Somerset Stories: Ups and Downs Southwest

Joanna Thorn, Director at Ups and Downs Southwest, tells us the inspiring story of Oliver and how he lives life to the fullest, publishing two books, featuring on a number of national television programmes and becoming an award winning photographer.

“Wendy’s son, Oliver, has Down Syndrome. Wendy received very little support and advice when he was growing up and was given a very bleak picture of his future. Oliver went on to become a successful photographer, winning the National Diversity Award for UK Positive Role Model for Disability in 2015. He’s published two books, featured on television programmes such as The One Show and Countryfile, and in 2019 he attended the USA/ UK Media awards in London where he won the Best Photographic Feature Award, beating a photographer from The Sunday Times in the same category. Wendy wanted to make sure no other family had the same experience as she did in the early days, and Ups and Downs Southwest was born.

Ups and Downs Southwest has been working with families and young people since 1997. We offer holistic support and are there from birth all the way through to age 25, with families and young people using our services at different stages in their lives. Wendy has since stepped away from charity, but Ups and Downs Southwest continues to go from strength to strength.

We’re here to reassure parents that their child can live a full life. We understand and celebrate the value of these young people and work hard to get this message across; not only to families, but also to the wider community, dispelling myths and challenging misconceptions. The biggest barrier that our young people face is a lack of community acceptance and understanding.

As well as continuing our vital family support work, including meeting educational needs, we are turning our attention to our post-16 members to ensure they get better and wider choices in terms of their further education, employment and independent living aspirations; we believe passionately that our members should have the same choices as their peers.

It’s really important to us that we show just what children and young people with Down Syndrome can achieve. This is brilliantly illustrated by Wendy’s son Oliver, who is an inspiration to us all.”

December 15, 2021

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