When a small group of parents got together to set up Rumbletums Café in Kimberley just over three years ago, there was a common thread between them and a shared aim.
The common factor was that we all had children with a learning disability; all with different types of disability but all with that generic and often misunderstood label. And the shared aim was to create something that would give our children purpose after they had left the closely supervised and protected world of a special school.
We wanted them to have the opportunity to develop their skills, confidence and communication and to have as much independence as possible. But we have perhaps also achieved something that we didn’t really set out to do; to break down some barriers and to show people that the abilities of our trainees are as important – if not more so – than their disabilities.
Life is often hard for people with a learning disability. Still sometimes referred to by the ignorant and ill-informed as ‘retards’, they often share the misfortune of people with mental health issues of being patronised, marginalised, ignored or even feared. Services provided to them are often delivered within institutions and their vulnerability means that the freedoms that many of us take for granted have to be monitored, risk assessed and generally curtailed for their own benefit.
And even outside of institutions and closely confined conditions, their disability is not always obvious. A person with Down’s Syndrome, for example, is fairly easy to spot but someone who is autistic, a young person with Asperger’s Syndrome, dyspraxia, global developmental delay? Probably not. So it might be hard for people to accept that 2% of the general population in England have a learning disability. Of these, 65,000 children and 145,000 adults have a severe learning disability with a further 1.2m having a mild or moderate disability.
And so, when you come to Rumbletums and are impressed by the service you receive, we hope that you’ll also appreciate that learning disabilities are not as rare as you might think and that what our trainees can do is much more important than what they can’t.