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Meet Mandy Mouse, Peppa Pig’s New Friend In A Wheelchair

April 16, 2019

Same Difference has just found out about Mandy Mouse, Peppa Pig’s new friend in a wheelchair.


We are thrilled that she’s been included in the smash hit programme. Children who learn about difference from an early age grow into sensitive, understanding adults who learn how to show empathy, not unnecessary sympathy or pity. They learn how to make everyone feel wanted and truly welcomed, everywhere.


We are even more thrilled to see this simple introduction to Mandy Mouse, in which she simply squeaks hello and no one mentions her wheelchair. If only we could all have such an introduction on our first day at mainstream school!

We thank the team at Peppa Pig for creating Mandy Mouse, and hope that she continues to be used to represent disability positively.


Girl With Autism Was Put In Isolation Booth 245 Times

April 15, 2019

A girl who tried to kill herself after spending months in an isolation booth at school has said she felt “alone, trapped and no-one seemed to care”.

The teenager, who has autism, had no direct teaching and ate her lunch in the room, away from friends.

Her mother said for months she was unaware of what was happening to her daughter and called on the government to improve guidance for schools.

The Department for Education says pupil welfare must always be put first.

Its guidelines say children should be in isolation for no longer than is necessary.

‘Sit in silence’

In a letter to the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme, the teenager – who we are calling “Sophie” – said: “I decided I’d rather die than be in isolation because of the mood it left me in.

“I felt alone and trapped at school for such a long time that I felt as though it would be best, as no-one seemed to care anyway.”

Her mother, “Philippa”, estimates that her daughter was placed in an isolation booth at her secondary school more than 240 times in total – beginning in year seven but becoming more frequent in years 10 and 11.

The 16-year-old spent every school day from mid-January to March this year in the room, the family say.

She explained: “The room has six booths with a small workspace and sides so you cannot see other people.

“You have to sit in silence and be escorted to the toilet which is embarrassing.”

On one occasion, Sophie said: “I begged the teachers to ring my Mum as I didn’t want to be alone any more.

“They refused and took my phone away, leaving me and a teacher I didn’t know in an enclosed room.”

After she tried to take her own life, Sophie returned to school but said she would “dread each day” when she was again placed in isolation.

“I would often have panic attacks and feel claustrophobic,” she explained.

“I feel as though isolation rooms should be banned.

“They tend to make students feel isolated and helpless, knocking their self-esteem.

“Due to the amount of stress and trauma throughout school I now suffer with depression and anxiety.”

According to a BBC investigation last year, more than 200 pupils spent at least five straight days in isolation booths in schools in England last year.

And more than 5,000 children with special educational needs also attended isolation rooms at some stage.

Government guidance in England says schools are free to decide how long pupils should be kept in isolation, but they should be there “no longer than is necessary”.

The guidelines also say that in order for isolation to be lawful as a punishment it should be “reasonable” in all circumstances, and factors such as special educational needs should be taken into account.

Schools do not need to record use or report to parents that their child has been sent to isolation, although many do.

The school behaviour expert, Tom Bennett, who has advised the government, has said isolation rooms can be effective in tackling disruption in classrooms, and preventing fixed-term exclusions.

“When you’re a lone adult with a class of 25 pupils, it only take two people to really persistently wilfully misbehave for that lesson to be completely detonated,” he told the BBC in November.

Philippa told the Victoria Derbyshire programme Sophie was now a “completely different child”.

Sophie has selective mutism – she did not speak until the age of eight – as well as autism, and can be “defiant” and “disobedient”, her mother said – but this was “all part of her diagnosis”.

She added that Sophie – who “does not deal with change very well” as part of her condition – was “regularly” placed in isolation after she reacted badly to a change in teachers, classroom and routine.

She said as a result her communication had regressed.

“Being isolated from her friends… made her become more internal – stop talking, stop communicating.”

Philippa added that the school had also been aware of her daughter’s plans to self-harm before she tried to take her own life, through a letter the teenager had written to them.

But the school did not make her aware of the letter at the time, she said.

When she discovered that Sophie had been in isolation booths – by now in year 11 at school – she said she felt “traumatised”.

“I can’t even begin to explain how it makes you feel knowing every day I’d send her into the school and she felt that alone that she wanted to take her own life.”

The family’s solicitors have written to the government demanding action and improvements to isolation guidelines.

Philippa said she understood the use of isolation booths in certain instances, but that it was not acceptable to use them as an “ongoing punishment”.

