BBC Channel 4: Superhero Tri – Everyday Superhero Samantha Milne’s Story

As the dust settles from another successful Paralympic Games, many of us have asked ourselves “What is the ongoing reality for disabled people in the UK?”

We asked Samantha Milne, a wheelchair basketball player with Leicester Cobras, and who featured in the recent BBC News broadcast about the Paralympics legacy and the ‘WeThe15’ campaign representing the 15% of the world’s population that is disabled, to share some of her story.

About Sam

My name is Samantha Milne, I am 33 years old and live in Leicestershire. I have a disability called Cerebral Palsy. Cerebral Palsy is a Neurological Condition that effects my movement, coordination, and speech. The effect of this means that everyday tasks, such as walking, use a lot more energy and I get tired much quicker.

Church Life

I was a member of the Girls Brigade and have belonged to a few churches, most recently being at Mosaic Church in Leicester. Finding my place within church has sometimes been a challenge as I have found some churches can often view a person with a disability as their “project” and some hold healing services; while I recognise the place for prayer for healing, it can sometimes become uncomfortable and eventually was a factor in me moving to another church.

Moving to Mosaic Church about three years ago was a decision I thought and prayed about a lot, and it took around a year for me to make the move, but it was the right decision. My connection to Mosaic Church started after my Crusaders (now Urban Saints) leaders left the area. I was looking to meet young Christians and my Crusaders leaders met a couple at their church that have family that belonged to Mosaic Church Leicester. We began talking and I started to attend some of their events, for a while I divided my time between the two churches.

This wasn’t a situation I felt happy with but due to having move churches previously, and originally being very happy at this church, I felt I needed to be sure about my decision. I questioned if I was letting people down, was it the right decision? My decision was made when my grandmother passed away; she passed away on a Sunday morning and I choose to go to Mosaic. For the last two years I have attended Mosaic, I have made a great set of friends, become more independent, confident, and have grown in my faith.

Girls Brigade

I became a member of the Girls Brigade from the age of five when they visited school to tell us about Girls Brigade. I worked to achieve many awards and eventually completed my leadership training and my Brigadier Brooch. In 2003 I was awarded the Endurance Award; this is a special award that is awarded to girls who have continued to attend Girls Bridge in spite of health challenges, only about 40 of these awards are presented each year. I believe that my years in the Girls Brigade really helped me build by confidence and self-esteem. I was a member of the Girls Brigade for around fifteen years and in this time belonged to three different companies including the first company to meet in a school rather than a church.

The Bible

One of the most helpfully Bible passages I found was Psalm 139 verses 13 to 14:

‘For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.’

These verses talk about being made in the image of God. This verse really spoke to me about God having a plan for my life, and I felt strongly that my disability had a place in this plan. This combined with having taken time to accept my disability; this further added to my feeling that praying for healing just didn’t sit comfortably with me, I didn’t feel that Gods plan involved healing me from my Cerebral Palsy. This doesn’t mean that I haven’t had moments of wondering why I have Cerebral Palsy, and wishing I could be able to do certain things, but over time I have adapted and actually been given some amazing opportunities because I have my disability.

Crusaders/Urban Saints

My journey with Crusaders started in 2006, when I attended the Crusaders Centenary at the Royal Albert Hall; what a amazing experience! This was actually my second time to visit this beautiful building as I had previously been with the Girls Brigade.

In 2011, after learning to drive, I became more involved in Crusaders, helping at the Group on a weekly basis. I also completed my ‘Insights’ Training Course For Christian Youth and Children’s Leadership Teams. I was also able to attend a few weekends away, first visiting Wales then going to Derbyshire. This was a big step in building my confidence and independence, I also enjoyed the opportunities to try different activities such as raft building and kayaking.

Channel 4 ‘Superheroes’

More recently, I have been involved with the Superhero Series; this was founded by Sophia Warner, a Paralympian who also has Cerebral Palsy. I came across the event on the internet and decided to fill my details in for a chance to take part in the celebrity relay. One of the questions I was asked was ‘What’s my superpower?’ I knew exactly what the answer was, “to never give up”.  Growing up, my dad used to say that this was the easiest thing to do, to give up, so I made it my aim to give everything my all and not to give up. To date, I can only think of three things that I really gave up on, riding a bike, roller-skating and ice skating. At the time, not being able to ride a two wheeled bike seemed like a big deal; little did I know that I’d be able to drive and the wheelchair that I’d hated would allow my independence and enable me to do so many great things!

