Professor Simon H. Haskell 1928-2018

Margaret Paull with an appreciation.

It is with sadness but also with great pride that I write following the death of Simon Haskell in Zurich, Switzerland, on 21 January 2018, at the age of 89.

Simon will be remembered with love and fondness by many thousands of disabled people in this world but especially here in the UK and in Australia, in the Middle East and Europe. If ever there was a good friend of disabled children and adults, it was surely he.

Simon began his career as a psychologist at the Tavistock Clinic, and worked for a short while as an educational psychologist in Hertfordshire before moving to SCOPE (formerly the Spastics Society) where he really began to influence both attitudes and practice regarding disabled children and adults. It was his ground-breaking and pioneering work that first triggered the huge move towards education for all, no matter what the severity of disability. From there he took up a lecturing post at London University Institute of Education, and managed the near impossible feat of combining true scholarship and academic integrity with an unfailing commitment to, faith in, and liking for those practitioners engaged in the difficult task of teaching children and adults with complex neurological disabilities. His Diploma course on Physical Disability, with James Lumsden and Franz Morgenstern, was without doubt one of the best and most valuable ever written.

Simon then moved to Deakin University in Australia where, as Dean, he transformed and hugely increased the Special Education component within his faculty, earning not only the admiration of all, but also recognition in the form of the Australia Medal, awarded to him by the Government of Australia for his tireless work on behalf of disabled people.

On his retirement, Simon returned to Europe, where he has been up until very recently, much in demand by international bodies for his papers and scholarly debate, including Rehabilitation International where he was Chair of the Education Commission for some years. He worked tirelessly for reform.

I, and thousands of others, am lucky to have known such a rich intellect and humanitarian talent as Simon and he will be sorely missed. His kindness, humour and generosity of spirit touched people, and they remembered. A small example (but very significant) is that of Grove Cottage, the Centre for learning disabled people in Bishop’s Stortford that thrives to this day, with Simon a founding member. One man with severe learning difficulties, now middle aged, actually spontaneously remembered Simon talking to him as a child, when we visited there recently for the first time in over 40 years! What better epitaph than that?

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