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Looking back at my life

For people like me, and a lot more, you know, people were frightened of us. So in them days they said OK, there's nowhere for you, you get shut away in the big institutions. If people are different then other people get frightened. I still see it. People are frightened of people like me, and a lot more, because we're different.

I go into the schools now, and talk to the children, and I've been invited back to the schools, so for the next three weeks I'm off into the schools. But, you know, they were frightened, they even told me, the children. They're frightened of people what are different.

I got into the system very early. It was only because I had the learning disability, they've found that out now. I was born at the wrong time. Because I always say to the children, if I was young again I would have liked to have gone to the school, and learnt all the things I don't know now. The only thing is, when you start going in places like that, they label you and that's it.

St Lawrence's was all I knew for years, it was all I knew until 15 or 16 years ago. When you're in there you don't know anything else. There was nice people like Eva, she was nice, I got on with her. You had your doubts about some of them but in the end you knew they had to do the work, so you can't, it's not their fault, it's just they were there.

Why more stories need to be told

What's left of St Lawrence's, the Lifecare offices, is going to go. That's a good thing. But it's important that the books stay because that's a reminder of what's happened. Even if anything happened to me, the books must stay. And my records, they must be kept safe, I don't want anything to happen to them.

My story and a lot more will help people with a learning difficulty, and I hope it will learn them to tell their story of what happened to them. Other people too can learn from it like the people who came to our workshop in Kent [for practitioners]. They learn what things went on all those years and they learn to change: they listen and learn. It's not just my story and what happened to me, it happened to loads of people, it even happened to Gloria. It happened to my mum though she ran away and never went back.

I'm involved in People First, I was chair of Croydon People First. Before that I was chair of London People First, for four years, helping people with learning difficulties to speak up: enabling people to speak up, and educating other people to make that happen. Now I'm encouraging other people to tell their stories. I think it's good, and I think it teaches the public that people with learning difficulties are not going to hurt anyone and all the time we can get people to write their story and tell what happened to them, and publish it, or do a book for themselves like my friend, Doris, wants to do then it helps everyone. And Doris wants to show her book to other people, when it's done, so she can say, "Look, this is what I've done, and this is what it's all about".

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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