Simone, a Thalidomide survivor, talks about her experiences of growing up with a disability and how everyone saw her as 'different'.
People ask me what age I was when I 'noticed I was different'. The truth is, I never saw myself as 'different'! Different to what Yes, I was different to my two younger sisters I suppose.
My arms finish where their elbows start. I have just three fingers on each elbow length arm and no thumbs. All of my family are tall - apart from me. That's because my femurs (thigh bones) are shortened by about 20cm each side. So sadly, I lost out in the long legs stakes….
And yes, I guess my life has been 'different' to theirs because of the limitations placed on me because of my disability. I was treated 'differently' to them when I was younger. I went to a 'special' school for 'handicapped' children. Normal for me to take my lessons next to a child with severe behavioural or learning difficulties.
One day I found myself seated opposite a young boy of about five or six years old in a full length body plaster cast with what looked like an infinite hole disappearing into his stomach through the cast which was smothered in Gentian Violet.
Memories from my first years at school are those which, although furthest away in time are the most vivid. Making mint creams. Watching a boy defecate at the end of the school field surrounded by inquisitive peers who he'd invited to join him for this daily ritual.
I thought this was 'normal'. It was for me, a seven year old severely physically disabled child. In the 1960's my mother had no choice but for me to be schooled there rather than in a primary school alongside my sisters. I was transported to and from school every day in 'the ambulance', a maroon minibus which drove around the neighbourhood collecting all those 'different' children.