A career in speech pathology or child psychology is the fuel for study for Honours student Erin Condrin from Southport.

The Bachelor of Psychological Science student has just started her first year at Griffith, having coming straight from AB Paterson College, and says she is loving the student life and the chance to study as part of its prestigious Honours College.

“I always love to challenge myself and keep myself busy. The opportunity to join the Griffith Honours College was a goal for me due to the opportunities available for members,” says Erin.

Designed for outstanding Griffith University students, its Honours College provides students with enriching experiences in combination with undergraduate degree studies.

But life isn’t as straightforward for Erin as it is for her fellow students. Erin is a wheelchair user who has the genetic condition Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, a rare condition which affects the connective tissue, primarily the skin, joints and blood vessel walls.

Diagnosed in 2014 when she was just 13, Erin has the classical type of the condition.

“This means I have overly flexible joints that dislocate frequently, and skin that’s translucent, elastic and bruises easily.”

“I loved doing gymnastics and circus acrobatics when I was a child, but when I was about 13, my knees started dislocating and eventually my right leg became immobilised and a nerve was damaged as a result.

“By the time I got around to using a wheelchair it was actually a relief because I had been in so much pain from walking.”

An unpredictable life

EDS has made some parts of Erin’s life unpredictable.

“Fatigue can be a real problem with this condition and I have also encountered two bouts of malnutrition.

“Negativity and stigma around being in a wheelchair can also really hurt. I’ve had people say weird things to me such as ‘you’re too pretty to be in a wheelchair’ but I do think it’s important to keep positive and keep on letting people know what I (and others in similar situations) are really capable of,” says Erin.

Erin says that along with her assistance dog Lacey, she continues to have a positive experience at university.

“Lacey helps to break the ice with people who may feel a little wary about talking with me so that’s great, I am really lucky to have her.

“I am also really indebted to Griffith’s disability services which have been great in providing exam modifications to help me out and special read and write software which allows me to speak my assignments/exams and thus prevents dislocations in my hands

And she’s using her status to be a positive role model for people in marginalised groups, helping to raise awareness of EDS and sharing her story.

“I originally had dreams of starring in musical theatre on Broadway, but dreams change of course, but not always in a bad way. I am really hoping to get into either a speech pathology or child-centred psychology role after this degree and I know it will be possible with a bit of hard work just like anyone else!”