Exclusive Interview with Sophie Shine

Claire Walley
January 16, 2024

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I’m 28 years young. I’m full of life and always try see the positive in the most negative circumstances.

As a stroke survivor, what advice would you give to someone dealing with a new diagnosis or health concern?

I had my strokes in my sleep and woke up paralysed. It took me far too long to over come the fact I may not walk again, I still struggle with this now. However, like all my other conditions, I can’t let my disabilities become who I am. I’m more than just a body in a wheelchair and there is SO many things out there for us disabled folk to do now, so take advantage of every opportunity you get. Take your meds, socialise, get outside and use your voice.

Many people/places say they are inclusive but aren’t necessarily – what does inclusion mean to you?

For a place to be inclusive, to me that means: accessible entrance & fire exit, disabled toilet, lift if there’s an upstairs, wide corridors/space between tables/turning angles for wheelchairs, an empty/space for people to go if needed (this could be for people with autism to woman who breastfeed), don’t use bright or florescent lights (they’re triggering for epilepsy and sensitive for autism etc), music should be kept low enough so people don’t have to shout to talk. As for people being inclusive, be kind, talk to people with disabilities and conditions like humans, not aliens. We can understand you so we don’t need to be spoken to like babies.

Tell us about your wheelchair rugby career – has it helped you?

It’s so hard to put into words how much it has helped me. I joined in August 2021, I had no friends, it was shortly after I lost the use of my legs so I had severe anxiety and no confidence. I never left my house, didn’t go into shops etc. I only went to hospital/GP appointments. I can now say (I hope), I have a good handful of friends. My confidence has grown and my anxiety is improving. I can now leave my house with support.

Do you have any tips for young people who may have additional needs or health issues that are challenging for them?

Find support. This is so important for me. I’ve always been a very independent person, I moved out at the age of 16 but now I have 24/7 support and care. It doesn’t stop me being independent, if anything it means I can be even more independent, safely. Secondly, keep active! meeting new people in the disabled community has been amazing and I feel this is something really important. Finally, don’t be afraid to use your voice. Speak out, write a blog, start an Instagram. I use my Instagram as a kind of journal, an outlet and as a result it helps others too, so that’s a bonus. Stay positive and if you ever need to talk there is plenty of help out there, helplines, your GP, Instagrammers, and my DMs are certainly always open.

Thank you for having me and for reading.

The SEN Expert offers a range of services for young people, families and schools. We offer support for parents to help navigate the complex world of Special Educational Needs. We will work with you closely to ensure the best for your child.

The SEN Expert was set up by Claire in 2021 following a successful career spanning 12 years in school improvement, special educational needs, safeguarding and the arts.

Claire has worked as a Deputy Headteacher, Assistant Headteacher, Consultant and SENCO in both state and private schools in inner city London, the Southwest, the Midlands and the USA.

Throughout her career, Claire has ensured solid outcomes for the young people she has worked with. Be that a set of good exam grades, a placement in specialist setting or getting a part time job.

Claire is a working mother, and understands the challenges parents face trying to ensure their children are happy and successful. We aim to provide young people with a creative route to the personal and professional adult life they deserve.

Claire sits outside a café with a laptop

SEN consultancy
with a difference.

We offer support for families, children, and schools to navigate the complex world of SEN.

Check out our full list of services at our website www.thesenexpert.co.uk or follow us on Instagram @senexpert for daily advice on special educational needs.

The SEN Expert is a company registered in England and Wales with company number 13523478.