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Yasmin Denehy (2007 Leaver)

Yasmin has cerebral palsy, affecting her legs and arms, and blogs about her experience with the condition. Here, she reflects on life with cerebral palsy, and how Rupert House supported her throughout her early school life.

I have had cerebral palsy (CP) since my birth in 1995 in Istanbul due to being born at 28 weeks. As a result of my premature birth I was born with mild spastic diplegia mainly affecting my legs and I have a weaker left side. My arms are also slightly affected.

This is because when I was born, part of my brain did not receive enough oxygen so did not develop correctly. This means that my brain sends the wrong signals to my legs, so the muscles are constantly contracting. This impacts on my walking which is slower. My natural gait is from toe to heel rather than heel to toe; when I walk my feet do not clear the ground as efficiently. In addition, my balance is impacted so I am more likely to trip and fall. I am very lucky that my CP did not affect me mentally and that physically, it is very mild, so I am able to lead an active life.

Despite these limitations, I have always been a determined individual and have never let my CP stop me from doing anything. In August 2019, I started writing a blog about living with cerebral palsy. https://yasmindenehy.home.blog/

I have shared my experiences of living with CP covering everything from my commute, treatment, sport, travelling, cooking and people’s opinions to both raise awareness of what it means to live with cerebral palsy and help others living with disability. I have been overwhelmed with the positive response my blog has received and have really enjoyed connecting with other people with CP through social media as I did not previously know anyone with the condition. I have had so many positive responses from people living all over the world.

Rupert House were great at never treating me any differently to my peers whilst providing the support that I needed. For example, during sports day, I still had the opportunity to take part and race. Doing the 800 meters everyone else lined up on the start line, but I would walk away from the start with my sports teacher to give me a head start. My teacher and I would walk forward, and she would ask me when I thought I was far enough ahead; I would stop and get ready to run my race. This meant that I nearly finished at the same time as everyone else because of my head start. However, I still finished last despite my accelerated start, but I had the whole school cheering me over the finish line when I was the last one left running. This is just one example of the support that Rupert House provided me. The attitude of all the teachers at school enhanced my determination to not let my CP stop me from doing anything that I wanted in life, an attitude which has served me well throughout school and university to today whilst working in London.

Yasmin Denehy (2006 Leaver)
Disability awareness blogger

The attitude of all the teachers at school enhanced my determination to not let my CP stop me from doing anything that I wanted in life

I first started volunteering to gain experience to support my medical school application at the time, but got absolutely hooked and have been coming back ever since. The camps are so special to me as it is clear many of our guests spend all year getting excited for their holiday and it is amazing to see the interactions and friendships that blossom between our volunteers and guests. It is also an amazing feeling to be involved with something that it is giving back to the community and providing a service that is loved and valued by so many people.

At 19, I became Oxford Mencap’s youngest ever Camp Leader, which was a huge honour. The role requires me to organise and run one of the four camps, including managing the budget, recruiting and training volunteers, designing menus and overseeing catering, booking activities and transport, and being responsible for guest and volunteer health and safety. Although the role is very demanding, I really enjoy rising to the challenge and the result is incredibly rewarding. Growing up with the opportunity to engage with leadership opportunities has really helped me become the leader I am today. Even at primary level, at Rupert House School, positions such as member of the Henley Youth Town Council, Head Girl and House Captain taught me important skills early on which have served me well particularly in learning how to manage teams and communicate effectively. I hope to take these skills forward into my career as a leader in Global Health.