“It’s causing severe mental health problems. Schools should be held responsible.”

DWP To Restore The Full PIP Of Claimant It Called ‘Lying Bitch’

April 15, 2019

The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) has offered to restore the full benefits of a claimant whom it called a “lying bitch” in legal papers after she appealed against a decision to strip her of some of her disability entitlements.

The DWP has apologised to the woman and, following outrage when it emerged the insult had been inserted into appeal tribunal papers, has said it no longer plans to cut her Personal Independence Payment (PIP) entitlement.

It also said she would be considered for a “consolatory payment”, issued in exceptional cases where departmental action had resulted in claimants suffering “gross embarrassment, humiliation, unnecessary personal intrusion and … severe distress”.

The incident, which was revealed with the claimant’s permission last month by her welfare advice worker, was condemned at the time as exposing “a canteen culture of contempt among many decision makers at the DWP”.

The DWP’s offer to the claimant to drop its previously vigorous defence of the original PIP decision is likely to be seen as a damage-limitation exercise, amid continuing scepticism over the accuracy and reliability of disability benefit assessments.

Just a fortnight ago, the DWP was preparing to go to court to defend its PIP decision in the case – in effect arguing the woman was not disabled enough to claim mobility support. It had already reviewed the case internally in a process called mandatory reconsideration and upheld the initial assessment.

However, since the Guardian reported the case, the department has hastily reconsidered its verdict after yet again reviewing the available medical evidence. It has apologised to the woman and told her it would like her to agree to close the case before it is brought before a judge at tribunal.

A redacted copy of a letter, again published with the woman’s permission on the Rightsnet website by her advisor, Derek Stainsby, of Plumstead Community Law Centre, reveals that a DWP official wrote to the woman earlier this week offering “sincere apologies” for the distress the incident had caused her.

It said: “I want to assure you the department takes these matters extremely seriously. We expect the highest standards of professionalism from all colleagues and are thoroughly investigating the circumstances brought to our attention. Whilst I cannot go into the details I want to assure you that appropriate action will be taken once that investigation is concluded.”

It continued that officials had “fully reviewed” her case, using a range of evidence already in its possession, and concluded that “you are entitled to mobility [payments] at the standard rate in addition to standard rate for daily living” – the benefits she was entitled to before she was reassessed.

The woman has yet to decide whether to accept the DWP’s offer to drop the tribunal case and reinstate her contested benefits.

The offending passage was contained in the DWP’s submission to her PIP appeal tribunal. In it, an official questioned whether she was genuinely entitled to a carer’s allowance, a benefit for people who care for another person for at least 35 hours a week.

The official wrote: “In this lying bitches [sic] case she is receiving the mid-rate carers [sic] allowance component for providing day time supervision to another disabled person. The tribunal may wish to explore this further.”

A DWP spokesperson said: “We have apologised for any distress caused and are thoroughly investigating this matter. Any behaviour like this is completely unacceptable and we will take appropriate action against any staff who breach our clear standards.”

Last month the thinktank Demos called for the DWP to be stripped of its responsibility for providing disability benefits because it said years of failings have eroded trust among ill and disabled people.

There is widespread concern that PIP assessments, which are carried out by private firms on behalf of the DWP, are inaccurate and unfairly discriminate against mentally-ill claimants. Nationally, at least 70% of appeals against PIP decisions are successful.

**POSSIBLE TW** Claimant Left Sarcastic Suicide Note Thanking The DWP For UC

April 12, 2019

A man who took his own life after running out of money for his electricity meter left a suicide note sarcastically “thanking” Universal Credit bosses.

Brian Sycamore was having trouble getting the controversial benefit, his brother told his inquest.

Mr Sycamore, of Long Eaton, wrote the note on his phone before taking an overdose of pills.

The 62-year-old had suffered with back pain for many years but his brother claimed the problems he was having with Universal Credit were the “trigger” for his suicide.

Mr Sycamore’s housemate Paul Baker found him dead in his bed with a large amount of medication on his bedside table on September 30, 2017.

An inquest at Derby and Derbyshire Coroner’s Court yesterday heard that all the medication was legitimately prescribed to Mr Sycamore for his back conditions.

A GP said Mr Sycamore, of Bennett Street, had no record of mental health problems or previous suicide attempts, and a psychiatric doctor said he had never been admitted to Kingsway Hospital.

Assistant coroner Louise Pinder said Mr Sycamore’s brother, Henry Sycamore, believed he took his own life because of problems with his benefits.

