Exploring learning disabilities: supporting belonging
Exploring learning disabilities: supporting belonging

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Exploring learning disabilities: supporting belonging

2.3 Life in St Lawrence's hospital

Mabel spent many years in St Lawrence’s hospital. In Video 5 in the next activity you will hear her describe her life there.

Activity 4 Living in St Lawrences

Timing: Allow about 15 minutes

Watch the video below and note down the contrasts Mabel makes between her life at St Lawrence’s and her life in her own home.

Download this video clip.Video player: Video 5
Skip transcript: Video 5

Transcript: Video 5

MABEL COOPER
When you are 11 and you go into these big buildings, into something like St. Lawrence's it's very frightening. You'd think you were going to a madhouse because of the noise. I didn't like it really, only because it wasn't like a family home really. They just used to shout and pull you around. I don't like being pulled about.
The wards were this big. They were long, as long as this.
GLORIA FERRIS
They were massive.
MABEL COOPER
Because they were long. And the beds were that close together. And in the daytime you wasn't allowed to sit on your bed.
GLORIA FERRIS
We didn't have any privacy.
MABEL COOPER
No privacy, because if you went into the bathroom, people could get into it. If you imagine being in a prison and the people keep coming in and out, in and out, that was just the same. And they had bars up.
MABEL COOPER
We didn't have any of our own clothes. They used to have a big cupboard in the wards. And you would just help yourself. If you had one dress on one day, and then the next day somebody else would have it on. Because it had gone to the laundry and come back again. I find now it's lovely because I can just wear my own, and nobody else is going to wear them.
At the time, there was a great fear that we would have babies. So men and women were separated. Every Tuesday at 7:00 they would all go down to the dance hall, the men one side, the women the other. And in the middle there was staff. The men got up and asked some of the ladies to dance. They danced all the way around the staff. But when the music was finished, the men had to go back one side and the women back the other. Because you couldn't mix.
End transcript: Video 5
Video 5
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Answer

Mabel noted that in hospital she had no privacy or even her own clothes. She described it as being like a prison and noted how she was ‘pulled about’. The most significant contrast Mabel found between her life at St Lawrence’s and her life in her own home was being able to choose what to wear.

Mabel finally left St Lawrence’s in the 1970s. She died in 2013. You will return to Mabel’s story later in this session, but you will now meet Bernie, born only seven years later than Mabel, but whose life took a different turn.

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