01 February 2016


Today we kick-off our London Youth Inclusion Week, where each day we will be posting new content on our website from our members, our outdoor centres and our programmes. This is to also recognise the United Nations’ International Day of Persons with Disabilities which takes place on Thursday 3 December. First up we hear from Ryan, currently an Apprentice Instructor at our residential centre, Woodrow High House.

My name is Ryan and I’m 24. I’ve been an apprentice instructor at Woodrow since January 2015 but previous to this I had never worked in the outdoor sector, although I have been a Scout leader for 5 years now.

Joining Woodrow was a big step in starting a career, something I’ve always questioned would be possible to fulfil. Why? Well first I have severe dyslexia. (To the point where Google isn’t a good enough spell checker sometimes.) My dyslexia has stopped me from entering other jobs before. So going into Woodrow my dyslexia felt like a boundary, something that would limit my abilities.

While I understood my dyslexia would be a boundary, I didn’t foresee my Asperger’s. Mind you it’s hard to foresee something you don’t know you have. I say that as I was only diagnosed this year. Whilst I had always kind of known myself, it was confirmed this year. But it hit HARD when I joined Woodrow. Suddenly I was moving in with 9 other instructors that I had never met. I had never dealt with something like that. It broke me.

This is where the wonderful Woodrow team comes in: on my very first day offering support with my dyslexia; helping with simple tasks like providing resources in easy-read and simply asking if something was suitable for me to read; even now giving me a structure of questions to help me write this blog.

It was this supportive environment – on a cold February evening after some training – that led me to utter the words “I’m not okay” to my line manager. From that moment there was a new level of support: having positive conversations; pursuing a diagnosis; and learning so much more about myself. Woodrow has enabled me to develop more on a personal level.

So while I ‘broke’ at Woodrow, it was also Woodrow that not only ‘fixed’ me but upgraded me. And learning to champion the positive aspect of my Asperger’s which has resulted in my development into Lead Instructor at Woodrow in 2016.

This is thanks to Woodrow, an open and welcoming centre to all. The mind-set of all the staff is one where nothing is a problem. A place of readiness to learn and adapt. Special needs is not an afterthought. It is at the forefront with everything else, whenever any plans are made. For example, this year one of our lounges was improved to make it more SEN-friendly; and more paths have been added for greater wheelchair access. Within the building itself we have a lift and a whole section (known as “The Wing”) that is wheelchair/SEN-friendly. To support this access there is a good system of training for the instructor staff team covering most disabilities, with the senior instructors also on hand to implement bespoke support to each individual’s needs.

Because I have a personal understanding of the subject, having both a learning and hidden disability, I am looking to help develop some training for next year’s apprentices. I feel this type of training is fundamental to the high quality service we provide. I know Woodrow will grow from strength to strength and can only improve further the great inclusive environment that it has already created.