She said: “Henry has said to us that he believes this was a deliberate act.

“He had been in pain for many years. But he believes the trigger was down to problems he was having with his Universal Credit.”

PC Mark Karim, of Derbyshire police, read a note that was left on Mr Sycamore’s unlocked phone.

He said: “There was a note that said ‘can you thank the people who work at the Department for Work and Pensions?’

“There was also a reference to the electricity meter running out.”

The coroner and PC Karim both agreed that the “thanks” in the note were intended to be sarcastic.

Housemate Mr Baker last saw Mr Sycamore alive two days before his death. Mr Baker spent the day before the suicide in bed, due to illness, but decided to check on Mr Sycamore when he stopped hearing noise coming from his room.

Mr Baker did not move the body but called East Midlands Ambulance Service paramedics, who recorded the time of death as 3.33pm, and who also called police to the scene.

A post-mortem carried out in Derby, and toxicology tests completed in Sheffield, found that Mr Sycamore had lethal levels of four different medicines in his system.

The coroner recorded Mr Sycamore’s death as “suicide” and said the cause of death was “mixed drug toxicity”.

However, while she did state that there was a note left on his phone, she did not refer to problems with Universal Credit as a cause or contributing factor when recording her conclusion.

Aquatica Orlando: The World’s First Autism-Friendly Water Park

April 12, 2019

It’s official: Aquatica Orlando is the first autism-certified water park in the world. Yup. The. World. 

The wave of theme park inclusiveness began back in 2018, when Sesame Place became the first ever autism-certified theme park, and we have a feeling this is just the beginning. According to an Instagram post from earlier this month, the water park has achieved their accreditation after collaborating with the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards. But what does this really mean? 

Well, for starters the staff was required to participate in mandatory training on autism sensitivity, awareness, communication and motor skills (plus an exam). This is all, of course, to better help the staff when dealing with children and park attendees that have special needs. 

In addition, the park will now offer resources for pre-visit planning as well as sensory guides providing information on how individuals with any sensory-processing difficulties might be affected by different attractions. Guests can also visit the “quiet room” and “low sensory areas,” which provide adjustable lighting and comfortable seating areas for anyone to relax when needed. 

In the words of IBCCES board chairman Myron Pincomb, “With the rise in diagnosis rates of cognitive disorders, there is a huge need for these options and for organizations to make a long-lasting commitment to their guests.”  

A water park that can accommodate all of its guests equally? Now that’s something worth celebrating. 

One In Five With Parkinson’s Accused Of Being Drunk Finds Study

April 11, 2019

One in five people with Parkinson’s disease have been accused of being drunk because of their symptoms, according to a new survey.

Around 22% of respondents told the Parkinson’s UK study that others had believed they were under the influence of alcohol because of poor balance or slurred speech.

For a quarter of those who took part (24%), their slow movement and speech had been misinterpreted as an intellectual disability – and 10% said they had been laughed at.

More than half (57%) said they had gone so far as cancelling plans or avoiding social gatherings because they were embarrassed about their symptoms, or scared of how people may react to to them.

The charity received feedback from more than 2,300 UK adults living with the degenerative neurological condition, which can cause involuntary shaking and stiff or inflexible muscles.

An estimated 145,000 people were diagnosed with the condition in the UK last year and it can develop at any age.

Sky Sports presenter Dave Clark was diagnosed in 2011 and said he had been on the end of teasing because of the way the condition impacts him.

“I’ve been made fun of online because of the way Parkinson’s affects the muscles in my face,” he explained.


“And when my medication isn’t working it affects how I walk, and as a result I’ve been accused of being drunk by random people on the street.

“It’s upsetting, and 99% of the time it comes from people’s ignorance about Parkinson’s rather than any real intention to hurt. But it does.”

Parkinson’s UK has launched a campaign to address misconceptions about the condition in a bid to reduce the negative experiences of those who live with it.

Steve Ford, chief executive of the charity, said: “It’s heartbreaking that so many are cancelling or avoiding social situations due to embarrassment about their Parkinson’s symptoms, or fears about how people will react to them.

“We hope our new Parkinson’s Is campaign, which sees people across the UK share how the condition affects them, will help fight negative attitudes and correct misconceptions about this much misunderstood condition.”

A Disability Related Joke

April 11, 2019

Spotted on Facebook, shared in fun:

“I’m reading a horror story in Braille. Something bad is going to happen. I can feel it.”