About Down's Syndrome : Miriam [Oral History]

Miriam Lyne is 54. She is married to Steve and has a dog called Billy George. She is a former netball player/coach, a huge Leicester City football fan, and a medal winning Olympian having competed alongside her husband Steve as the only married couple in the Special Olympics in 2005.

Listen to Miriam tell you all about her life, accompanied by her sister Deborah

Read Deborah’s written account of Miriam’s life

My sister Miriam was born in 1966 and is now 54 years old. An avid football fan, she has always been immensely proud that she was born in the year of England’s World Cup victory.

Miriam is the fourth of four siblings. She was born at home and it was therefore a couple of months before she was diagnosed with Down’s syndrome. I remember the day my parents came home from a hospital appointment when they had heard the diagnosis. They were told some awful things by the doctors. Our next-door neighbour greeted them on their return from the appointment, she said: “Don’t worry Sheila, there’s plenty of homes you can put them in.”

When it came to choosing a school, the only Special Education on offer was a hospital school in the local ‘Mental Handicap’ hospital. My Father said: “She’s going there over my dead body”. It was 1971, Leicestershire had launched their forward-thinking Comprehensive Education Plan and my parents decided that Miriam had an equal right to a comprehensive education.

Miriam attended the same local infant, junior, high and upper schools as myself and her two older brothers. She did so without any extra support other than some help with English and Maths, and an enlightened set of head teachers, with a genuine belief in equality and inclusion.

She completed several CSE courses.

Miriam went on to study a ‘Learning for Life’ course at the local College of Further Education where she met her future husband. They recently celebrated their 28th wedding anniversary.

The FE College helped Miriam find employment with Leicestershire County Council as a Kitchen Assistant in an elderly persons’ home. She was employed on a ‘supported employment scheme’ whereby Social Services paid half of her salary because she had a disability – the employer in effect gained a part-time employee who worked full-time hours.

Miriam completed 26 years of service in her employment. The ‘supported employment scheme’ was discontinued with one of the rounds of cuts and when the homes were privatised. Miriam could no longer manage the rigours of full-time employment in a less supportive workplace and with the onset of arthritis, she decided it was time to retire.

Miriam and her husband Steve remain happily married, they share their council flat with Bill George their rescue dog, and they share a passion for Leicester City Football Club. They have been season ticket holders most of their married life.

Miriam is an excellent cook, she is a slave to Jamie Oliver recipes! They’re both retired Special Olympic medal holders, Miriam captained her netball team to gold in Glasgow and Steve a successful swimmer.

Miriam has now swapped paid work for voluntary work in the community. She works at a playgroup for children with special needs, which was started by our mum when Miriam was a young child… in addition to sessions at two church luncheon clubs!!

I have always been incredibly proud of my sister and her achievements. She inspired my husband and I to adopt our fourth child, Tom, who also has Down’s syndrome, they have a very special relationship.

Given that she was born 54 years ago it is absolutely remarkable that she has achieved what she has achieved!

This oral history was funded by The National Lottery Heritage Fund as part of our Memories & Stories project.

What's New