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Defying the odds: The woman born with Cerebral Palsy who hasn’t let the disability stop her

This Volunteers’ Week, we’re taking the opportunity to shout about one of our fabulous female residents and volunteers, Lynne Wilson. Here is the story of a woman, born with Cerebral Palsy, who was determined not to let her disability stop her.

“I was always taught that I could do anything,” Lynne says. “It was my way, or no way.”

Doctors had said Lynne Wilson probably would never walk, talk, read or write. Nearly 70 years later and here she is: a volunteer and resident at our Longbridge village, who dedicates 30 hours of her week supporting people in the gym. Alongside this, she also a key member of the village’s choir. Did we mention she has also got a PhD?

When Lynne was born, she says children with a disability were generally sent away, to residential homes. Determined not to let this happen, Lynne’s mother moved the family to Birmingham, so she could attend a day school, especially for children with Cerebral Palsy. While the school was fantastic for developing Lynne’s speech and working on her physiotherapy, it lacked academic support. Conscious of this, Lynne’s mother successfully pushed for her daughter to attend mainstream school.

At the age of 13, Lynne became the first ever person with a disability in Birmingham to go to mainstream school.

“I could just about speak at the time,” said Lynne, who is now 69 and left school with a handful of CSE’s.

Lynne, who had also learned to walk without any help, went onto work at Cadbury’s World, while volunteering in her spare time.

“I’ve always had a passion for volunteering,” adds Lynne, who got married in the late 1970’s.

Defying the odds once more, Lynne went on to have two children, Russell and James. She says it was almost unheard of for somebody with a severe disability to have children at that time, but she always knew she wanted to become a mother.

Once her boys had gone to school, Lynne – whose marriage had broken down when James was just four-weeks-old – decided she wanted to go back to learning herself.

“Everyone thought I would have a rest after bringing the boys up on my own,” says Lynne.

“But I don’t rest; so what did I do? I went to college and then, to university.

“I remember walking down the corridor at Birmingham University and I couldn’t believe that I was there – it was a huge milestone for me.”

Lynne gained a 2:1 Degree in Public and Social Policy, before completing a Master’s Degree in Housing Policy. She then went on to work at the university, alongside completing her PhD. It was here, that she worked on several research projects, with the likes of the police force and the deputy Prime Minister.

Over time, Lynne’s physical health has started to suffer. Despite her using a wheelchair fulltime, Lynne’s determination never ceases. She is known to so many at ExtraCare’s Longbridge Retirement Village, not only for her positive outlook on life but also her desire to help and support others.

“When I sit down and look back on what I have achieved, I am proud,” she says.

“It’s not always been easy but it’s the challenges that make me more determined.”