Student Megan Callaghan, awarded an Excellence Scholarship, is determined to fulfil her Musical Theatre ambitions despite facing the additional challenges of being diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome four years ago.
The 19-year-old from Rochdale was diagnosed with the milder autism spectrum disorder (ASD) characterised by difficulties in social interaction and non-verbal communication.
“It has allowed me to understand why I always felt different, why I was sensitive to sound, heat and touch and why I found friendships difficult. I did not always understand jokes and sarcasm, and this could make life at high school tricky,” she said.
Megan admits the condition can be problematic, with anxiety a pressing issue, while the challenge of adapting to daily life sometimes proves exhausting.
“I overthink things and struggle with public transport. Although this can be hard on a down day I try and keep myself busy and embrace opportunities. I will not let my Asperger’s limit my potential.
“People may not realise I have autism as I have learned to behave as people who are neurotypical would expect but it can be draining. It cannot always be sustained and requires me to take time out to be on my own to recharge my batteries.
“There are also positives to my diagnosis and I would not be me if I did not have my Asperger’s. It makes me conscientious and motivated, determined not to let people down – I’m not a person who likes to give up.”
Her own experiences have enabled her to help others who suffer from similar conditions, including at Edge Hill University.
“As a student guide I have helped them to understand what services are available, providing them with the support that they need. Even on arriving at Edge Hill I have found that there are fellow students with my condition that need the extra support and guidance that I felt I could help with as I’d be able to relate on a personal level.
“There are a lot of people who, like me, did not get the diagnosis they needed to support them through early education and I would like to ensure they get the support they deserve. ASD in girls is not talked about enough.”
Megan’s love for performance and continued Musical Theatre studies has seen her appear in several amateur shows including Les Misérables, as well as auditioning for a high-profile role in Channel 4 soap Hollyoaks.
“The role was for a girl with Asperger’s and my motivation to apply was that I wanted to prove that I could bring my talents as an autistic actor to the screen.”
The audition was a three-stage process which began with an application and photo being submitted. This led to an initial audition and a recall for the six remaining potential actors on set in Liverpool with one of the current actors.
“It was a challenge I was prepared to tackle and was something new for television. I was proud of my performance and believe that everything happens for a reason. If I’d got the role I would not have had the opportunity to attend Edge Hill and realise my true passion, musical theatre.”
Edge Hill became Megan’s first choice…
“I applied for two courses as I was so keen to study here. I loved the feel of the campus, how open and green it felt, yet secure. It felt modern and the quality of the courses looked great. Everyone I met was friendly and informative, I just felt really comfortable and could see myself feeling accepted and settled at Edge Hill.”
Having been heavily involved in Girl Guiding from a young age, Megan also gave up much of her free time to learn Irish dancing, having been inspired by a team performing during a concert in which she was doing tap and ballet.
“It has required a lot of commitment and at times I have attended up to five classes a week enabling me to compete in competitions up to championship level, with many trophies won at Preliminary Championship level.”
She first started at the age of nine, performed in professional show ‘Essence of Ireland’ and has twice appeared at the World Irish Dancing Championships.
Megan, who notes the award of her scholarship and a student guide role on campus as university highlights so far, plans to study for a Masters degree before pursuing teaching and stage opportunities.