Change that leads to better lives

Challenging the views that Rosa Monkton shared on TV

I cannot sleep without challenging the views that Rosa Monkton shared with Lorraine Kelly on TV

Dear Rosa,

So, an irritable businessman tells a noisy teenager to be quiet on a train! I don’t know what world you live in out there but in my world, and I travel on trains a lot, this is the sort of thing I see on a regular basis. If I’m honest, I am somethimes that grumpy old woman that would like to tell a few noisy people to shut up and let me work. The last crowd that disturbed me were a bunch of middled aged women drinking champagne on the 7.20am to London. The thing is, I don’t tell them to shut up. Not because I’m shy or unassertive, but because I remember what it was like to be young and have fun. I have also developed a capacity to work in a host of somewhat unruly places.

What’s my point you might be thinking?

A grumpy old man telling a teenager to be quiet is not disability discrimination. I hate discrimination in all it’s forms, and as the mother of a 17-year-old with Down's Syndrome ( with a shed-load of other disabled friends and family as well) I’ve seen plenty of it. This is grumpy old man syndrome, with a bit of youth bashing for good measure.

The real discrimination came out of your mouth. It makes me rage to think of anyone being so disrespectful to people with learning disabilities. For these words to come out of the mouth of a mother is all the more shocking.

Children with Downs Syndrome become adults.

My daughter is 17, just celebrated her birthday. With friends, real friends that is. Some of them have learning disabilities, some don’t. She is not a child anymore and is quick to remind me of that should I forget myself. Academically and practically she hasn’t got the same skills as a typically developing child (sorry darling, young woman) but she has 17 years' worth of life experience. Living in an ordinary kind of neighbourhood, and being a practical kind of mum I have taught her street skills, like you do with your kids when you see that they will grow up and leave you one day. Not just how to cross the road (tricky when there are not crossings) but all sorts of safety awareness about stranger danger, pretend friends, and the fact that sometimes people in your family are bad as well. We have explored good and bad secrets, sex and relationships, drugs and alcohol etc.

I’m not in denial though. I know she is more vulnerable than other girls her age, but in many ways so much more sensible! I’m not worried about sex, drugs and alcohol and I know she wouldn’t go off with anyone without telling me. The world makes young people with learning disabilities vulnerable, but schools and families add to it by trying to protect them from the world.

Rosa, the world belongs to all of us.

I like my world. I live in a community. I know my neighbours. I take part in community activities, with my daughter as much as I can because work and being a mum is pretty time consuming too. I do not intend to put my daughter ‘out into the community’ because she has always been a member of it. We’ve met a bit of ignorance along the way, but by and large we’ve been welcome, no more or less than anyone else. I have always expected the best of people, and always got the best. I have spent my life working to make sure people with learning disabilities are not ‘put away’ into so called ‘safe’ communities. Have you seen the abuse statistics? Safe is being known and valued, having your place in society (yes it does exist!)

We all need support at some point in our life. At the moment we are told there is not enough money to provide enough support for disabled people to live in dignity although there seems to be plenty to spend on other things… But I know many people with learning disabilities who get the support they need to live good lives in ordinary places doing ordinary things – and to stay safe. Choice and control is not a bad thing. Independence is a myth, interdependence is the thing, for you and me, not just our daughters. Sometimes things go wrong, occasionally, terribly wrong. This is not a reason to lock up our daughters, this is a reason to join with disabled people and allies in all walks of life to end abuse, to improve poor support, to get out there and show the possibility of a different reality. When we lock up our daughters they have won.

Domenica cries when she hears herself labelled as disabled because she thinks that is a bad thing. Someone has taught her that! Teach her that she belongs to a proud fine people. Work with her towards her dreams. In my world they don’t always, or often come true, but having them is a matter of survival.

In my lifetime I have seen the end of apartheid in South Africa; I have seen the end of segregation and a black president in the USA; I have seen gay relationships move from illegal to marriage looking like a real possibility; I have seen equal pay for women… the list goes on. I am determined, I am not alone in my determination, together we are eroding disability discrimination.

We would like you on our side.


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