It’s about reopening doors that our students thought were closed

I’m Lee and I’m a physiotherapist at Henshaws College in Harrogate. As today is National Disability Awareness Day, I’d like to share with you an insight into my role as part of the Disability Support Service team at Henshaws, and how we’re making a real difference to young people with disabilities.

As a physiotherapist, it’s my role to deliver physiotherapy and hydrotherapy programmes to our students. This means I work with individual students to improve their flexibility, stamina, co-ordination, body awareness and health and well-being. I also provide advice and training to all staff to make sure our students are supported in a consistent way.

Student hydrotherapy session at college

My role is really varied with lots of different activities happening each day including working with students in the pool, on the trampoline and also for more traditional land-based physiotherapy in our sports and fitness centre. I support students with a broad range of needs. Some students would like to develop more flexibility, for others it’s about building their strength or improving their technique. So a student might have the ability to walk but their gait is poor so we’d work on refining their movements.

I love my job because I get to work closely with people and build up a rapport with students and families. It’s a real privilege to be in a position where we can make a difference. For me, that’s a great thing to wake up to each day.

I’m part of a large Disability Support Service team at Henshaws made up of physiotherapists, occupational therapists, speech and language therapists, rehabilitation specialists and assistive technologists. Together we all make a difference by each changing a small part of a student’s daily life. So if I can work on making a student’s thigh muscles stronger, that has a small impact on its own but when combined with our mobility team improving their confidence to get around independently and our occupational therapists teaching them new ways to adapt everyday tasks, that student is then able to walk. Our actions as individual members of the team add up to make a big difference.

I really enjoy increasing people’s awareness and belief in their body. Many of our students have a poor body image and low aspirations. It’s my job to help them understand what is possible and support them to develop a more positive body image. For example, I’ll reassure them “your legs can do this, we can improve your balance so you can use the trampoline, or work on your strength so you can walk more safely.” It’s about re-opening doors that our students originally thought were closed to them.

It’s important to raise awareness of the support which is out there for young people with disabilities because it’s all about opportunity. Knowing what’s out there gives individuals and their families the option to make choices and to have the freedom to work towards their own lifelong goals.

To find out more about our Disability Support Service and programmes for young people with learning difficulties, sensory impairments and physical disabilities, visit our College pages or contact us.

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