Below are a few screen shots from the interview…
Thank you so much to Natasha and everyone at Disabled Living!
Below are a few screen shots from the interview…
Thank you so much to Natasha and everyone at Disabled Living!
20 year-old Shelby Lynch is an up-and-coming YouTuber from England, who happens to have a muscle-wasting condition similar to myself.
She was recently kind enough to chat with me about her disability, life as a YouTuber and her involvement with the Missguided #KEEPONBEINGYOU campaign.
1. Could you please tell us about your disability and how it affects you?
My disability is called SMA (Spinal Muscular Atrophy). This causes my muscles to become weaker over time. I have a curve in my spine (scoliosis) and am unable to walk, so I use a powered wheelchair to get around. I also need to use a ventilator 24/7 to help me breathe.
2. What have you found to be the biggest challenges of living with your disability?
The biggest challenge of having a disability is having to rely on other people to do things for you. My daily life is affected – I need help with simple things like getting around, eating and personal care. I’d love to be able to do my own hair and makeup.
Also, not having as much independence as someone my age should. Independance for me is key.
3. What, if any, do you feel are the positives to having a disability?
There are a lot of perks! For me, the biggest positive that comes with having a disability is getting to skip the queue for certain things. Sometimes I can get free access to certain places too. But then others do take the piss and charge disabled people more than they would an able-bodied person.
4. Can you please explain why you decided to become a Youtuber?
I wouldn’t say I’m a successful YouTuber but if I’m helping people in a certain way then that’s cool. I started watching YouTube around four years ago. I thought it looked really fun so I decided to make a channel too. On my channel I talk about fashion, beauty, lifestyle and my disability.
Really, I just want to have fun with it to be honest. I want to show people that I’m just a regular 20 year old who enjoys doing what other people like to do. Whether it’s going to concerts or hanging out with friends.
5. Do you consider yourself to be an inspiration?
No, I don’t consider myself to be an inspiration unless I have done something to impact people. People usually call me an inspiration just because I’m disabled but to me, that’s not right.
6. Can you talk about your involvement with the Missguided campaign, and what it means to you?
I saw their campaign on Instagram and really liked the fact they were showing different types of people. So, I took a picture of myself wearing one of their jumpers, and used the hashtag #KEEPONBEINGYOU.
Only a couple of hours later they had reposted my picture. It was so overwhelming receiving so many nice comments from people I didn’t even know. Then somebody from Missguided contacted me, offering to send some clothes, and asking if I would like do a mini photo shoot and video for their campaign which felt like a dream!
Working with them was absolutely incredible! When they asked me if I would join their campaign I was over the moon. It was such a great start to the week. I was a bit nervous as I have never done anything like this before.
But Missguided is a brand that I actually love. And I feel like their clothes are different to any other fashion retailer. The clothes make me feel confident and cool, so getting to work with them was a dream come true.
In addition, it’s great that they aren’t afraid to break barriers by showing some diversity in their campaign. This is something I personally respect so much.
In my caption for my picture I spoke about how disabled people aren’t often seen as pretty or sexy because of their disability, and that’s not the case. We should feel empowered no matter what.
– “Keep On Being You means to be confident in your own skin, and not letting anyone in life tell you that you can’t do anything.”
I hope they ask me to work with them again as it was so much fun and they are certainly leading the way in showing diversity as a fashion brand.
Find out more about Shelby’s involvement with the Missguided #KEEPONBEINGYOU campaign here.
I’d like to thank Shelby for taking the time to speak with me!
– Disability blogger from the UK
– I have a rare, progressive condition: Ullrich congenital muscular dystrophy
– Born in 1988, with ‘floppiness’ and dislocated hips
– Slow rate of progression: I didn’t start to walk until 19 months of age. Prior to that, I ‘bum-shuffled’
– Able to walk very short distances, wearing custom-made leg splints, until age 10
– Fell over a lot as a child
– Never able to walk up or down steps or stairs
– I am now completely non-ambulant and use a powered wheelchair
– Contractures in all joints (knees, hips, elbows, wrists)
– Severe ‘S’ shaped scoliosis (curvature of the spine), which has not been surgically corrected
– Education: I attended mainstream school, then continued onto college (A-Levels) and later university, completing a degree in Art & English Literature
Learning your child has a neuromuscular condition can, of course, be distressing and concerning.
In some cases, there may be a family history of the condition, whereas for others, like me, it could appear completely ‘out of the blue’.
I am the only member of my family with any form of muscle-wasting condition.
So, when I was diagnosed with congenital muscular dystrophy, aged 4, following a muscle biopsy, my parents were venturing into the unknown.
It was 1992. There was no Internet, no Google, and no one to relate to.
For us, muscular dystrophy was new and unheard of.
It may be beneficial to talk to other parents of children with a similar condition. If this is something you think might be helpful, ask your care advisor or neuromuscular consultant.
