Follow your dreams because we can all achieve something special

I was born with a rare body condition called Hemihypertrophy, which means the left-hand side of my body is bigger than the right. I have joint problems so if I walk for a significant amount of time I have pain in my joints. I also have learning difficulties; struggling to pronounce words that are difficult, as well as spelling words that might seem simple to others.

Throughout my school life, I had student-support for my learning difficulties. I was told that I wouldn’t be able to take my GCSEs in Year 11, but with my determination I passed. The other students didn’t understand my condition, and I was bullied because I didn’t have a voice to say anything. My confidence was very low because of how people treated me in school, and I didn’t have a hidden disability role model to look up to.

When I joined Walsall College in 2010, I had less confidence and not knowing what I wanted to do was scary. However, I knew I wanted to do something creative and with the help of ‘Achieving Together’, I took my re-sits and got the grades to enrol on the courses I wanted to do.

Since starting the Art and Design Level 2, I have loved every minute of it! The staff and other students treated me like everyone else and they don’t see me as a disabled person, which makes me excited to carry on. Seven years on, and finishing Walsall College with a degree in photography, I can’t be more excited to show other students that it is okay to have a hidden disability. They should follow their dreams – they don’t need to be nervous because we can all achieve something special.

Volunteering at Walsall College has made me part of a family that will never change. I successfully applied to be a Higher Education Student Officer which allows me to be a voice for all Higher Education students.

Throughout school, I have always had student support for my difficulty, but when I applied to do my higher education Level 4 courses my student support was stopped because my condition wasn’t included on the UCAS list. But I didn’t let that stop me because I knew what I wanted to do, and nothing was going to stop me.

In my last two years of education, I started volunteering outside of Walsall College at a Youth Zone in Wolverhampton called The Way. There are lots of different departments with several volunteers and staff, and I volunteer in the art department. The Principal and Vice Principal chose me as the “Overall Adult Student of the Year 2017″ which was a big honour. I also successfully completed my top up degree Level 6 Photography.

2017 was an amazing year for me. Not only did I become Festival of Learning’s Young Adult Learner award winner, I was also nominated for the ‘Adult Student of the Year for Art and Design and Photography’ and “Hi:Ed Student of the Year in Creative Industries” by some of my tutors.

I know that I wouldn’t be where I am today without education. It has helped develop my confidence within myself, something which has always been my weakness.

The reason why I want to make those with hidden disabilities feel more visible is because throughout my younger years, I never had someone to look up to. I want to make a stand, and campaign successfully for those students with hidden disabilities.

I have always had a passion to make people happy from a young age, and even when I have a bad day, I know I am showing the younger generation that it is okay to be different. I will say to them: “Don’t be ashamed of your story, you can inspire others. Just because it says ‘hidden’ doesn’t mean we are invisible.”

Taylor Bird, National Young Adult Learner Award Winner 2017

Update January 2019

Taylor is currently doing a Functional Skills: English and Child Development course at her local college and is looking to improve her career. She is also writing a book, which is something she is doing not just for herself, but her family and people that are in similar situations.  Taylor is hoping to launch a campaign, which will involve going into schools and colleges and encouraging individuals to say ‘yes I can’ instead of ‘I don’t know.’