I was born in Stoke Mandeville Hospital in Aylesbury in 2007. I was four weeks early and had a build up of bilirubin (jaundice), which damaged a small part of my brain. This has affected my speech, hearing, muscle control and eyesight. This makes me a bit wobbly. In 2018, I had deep brain stimulation at The Evelina London Children’s Hospital, which has helped.
I’ve grown up in Watlington and my earliest memory is being at home with my sister, Ella, who is four years older than me. I went to the Pre School here and then to Watlington Primary School. I remember making a pretend projector out of junk modelling with Mrs. Read when I was in Year 2. She looked after me all the way through primary school.
I learned to read like any other person. Reading the subtitles on TV helped me. Also, I had an ipad with pictures to help me communicate from an early age and the word was written underneath the picture, so that helped too. I’ve learned alongside everyone else and instead of writing I use a computer. Maths has always been a challenge, so Watlington Primary School bought a learning system called Numicon for me. They found it to be so beneficial they use it for everyone now.
When I was six years old I needed an electric wheelchair to help me get around independently and the whole town helped raise the money for it. I don’t remember that much about it, but my parents were completely overwhelmed by the generosity of the community, and it is something that will stay with them forever.
I’ve always been interested in gadgets, particularly computers, and I like playing Minecraft. More recently I have become friends with a lady called Catherine who does environmentally friendly painting with me. I use hay, feathers, leaves and bits of willow to paint with and I use recycled canvases. My style is “abstract real life”. I’m inspired by nature and artists such as Jackson Pollock and Bob Ross. I wanted to buy a new X Box and a specially adapted controller and I was able to fund it through the sale of my paintings. I have even been commissioned to paint some art for a local charity.
I have ten different NHS therapists that help me, including an occupational therapist, physiotherapist, and a speech and language therapist. I also attend an intensive physiotherapy group at an organisation called “Footsteps” at least once a year, which is two hours a day for three weeks. It’s where I learned to walk. We have to pay for that ourselves. We’re lucky that it is just down the road at Dorchester. People travel from across the country to go to that centre.
My big sister, Ella, has helped raise money for my physiotherapy by getting people to sponsor her to get her hair cut off. She had a crowdfunder and was interviewed by the Henley Standard. Her hair went to the Little Princess Trust which makes wigs for little girls who’ve lost their hair to cancer, so it helped two causes at once.
The biggest challenge I have in Watlington is the narrow pavements which make it difficult for me to get around. But I have learned to cope by focussing on the happy moments.
My dog, Elmo, helps me so much and he’s quite funny. He’s an assistance dog, and is a cockapoo. He collects and pulls off my clothes for me and picks things up for me. He’s my best friend.
I go to Icknield Community College with my friends from Watlington Primary School and I have also made new friends there from other villages. My friends are very important to me. My favourite subjects are Art and French. I would like to work for Google in the future.
Everybody in the village has been really good to me, especially Lou and Andy at The Chequers, who gave me the first sample of their new ice cream – salted caramel flavour!
Watlington Folk is a documentary project by photographer Nicola Schafer. Watlington is blessed with pretty buildings and beautiful countryside, however it is the people who live here that truly make the place. This project aims to capture that through a series of portraits of the people who live here together with their “Watlington Story”. For more information, please contact Nicola through her website http://www.nicolaschafer.co.uk