Steve Palmer's blog about his son Stanley - who has Down's Syndrome - & the extended family. All about Down Syndrome and learning disability.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Sarah Gregson

Stan's learning support assistant, Sarah, died on 10th November.

Sarah Gregson was one of a kind. She's pictured here in 2007, with Stan.

Yes, she never had a bad word to say about anybody; yes, she was incredibly patient with Stan; yes, her eyes lit up whenever she described things that he did. But there was more to it than that, wonderful though those qualities were. Sarah Gregson was instrumental in helping to steer the way that Stan's school deals with special educational needs. In many ways, Stan's been an experiment, and Sarah was one of his most trusted lab technicians.

Sarah was one of the few people who really knew Stanley - and knew how amazing and also how difficult he can be. She made lovely resources for him and was always eager to learn new ways of learning and take advice from others. The other professionals involved with Stanley always told us how impressed they were with Sarah and her dedication to Stanley.

Sarah made sure that Stanley was accepted and included in school life and it is testament to her that he has been so successful and has so many friends in school. Sarah also welcomed Stanley into her home and Stanley spent time with her daughter in the school holidays. We came to regard Sarah as part of our extended family.

Some of the above I was able to pass on to Sarah's family at the funeral. We want the family to know that, on top of the love she had for her family, she had a special place for Stan. But I want to stress that it was a professional friendship that she deserved to be very proud of.

We will miss Sarah's humanity. We'll miss her laughter. We'll miss her special friendship with Stan and the things she used to teach him. But mainly we're just so glad that Stan got a chance to meet and work with Sarah. We're crystal clear that without Sarah's input, Stan's time in mainstream education wouldn't have been so successful.

As Stan grows up, we'll remind him of this often.

Monday, 7 November 2011

We need to talk about Ricky

In the mid 1990s I tried my hand at stand up comedy. I was pretty awful but there was the odd gig where I did OK. So who am I to criticise comedians? Well, let's compare Frankie Boyle and Ricky Gervais. The former seems to be downright offensive - he just said that our kids all die early and have pudding-bowl haircuts. He never responds to requests to discuss his comments, including Jordan's regarding her son Harvey.

But Ricky is happy to get involved. He did it last year when he called Susan Boyle (no relation to Frankie) "a mong" - but then justified his comments. But for some reason, his latest use of the word, a couple of weeks ago, on twitter, caused much more interest from the press. Ricky says:
'The word mong means Down’s Syndrome about as much as the word gay means happy. I never use the word mong to mean anything to do with Down's Syndrome.' Read more here

There's a fascinating article about Gerry Sadowitz, who has been known to offend even the most open-minded of his audience. But he makes the point that comedy needs to be thought-provoking. He says of Frankie Boyle: "He'll write a joke, or someone will write it and give it to him, and he'll do it without any thought."

But is it good enough to say that Ricky's more off-the-hook than Frankie Boyle, just because he's prepared to talk about it? I've spoken to people who say "no" - because of course he must have known what the reaction was likely to be - and so he should know better. They feel that RG knew exactly what it would do for his career.

For what it's worth, I think RG's attempt at humour is a bit tragic because he's trying to be down with the kids (no relation to this column). I heard the word 'mong' used in the office about six years ago, with the same defence used by RG, when an eyebrow was raised. It could be that he's being 'very 2006'. Is RG a man out-of-time?

I didn't have a child with DS when I was doing comedy but I'm sure that I never stooped onto this territory. On the other hand, I want comedy that challenges. That's why that Family Guy storyline was so brilliant. And although I see what Ricky is trying to do, I'm just left thinking that, instead of being this great, cutting edge comedian, he's ended up looking a bit sad.

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