I am really sad to announce that Prof Cliff Cunningham died on Friday after a long battle with cancer.
Cliff started out his career as a teacher and then trained as a Psychologist; since 1969 he worked as a researcher with children and adults with Down’s syndrome. His main area of research was early intervention and child development but he also touched upon research investigations into thyroid dysfunction, atlanto-axial dislocation, menstruation, mental health in adults with Down’s syndrome and many more.
Cliff wrote a seminal book in 1982 (revised 2006) for parents of children with Down’s syndrome, Down syndrome – An introduction for parents and carers, at a time when there was very little positive and factual information available. The book is informed by the author’s many years’ involvement with a study of over 160 children with Down’s syndrome whose progress he charted into adulthood. As a result, this work is full of useful positive, factual and practical information for parents at the outset of their journey. The most important aspect is its sympathetic and understanding approach when considering the reactions and feelings that parents may have and how the family adapt and cope. Cliff never lost the human touch. Cliff challenged us to question society’s values towards people with Down’s syndrome and to question society’s views concerning achievement and individual value.
I was lucky enough to be able to meet Cliff thirty years ago when my son Alex was born; he was an inspiration to me and my family and he has continued to be a grounding influence to the Down’s Syndrome Association as one of our longest serving advisors. Countless families have turned to Cliff for advice over the years and he has always given his time freely to anyone who needed his help.
Cliff received an award from the DSA for his long service to Down’s syndrome as part of our 40th year celebrations. He will be sadly missed.
All our thoughts are with Cliff’s wife Marta and the rest of the Cunningham family.
Carol Boys, Chief Executive, Down’s Syndrome Association