'Let's go crash that party down in Normaltown tonight.'

'Let's go crash that party down in Normaltown tonight.'

Monday, 19 February 2018

The book, the audiobook & the podcast

Down's with the kids - The book / Audiobook / The podcast

The Pope is groovy. Religion and Down's Syndrome

Religious leaders seem to be falling over themselves to be relaxed and groovy about Down's Syndrome. First you had the General Synod discussing testing in pregnancy. It backed a motion calling on the government to ensure that parents who have been told their unborn child has Down’s syndrome will be given 'comprehensive, unbiased information' regarding the condition.

I was asked to comment on all of this and did so on Radio 5 Live. And then, the following Saturday, Reverend Rob Marshall went on Radio 4's Thought for the Day and talked about my 5 Live interview. My main point was that, on top of the Church of England's suggestion that people get good information when they have a diagnosis, why not come and meet Stan or someone else with Down's Syndrome. 

And then the Pope got Down's with the kids. A girl with Down's got up during a regular papal service and went towards the Pontiff. Security men quickly moved in to take her back to her Mum. The Pope stopped them and told her to sit next to him. She did just that and Pope Francis continued his homily, holding her hands. 

It's reassuring to hear this mood music from religious figures. And it's not just about the - at-times - tired old debate about pro-choice / pro-life that the church is so often associated with. All of this is, hopefully, pro-information and also showing positive images of Down's Syndrome - and I'm comfortable with that. 

Thursday, 8 February 2018

Haircut time: known to the community

'Oh my days. Are you Stanley? I haven't seen you in years'

Stan and I were walking back home from the barber shop. A woman was berating a group of school pupils for playing football on the street. But as we arrived it all changed; one of them recognised Stan from primary school days. And we all had a lovely chat. 

Stan had just been for a haircut, where everyone knows him. We'd been on the bus, where no one knew him but by the end of the ride, two men in their early twenties were his best friends. 

And it struck me that Stan is well known in the community. I'm often approached in the supermarket by someone who was Stan's supporter for, say, a week, a few years ago. He can leave an impression with so many people. 

But it's his former primary school friend that I'm thinking about today. At that school everyone was encouraged to learn Makaton signing and everyone just knew Stanley. Other young people might not know how to react when they meet someone with a learning disability. That lad did. Because Stan had been a normal part of his primary education. 

And I like to think that Stan teaches lots of people in our community lots of things about tolerance, understanding and the joy of life, every single day. 

Monday, 18 December 2017

Autism-friendly Aladdin showing

Thanks to Learning Disability Today for hosting my blog on our visit to an autism-friendly showing of Aladdin in the summer.  'Imagine a performance where the sound of a wrapper being crunched is drowned out by lots of other noise.' 

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Activism and the learning disability 'movement'. Are we any good at it? Podcast #6

In this podcast:

Are we in the learning disability movement any good at protesting? Steve talks to activist Paul Richards who has set up Gig Buddies and Stay up Late so that people with learning disabilities can have awesome nights out. He also introduces Jennifer, who has a learning disability and has strong views on activism. And he looks at the R Word campaign in the USA, which challenges use of the word Retard. It's Down's with the kids - the podcast. Music from www.bensound.com/royalty-free-music

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

What's the Harvey Weinstein row got to do with learning disability?

Letter to the i newspaper, 18 October 2017

Grace Dent's article on James Corden's jokes about Harvey Weinstein was forceful and will hopefully stop some comedians from doing the same. But I have a problem. My son has a learning disability and too often I hear comedians defending jokes cracked about people like my son because 'anything should be discussed by an artist'. One rule for some and one for others? What we need to do in the learning disability movement is to be more convincing in our arguments and take a leaf out of Grace Dent's book.

Sunday, 20 August 2017

Bias: Stan and the super-strength lager on the 263

Are we all prejudiced? Would you engage with someone on a bus who has a learning disability or perhaps someone who has obvious alcohol issues? 

On the 263, Stan met a man who was drinking super-strength lager. It was 9.45 in the morning. Are you jumping to conclusions, reader? Was this man, probably an expert-by-experience with street homeless issues, making a scene?

Well, no. He was keeping himself-to-himself; but Stan made a beeline for him and introduced himself. Before you knew it they were captivating the passengers with one of the most bizarre and entertaining conversations I've ever heard. 

Down's Mum reckons that Stan is different to many people because he doesn't have a biased bone in his body. Because of his learning disability, he doesn't know how to be prejudiced and that can be a fantastic thing. He was just born like that...

Back to the bus. The man didn't offer Stan any of his 7.5% proof booze but he did fish in his pocket and give Stan £1. Then he showed Stan his West Ham tattoo.

The other passengers were like the person on the train reading over your shoulder.  They couldn't take their eyes off the situation. And that's a good thing for challenging bias. Because here were two people connecting and perhaps, just perhaps, breaking down a few barriers. 

See also: Unconscious bias isn't just somebody else problem; it’s also yours. By Ossie Stuart, equality / diversity consultant