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Emily, age 19

I was born prematurely and have right-sided hemiplegia which mainly affects my right arm and hand, although there were certain activities that I struggled with when I was younger as a result of poor control of my leg. For example, I remember clearly when I was in infant school, and couldn't skip because I couldn't manage the hopping action with my right leg, and spent my breaks trying to work out how to do it. I fell a lot and once scraped all down my face when I fell, but eventually I managed, and although this doesn't sound like a big achievement it mattered a lot to me.

I also used to get bullied in primary school, as I often held my arm in a bent position, with my hand near my shoulder and my wrist bent, and was not aware that this is what I was doing as I was often unaware of my right arm/hand, and during occasional activities now, such as when I am brushing my teeth, my hand will return to this position.

Most of the time, although I am aware that my right arm and hand are a lot weaker than my left, and I notice the difficulties this presents, I have learnt to compensate for the lack of strength and control in my right hand in everyday activities as well as other activities such as archery, climbing and playing pool as well as waitressing and bar work.

Everything is more of a challenge for me than for other people, but by not doing things the conventional way, and finding a way that works for me I can do a lot of things I never thought i'd be capable of. That is not to say that life is without challenges, and that I don't get annoyed/frustrated at my lack of control.

For example, although I can climb, instruct climbing and protect other climbers on a rope in the event of a fall, the difficulty of climbs I can complete is much less than that of my peers. If I can't get a really large, easy hold for my right hand then I cannot progress. Normally this doesn't bother me, because I know I'm challenging myself and doing the best I can do… I guess what I'm trying to say is that sometimes it’s really hard, and I get angry and frustrated at the fact that I'm limited by hemiplegia, and the bullying when I was younger was incredibly upsetting but the phrase 'It's character building' springs to mind.

It happened, it upset me at the time but I moved past it and it probably helped make me the independent, adventurous person that I am today.

I've accepted that hemiplegia is a part of who I am and compensate for it in everyday life. It creates challenges but that makes things interesting and when you learn to overcome some of those challenges, you feel like you have really achieved something.

If you are someone with hemiplegia who is struggling or being bullied or your child is a victim of bullying as a result of bullying, then I know what you are going through, but this period, and what people say about you does not have to define who you are, like Poppy said, it is their ignorance that results in bullying, try to ignore it as much as possible and don't let your challenges get in the way of what you want to do.

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