A few weeks after entering, having not thought about it, I opened my emails to find I had a place on the Celebrity Relay at Winter Wonderwheels 2017; having entered this without looking at all the details I had to quickly find out where and when we were going!

The event took place on the 3rd December 2017, our friends came to meet us, it was a very cold but amazing day out; I ended up on a mini bus with Jonny Peacock! My team captain was Chris Jones, a former soldier, who was dressed as a reindeer and riding a bicycle. Each team was made up of three people who worked together to complete the course.

In 2019 I had the opportunity to take part in the Superhero Tri, and I was lucky enough to once again take part in the Celebrity Tri! This time my team Captain was the BBC Security Correspondent, Frank Gardner. As the name suggests, the Superhero Tri is made up of running or wheeling, cycling, and swimming, although it allows participants to use any equipment they need to complete the course; I took part in the wheeling section of the course.

Here’s a link to Sam’s Superheroes team page:


I have also written for ‘The Mighty’; this is an online magazine for people who have disabilities who can submit articles about their life with a disability. I have written five articles, my first being about the experience in mainstream school; I have also written about how having a physical disability had affected my mental health, about learning to drive, and about how using a light weight made to measure wheelchair has improved my life.

Wheelchair Basketball

I have been playing wheelchair basketball for around five years, having first started at an inclusive sports club before joining my local wheelchair basketball club; after initially just taking part in weekly training I then joined the women league. I really enjoy playing wheelchair basketball, having previously not being able to take part in group sport I really enjoy being part of a team. 

The opportunity to take part in the filming for BBC News came when I was contacted by our Club Chairman. Having not had the chance to do much over the lockdown I jumped at the chance, not really knowing how much I would be filmed but really grateful for the chance to not only play basketball but to raise awareness of the issues many people with disabilities still face.

While I have witnessed many positive changes for people who have disability, I feel that more can still be done. One of the issues I face regularly is doors being too heavy for me to open, changing doors to power push button opening would make a huge difference to my independence. I feel that a lot has been made of making things step free, but steps are just one issues we face.

Here’s a link to the ‘WeThe15’ BBC News article:

Here’s a link to the Paralympics legacy BBN News video:

As you can see my journey with the Lord has blessed me with so many opportunities and I look forward to continuing my journey.

Samantha Milne

Helping Autistic Children Recover from ‘Meltdowns’

Our Autistic son, James, became overwhelmed a few days ago, an experience that will be familiar to many families of Autistic children. Like any Autistic child or young person, when James is overwhelmed there can be a wide range of triggers that could be causing it as well as different ways that he can respond to it.

He may be being overwhelmed by sensory input, it could start from frustration that we can’t understand something that he is trying to communicate to us (he is mostly non-verbal, but communicates in other ways), it could be due to a change of routine, he could be in pain or feeling unwell, or it could just be that his iPad battery has gone flat!

A so called ‘meltdown’ isn’t an Autistic young person being ‘badly behaved’, it isn’t them ‘pushing boundaries’ or ‘being difficult’. It is a brain overload, like a storm engulfing their brain, and it is not something that they can do much about in that moment, but there is plenty that we can do to help and support them.

Each child is different and will have their own sensory profile, for example, things that they are over or ‘hyper’ sensitive to including all of the better known senses (sight, sound, smell, taste and things that they touch) but also senses like balance and movement (vestibular), positioning and pressure (proprioception) as well as the sensory receptors that we all have in our internal organs (interoception).

Understanding these sensory sensitivities helps us to then help the children and young people that we care for to avoid sensory triggers, or if this isn’t possible then to provide ways to reduce their impact e.g. ear defenders for loud noise, or sunglasses for bright or flickering light, and to identify a peaceful nearby rest area if we see them starting to become overwhelmed.

Autistic children and young people can often crave consistency and routine, for things to be similar each time. This can be because they then feel more secure, know what to expect, and what is expected of them, and can be sure that nothing is going to surprise and overwhelm them. Changes to a programme or plan, especially at short notice, can be very hard to cope with as it can create anxiety about being overwhelmed or lead to a brain overload.

