EXCLUSIVE: ‘Trapped’ 10-year-old who learnt to communicate with his eyes is now 'desperate' other children like him are given same opportunities

Dismissed as a “lost cause” by teachers, Jonathan Bryan learnt how to read and write by using his eyes. In an exclusive interview with Jonathan and his mother Chantal, Change.org’s Nadia Gilani hears first hand how the schoolboy defied expectations, and how every signature is helping make a “difference for the voiceless”.

Jonathan Bryan loves baking, listening to classical music and playing drums to rock tracks. He enjoys visiting Westonbirt Arboretum in Gloucestershire and his favourite writer is War Horse author, Michael Morpurgo.

But he is no ordinary 10-year-old. For the first seven years of his life he felt “trapped like a bird in a cage” due to his cerebral palsy which means he cannot use his voice.

Free as a bird: Jonathan can now read, write and communicate to say whatever he wants 

Free as a bird: Jonathan can now read, write and communicate to say whatever he wants 

After being starved of oxygen in the womb when his mother was in a car crash, the little boy was ‘locked-in’ his body unable to communicate.

However since last year, Jonathan has been able to read, have conversations with his sisters Susannah, seven, and Jemima, four and write stories and a blog and poetry - something he loves to do.

Speaking to Change.org he said: “Before, I felt like a bird in a cage. Now I can now say exactly what I want. I can tell my family and friends I love them in my own words.”

Family matters: Jonathan with his parents Chantal and Christopher and sisters Susannah and Jemima

Family matters: Jonathan with his parents Chantal and Christopher and sisters Susannah and Jemima

He now attends a mainstream primary school and says it’s his “purpose” to campaign so that friends at his previous special needs school and all children with disabilities across the UK are taught to read and write.

He said: “It feels wonderful the campaign is tackling teaching children like me to read and write. Every signature counts because every voice makes a difference. I want to thank all my supporters for using their voice to make a difference for the voiceless”.

It took his mother, Chantal, who felt let down by the curriculum, one hour daily for a year and a half to teach him to spell and put sentences together.

She said:  “What seems to happen at special school is that the children do a small amount of learning letters and lots of play, but our experience has been that there is no progression and a lack of educational ambition for children like Jonathan.

Rock n roll: Jonathan plays guitar with his friends Sam Hughes (left) and Lewis Selina (right)

Rock n roll: Jonathan plays guitar with his friends Sam Hughes (left) and Lewis Selina (right)

"There’s no recognition that children have got it in them to learn - it’s about finding the right way to teach each individual child and then teaching them.

“Of course it’s hard work because you have to tailor the curriculum but it’s important. For Jonathan learning to read and write hasn’t just been a life skill it has been life changing”

Jonathan has sent a letter to education minister, Edward Timpson MP and his parents are hoping for a meeting.

Jonathan is prone to getting poorly and has been severely ill in the past, which could mean that he may not have much longer to live.

Learning together: Jonathan at school with his classmate Rochelle Twardun Brown

Learning together: Jonathan at school with his classmate Rochelle Twardun Brown

Chantal added: “Part of his whole campaign idea has come from rethinking what he wants to do before he goes.

“He told us that ‘this is my purpose to try and make a change for children like me before I go’. ‘He seems to be preparing us all for it and thanks to a strong Christian faith isn’t fearful about it at all. He’s desperate to create change.”

For more information about this campaign go to change.org/TeachUsToo

Notes
Change.org petitions are now embeddable. Any mention of a campaign can now be paired with the visual (just as you'd embed tweets in a piece about a topic on Twitter). Find out more in our handy 'how-to' guide here.