Talk about commitment! Pioneering psychoanalyst Dr Janet Carr began her longitudinal study of people with Down’s syndrome and their families in 1964 and continued it for half a century, by which time she was 87.
Back when she started, children with Down’s syndrome were regarded as “intellectually handicapped”. Effectively ‘non-persons’, they were generally consigned to institutions. Carr’s research focused on 54 babies born in the south-east of England and followed their development, living skills, social and employment experiences, and the effects on their families right through to middle age.
What it revealed was that the children bonded and developed good relationships with their siblings. Over time, they also grew more independent, quashing the long-held belief that children with Down’s syndrome were never likely to walk or talk.
The world’s longest-running research project into people with Down’s syndrome, Dr Carr’s groundbreaking work has led to the publication of several books and more than 60 book chapters and academic papers. As well as changing the wider population’s attitudes, it has benefited thousands of people with Down’s syndrome and their families.