Another form of brain overload is sometimes referred to as a ‘shutdown’. An Autistic child or young person may be unable to speak or move, sitting or lying still, as a response to being overloaded. It can be just as powerful a brain overload as a ‘meltdown’ and affect an Autistic young person just as profoundly, while being less obvious to anyone else.

It is important to understand that it is likely to take an Autistic child or young person a while to fully recover from a brain overload, even if the cause has been identified and fixed. The more visible aspects of a brain overload might seem to be over after a short time, but it can affect a child or young person for the rest of the day. Just being there with them, reassuring them and offering unconditional love, helps them to know that they are safe and cared for and that there is nothing to fear. Letting them rest and not expecting them to do much gives them the time and space they need to recover fully. We can then look to learn from the experience together, understanding and seeking ways where possible to identify and minimise the trigger that caused the brain overload from affecting them again.

A great way to understand brain overloads better, and to identify triggers, is to talk with Autistic adults about their experiences of them, what strategies they have put in place to reduce the risk of them, and any advice that they can offer us as we care for Autistic children and young people.

No two people are the same, but there will be some really helpful things that we can learn from people that have been in similar situations to where the children and young people that we care for are now. Let’s learn more together.

Acceptance is a Choice

Acceptance (noun), defined by the English Living Dictionary as; 1. The action of consenting to receive or undertake something offered. 2. The process or fact of being received as adequate, valid, or suitable. 3. Agreement with or believe in an idea or explanation. 4. Willingness to tolerate a difficult situation.

Acceptance is a word that has several meanings, and which can mean different things to different people. Within the context of a blog about children and young people with additional needs these meanings can be complex and very individual, but I found the dictionary definitions shown above strangely familiar; maybe you will too.

“The action of consenting to receive or undertake something offered…”

When someone becomes the parent of a child with additional needs, lots of things change and life will never be the same again. Many dreams and hopes are shattered, lost forever.

When James was a baby, I dreamed of him striding out to open in bat for England in an Ashes test match (in 2002 we were desperate, we still are!), finding the cure for cancer, or being the first human to set foot on Mars. All highly unlikely, but rather than them being slowly eroded, they were all snatched away in an instant, the instant when James was aged 2½ and that someone very carefully, very kindly, but very seriously said “James has Autism, and will have associated learning difficulties”.

Did we love him any the less? No, of course not. Did we reject him? No, he was still our son and now needed us to be there for him all the more. We consented to receive the hard news that James had additional needs, to undertake a lifetime of caring for him, and to dream new dreams about our future together, accepting that things would now be very different, and determined to make the best of it!

“The process or fact of being received as adequate, valid, or suitable…”

One thing that people of any age with a disability or additional needs, or their families, want is to be treated the same, viewed the same, have the same opportunities, as anyone else. For their life to be valid, to have meaning, to be received in the same way as their peers.

The reality can be painfully different, with rejection and exclusion common, misunderstanding rife, and opportunities restricted or non-existent. “Persons with disabilities, on average as a group, are more likely to experience adverse socioeconomic outcomes than persons without disabilities, such as less education, poorer health outcomes, lower levels of employment, and higher poverty rates.”

(Source: World Bank, Sept 2016)

We will always receive James as valid, he is more than adequate to us, he will forever be entirely suitable and accepted as our son, and we will not allow his life choices to be restricted by others. The situation is very different for so many though; if disabled people were a nation, they would be the third most populous in the world (after China and India). Surely they deserve us to keep fighting to change perceptions, change reality, and yes change the world for them!

“Agreement with or belief in an idea or explanation…”

The idea of a world where everyone, regardless of their ability or disability, is considered equal, is accepted as just as valid as anyone else, is viewed in the same way as their peers, having the same opportunities as anyone else, shouldn’t be far-fetched, and I don’t believe that it is.

I believe that things are shifting, that in society at large perceptions are changing. I campaign for that change, working to make a difference for those with additional needs and disabilities, especially children and young people. More and more people, including many of you reading this, are joining with me in agreement with that belief and idea. Accepting the challenge to model and demonstrate acceptance, to spread the message of inclusion and belonging, to be catalysts for change.

