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

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Non-offensive elf

Stan doesn't have baby-sitters. He has carers. Often they're family members. Often we pay someone. But they're carers. This is an important distinction for me for a couple of reasons:

1. He's nearly at the age whereby, without Down's, we'd be able to leave him on his own for a while, or let him walk home alone. Therefore the person looking after him isn't looking after a baby. He needs extra support. That's it. So I've told those who look after him that they're skilled carers, not baby-sitters. 

2. It's easy for people to fall into the "mental age" trap. I can't imagine people being offended by Elf with Will Ferrell, and I'm certainly not. Ferrell plays a character who has never grown up; and still wants to be a child. That juxtaposition is funny and endearing and it's a lovely Xmas film. Stan is almost twelve and even though he sometimes enjoys things like the Wiggles, a pre-school group, he will also sit through something like the Hobbit. (Depending on the mood). It's simplistic to say that people with learning disabilities are somehow stuck on the "eight-years-old" bubble. And it's patronising. I'm uneasy about the defence that this man's attorney uses in this recent video news report

I've told Stan about the Santa thing. The beauty is that he probably does really think that Santas only live in shopping arcade grottos. He doesn't care if the "chimney thing" is real or not. But he's just as excited about Christmas as any other eleven-year-old. 

Am I being all politically correct here? So what if someone describes it as baby-sitting if they are doing a great job? Well; I suppose that there are enough people around who will always assume Stan is still stuck in a child-like bubble that he'll never escape from. And avoiding that sort of language may make people understand, a little bit more, that Stan's perspective on life is so much more intricate, complex and interesting. Merry Xmas.

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