Sally Phillips: People Say They Couldn't 'Handle' A Child With Down's Syndrome. Handle What?

13/11/2013 09:57 | Updated 22 May 2015

The problem with chatting to someone who has previously made you howl with laughter from your living room, is that you want them to be funny.

Sally Phillips, of Smack the Pony, Bridget Jones and Miranda fame, doesn't disappoint, kicking off our chat with an apology about being full of cold and sounding like a 'cross between an old man and a poorly elephant with so much stuff coming out of my nose.'

Sally, 43, is a comedy writer and actress, but also a mum to boys Oliver (Ollie), nine, Luke, six, and Tom, who celebrated his second birthday a few days before we speak.

"It took me three children to realise the way to throw a kids' party is to only invite as many guests as the birthday boy is old. So we had two!" she tells Parentdish. "We did have cake and candles, so that makes it a party, right?"

Sally's three boys get on 'pretty well - but they have their moments', so is there any plan to try for a girl as a new addition? "I don't think I could do another pregnancy. I would love a girl but you know what would happen - we'd have another boy!"

The mum of three, who's married to Andrew, an IT specialist, said she always wanted children ('I was always that child playing with the younger babies - children and animals are my thing!'), but how did the vision compare to reality?

"I tend not to think about things too much in advance so I didn't have too much of vision of parenthood.


Our situation is a little unusual so I think it's probably a good thing that I didn't have a rose tinted view in my head as our family has taken us down a slightly different path to what people tend to imagine.


That 'slightly different path' refers to her eldest son, Ollie, who has Down's Syndrome. Unusually, Ollie wasn't diagnosed until 10 days after he was born. Something Sally is refreshingly frank about.

"We found out that Ollie had Down's Syndrome when he was 10 days old. He was born in August and there were so many changes in staff because of the summer, that no one really noticed! Looking back it was quite dangerous. "We had a newly qualified pediatrician who didn't notice, and we saw a few midwives who thought something might be up, but it wasn't until Ollie was 10 days old that he was diagnosed. He had weak muscle tone and was all a bit floppy.

"That moment of diagnosis was pretty bleak - but the reality is nothing like that and that's something that lots of people don't understand. There is huge ignorance about Down's Syndrome and special needs.

"I met someone who said they had the amniocentesis test because she wouldn't want a child with Down's Syndrome because they might not be able to walk. Where did that come from?! I really feel the medical profession scares people unnecessarily.


People say 'I couldn't handle that' when they hear about a child with Down's Syndrome. Handle what? All children are different in their own way.Yes it's changed the course of my family but that's about as far as it goes. He is such a happy child.

I can tell she's grinning when she talks about her three boys (despite us being a phone line away - and the aforementioned elephant sniffles) and says: "The best way I can describe Ollie as being like that person at a party who is just a tiny bit more drunk than anyone else! He's just slightly more colourful than some other children."

The Phillips household sounds like somewhere you'd love to hang out for the day (Ollie was dancing at breakfast apparently) where paint, messy play and laughter abound.

"One of my favourite things to do with the boys is all the creative stuff - getting stuck in with crafts. I help with all the school projects, and was recently colouring in a pirate,

"At home we do 'boy painting', where they take off their clothes – down to their pants – squirt paint on large sheets of paper and then roll around on it. Messy, but hey, it stops them hitting each other!"

Sally's crafty side makes her the perfect ambassador for the Cuticura Crafty Confessions campaign – which asks parents to share their experience of crafting with young children.

"My crafty confession would be getting too involved!" she admits. "I just love it. I always think I have a really creative job, but I write and act - I don't get to have a go with costume and set design.

"For my birthday 10 friends and I went to a plate painting party! I kept taking the kids and they would just splatter paint all over the place, so we had a child free zone and went painting – just us. It was bliss!"

Cuticura is working with Sally Phillips and the Prince's Foundation, Children and the Arts as part of their Crafty Confessions campaign, which launched on on the 15th October. For every crafty confession shared, Cuticura will donate £1 to Children and the Arts, a charity that believes every child has the right to be inspired by the arts.

Here's Sally's (rather impressive) plate from her painting party!


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