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Sally Phillips: A World without Down’s Syndrome?

Actress and comedian Sally Phillips has spoken of her joy at being a mum to a child with Down’s syndrome. The 49-year-old star of sketch shows such as Smack the Pony discovered that her oldest son, Olly, had the condition when he was born 14 years ago.

Today, with hindsight, she said the way the hospital broke the news was wrong. She recalled the medical staff taking her to one side to tell her the “bad news” and to express their sorrow about her son’s condition.

Yet on the contrary, Phillips says Olly is a joy to have around. She felt so strongly about this that she decided to make a documentary, A World without Down’s Syndrome, which reveals what an engaging, chatty and kind young man her son is.

Negative reaction

The story of Phillips’ own experiences with her son makes fascinating reading, as she admits she was sent home from the hospital with her head in a “kind of fog”.

There had been no indication that Olly had Down’s syndrome prior to his birth. After he was born, she was taken into a side room, where a doctor began the conversation with the words, “I’m so sorry.” At the time, she went along with the way the situation was presented to her. On arriving home, she said friends and family who heard about the “bad news” visited and commiserated.

However, Phillips soon realised that although something “important” had happened, it wasn’t bad – as everyone was making out. While the hospital had sent her home expecting “tragedy”, instead, her life had become more of a “comedy”.

Humorous scenarios

She says Olly is extremely amusing and engaging. He often has his younger siblings, Luke, 11, and Tom, six, in hysterics. When she explained to her younger children that Olly might get angry sometimes when he doesn’t understand something, they took it in their stride.

She never lets Olly’s condition get in the way of their wonderful relationship, even when there are what she calls “absurd scenarios”. The comedian in her lets her see the humour in the situation – such as when Olly ran off down the street, wearing a curly wig and giant, star-shaped sunglasses.

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At Lambeth Palace for #sandfordawards2017

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Chasing him down the road barefoot, Phillips thought that it wasn’t so different from one of her comedy sketches! She says Olly has “great comic timing” and has always been “naturally incredibly funny.”

Mother’s Day

As Mother’s Day approaches on Sunday 31st March, Phillips is looking forward to spending a traditional family day with her children. Mothers of children with Down’s syndrome all over the UK will be celebrating the event.

A video has been made, called A Thousand Years, to mark the importance of Mother’s Day for children with Down’s syndrome and their families.

The video features 50 mums signing and lip-syncing “A Thousand Years” by Christina Perri, alongside their children with Down’s syndrome. It was released to mark World Down Syndrome Day and has been watched millions of times online, accompanied by the hashtag #WouldntChangeAThing.

The idea was the brainchild of parent Rebecca Carless, who says she hopes it will make people realise that mothers of children with Down’s syndrome love their children and wouldn’t change them for anything.

This is a sentiment echoed by Phillips, who says she finds herself laughing “far more than anyone else.” She recalled sitting on a bus and hearing other young mums complaining, realising that she didn’t feel the same way.

Although she and Olly were doing physiotherapy and language therapy, she said she felt somehow “liberated” from the rigours of day-to-day life.

Changing attitudes

Her only regret was that the doctor and nursing staff were so negative when her oldest son was born. She feels there’s a lack of understanding about what having a child with Down’s syndrome really involves – which sadly leads to terminations when the condition is discovered while the baby is still in the womb.

Phillips believes there’s too much ignorance surrounding the condition and is proud of the fact Olly is a pupil at a mainstream secondary school, after thriving at an integrated primary school.

Down’s syndrome is a genetic condition caused by an extra chromosome 21 in the body’s cells. It isn’t inherited in the majority of cases, but experts currently don’t know the cause. Around one in 1,000 UK babies are born with Down’s syndrome and it occurs in every race, social class and country all over the world.

Children with Down’s syndrome often have sleeping problems, which include struggling to settle down at bedtime and then waking during the night. With that very much in mind, Kinderkey provides a range of safe sleeping solutions for people of all ages with Down’s syndrome.

Please give us a call on 01978 820714 or email for information on our products and services, which include home visits to assess the best sleeping options for every individual.

Happy Mother’s Day!


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