Posted: 20 June 2011

Lessons we can learn from young people: take risks, make mistakes, learn something new

In our work with disabled children and young people we are very aware of the restrictions and discrimination they can face throughout their lives. We work to help them address those restrictions and challenge any discrimination. But we are equally aware of their ability and capacity to do much more than is sometimes expected. I recently had the pleasure of accompanying a small group of disabled young people from our PACT programme on a trip to Italy.

The trip was funded by the European Union to create opportunities for disabled young people to travel and to experience new challenges. The Italian hosts had brought together disabled young people from other organisations in Portugal, Finland, Turkey and the Czech Republic. All of the young people involved were overcoming barriers and taking on new challenges by travelling to Italy.

Experiencing new things

What impressed me most was the attitude of the young people, perhaps summed up best by a young man called John. When confronted with a plate of clams, mussels, squid and langoustine, he said, 'I don’t know what this is, but I am going to try it'. And try it he did, three plates later he declared it was delicious.

These young people were prepared to try new things and discover what they could do and what they could enjoy even if it was unfamiliar. It meant they took risks and were willing to make mistakes. It is an attitude that we would do well to copy. It is an essential part of children's well-being that they are able to make choices and take some measured risks.

Throughout our history we have always sought to help disabled children and young people reach for new possibilities and not be constrained by the attitudes of society. And they are certainly doing their part to reach higher, we just need to make sure that adult society is prepared to accept them as full and active members of our communities.

Jim Davis, Good Childhood Adviser, The Children's Society

By Jim Davis MBE - Church team

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