I have Down’s syndrome and it doesn’t affect me at all. If you do have a disability, it’s part of your life, it’s not a big deal. I am a woman and an actor first.
I love working. When I get an acting job, I give it 100%. When I got the part in Upstairs Downstairs, I looked back to the 1930s to look at how they treated people with Down's syndrome, so I could portray that character. It made me really sad because people’s attitudes were really negative. They used the word retard back then. I say, let’s leave it there and not bring it into the present day. We don’t want to hear that kind of word. No parent wants to hear that about their child.
I think today there are a lot of negative attitudes but i'm trying to encourage people to be positive. I’m campaigning a lot. I have been bullied, once when I was at Brighton beach with my mum, some people were throwing stones at my arm. We had to move away. It was really daunting, really scary. It makes me sad when someone is a victim of bullying, everybody wants to have freedom. I’d tell bullies - respect, don’t judge. Look at the world through our eyes, see what we see.
Some people treat me like a child and it’s really annoying, but it comes from a good heart. They always ask if they can help do something for me and I always say, no thank you I can manage myself. They’re just trying to be nice. I like to be treated with respect, other people like me want respect.
The highlight of my life was meeting Dame Judy Dench. She’s my role model, I have learned a lot by studying her. I watch her and try to be real like her. She is also very encouraging to everybody. I want to play different characters and exercise my acting muscles. I feel I can be many things. Not just a disability. Watch this space, people are beginning to believe in me.
Its great to see people with a learning disability deciding on what sort of life they want. If they want to get married it’s their choice, getting married is a wonderful thing and it’s their decision. Whether they want to have a baby or not, it’s their decision. I don’t want to get married - not for me, but it’s their decision, it’s their lives. We’re all equals.
Everyone can lead their lives the way they want to. It doesn’t matter who you are, you’re still a person. The future will be better if there are less negative attitudes towards people like us and people understand us more. It’s time to change attitudes.
Photo credit: Rankin
Got questions about learning disability? Who better to ask than someone who has a learning disability!
We got Aeren to answer some questions. Take a look at the chat to hear her thoughts and experience of having a learning disability...