“Willingness to tolerate a difficult situation…”

We can choose to accept a situation or choose not to accept it but to change it. I cannot accept a society that doesn’t include disabled children or my disabled friends. I cannot accept a society that thinks traditions, beliefs, or things are more important than people. Where the sound of a child with Autism is drowned out by ‘tuts’, where love is replaced by condemning stares, those attitudes cannot be tolerated.

There are many wonderful people and organisations who won’t accept this either and who individually as well as through partnerships are changing society. There is much to do, but it has a sense of momentum that events like the Paralympic Games give a boost to. But we need to keep that momentum going, to keep pushing together for acceptance for our children. Acceptance, one word with many meanings, but the meaning that I cling to the most is the meaning of love; to love is to choose to fully and unconditionally accept someone, loving them for who they are, with all that that brings.

It seems, after all, that acceptance is a choice.


Easing of Restrictions

It has been over a year of mask wearing, social distancing and proper hand-washing for the masses; unless our Government performs another of its infamous U-turns (by the time this is published we shall know the answer to that one), restrictions won’t be a legal requirement anymore… and a lot of folk seem to be very, VERY worried about this.

Are things really going to change that much?

Honestly, I’m not sure they are… certainly not for me and mine at least. Remember how the SN community chuckled when the Prime Minister told us all how to wash our hands ‘correctly’ by singing happy birthday, and we all rolled our eyes as we’ve been washing our hands to a level surgeons would be proud of for as long as we can remember? Because when you have a child or any loved one who is medically fragile/has a stoma/medical device/requires any invasive procedures you get used to a different kind of existence where hand hygiene is concerned. Likewise, we won’t be changing our behaviour where the wearing of masks is concerned – they may not necessarily provide protection against catching the virus, but they do stop the spread of it; and there is no way of knowing if you are an asymptomatic carrier. So, because it isn’t just about us as individuals but about us as a community me and mine will continue to wear masks when in shops etc.

Sam’s wheelchair tends to ensure that we socially distance when out and about, its size alone ensures that people can’t get too close! We have always been aware of other people and the space we take up when we go places, it is no fun having your shins bumped by a wheelchair; most people are sensible enough to know this and so give us the room we need to easily manoeuvre. The new school term is rapidly approaching and for Sams school at least the easing of a few restrictions will be very welcome. Maintaining others however definitely gives peace of mind.

Holidaying with a SN Child

Long gone are the days when Mr V and I could simply throw a few things into a bag, chuck said bag into the car and merrily go off on holiday without a care in the world! Now, it’s a bit like trying to herd cats… literally as it happens, as our two dogs seem to KNOW when we’re trying to leave the house and immediately vanish into thin air.

The furry feline fleabags aside, preparing for an imminent holiday begins days in advance; having a child with medical issues means that planning and preparation involves more than just checking we have enough of his medication to last the holiday. There’s organising his meals – as a fully blended diet fed chap, we make Sams meals at home and freeze them. They then need to be microwaved to heat them through. We either need to make sufficient to take with us (first question is then around storing them on route, we often stop overnight on longer journeys to give Sam a break.. que phoning ahead to wherever we’re staying to ask if they can store food for him in their freezer/reheat for him). Then, there’s the equipment issue – how to fit it all in the van.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the vehicular version of TETRIS. Insert one child in a wheelchair. Now, pack in bags etc around said child. Remember at some point on the trip you are likely to have to get child OUT of vehicle.


Remove bags, apologise to small person, repack bags in more sensible fashion. Accept that legroom is for people who don’t have children, especially not for those with children who have added extra’s. The worst bit is probably that we can’t actually pack in advance – a lot of the big stuff that needs to come with us is required right up to the morning we leave… Sam’s sleep system for instance. Only once the little chap is up and dressed can we dismantle it, pack it up and get it packed. Add in to the mix a minimum of two stressed adults and one very bored child and the whole thing becomes, well, eughggh.

Personally, I find the whole experience of going away incredibly stressful. I love it when we’re actually THERE, but the whole run up to it is just deeply unpleasant. My mantra is that as long as we remember Sam’s meds and equipment the rest can be bought on holiday is necessary. And so it will be that later on I will inevitably be seen in a supermarket somewhere buying socks, having made sure everyone was packed and ready. Except me.

