Curtis’ story

Posted on: 15th January 2016

All the world's a stage

Curtis is a budding singer and actor – he studied performing arts at college, attended the Tonicha Lawrence Academy and has performed in a number of plays and musical performances. He grew up in Leeds and now, at the age of 22, he is about to embark on a new adventure – moving to Dartford.

When he was just 3 years old, Curtis sustained a traumatic brain injury, which left him with cognitive and physical difficulties. He has never let his brain injury hold him back and with support from his family, support workers, case manager and occupational therapist he has worked hard to achieve his goal of living independently.

Curtis and his family first had help from a case manager when he was 12 years old and was showing some very challenging behaviour at home and at school. Rita Greaves assisted Curtis’s family to understand his behaviour and to access therapies to help Curtis deal with his frustration and aggression. “I had to learn to control my temper,” says Curtis.

“Rita played a big part in helping him to become the fine young man he now is, along with everybody else around him,” says Lucy Naven, his current case manager.

In September 2013 Curtis started an independent living trial, during which an occupational therapist worked with him on normal everyday tasks that we take for granted like cooking and cleaning. With assistance from his support workers it took Curtis just 7 months to learn how to do everything he needed to live on his own.

“What’s amazing is that Curtis took to living on his own brilliantly,” says Lucy. “He really shocked everybody with how well he did, as he was used to his mum doing most things for him. Now he does all his own washing, house-keeping and he manages his own weekly money. He’s been living on his own for about 2 years now, including the independent living trial.”

Moving into his own home was just the start. About 1 year ago, Curtis went on his first date with his now partner, Matt. “We met online,” says Curtis, “and we arranged to meet each other in person on Valentines Day – a bit cheesy.” Curtis travelled to London by train – his first train journey made on his own, with his support worker Owen on call just in case. “We hit it off straight away,” says Curtis. “It’s been going really well and I’m moving to Dartford to be nearer to him.”

“I’m looking forward to all the new things I’ll get to do.”

Occupational therapist Helen Arnott has helped Curtis plan the move. “Helen only started working on the move with Curtis in October 2015,” says Lucy, “so it’s been a very quick turnaround. Helen and Curtis get on really well, which helps.”

“I think it’s also really helped that Curtis gets on well with Matt’s mum and dad,” says Owen, “because they’ve helped out with things like viewings and that’s sped things up.”

Curtis is clearly appreciative of all the help he’s received from Matt’s parents: “Matt’s mum has found some volunteering opportunities for me – one in a theatre and another as a hospital visitor. I’ve seen some of the things I could do at the hospital – keeping patients company and reading to them. It should be very rewarding.”

As well as the voluntary work, Curtis is planning on joining a local am-dram group and a choir. “He’s going to carry on with performing,” says Owen. “He’s developed really well and he’s much more confident now, so it would be a shame to stop.”

Curtis’ list of roles and performances is impressive: “At college we put on 2 shows that we devised ourselves at the West Yorkshire Playhouse; I did ‘Les Mis’ with the Tonicha Lawrence Academy; and I’ve just performed in a Christmas concert – that was something special. I did a duet of ‘Fairytale of New York’ with my singing teacher, which was different to everybody else’s performance because we did a little drama piece in the instrumental part. We were husband and wife… I’d just come in from work drunk and she wasn’t happy. It was fun to do.”

A few years ago, Curtis joined up with the charity Fixers to create a short video about bullying and was interviewed on ITV’s Calendar News in February 2013 (watch the clip below). Curtis was pleased to meet Gaynor Faye, actress from Coronation Street and Emmerdale. “We shared our experiences of being bullied,” says Curtis, “and we did a little drama piece too, me and Gaynor.”

Owen was there to support Curtis on the shoot. “It was a whole day of filming,” says Owen, “about 8 hours squeezed into a 4 minute film.”

“Curtis refuses to let disability get in the way and be defined by his disability.”

Having worked with Curtis for about 3 years, Owen has helped Curtis develop his independent living skills – initially assisting him with daily tasks and managing his money – and more recently has had more of a social role. “Sadly, I’m not moving to Dartford with him,” says Owen.

“We’re looking for a new case manager down in Dartford,” says Lucy, “and a ‘buddy’ to support Curtis – about 5 days a week initially, just to get him settled in, with a view to reduce this fairly dramatically after about 6 months once he feels comfortable doing more things on his own.”

“I’m looking forward to all the new things I’ll get to do, with London on my doorstep, and getting to spend more time with Matt,” says Curtis. “This move is the best thing to happen to me. I thought there would be something that would get in the way but I’m really excited. My mum is sad that I’m moving away but she wants me to be happy.”

Lucy gives a lot of the credit for everything going smoothly to Curtis: “Usually he’s quite impulsive but he’s really sat back and thought about this, tested his relationship with Matt and worked really hard to get everything ready. He’s done everything that’s been asked of him.”

It seems that Curtis is pleased with how much progress he has made over the past few years, particularly since Lucy started working with him. “Lucy came at a bad time in my life really,” says Curtis, “because I had some friends that weren’t really friends, so I didn’t trust anyone – but it was the right time as well because she helped me a lot.” Lucy’s input has reduced over the last year, as Curtis has become more independent and confident. “It’s good to know she’s on the end of the phone though,” says Curtis.

“It shows how far he’s progressed, as he doesn’t need as much input,” says Owen.

“Curtis refuses to let disability get in the way and be defined by his disability,” says Lucy. “It’s never stopped him doing anything that he wants to do and I think that’s admirable.”

The bright lights of London await and it seems that Curtis' future looks just as bright.