed with taking risks, making mistakes, changing our minds and sometimes getting into trouble.
However, for young disabled people and people with lived experience of mental health difficulties there are many aspects of childhood and adolescence that are starkly different. Those young people with a label of “complex needs” are most at risk of living a life that is far from ordinary and often spent segregated from society in special schools, specialist services and ‘special’ clubs.
Too often they and their families experiences are clouded by low expectations, limited choices and opportunities, and frustrating and exhausting struggles with complex processes and a baffling system that stands in the way of good outcomes. Their contact with professionals is often characterised by attitudes that see the young person in terms of a list of needs, medical diagnoses, challenging behaviours, problems and risks, and dehumanising language that fails to reflect who the person really is as an individual.
Changing Our Lives is committed to showcasing the talents and strengths of all young people and working alongside them and their families to bring about positive outcomes to improve quality of life.