Elizabeth’s parents were told that their three year old would never speak.
Fast-forward several years and Elizabeth has done more than prove the doctors wrong on that.
Thanks to bespoke care and support, Elizabeth achieved a NVQ Level 3 in Care with Help, lives in her own flat and works as a carer.
Elizabeth is also an Ambassador and local champion for children’s communication charity I CAN, and regularly talks about their work.
She shares her story below:
My mum took me to the Health Visitor because she could see that I was struggling to talk and was a floppy baby, more like a rag doll. The Health Visitor said, “No, she’s just a slow learner,” and didn’t offer any further support to my parents. At the age of three we moved as a family to Dagenham and as soon as my mum took me to the Health Visitor there they recognised my difficulties and referred me to Moorfields Eye Hospital and the Royal National Ear, Nose and Throat Hospital in London.
At the age of three my parents were told that I would never speak, but I was having speech therapy and I had to have a few operations to fit three lots of grommets in my left ear and two in my right.
The hospital didn’t provide a diagnosis and it wasn’t until I was about seven that they tried to find out what caused my difficulties, but they couldn’t make a diagnosis at all. They suggested I went to the Ealing Unit, which is now closed, from the age of five until I was six and a half, where I was getting speech therapy every day for about half an hour.
When I was a child my brother, who is five years younger, would have terrible temper tantrums. My parents said that although I was having difficulties I never showed my frustration, but my brother did it on my behalf!
The Ealing Unit actually told my parents that I should go to Dawn House School, but my mum and dad had to fight for my place. The Local Authority would not send me there because there were specialist schools nearby, however these schools wouldn’t give me any time for speech and language therapy in the week. As soon as the staff from the Local Authority visited Dawn House School they could see that it was the right school for me.
I started at Dawn House when I was six and a half years old. We had been to visit the school before, because I had to have an assessment, and I stayed there overnight. I loved it; I really did enjoy it so much at Dawn House because we did so many different things. When I first started I was only going home once at half term, but by the end I was going every other weekend. I went to Brownies, Guides and Sunday school, and I’ve still got all the books I got from the prize giving’s. Something I’m really proud of is that while I was at Dawn House I became the first person at the school to complete a GCSE exam in Maths! I also did my Duke of Edinburgh award, both bronze and silver. I made lots of friends at Dawn House and I try to keep in touch with some of them and we had a reunion a few years ago. I also met Princess Anne while I was at Dawn House because she came to open the Secondary School, and I met Princess Margaret because we attended an event that she was at. My time at Dawn House was just the best time really, because if I hadn’t gone there I know I wouldn’t be here now doing what I’m doing.
I left Dawn House at the age of 16 and a half to move on to college. One of the colleges that I applied for at the time, when it got to the interview process they completely ignored me and spoke only to my parents. They made me sit at the back of the room while they discussed things with my mum and dad. The first course I took was the Bridge Course at Epping Forest College, because that carried on with the RSA that I’d been studying at Dawn House. Then I moved on to study Work Preparation for two years – I loved it!
I knew from a young age that I wanted to be a carer, as I felt that I understood where those people were coming from due to my difficulties. After leaving college I started applying for jobs in the care industry, and I have been working as a carer for almost 18 years. I enjoy being able to understand where others are coming from. I think I will continue to be a carer for the rest of my life.
In February 2001 I did a parachute jump to raise funds for I CAN, and this kick-started my fundraising activities to support the charity. Then in April 2001 I climbed Mount Etna and raised over £4,500 for the charity. It took a long time but I loved the experience. In 2003 I took on the London Marathon and raised £1,716. It was a great experience but I don’t think I would do it again! I’ve also done lots of 5k runs in London, in Hyde Park and some half marathons as well. The event I’m most proud of is the London Marathon, and also climbing Mount Etna because they were the most challenging. But Ben Nevis was also quite challenging actually!
I have been an Ambassador for I CAN and spoken at lots of events on their behalf, because I’m so passionate about what I CAN do and what they have done for me. I know if I hadn’t gone to Dawn House School I wouldn’t be where I am today.”
Elizabeth lives independently in the South East of England and currently works as a carer in a specialist unit for the elderly. Throughout most of her professional career she has worked as a carer and enjoys supporting others. In her spare time she enjoys seeing her extended family around the UK.
I CAN’s mission is that no child should be left out or left behind because of a difficulty speaking or understanding. For further information on I CAN’s work visit ican.org.uk
I CAN’s Dawn House School was opened in 1974 as a school for children with speech, language and communication needs. Dawn House School was awarded Specialist School Status for ‘communication and interaction’ by the DCSF in January 2007 and awarded an ‘Outstanding’ Ofsted rating in 2014.
The staff at Dawn House work to ensure every pupil achieves exceptional progress and their full potential. They achieve this through the integration of education, therapy and care in a setting where all individuals are valued and motivated to meet high standards.
For more information on I CAN’s Dawn House School visit dawnhouseschool.org.uk