It is important to consider siblings, as they should be included in any discussions you have as a family. However, I would strongly advise against telling siblings more about the condition than the affected child. Any information you choose to share with your children should (in my opinion) be fair and equal, regardless of age gaps.
When deciding if, when and how to tell your child of their diagnosis, consider:
– Their age
– Their own awareness of their disability – Emotional maturity
– Your ability to fully answer any questions they might have
From my personal perspective, I recommend an open and honest policy from the very beginning.
I received a diagnosis of congenital muscular dystrophy at age 4. This was specified as Ullrich CMD many years later.
I was always aware of my disability and limitations. I recognised that I was different from my peers – unable to walk, run and climb steps. I also looked different – I was very thin as a child, had joint contractures and scoliosis, causing asymmetry of the torso.
My parents told my siblings and I of the term muscular dystrophy, meaning that my muscles are much weaker than those of other children. At that stage, this was all the information I needed.
For many years, when other children would ask the inevitable question, “what’s wrong with you?”
I would simply answer, “I’ve got muscular dystrophy, so I can’t walk like you”.
– Do your research: These days, there are many reliable resources of information. Ask medical professionals including consultants, physiotherapists and occupational therapists. I also recommend reaching out to those directly affected, such as other parents and adults with muscle-wasting conditions. Try social media and search for groups to join.
– Always trust your instincts! Aware of my delayed progression as a baby, my mother sought medical help and was told she was an “over-reactive mother”. Thankfully, she persisted and met with a neuromuscular specialist, who almost immediately identified my condition.
– Starting school can be daunting for any child. But for a child with muscular dystrophy, this transition can be even more challenging.
– There is no reason why a child with a muscle-wasting condition shouldn’t attend mainstream school. However, you must consider your child as an individual and decide whether or not you feel this would be best for them. Indeed, your child may have a preference. Some may elect to attend a school for special educational needs.
– I suggest making several visits to shortlisted nurseries or schools. Check all areas for accessibility. Meet with staff and the SEN team.
– It is essential to ensure staff are fully aware of your child’s needs and abilities. Meet with the special educational needs co-ordinator (SENCo) well in advance. If possible, meet and introduce your child to teachers and support assistants. This will help them feel more at ease when their first day of school arrives.
– Ask your child’s physiotherapist and/or occupational therapist to visit the school and meet with staff to share their knowledge and expertise.
– Be positive, be optimistic, be encouraging. BUT don’t make promises you can’t keep: As your child grows and interacts with other children, they will become increasingly aware of their differences. They may ask why they can’t stand, walk or run like their friends. Furthermore, if your child has a progressive form of muscular dystrophy, they may wonder if their symptoms will get worse as they get older.
I was able to walk short distances until the age of 10. We were never given any information or guidance. We weren’t advised if or when my ability to walk would come to an end. I would therefore often ask my parents, “will I always be able to walk or will I have to use a wheelchair?”
I appreciate why many parents may be reluctant to overshare and reveal what the future may hold, for fear of scaring their child. However, I feel it is important to be open and honest. If you’re unable to answer their queries, say so.
Knowledge and preparation is power!
– For most children with muscular dystrophy, the biggest changes occur during puberty.
– Growth puts extra strain on weakening muscles.
– If able to weight-bear, your child could lose this ability resulting in the need for a wheelchair.
– It is likely your child will accept and embrace mobility aids and equipment more than you. Children are very adaptable. For me personally, using a wheelchair was a great relief. A wheelchair offers mobility and freedom.
– Growth also leads to contractures. Regular physiotherapy helps to maintain flexibility and movement.
– If untreated, spinal curvature (scoliosis) will progress, resulting in asymmetry of the torso, a tilted pelvis, pressure sores and discomfort.
– Scoliosis, along with muscle deterioration, impacts on respiratory function. If your child feels overly tired, naps during the day, or experiences regular headaches, particularly on first waking, you must see a specialist respiratory consultant. It might be necessary to introduce nocturnal noninvasive ventilation.
– Noninvasive ventilation (NIV) comes in the form of either a CPAP or BiPAP machine (usually the latter).
– Bilevel positive airway pressure (BiPAP): a face mask is worn, and air is delivered from a machine through a tube to support breathing.
– Other respiratory equipment your teenager may benefit from, especially when ill: Nebuliser and cough assist machine (seek advice and information from your respiratory consultant and respiratory physiotherapist).
Some forms of muscular dystrophy are inherited. This can obviously be a concern if relatives are planning families of their own.
A few years ago, my brother and his wife decided they wanted to have children. Because of my condition, they sought genetic counselling, taking with them a copy of my medical record.
It was determined that my brother is highly likely to be a carrier, while his wife is highly unlikely. Once pregnant, they were offered a test which involved inserting a needle into the developing embryo to ascertain if the baby would be born with muscular dystrophy. They decided against this due to the invasive nature of the procedure.
