Parker is one of over 200 students who attend Portland College – an FE college that was established with the sole purpose of supporting people with special educational needs and disabilities, from ages 16-25.
We chatted to Parker about his passion for supporting others, captaining the football team, and how he manages to stay on top of managing multiple disabilities.
Hi Parker! Tell us a bit about yourself – what are you studying at Portland College?
I’m on a progress course here which will hopefully help me get a job, and I’ve also been doing work experience at Portland as a Learning Support Assistant since last summer.
I help learners with their work and I support the teachers in the classrooms. Today I’ve been doing one-to-ones with a learner, scribing for him and helping him with other things he needs support with.
I really love it, and it’s great because teaching is something to go into.
And what are your interests outside of your work experience and studies?
I'm part of the Portland College football team, and I’ve been captain since March last year, and I do Performing Arts outside of college as well. I also love playing video games and I’ve been on the student council more than once. I used to be the Wellbeing Representative, and now I’m the Residential Rep, so I talk to other students who live here about improvements or changes they’d like to see.
I’ve been playing football since I started at Portland and it’s come with a few injuries, but they haven’t stopped me from playing! My worst injury was breaking my nose five years ago, but I had it fixed last year.
Can you tell us a bit about your disability?
There’s quite a few. I have ADHD, dyslexia, dyspraxia, hypermobility, Raynaud’s disease, and I’ve just recently been diagnosed with asthma.
How do you think your disabilities impact your daily life?
With my ADHD, I find it hard to concentrate on certain things. If I’m more interested in something, I’m very much focused on it, but if I don’t feel that interested in something I find it difficult to focus.
If I don’t take medication, I have moments of hyperactivity, and my dyslexia and dyspraxia affect my learning, so I struggle to read on black and white paper and need to use coloured overlays and write with certain inks.
My hypermobility affects my muscles and joints so I can be in a lot of pain. If I don’t stay active doing physical things or having physio, my muscles and joints can deteriorate and become weak, which can be really painful. Playing football helps to keep my joints moving.
Do you have to be quite organised to remember your medication, overlays, and everything you need?
Yeah, I have a list of what I need to do every day. On certain days I do my physio and we work on different areas, so it might be hands one days and legs the next day.
It’s taken a long time, and I’ve had the support of the staff at Portland. I wouldn’t have been able to get as organised as I am without their help.
I live at Portland, so that helps me to have some stability in knowing which staff I’m going to see and knowing that all of them are able to help me remember things and prompt me if I’ve forgotten.
I’ve lived at Portland as a residential learner for two years so far and I've definitely become more confident since I started living here.
Why do you think it’s important for people to know more about your disability?
On some days I might be managing everything well and then the next I could be struggling quite a lot. It depends on how I’ve woken up and spent the first few moments of my day. It’s helpful if people check in with me to see how I’m feeling before they ask me to do anything, just in case I’m not having the best day.
With some of the problems I have, a lot of people don’t know much about them because things like hypermobility aren’t a well-known disability. It’s important for people to know that not everyone with the same disability has the same issues. My disabilities are physical and hidden, so raising awareness to make more people know about them and how they impact everyone different would be good.
What are your hopes and plans for the future?
My hopes are to become a full time Learning Support Adviser at Portland and stay living here. Hopefully I’ll gain even more confidence.
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