Oliver Hellowell is blessed with the special gift of capturing wonderful moments in nature on camera. His has a unique gift for spotting details and beautiful patterns in nature. Oliver says “I love my photography…it’s important to me, and people love my pictures – I see the detail and they love it.”
Oliver is famous for his photography, but it is a success and life for which his mother, Wendy, has had to fight.
Oliver’s success, and indeed his survival, is testament to the strength of his mother and his own determination and focus.
Oliver has Down’s Syndrome, and his initial prognosis was not great. He had heart surgery at 3 and a half months old, and in addition to the Down’s Syndrome, he also has ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) and EBD (Emotional and behavioural issues).
Wendy worked hard with Oliver to prove the health professionals wrong. She taught him to sign alongside making sounds, when he struggled with speech. She taught him to read with the ‘matching, selecting, naming’ method researched by Down’s Syndrome Education, now ‘See and Learn’. Wendy says “there is always a way to help support your child, it’s just finding it which can be the challenge! I found so many different ways to support Oliver and make things interesting, motivating and enjoyable for him – and I learned so very much more from Oliver than he did from me!”
For parents receiving a diagnosis of Down’s Syndrome, the future for their child may seem bleak. I remember being preoccupied about what my child would not achieve. Now I know that like all of us, each person with Down’s Syndrome has a gift.
As with any other child, it is our responsibility as parents to support our child’s development, and allow their gifts to flourish
I found the community and support network so important in Rosie’s first year. We met up when Rosie was still in hospital, and our local group has grown in strength and numbers over the last year. The community that comes from the Down’s Syndrome family is so strong. Although each child is different, there is strength that comes in walking the path together.
Wendy recognised the importance of a support group, and set up a support organisation herself when Oliver was just 9 months old. She built it up into charity employing 8 members of staff and supporting over 600 families during the 20 years she was involved. She stepped down as CEO in 2016 and is now operating as an independent SEN Consultant. ( www.wendyocarroll.com ) “I have 20 years experience directly supporting families who have children with Down’s Syndrome and count myself as utterly blessed to know so very many wonderful children and parents. Every child has their own unique qualities and children with DS are no exception.”
And this level of experience shines out of Wendy, “just make sure you don’t limit what you expose them to as you never know where their passion may lie. I remember hearing a teacher say that there wasn’t really any point doing history with children who had a learning disability – it was a waste of their limited learning capacity as it was unlikely to be of any use to them in adult life. Oliver LOVED history and at primary school it was his FAVOURITE subject. We had to visit castles (still do) and read all the information signs in amongst castle ruins explaining where the kitchens were and what happened in the large hall etc. I exposed Oliver to every possible subject and interest, and as a result he has SO many interests and hobbies he is never ever bored!”
Wendy’s strapline is powerful. “Although no-one can promise you what your child WILL do – equally NO-ONE can tell you what they WON’T do either – so don’t let them!”
And the final word goes to Oliver, when I asked him what he thought of having Down’s Syndrome: “I’m great and I have a good life”.
All photo credits to Oliver Hellowell