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Suddenly On Stage

Updated: Apr 28, 2023

Hello, I am Jo Grace, a researcher living in the South West and working with people with profound intellectual and multiple disabilities, in this series of three little blogs I am going to give you a glimpse of my work and why I do it.

First I will tell you a bit about myself so that you have a sense of where this all came from!

I have a background in inclusion that is older than myself as both my Mum and my Grandma worked in their own ways towards a more inclusive society. I have family members with physical disabilities and neurodivergent conditions; people with disabilities have always been a part of my life, a part of my normal.

I feel that people who do not have people with disabilities in their lives miss out (something I spoke about in my TEDx talk: Inclusion; for Pity’s Sake? My friend Chlöe co-presented at TEDx with me, she has profound and multiple learning disabilities and we believe it is the only time someone with profound and multiple learning disabilities has presented on that famous TED red circle).

I run a thing called The Sensory Projects, all of the sensory projects aim to share the knowledge and creativity needed to use inexpensive materials as effective tools for inclusion. Prior to the projects I worked within education, as a teacher in a school for students with severe and profound special educational needs and disabilities, an inspector of schools (not Ofsted), and a consultant supporting schools to better include children with learning disabilities.

I also had the privilege of being a registered foster carer for children with complex disabilities. Since launching the projects I have been able to work across the age range, the youngest person I have supported was a day old and the oldest…well it’s rude to ask a lady her age, but she is closing in on ninety now.

In everything I do I am hoping to play a part in creating a future where people are understood in spite of their differences.

I am very active across social media and always welcome new connections on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn (and I’m just trying to learn my way around Instagram so you can also find me there).

Those who have followed me online for a while will know me for being a bit of a geek: I studied philosophy at university, did a masters in special educational needs and have underpinned all the sensory projects with information from the research archives.

I’ve even been known to do a little bit of research as an independent researcher from time to time (most recently an exploration of how sensory rooms are used in the UK which was published in the Tizard Review journal and as a book by Routledge called Mulitple Mulitsensory Rooms: Myth Busting the Magic).

Recently I took up a position as a doctoral researcher studying identity and belonging for people with profound intellectual and multiple disabilities at the University of Southampton, supervised by Prof Melanie Nind and Doctor Jo Hope, funded by the ESRC through the South Coast Doctoral Training Partnership.

I appreciate that to those watching my life unfold through the window of social media this might seem a natural step, but that is not what it feels like from inside. From inside it is as if I have been a groupie of a band for years, buying all their albums, traveling to see them live etc, and then suddenly one day they call you up on stage and invite you to sing.

I have always been a massive fan of research informed practice, but can I actually do research!

Naturally I figured I would need help, and so I looked to my friends with profound intellectual and multiple disabilities to help me. In my next blog I’ll tell you about the journey we have been on to do research together.

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