Edinburgh man who was told he had 'no chance in life' tells others to 'grab their passion and go with it'

He was schooled hundreds of miles away from home as part of a system which told him he had 'no chance in life'.

Wednesday, 25th September 2019, 4:01 pm
"I have now found my own way to live, to achieve and excel in things that make me happy" - David Reilly. Picture: Contributed

But decades on, David Reilly, 47, has never given up his fight - and has even bagged a Masters degree along the way.

Read More

Read More
Harry and Meghan introduce baby Archie to Archbishop Desmond Tutu

David, from Morningside, Edinburgh, who has cerebral palsy (CP), grew up in East Lothian where he attended mainstream primary school.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Although he kept up with his peers, his family was eventually advised to send him to a remedial school in Coventry - after being labelled with learning disabilities - where he had to re-learn everything taught since primary one.

He said: "I don’t have a learning disability. My cerebral palsy affects me physically not mentally - there was nothing wrong with my problem solving or creativity.

“Me and my parents were always told, 'David would never sit a public examination' and that was that."

David will speak next week at the annual Bobath Scotland conference at Hampden Stadium, Glasgow, where families and professionals who assist people living with CP come together.

He said: “Looking back I realised it was never health professionals who wrote me off - it was schools, councils and employers who labelled me disabled, turned me away or thought of me as ‘less’.

“But I like to think I’ve now found my own way to live, to achieve and excel in things that make me happy despite what anyone thinks.”

David, who has conquered 25 Munros, completed two mammoth cycling expeditions - the 234-mile Caledonia Way and the 185-mile long Hebridean Way - studied for his Masters in Cellular Biology at Manchester Medical School. He is now an online content creator.

He said: “Bureaucrats with no medical or social awareness caused more harm than anyone else.

“Not because their words hurt, but because they closed all sorts of doors and opportunities in my life before it even began - they effectively said ‘You have no chance in life’.”

“Whoever else is facing naysayers, discrimination or persecution I’d just say tell you to grab your passion and go with it - the only person that really decides what happens in your life is you.”

Stephanie Fraser, Chief Executive of Bobath Scotland - the only charity in Scotland dedicated to helping people with CP - hailed David and called on officials to improve support for people living with CP and their families.

She said: “David’s story proves those living with CP can live a full life when they have access to the right support.

“There are many professionals in health and education who provide services for children with CP but when these children reach adulthood this support stops.

“The Scottish Government currently do not know how many Scots live with CP, yet other countries are developing ways to address this – because of this those living with CP can access the right support.

“No one in Scotland should ever feel overlooked so we need a similar system in place right away so that thousands of people and their families can live without limits rather than battle society’s limitations.”