Thinking Globally Acting Locally

A Personal Journey

by Peter Mittler



Thinking Globally Acting Locally is more than just the memoir of a distinguished career. It is a history of the twentieth century reflected in the life and work of one individual.


It begins in 1938 with a year in the life of an eight year old Viennese Jewish boy as he experiences the worst and best of humanity, from Nazi persecution to rescue by strangers through the Kindertransports. It tells of his encounters with an English schooling system at its worst and best and of his formative years.


But this is not a story of one person’s liberation. That little refugee boy grew up to contribute to the liberation of hundreds of thousands of people world-wide. Influenced by his own early experiences, Peter Mittler has spent a lifetime committed to the human rights of people with intellectual disabilities.  From their liberation from the big institutions left over from the nineteenth century, to their inclusion in shaping the 2008 United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, it tells the story of a dynamic and powerful human rights movement.


It is perhaps the last great untold story, the story of how persons with intellectual disabilities finally gained the right to respect, value and autonomy and of the long struggle for schooling, access to work and their own front door key.


This memoir weaves professional memories and accounts of collaboration across the global village with anecdotes and travellers’ tales to reflect a global perspective from someone who was there at every twist and turn, working with families, teachers, researchers, governments and self-advocates for over 60 years to influence legislation and drive lasting reform.



Peter Mittler Thinking Globally Acting Locally: A Personal Journey (Author House 2010)


Dame Phillipa Russell (from foreword)
Socrates is reputed to have said that each generation produces a very small number of 'hero innovators' who change the way in which society values its citizens.  For me and for many others, Peter Mittler is indeed one of those 'hero innovators', radically changing both national and international attitudes towards people with intellectual and other disabilities and their families.

Duncan Mitchell British Journal of Learning Disabilities

Peter Mittler is one of the giants of learning disability in the second half of the twentieth century.  It is rare to find such a wonderfully understated page turner.


Ingrid Lunt, Journal of Research in Special Educational Needs
The book succeeds in going far beyond an autobiography… is easy to read, and carries the reader through with the strong narrative. 


Paul Williams Community Living
What an incredibly full and constructive life! The book is very well written and highly readable. 

David Mitchell, International Journal of Disability, Development and Education
Peter Mittler has the happy knack of being able to synthesise disparate material in an interesting manner, with an eye to the broader philosophical context.  This book is a fitting summation of one man’s personal journey to address inequalities, particularly as they apply to those among us who have disabilities.

Chris Cullen, History of Psychology and Philosophy
This is a fascinating book, which chronicles the life journey of Peter Mittler, a leading exponent of evidence-based services and social inclusion for people with intellectual impairments.   More than this, though, it is a history of the slow and often halting progress which has been made in the United Kingdom and throughout the world in accepting that people with special needs are people first, and should be afforded the same rights as others.  


Helen McConachie, Child: Health, Care and Development

So when we are excited by a new policy such as ‘patient and public involvement’ in setting the agenda for research, or by adopting real-life outcome measures to evaluate a clinical service or intervention study, we would do well to acknowledge that we are the fortunate inheritors of a rich tradition of excellence.

Chris Forlin, European Journal of Special Needs Education  
I highly recommend this book to every special educator, humanist, parent, teacher, educationalist, psychologist, historian, and to leaders everywhere.


John Hall, The Psychologist

Full-length autobiographies by major British psychologists are a scarce genre; this is a remarkable and frank account of the personal journey of a campaigning psychologist, relevant to advocacy today for disabled people


Roy McConkey,   Journal of Intellectual Disabilities
The 16 chapters of this volume flesh out his career highlights with humour and frankness, with anecdotes and insights – but above all, as they say in Ireland, he tells a good yarn!  

The book encapsulates the quest for social justice that has pervaded Peter’s thinking and actions both locally and globally.  It stands as much as a call for action as it is a celebration of achievements


Dorothy Howie, Disability, CBR and Inclusive Development
To read this personal journey is to understand from a very personal and intimately informed account the enormous changes in attitudes and rights for persons with disabilities on which we can now build.


Roy Brown, Journal of Policy and Practice in Intellectual Disabilities
Throughout the book there is an analysis of both cooperation and confrontation and it is as if the warp and woof of personal and public life are closely knit, each bringing its own challenges and successes.

Emma Woodward, Educational Psychology in Practice
Provides a reflective and poignant account of the history of psychology and education from the viewpoint of a man who was at the forefront of shaping some of the fundamental research and policies. 



Michael Power, Journal of Children’s Services

Under Mittler’s leadership thousands of children, formerly considered to be ineducable, entered mainstream education, taught by hundreds of teachers.  What a good thing that eight year old was put on the train in 1939.