Written by Kent’s father
In one respect we were fortunate, our son Kent, who has Down’s syndrome, was born in 1970, the same year as Rex Brinkworth founded the Down’s Syndrome Association. From the start, we were able to benefit from his research and understanding.
To say Kent’s arrival in our family was a shock would be to put it mildly. Neither my wife or I had any experience of learning disability in either of our families and we were thunderstruck.
Rex assessed Kent’s IQ as 70. At that point, we felt that we were faced for the first time in our lives with a problem that would not go away – a challenge that would never leave us. For the first weeks, when I would be at the office, each day I had to leave my desk and go round to the local church in Farm Street and pray. It needed about 25 minutes for the dark clouds to pass so that I could then get back to work.
It was particularly tough for my wife, especially feeding him. Kent had a harelip and cleft pallet. He needed a bottle four times a day. It was an icy January and within 15 minutes the milk would be stone cold and need re-heating.
We all survived with much prayer and faith. A young Swiss lady came as an au pair and devoted herself to caring for Kent and Carolyn. Her support was an amazing gift to the family.
Kent’s growing sense of humour helped us on our way as well.
We were also privileged to have two superb specialists who worked on Ken’s pallet and teeth for over 10 years. Although the cleft lip and palette has affected the clarity of his speech, thanks to their amazing work – plus a handsome moustache and goatee – there is no visible evidence left.
These two surgeons together with Kent’s natural sociable abilities have enabled him to have an easy manner, which endears him to many friends. He is now the tenant of a single person flat, courtesy of the Borough of Mitcham and the government’s housing benefit. He has a full week’s plan including two courses with an adult training programme.
Kent’s active engagement in football, cricket, golf and snooker have given him a good life.
What I selfishly felt would be a hazard for our family has turned out to be a blessing and an asset.