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Learning from the thinkers and practitioners of the past

Ian Jones-Healey


Why should we care about history? What can it teach us?

The social history of learning disability is not widely known. Through creating a museum about learning disability, with a story spanning 170 years, it has been possible to bring these ideas before a wider public audience. In this way we help shift peoples perspectives and make history relevant. Learning from the past helps makes sense of the present and shape the future.

Past examples of good ideas and practice are very relevant today. Has the legacy of these thinkers and reformers been fulfilled? For example, in the communities set up by Dr John Langdon Down, Karl König (Camphill Movement), Jean Vanier (L’Arche) and the Rev Andrew Reed (Earlswood Asylum). The new thinking and research of Hans Asperger, Édouard Séguin and Dr John Conolly. The campaigning of Brian Rix.

The roots of many disability organisations today have their origins in the past. In particular, the story of Dr John Langdon Down and his revolutionary institution at Normansfield. Along with other great Victorian social reformers, Langdon Down was working towards a vision of education and belonging within a community. That story has informed the work of the current Down’s Syndrome Association and its ground breaking projects, Shifting Perspectives, WorkFit and DSActive.

We can learn from all of these individuals and help develop a brighter vision for the future.

Speaker biography

Ian Jones-Healey is Archivist at the Langdon Down Museum and Editor of the Down’s Syndrome Association Journal and Website.

Contact us

About the Group

If you woud like to get in touch with the Social History of Learning Disability (SHLD) Research Group, please contact:

Liz Tilley 
Chair of the Social History of Learning Disability (SHLD) Research Group
School of Health, Wellbeing and Social Care
Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Language Studies
The Open University
Walton Hall
Milton Keynes

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