Scholarship for disability awareness champion Shannen

Shannen Dabson

Shannen Dabson

Educational Psychology student Shannen Dabson has refused to let a medical condition dictate her future. Now her commitment to helping others and raising awareness of ‘hidden disabilities’, both locally and nationally, has earned her a Chancellor’s Scholarship from Edge Hill University.

Shannen was a bright, energetic child with a love of sport and a dream to compete in the Olympic Games. Then, aged eight, she was taken ill and within a week her life had changed. She was bed bound and diagnosed with ME, an illness characterised by chronic and debilitating fatigue.

Unable to attend school regularly, Shannen was home schooled by her mother and, aged 12, passed GCSE Maths. With typical determination, Shannen had accumulated 14 GCSEs by the age of 16, only six of which had been achieved in a school environment.

It was her experience during one exam that triggered Shannen’s desire to raise awareness of ‘hidden disabilities’ such as ME.

“I was about to take my GCSE Science exam,” explains Shannen. “I was in a wheelchair at that time, and a teacher wheeled me to the bottom of a flight of steps. She told me that if I couldn’t get myself up the stairs I couldn’t sit the exam. I got a ‘U’.

“The problem is that people with ME, or autism, or a range of other severe conditions, often don’t look disabled so are more likely to experience discrimination. A person with an obvious physical disability would never have been put in that situation and it made me want to do something to stop it happening to other people.”

Shannen has been involved with Tymes Trust, an organisation that supports young ME sufferers, for many years and, aged 11, she was asked to be the Trust’s Young Advocate. She has given talks at numerous events and conferences, presented to medical professionals at the Royal Society of Medicine and regularly represents young people at the House of Lords.

“Being part of the group gave me the courage to face my own problems,” says Shannen. “It also helped me gain a better understanding of what other people are struggling with and ways that I could try and help them.”

Her successful campaign to get schools to admit home schooled children for exams has made it easier and cheaper for children with hidden disabilities, who often have to travel long distances to an exam centre, to gain qualifications. This, and other campaigns, led to Shannen receiving a Jack Petchy award for outstanding service in 2012.

During her A levels, Shannen was extremely ill and had to stop attending Sixth Form. She didn’t let this stop her ambitions and taught herself at home, sitting her exams with a paramedic in attendance. She lost half her body weight and was hospitalised, missing her final exam. Despite these extraordinary circumstances, Shannen passed two A levels, receiving the highest marks in her class, and was accepted onto the Educational Psychology programme at Edge Hill University.

“I’ve loved every second at Edge Hill and I’m constantly grateful for the opportunity to study here,” says Shannen.

“I couldn’t believe it when I heard I’d been awarded a scholarship. I didn’t think I’d done enough to deserve it. The other nominees had done so much – I felt like all I’d done was sit at home and be ill. It’s such an honour. ”

Now in her second year, Shannen has just been voted Disabled Students’ Officer in the Students’ Union elections, and is determined to change the way hidden disabilities are perceived at University and beyond.

“I want to use my own experience to help others,” says Shannen. “At the moment doctors diagnose you then basically leave you to fend for yourself. I want to establish a network of support for sufferers that will fill the void between diagnosis and the rest of their lives.

“Being awarded this scholarship has given me the confidence to take this ambition forward, and hopefully, make a difference to other students’ lives.”

Professor Beattie discusses the psychological impact of terrorism

Professor Geoff Beattie was on BBC Breakfast on the 25th November 2014 discussing the psychological response of the public to the rise in the terror threat to a “severe level”. He discussed the long-term psychological impact of 9/11 on level of concern about terrorist attack. Professor Beattie then talked about the way in which people appraise risk generally, through which both emotional and cognitive factors are intimately connected in the perception of any risk. Within this, he made reference to the various strategies that people use when they appraise a fear threat as severe but they cannot personally do that much to prevent it, except be vigilant. Prof Beattie then made the point that they often use a variety of defence mechanisms to deal with the fear itself, to differentiate national threat from personal threat, and this seems to work for many.

The discussion will be soon available to view on BBC iplayer here

Watch: highlights from the 2014 Chancellor’s Lecture

Is there a reason why teenagers take more risks, and are more influenced by their peers, than adults? Is the adolescent brain different to that of an adult? Professor Sarah-Jayne Blakemore, a Royal Society University Research Fellow and Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience at University College London, answewred these questions and more at this year’s Chancellor’s Lecture The Teenage Brain.

The annual Chancellor’s Lecture is one of the major events in the University’s calendar. Chancellor Professor Tanya Byron, a chartered clinical psychologist, journalist, author and broadcaster introduced lecture and chaired the Q&A session.

Interviews with Professors Blakemore and Byron, along with some highlights from the lecture, can be seen in the video:

Implicit bias in job recruitment- what are the issues?

Professor Geoff Beattie recently gave an invited keynote address to the Asian Fire Service Association annual conference held in Stoke-on-Trent.  The subject of his talk was implicit bias in job recruitment linked to the ethnicity of applicants, and how to combat it.  Here Professor Beattie outlined some of his research covered in ‘Our Racist Heart: An Exploration of Unconscious Prejudice in Everyday Life.’ (Routledge, 2013).

Body Politics

Body politicsYesterday, Professor Geoff Beattie did an interview with Oksana Boyko on ‘Worlds Apart’ for Russia Today on the subject of the body language of the various leaders at the APEC CE0 summit, focusing in particular on the micro-behaviours of Presidents Obama and Putin.  Here, he discussed how power is negotiated through nonverbal communication and that even when interactions are formal and constrained, some unconscious nonverbal communications leaks genuine emotional responses.  Putin is well known for carefully choosing iconic images to represent aspects of his power and authority, and certain of his brief nonverbal interactions are designed to send similar messages.  How these power plays generalise to female politicians was also discussed.  The interview was broadcast (6 times) on the 16th November.