They now have two children. Neither have muscular dystrophy.
As a parent, it is natural for you to focus all your energy into your children. Raising a child with muscular dystrophy brings with it many more challenges. This can impact on your health and relationships. It is therefore crucial to take good care of yourself too.
Remember, it is okay to cry, scream and shout! I’m sorry to say, battles are never ending and you will need to fight for your child throughout their life.
It’s good to talk: whether you choose to confide in relatives, friends, fellow parents of disabled children, or healthcare professionals – don’t bottle up your feelings, concerns and frustrations. This will negatively affect the wellbeing of you and your family.
Make time for yourself:
“what time?!”, I hear you say.
I fully appreciate that caring for a disabled child is a full-time job. But you must seek some form of relief. Even if it is just meeting with friends once a week for coffee. You need space. Your child needs space too.
*Disclaimer* The purpose of this post is to offer support and advice from my personal perspective, having lived with Ullrich congenital muscular dystrophy for over 3 decades.
As some of you may know, my very first ceiling track hoist was *finally* fitted on Monday 11th December.
I now have a straight track in my bedroom and a separate H-frame in my ensuite bathroom.
I am 29 and completely non-ambulant due to Ullrich congenital muscular dystrophy. Being rather petite, I have always been manually transferred (yes, lifted by family and carers) rather than hoisted. This method has always been preferable since it’s much quicker and frankly less faff. But, we’re all getting older and more frail.
I live with my parents who are both in their 60s. They are my primary source of support, though I do employ a carer part-time. My mother underwent a full knee replacement in August 2017, and is therefore limited in how much she is able to help me. Consequently, we have reached a stage where a ceiling hoist is a necessity.
Back in October 2016, Mom was told she needed a full knee replacement. The following Spring, my only carer announced she would be leaving within the next few months to pursue a career as a paramedic. With this in mind, I contacted my local community occupatinal therapy team to request an assessment. I was told they’re vastly understaffed and, with an extensive waiting list, I would need to be in a terminal condition in order to be seen. I appreciate their predicament, I really do, but I was unwilling to be fobbed off so easily.
I was instructed, over the phone by an OT I had never met, to “camp out”, meaning I should wash, dress and be toileted on my bed. Yes, for a prolonged and indefinite period of time, I should go without a shower and simply not wash my hair. (Due to my physical limitations and my wheelchair, there’s no way I could wash my hair over the sink).
Disgusted at her casual disregard, I asked my neuromuscular consultant to issue a letter of support. On receipt of this, an OT suddenly found time to visit me in my home for an assessment. Following this, representatives from Prism Medical and TPG DisableAids attended separately to advise, measure up and draw plans. Both rep’s then submitted quotes to the purse holder at County Council who, of course, approved the cheapest option.
NB: A portable hoist was trialled but proved unusable with the layout of my room and the type of bath in situ.
We were expecting Prism to arrive at 9am on 24th October 2017, as arranged. Having waited over an over with no sign of anyone, I called only to be told they weren’t coming because of a “technical issue”.
To cut a long story short, Prism claimed they couldn’t connect the track from my bedroom to that in my ensuite bathroom. This is despite consulting with occupational therapists and agreeing to do the job. Prism also claim they left telephone messages for both myself and the OT’s, on the previous Friday, to inform us that they wouldn’t be attending. Neither I, nor the community OT’s received any messages. I call bullshit!
Later, I learnt that Prism have similarly disappointed several others, resulting in formal complaints being issued against them. So when the purse holder at County Council told me she would renegotiate with Prism rather than approve funding for TPG to carry out the work, I insisted otherwise.
Having to fight for your rights and basic needs is, unfortunately, very much part and parcel of having a disability. ‘Tell, don’t ask!’ This is my motto. In my experience, if you are not clued-up and assertive, those in authority simply fob you off.
Thankfully, Funding was approved after a different OT, accompanied by the rep from TPG, visited to discuss and re-evaluate the situation.
Rather than trying to connect the single rail in the bedroom to the H-frame in the ensuite bathroom, it was decided that two separate hoists would be best.
My carer had by then handed in her notice and would be leaving at the end of the month. I was seriously starting to worry the hoist would not be in place before Christmas.
But much to my relief, TPG (who, compared to Prism, were infinitely more professional and efficient throughout) booked in for the 4th December.
Then, just my luck, we were hit by the worst snow in 7 years! It was like flipping Narnia.
I tried to remain optimistic though in reality I knew there was no way TPG would be able to make the journey from Hereford. And they didn’t.
So, it was third time lucky, on the following Monday that the long-awaited ceiling hoist was installed. I no longer need to worry about hiring new carers as lifting is not an issue. Furthermore, the pressure is off Mom – literally! And, the thing I am perhaps the most happy about – my dealings with community OTs and the County Council are over.
For now at least…
(Apologies for the poor quality of the images. All were taken by myself on a Samsung S5!)