Lesley: Connecting to the 'real world' ‘Since I was a kid people would say I lived in an ‘unreal’ world because I read a LOT and never went out or bothered with other people. But since I’ve been working with Changing Our Lives, I’ve been given lots of opportunities which have allowed me to connect to the ‘real’ world and have experiences like everyone else. From taking the bus, to independent train travel, to using the London Underground, as well as being able to meet so many amazing and interesting people all enables me to do awesome things.’ Lesley started working with Changing Our Lives as part of a poetry project called Poet’s First! in 2013. This was an ideal project for Lesley as she reads and writes a lot, and at the time spent lots of time alone pursuing these interests. Over the next year Lesley took part in a variety of our projects, gradually becoming more confident in public and able to speak up for her own rights and the rights of her peers. Since 2015 Lesley has been a paid member of the staff team, gaining real independence. In 2015 Lesley wrote about travelling to London for the first time on her own: 'In 2015 I travelled all the way to London independently on the train, to speak at a seminar. This was the first time I have ever done this. The seminar was called ‘Participation in Practice’ and was about engaging young people in the Special Educational Needs and Disability reforms. Here is some feedback from people that highlight why I love working with Changing Our Lives and what I get out of it, such as confidence and experiences.' In January 2018, Lesley reread her 2015 words and reflected on how independent she has become: 'Over the past year I have been pursuing an unrealised dream of learning to drive, and it has been a magnificent adventure. With ups and down, triumphs and mistakes to learn from, but then that's just part of an ordinary life.For years I believed, because the lack of confidence I had in myself and that others had for me was very low, that I would never drive that I couldn't even if I wanted to. But thanks to everything I've achieved in the last few years and all the confidence that brought with it I set forth, did my research and now know that there are many ways to drive. Driving doesn't have to be so 'traditional' with some creativity there are many adaptations for people to use.' It is now one of my many passions to encourage people not to give up on opportunities like this, to take a little risk or do a little research because with creativity there's not much else but yourself that can truly stop you. I am now a very confident person I have an amazing instructor and have recently passed my theory! Knowing I am so close to independent driving is making me more confident in my future and the person I see myself becoming. From getting my own home and traveling to work opportunities and how driving will help with my job. Compared to life a few years ago, I would say that I am tons more confident. I remember how nervous I was about that conference in 2015 and the journey on the train. Now I do things like that all the time and I have even started to mentor other young people, that is something I could not have done back then but now I can be that supportive encouraging figure for other young people who may be facing similar journeys.'