I’m concerned about the isolation of young people who can’t talk and the fact that non-disabled young people hardly ever meet their peers who can’t talk.” Maresa MacKeith

HobNobs group meet once a month, right now ages range between 12 -18 years. Activities depend on who comes and what they like to do, we hang out, play games, play pool, darts and football, go for walks and go to cafes.

It’s all about friendship.


* To combat the isolation of young people who cannot communicate verbally and who use a variety of communication tools to communicate.

* To promote awareness of the unique insights and experience that young people who do not communicate verbally can bring to the wider community.

* To promote understanding of the social model of disability from the perspective of young people.

* To create opportunities for young people to meet, socialise and pursue common interests with young people who do not communicate verbally

HobNobs meets monthly at various venues in Nottingham
Link to the HobBlog

HobNobs group

Maresa with help from Elliot has started a new group ‘HobNobs: Getting Together to Talk or Not’.

Elliot, Reva and Emma, all in their teens have written about why they want to be involved.

Maresa “ I was really concerned about the isolation of young people who can’t talk and the fact that non-disabled young people hardly ever meet a young person who can’t talk. So in August 2008 we had our first meeting of eight young people altogether. Since then we have met approximately once a month. We have played games, sat and talked, played football, gone for walks and eaten in cafes. In December we had a musical evening with hidden talents emerging.

We all believe that friendship is the key to a good life whatever we do with our lives.”

Elliot “I knew a friend ( Yoshi) before he came to Bluecoat ( my school) and I was pleased when he came because I thought we could get to know each other better. Our (mine and Yoshi’s) relationship was going well at our ‘inclusive ‘ school but later on in our school life our relationship was hindered, rather than nurtured, by staff. The need to do something out of school came from being Yoshi’s friend. Having a friend on the autistic spectrum made me realise how he was being treated. It opened my eyes to what is happening behind the scenes. The way people are separated and treated.

Reva I would never have known this stuff if I hadn’t met Maresa. I wouldn’t have known how much inclusion was needed and how vital it is. Meeting Maresa and knowing how important inclusion is…… it is life changing, I would never have known this without meeting Maresa.


A moment that made me think

I once said to a friend that if I found out I was pregnant with a baby who had severe disability, I would get an abortion. I was twelve at the time, and had an ambition to be a writer. That friend introduced me to Maresa MacKeith two years ago. I am now 14, and my opinion has changed radically! The following speech was written for my GCSE English coursework in 2009 and was delivered it to 120 Year 10 students. Afterwards, everybody was really interested, and they asked me lots of questions about Maresa. Now, I’m thinking about talking to my teachers to invite Maresa to come and speak at my school. Since meeting Maresa, I have been involved in the HobNob group she organises once a month, where I’ve met other young people my age who can’t talk.

A moment that made me think was when I received a text from my friend Maresa, telling me that she’d got a 2:1 in her English Literature degree. This might sound like a fairly normal thing to most of you- lots of people get degrees, after all. The first thing I thought when I received that text was what a great achievement it was. You see, Maresa has cerebral palsy and no speech. For those of you that don’t know, cerebral palsy is a condition that affects the part of your brain that controls your body. This means Maresa cannot control her body and cannot move on her own. I expect it seems like a bit more of an achievement now!

The next thing I thought when I received the text was one of incredulity. How had Maresa done it? She was in special education from 5 and was not allowed into ordinary classes until she was 14 (what this says about the education system I don’t know, but moving on swiftly…) At one point in her education, she was put in a predominantly glass room, completely isolated, and people just stared at her like she was an object. Over the years, it has been a constant battle for her and her mum Caroline to get her into a state school where she would be included and able to learn things. She didn’t even get into mainstream school until she was 14. In a way, I felt angry about the ignorance of everyone around her, and their incapability to just accept differences. Shockingly, many people didn’t even believe that Maresa could think properly, just because she couldn’t communicate in the same way. Of course, my incredulity was at the fact that Maresa didn’t just handle all of this, but overcame it with dignity.

I also thought about the physical struggle of it all. Even after Maresa had fought (and, in many ways, won) this battle to get an education, there was still the problem of actually doing the degree. Of course, Maresa didn’t see this as a problem; she overcame it like everything else. The way in which a single sentence is written starts with Caroline asking Maresa if she feels like writing. She picks up Maresa’s hand, and Maresa pulls inward for ‘yes’ and pushes away for ‘no’. Then, Caroline must pick up Maresa’s hand again, hold a QWERTY keyboard printed on paper in front of her, and Maresa taps out each letter. Caroline types it in, asks if it is right, and Maresa will say ‘yes’ or ‘no’. And that’s the process of typing a single sentence. I expect I’ve exhausted you just saying that. That is the process Maresa had to use for a 14,000 word dissertation.

What I finally thought was what an amazing woman Maresa is. The sheer emotional strength of handling all those years of isolation and exclusion didn’t stop her. The fact she had to laboriously type everything out with one hand didn’t stop her. Not even pneumonia, with which she became gravely ill and was hospitalised in the final year of her degree, could stop her! If I had to name a role model in my life, it would be Maresa who I look up to most. It makes all of my complaints about a lot of homework seem silly. She is an incredible person, and truly someone I look up to, especially with all the adversity she has overcome.

Emma Scriver, 14