Mencap "made such a difference to my girl's life"
The east Belfast mum of one of the first pupils at a nursery for children with special needs said it gave her daughter an excellent start in life.
Mary Hobson was just 22 when her first child Julie, who's now 42, was born with Down's Syndrome.
Mrs Hobson said: “At first when I had her it was an absolute shock. I didn’t know anything about Down's Syndrome or Mongolism, as some people called it then.
“It was a big shock. But it only took me a day and I got on with it right away.
“Different people take things like that completely differently. The one thing that bothered me was the way people used to stare at her. It was hard - as a young woman you don’t know what to say. But I loved her right away.”
Mrs Hobson enrolled Julie at Mencap's nursery when it opened 40 years ago. Then it was located at Knock Presybterian Church. It later reclocated to Segal House on Annadale Avenue where it remains today.
She credits the nursery with providing Julie and the family with a support which complemented the love and support the family received from the wider community where they live in Cregagh.
Now Julie is a bubbly adult who has defied the gloomy predictions of a doctor who examined her 40 years ago.
Mrs Hosbon said: “She’s a character, an absolute complete character. We always said we would bring her up as normal. Anyone would have been able to see her as wee girl out playing with her friends. People used to just keep Down’s people inside and never hardly have them outside, so Julie has had a good life.
“It was all those years ago yet I can still remember the doctor told me she wouldn’t come to much and would never be able to do anything much. All we could do was look after her and that would be it - just put her in a corner. And I remember us coming out and me thinking, that’s what you think. If only he could see her now.”