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Born to Be Different TX: 21 Mar 2013, Week 12

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Episode 2/2, 21/03/2013, 9pm, Channel 4

Marking its tenth anniversary, Channel 4’s award-winning documentary series, ‘Born to be Different’ offers intimate insights into what it’s like to grow up with a disability, as we watch as the children make the tricky transition from childhood to teenage years. For some families there are heart-rending decisions to be made, and all parents are forced to make psychological adjustments most families never have to contemplate.

Zoe was born with a condition called arthrogryposis. Over the years a series of operations to her legs and arms have improved her mobility and when she moves to a large academy in Essex she becomes an enthusiastic netball player. Yet by the end of her first year one foot is causing her so much pain that a further operation is necessary. The family takes a short break “to escape the doctors”, as Zoe says. On their return, we see her undergo surgery to reposition her left foot so she will continue to be able to walk and the earlier endless surgeries and procedures have not been in vain.

William’s condition, tuberous sclerosis, has led to complex epilepsy and autism. These further conditions cause him to behave violently and erratically. His mother Paula herself has developed MS and, as William gets bigger and stronger, she is finds it increasingly hard to cope. In this episode we see the family reunited after William’s first week at a residential school over an hour away from home, and how have they all adapted to the change. “I’ve been really excited all week because I’ve missed him,” says younger sister Jess.

Shelbie was born with Trisomy 9-P, a profoundly life-limiting condition which has seen her in and out of hospital all her life. In this episode, after recovering from a life-threatening illness we see the family enjoying quality time together camping, where Shelbie gets to enjoy her favourite activity, swimming. But a week before they go on holiday mum Vicki receives devastating news about a condition Shelbie may have been carrying from birth, but which has gone undiagnosed. “I just feel like she’s been given a double death sentence,” says Vicki.

Hamish was born with achondroplasia (commonly known as ‘dwarfism’). Ten years ago his parents moved to the South Island of New Zealand, where he has benefitted from an outdoor lifestyle. In this episode we see him and father Al on a boys’ trip of fishing and swimming in the nearby river. As the family reflect on their dreams for Hamish’s future. “It’s about Hamish being successful at what he chooses to do, whatever it is. You’d like him to get married, find love in his life. Normal parent things - the same old dreams, happy and healthy,” says mum Claire.

Nathan, who has Down Syndrome, has attended a mainstream primary school all his life. In this series mum, Tracey and dad, Richard, make the decision that continuing in a mainstream environment may not be the best approach for secondary school both academically and socially. They decide to send Nathan to Stormont House, a school for children with mild to moderate learning difficulties, where he impresses with his school work and blossoms socially at the afterschool club he attends. “There’s just this confidence about him,” says mum Tracey.

In the last series Emily - who was born with spina bifida - had major surgery to reconstruct her bladder and bowel to allow her to regulate when she goes to the toilet. The surgery was a success and she starts secondary school in knickers rather than the pull ups she wore for the majority of her primary education. Emily is social and enjoys being just like other kids her age, but does still have hospital check-ups where doctors reflect on how well she is doing.

Episode 1/2, 14/03/2013, 9pm, Channel 4

2013 marks the tenth anniversary of Channel 4’s award-winning documentary series, ‘Born to be Different’. The first series introduced us to six three-year-old children, each born with a different disability. ‘Born to be Different’ offers intimate insights into what it’s like to grow up with a disability, as we watch as the children face the tricky transition from primary to secondary school, from childhood to teenage years. For some families there are heart-rending decisions to be made, and all parents are forced to make psychological adjustments most families never have to contemplate.

Zoe was born with a condition called Arthrogryposis. Over the years a series of operations to her legs and arms have given her enough independence of movement for her to progress to a large academy school in Essex. Here she blossoms and even becomes an enthusiastic netball player. Yet by the end of her first year one foot is causing her so much pain that a further operation looks necessary. ‘I’ve really tried to get my feet to work really well. Not to end up in a wheel chair’ reflects Zoe, ‘now it feels like it’s all tumbling back down. It’s horrible’.

William’s condition, Tuberous Sclerosis, has led to Complex Epilepsy and Autism. These further conditions cause him to behave violently and erratically. He is difficult to manage and can show aggression to his devoted mother Paula and younger sister Jess. Paula herself has developed MS and, as William gets bigger and stronger, she is finds it increasingly hard to cope. With husband Nick she investigates a residential school for William, though the idea of his leaving distresses her. ‘Every time I think of him going I get tearful,’ she says. But will their local authority cover the school’s high fees anyway?

Shelbie was born with Trisomy 9-P, a profoundly life-limiting condition which has seen her in and out of hospital all her life. In this series she is rushed into Bristol Children’s Hospital with an unexplained illness which has affected her breathing, and her life hangs in the balance. With unprecedented access to the Paediatric Intensive Care Unit we witness mother Vicky and her husband Nick’s dogged belief in Shelbie’s desire to live tested to the limit. ‘She still loves life, so why shouldn’t children like that be here?’ Vicky asks, but the situation takes a heavy toll. ‘You prepare yourself for your child dying, and when they don’t, people don’t tell you how to deal with your emotions. Nobody will ever understand what that feels like.’

Hamish was born with Achondroplasia (commonly known as ‘dwarfism’). Ten years ago his parents moved to the South Island of New Zealand, where he has benefitted from the great skiing fields on his doorstep. In this series we catch up with Hamish and his new passion swimming where we learn he has been breaking National records and winning medals in the under 19 national championships. His ultimate dream is to swim for New Zealand at the next Paralympics in Rio.

In episode 2 we continue to follow the stories of these remarkable children and their families and meet Emily, who was born with Spina Bifida and Nathan who has Down Syndrome.

Producer and Director: Marc Lewis

DV director: Ella Wells

Film Editor: Kevin Austin

Production Manager: Katrina Chaloner
Executive Producer: Jo Ball
Production Company: Ricochet
Commissioning Editor: Lina Prestwood

Past TX Information

BORN TO BE DIFFERENT 2/2
26 Apr 2013, 01:05
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