Riding for the Disabled

My daughter Brielle has been waiting a LONG time to get into a riding for the disabled group. I put her name down on a waiting list over 3 years ago at the recommendation of her physio. We thought she’d be matched to a local group 2 years ago, I did a training evening for volunteering and then nothing came of it and sadly no horse match found, we’d almost given up hope. Then my contact called me a few months ago and said they’d be running a session in August every Thursday and Brielle’s name was at the top of the list- I was thrilled!

She used to ride the donkeys at our local Donkey Sanctuary until they became too old and unable to be ridden on- that was a huge pity as it was a highlight of her week every fortnight in school. Then school started taking them to horse riding which she loved but again that all stopped with COVID and all the subsequent disruptions.

We went for her first Thursday session last week, her older sister and I as side-walkers holding onto the back of her hoody tightly so she wouldn’t fall. Her balance is pretty awful with her low tone cerebral palsy so could easily fall, but with practice it should really improve her core tone and balance. That’s one of the main reasons we’ve been pushing to get her into riding. She absolutely loved the session and has been signing (asking for) “horses” ever since J

She really enjoyed holding the reins and trying to turn her horse called Sparky left and right between the cones. Also patting it’s mane and feeling it’s soft coat seemed very soothing and therapeutic for her.

Riding for the Disabled (RDA) is an amazing charity and organisation, and I highly recommend looking up your local group and enquiring about getting into a session or at least filling out some forms and getting onto a waiting list. Your child with special needs or disabilities will most certainly benefit from horse-riding in more ways than one! Whether it is physical, emotional, communication, social- horses and horse-riding have so much to offer and it’s a great way to make new friends too!

How to get Help when Your Teen is Incontinent

Any of us who have parented a child will know that one of the early challenges we all face is toileting. Helping our child to be able to move from nappies to pants and be able to use a potty and then the toilet. First during the day, then at night. Those of us with children with disabilities or additional needs may still be supporting our child on that journey, it can take much, much longer to get there. There are some great products that can help with this, including the Firefly GottaGo portable toilet seat.

For some of us, the journey may never end; our child, for all sorts of reasons, may never be able to independently use the toilet, may remain incontinent, may always need support in this area. If this is something that you might be at the beginning of experiencing, then this article is for you.

Those of us with teenage children (or older) who remain incontinent, maybe all the time, maybe ‘just’ at night, will need no reminding of the challenges that this can bring both for our children and ourselves. Same problems as with a smaller child, just…. more! There is help available though, although as with most things in the disability world, you have to know about it to be able to access it!

Here’s a couple of places that we’ve found help, and that might help you and your family too:

NHS continence services

There will be an NHS continence service near you. Search online for ‘NHS continence services’ and you will be able to see where your nearest one is to contact them. You may need to get a referral, but this can be done via your GP or sometimes by your school (the school nurse at our sons’ school did this for us).

They can provide advice, information, access to products like bed wetting alarms etc. and may also be able to register you for continence products such as larger sized pads etc. We get a big shipment arrive every few months! If you are still buying continence products for your older child, getting them provided through the continence service can make a big, big difference!

CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services)

I know not everyone has positive stories to tell about CAMHS. We’re one of the fortunate families that have had really great experiences in our interactions with them and they have been a source of great advice. There can be all kinds of reasons why your older child is incontinent, some physical, some mental or psychological, but getting help from CAMHS to assess your child and offer their thoughts and input can either help pinpoint something to work on together, or rule things out. A range of mental health conditions, including anxiety, can contribute towards incontinence and the last 18-months hasn’t helped any of us in this area so don’t rule it out as part of your child’s struggle too.

Helping your teen know they aren’t alone

There are plenty of young people out there who have continence difficulties, and as we’ve explored this can be for many different reasons, but helping our teens know that they are not alone, that it’s not just them, can be important. If they are able to navigate websites and use them to get help and support, you could try ‘The Mix’ 

Whatever you do though, do something. Don’t let your older child struggle but start the journey to find support and maybe even solutions. It could be that your child will remain incontinent, but at least they can be more comfortable. It could be that something in this article gives you a pointer towards helping your older child to become continent. Either way, you don’t journey alone, there are many of us on the journey with you, and we’re cheering you all on!


