Friendships, iPads and ‘The Provision Cliff’

Why friendships mean everything

I was speaking at Charlton Park Academy today at their Communication Works conference. A lot of the focus of the day was around assistive technology and it was great to see the students, and presenters using iPads to aid their communication. It was also a treat to have a keynote speech from Lee Ridley, aka Lost Voice Guy, a stand-up comedian who performs his entire act through his very posh sounding iPad. I was there talking about how we support people with learning disabilities to develop friendships in their communities.

Friendships, iPads and 'The Provision Cliff'As I was talking about Gig Buddies and there was a lot of concern about what I’ve started to call the ‘Provision Cliff’ where children leave school and go in to adult services where there just isn’t the same sort of support, and social contact dwindles. One practical issue I’d not thought of is that a lot of the assistive technology is loaned and needs to be returned. Even if it owned it needs regular updating, vocabularies need expanding, software upgrades installing and general tinkering. The kids get support with this at school but have to sort it out for themselves once they leave. [Project idea – Geeks For Good; a monthly drop-in in a pub where people can bring their devices and geek’s volunteer their time to sort them out].

In my session I also got chatting to Matt, who communicates through his iPad, but through chatting discovered he’d studied film at Manchester University, loves rock music and is engaged to a musician. He’s also written this great blog about his personal experience of going to gigs and discovering music with his best friend Charlotte.

Friendships, iPads and 'The Provision Cliff'

Watching the Cat Empire with Charlotte and James

Yesterday was yet another of those truly awesome days which will remain a fond memory for years. To have at last seen The Cat Empire with charlotte, and at a venue as magnificent as the Royal Albert Hall, is incredible. It was C who introduced me to them, and I knew one day we needed to go to one of their gigs together. Mind you, it had been an amazing weekend even before we got there: up to Chester on a train on Saturday; seeing Will perform on Saturday evening (I still can’t get over what an incredible actor he is); the obligatory house party after. Then, yesterday, travelling back down with charlie, heading for the Albert Hall, meeting up with James in a nearby pub and going to one of the best gigs I’ll ever see. I’m pleased to report too that Charlie and James got on like a house on fire – but then, I had a feeling those two would match up.

Charlotte stayed here overnight and has just headed off. Going to see the cat empire the first time was cool enough, but what happened yesterday was special to me beyond words. To have at last seen them with charlie, one of my best friends, the person who introduced me to the band of so many awesome nights at uni, feels like something that I really wanted to happen, has happened. To see The Cat Empire with charlie is something I needed to do. There was a moment as we sat in the Hall waiting for the gig to start when I thought, ”Holy shit, how can life possibly get any better?” On top of all the other amazing things I’ve done – watching Python, meeting Patrick Stewart and so on – it just seems nights like last night remind me how great life is. My jaw drops when I think about all the incredible things I’ve done; yet, as Lyn often points out, there will always be something else to look forward to and work towards.


It was through L that I came to this awesome life, and I owe her so much for it. My gratitude extends too to my parents, as it was mum and dad who gave me the confidence and potential to do these marvellous things. It’s mum’s birthday today, and I really hope it is a good one. My mother taught me to hold my head up and go out into the world; it is because of her, because of all the cuddles and chats, flapjacks and life lessons, that I know I can do anything. I thought of her too last night, sat there with my friends. The life I lead is so awesome because of the gifts I got from my parents: it was only due to them that I went to university, where I had the opportunity to express myself and meet wonderful people like Lyn, Charlie and James. I know I make them worry sometimes, but I hope they know how great I think they are, and how lucky I feel to have them.

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