Finding the right language to discuss cancer

Professor Geoff Beattie

Professor Geoff Beattie

Professor of Psychology at Edge Hill University, Geoff Beattie, has spoken about the importance of finding the right metaphor to discuss cancer.

Geoff, who took part in the discussion on BBC Breakfast along with Katherine Marsland who had recently been diagnosed with secondary cancer, was invited onto the programme following the release of new research undertaken by Professor Elena Semino into the various metaphorical frames used to talk about cancer both by patients and by doctors.

Geoff said: “The commonest metaphorical frame beloved by the media is the war metaphor, where patients are talked about as ‘battling the disease’ and ‘conquering cancer’ but this might not be the most appropriate. There is sometimes a tendency to blame patients when they have not succeeded in defeating it, and research suggests that this metaphor can lead to feelings of guilt in the patients themselves.”

He discussed the importance of people with cancer being understood, identifying that sometimes hiding behind the cloak of metaphor may make communication easier for friends and family, as metaphors are readily accessible.

Geoff has previously written about the influence of metaphors in other areas of everyday life in his book All Talk, which particularly looked at how politicians use metaphors to frame issues: “From ‘fighting inflation’ and ‘winning our economic battle’s’ using the war metaphor, to ‘getting rid of dead wood’ or ‘cultivating new growth’ using the gardening metaphor, these different metaphorical frames affect how we think about the issues and even about the people directly concerned.”

“The point is that metaphors are everywhere and influence us all the time. That is why they are so important and in need of more critical examination.”

Geoff is a Fellow of the British Psychological Society, featured as the on-screen psychologist for 11 series of Big Brother and his analyses of nonverbal communication have featured in a large number of academic articles and books.

Find out more about Geoff’s appearance here.

Find out more about studying Psychology at Edge Hill here.

Are metaphors the wrong way to talk about cancer?

Professor Geoff Beattie was on BBC Breakfast on the 5th November with Katherine Marsland who had recently been diagnosed with secondary cancer.  Prof. Beattie discussed the importance of finding the right metaphor to capture the experience of the condition.  The item was occasioned by some new research conducted at Lancaster University into the various metaphorical frames used to talk about cancer both by patients and by doctors.  The commonest metaphorical frame (beloved by the media) is the war metaphor where patients are talked about as ‘battling the disease’ and ‘conquering cancer’ but this might not be the most appropriate.  There is sometimes a tendency to blame patients when they have not succeeded in defeating it.

Prof. Beattie also discussed the idea that one metaphorical frame might not be appropriate for different people at different points in the development of the illness, especially for those who have had the diagnosis of secondary cancer.  Additionally, it was discussed about the importance of people with cancer being understood and that sometimes hiding behind the cloak of metaphor may make communication easier for friends and family (because metaphors are readily accessible and can be a little cliched) but its use comes with consequences for how we think about both the disease and the patient.

You can watch the discussion here

Psychology student awarded Scholarship for dedication to volunteering

Final year Psychology student Samantha Betteridge has recently been awarded an On-Course Scholarship for her extensive volunteering experience over the last few years. Samantha has undertaken a range of different voluntary placements, including working for the charity MindFull UK, providing online support for youngsters with mental health issues. In addition, Samantha undertook volunteering on the VESL programme over the summer in which she taught English in a Thai primary school. All her volunteering experiences have given Samantha the motivation and enthusiasm to pursue her ambition of becoming a Clinical Psychologist.

Further details of Samantha’s experiences and insights can be found here

Sports and Exercise Psychology student wins Gold Sports Scholarship

Kelly Bourne, a second year Sports and Exercise Psychology student, has recently been awarded  one of three Edge Hill University Sports Scholarships at Gold standard.

Having taken part in sports from a young age, Kelly has shown a continued commitment through her engagement in a wide range of sporting opportunities. To name a few; from age 9-17, she captained the CYP (Clubs for Young People) team in which she led the team in four national tournaments. Later, whilst in secondary school, Kelly was then scouted by Cardiff City Football Club and performed at elite level, competing with representatives from Bolton Wanderers and Tottenham Hotspur . As well as other key indicators of her excellence in sport, Kelly also was invited to take part in an under 19s Welsh National Team Training programme. Through this, she had the opportunity to play in a number of key international tournaments.

Since being at Edge Hill University, Kelly has also played in the Welsh Premier League, in which her team progressed to play in the EUFA Champions League in Bosnia. Kelly is now an established player at Blackburn Rovers Football Club.

In receiving her scholarship, Kelly commented:

“I am very pleased to be one of only three students to receive the gold award. This is down to my participation in football, for my club (Cardiff City FC and Blackburn Rovers) and country (Wales). It goes to show that if you have a long term goal that you have your mind set on, and you are prepared to overcome the short term goals such as time, effort and commitment, your hard work and determination will enable you to achieve”.

Prof Beattie discusses issues of monitoring children’s mobile phone usage on BBC North West

Professor Geoff Beattie has made a recent appearance on BBC North West to discuss the issues associated with monitoring young people in their use of mobile technologies. In particular, this is based on the development of a new mobile app; Mobile Force Field, designed as a child safety app, in which parents may monitor, detect, and filter potentially harmful content which may be received and sent through their child’s mobile device.

Prof. Beattie’s discussions can be found here.