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'I was labelled as disruptive' PDF Print E-mail
'I was labelled as disruptive'
Alex WilliamsAlex felt his teachers were not sympathetic to his learning difficulties

Eighteen-year-old Alex Williams fondly remembers playing football with his friends in the playground and enjoying the hurly-burly of primary school.

But that was before he had meningitis at the age of seven.

"Afterwards, I couldn't do any of that. I had no friends when I left primary school. The teachers didn't understand my problems so I was bullied a lot."

At secondary school the situation only got worse.

Alex knew he was suffering from memory loss, finding it hard to organise his work and concentrate during classes, but because he had "survived" meningitis and suffered no obvious physical disabilities, nobody recognised the learning difficulties that the disease had created.

"People think you either live or die with meningitis. If you live then you're fine.

"But they don't realise about the brain damage done by the disease and the behavioural problems it creates.

"If I'd had one-to-one support at school, like I did at college, then things might have been different."

Instead, he was labelled as a disruptive child - something you get stuck with, he says.


Alex first noticed feeling unwell at his parents' wedding when he was seven years old.

Start Quote

Children who have had meningitis might look normal but there are other after-effects, like hearing, sight loss and speech problems, which are sometimes hidden.”

End QuoteHarriet PenningThe Meningitis Trust

He was rushed to hospital and spent two months recovering from bacterial meningitis, a life-threatening disease which attacks the membranes covering the brain and spine.

"At one point they thought I wouldn't make it," he says frankly.

"I suffered a lot of internal injuries, like kidney failure. I had to be rebooted, basically."

The terrible pain he first felt in his left leg is still present today and means he is now confined to a wheelchair.

Walking is just too difficult and painful. He may yet have to face the amputation of his leg in the future.

Alex takes a morphine-based tablet every three hours to help him cope with leg pain, and anti-sickness tablets to combat the nausea.

One of his kidneys works 20% better than the other one and he also has extremely high blood pressure.

He has recently developed epilepsy and lost all his hair.

On top of all that are the often hidden after-effects of the disease, which can be neurological and psychological in equal measure.

Extra assessments

Yet, despite all of these difficulties, Alex is extremely positive about life. He is determined to be a sports coach and continue playing competitive league wheelchair basketball - and to make sure that no one is treated the way he was at school.

Alex and the Meningitis Trust want automatic assessments to be introduced for every school child who survives meningitis so that the "hidden" problems can be picked up.

Harriet Penning, communications manager at the trust, says these assessments should be independent.

"One assessment won't do it because the problems might not come to light straightaway. We would like four assessments in total so that parents and teachers recognise the problems and can arrange for extra support."

"Children who have had meningitis might look normal but there are other after-effects, like hearing, sight loss and speech problems, which are sometimes hidden."

Twenty thousand children in the education system could be struggling with learning problems because of meningitis, the trust says.

Meningitis is a serious and potentially devastating disease which can occur at any age, although babies, young children and young adults are particularly at risk of bacterial meningitis.

Failing to recognise the brain damage which it can cause at an early stage is another devastating blow young people like Alex do not deserve.

Read more http://www.bbc.co.uk/go/rss/int/news/-/news/health-16003209