Text and images © 2021, Mark Arnold

Not a Care in the World

Today was one of those great all-around summer’s days in Greystones, Co Wicklow. Not a drop of rain all day, the sun graced the skies and the temperature was just right- not too hot, but lovely and warm for just a casual t-shirt combo or light summer dress.

We are down visiting my family for a few days, and have two cousins’ birthdays and a whole lot of catching up to do as we haven’t been down for seven months (thanks a lot, COVID). We always try to squeeze in lots of walks to the park and the beach while we’re down too.

Brielle, my 10 year old with cerebral palsy and complex needs due to prematurity, just loves the wiggle car. Cousins have a blue one they kindly keep around for when she comes to visit, and we have a pink one back home. I don’t know how much longer she’s going to be able to convince her legs to pull her on it and bend the way she does, but somehow she still manages and is great for zipping to the playground or taking to the newly built marina walkway for a good scoot.

It’s amazing the sense of FREEDOM  it gives her. There’s not much she can do for herself or independently and she just loves to be able to get on her car and GO! I did have to help steer and change her course many times during the walk, and sometimes walk her hand-help with one hand whilst carrying her little car in the other.

I didn’t mind apologising to fellow walkers when she zig zagged or cut into their path – to be honest people are generally kind and understanding when they see a little girl with special needs out on a tiny ride-on having a great time without a care in the world!

It was lovely seeing another lovely girl with special needs earlier today. Was one of those times I was seriously tearing up at the sight of a this daddy and daughter duo.

I was walking Brielle after lunch in her Delta buggy down to the beach.  I heard music all of a sudden but didn’t see any street musicians so was wondering where it was coming from. Then I saw them- a daddy and daughter duo locked arm in arm and singing their hearts out to music from a little personal speaker playing an folksy rendition of “You are my sunshine, my only sunshine”.

Absolutely melt your heart sight- the daughter around 15 or 16 years old,  whom

to the onlooker had obvious disabilities, walking a bit unsteadily linked in her Dad’s arm, a look of pure delight and joy on her face, not caring at all that she was singing off- key, walking down a crowded seaside pavement.

For in that moment, she was just a happy teenage girl, holding onto daddy’s arm and having a great time in the glorious sunshine- not a care in the world.

Back to School Resources to Help Children with Additional Needs

A few months ago, as schools were fully opening after lockdown, I pulled together a list of resource websites that provided support and information for families of children with disabilities and additional needs whose children were returning to the classroom. As we start thinking about the next ‘back to school’ moment, later in August in some parts of the UK, early September in others, I’ve refreshed and updated the list to give you tools to help your child survive and thrive as they once again return to school.

I hope that this resource list will continue to grow as further resources are discovered, so do keep coming back to see what else might be helpful for you and your child. And if you have any helpful additions, do let me know and I’ll add them in for others to see.

So, here’s where I’ve got to so far:


There’s a free download on the Twinkl website that helps explain returning to school:

You will also be able to link to other helpful resources from here.


There are also free resources about returning to school on the Widgit website:

There’s a free downloadable pack about going back to school on the Makaton website too:

Lynn McCann at ReachoutASC has provided a wealth of free downloadable resources here:

Action for Children
Knowing how to talk things through with children can be hard, here’s some easy steps to follow from Action for Children:

There’s lots of useful information on the ParentKind website that can help you navigate a path through these difficult times too:–Blog


A wide range of useful free downloadable resources can be found on the Do-IT> website, under their rather appropriate heading of ‘Survive, Revive and Thrive’ (scroll to the bottom for a link to resources for parents):

Manchester University Foundation Trust

Here’s a great resource written in collaboration between Manchester University Foundation Trust, Manchester Local Care Foundation and One Education, providing a really helpful guide for parents about many aspects of the return to school, along with some positive and useful resources:

Autism little Learners

Just love this site, so full of useful stuff and there are some great Social Stories on this link:

As with all Social Stories, these should be adapted or used as a starting point to create a specific version for each child. More information about how to create Social Stories can be found on Lynn McCann’s site here:

I hope these resources help you to stay informed and able to inform and support your children as they return to school.



Text and image rights © 2021 Mark Arnold