FWD: College for Dawn? #12b
PMWilson at aol.com
PMWilson at aol.com
Mon Apr 22 14:25:09 PDT 1996
Forwarding a message about a college-age student who has Down Syndrome:
Date: Sun, Apr 21, 1996
Subj: College for Dawn? #12b
Dawn is now attending an on-campus course in child development, "The Dynamics
of Human Development" at the University of Northern Iowa. She is not formally
registered, but we are moving in that direction. She has been made an
honorary sister by the Alpha Phi Sorority, with good possibilities of a full
membership next fall. She was featured in a very nice full page feature story
in the 16 April 96 (Vol. 92, No 50) issue of "The Northern Iowan." She
will be featured in a short segment on the NBC show "Real Life" which is
broadcast nationally weekday mornings after the Today show in many markets.
It will be telecast between 23 Apr. & 10 May 96. I do not have a more
specific date yet.
If you want more details, read the following:
A year has passed since my last communication with you all, and I have not
met my commitments to some of you for summary feedback on what you all have
told me. For that I ask your forgiveness.
We have quiet but not idle. Our direction and approach has changed
dramatically, with excellent results so far. Thus it is now time for me to
For those of you who have forgotten, Dawn is my 21 year old daughter with
Down Syndrome who had been trying to get into a local community college with
no success, because of lack of an appropriate program. She is still getting
basic academic tutoring one-on-one by a lovely lady on that campus. The
president of that college abruptly resigned a few months ago, and is now
looking for a new position. So if any of you are considering Dr. Phillip
Barry for a position, perhaps we should talk.......
Now for the good news. Since we last talked, Dawn has monitored one
off-campus evening class in the humanities, with pretty good results. Her
professor had invited her into the class, and we got along very well.
Among the many notes and e-mail messages we got on this subject, my wife Kay
had a few conversations which pointed us right back to our nearby university,
the University of Northern Iowa, and professors in it who were advocating
more inclusion. This irony is that through a phone conversation with people
on the East Coast, my wife got names of people here in Iowa who gave us
other names locally, who opened the right doors for us. Over a period of
several months, we developed a good relationship, and at the start of the
Spring Semester, Dawn just "appeared" in the classroom. Her professor and
classmates have been very accommodating and understanding of her needs. She
did not register for school because we were just experimenting with her
survivability on campus.
As a part of that class, the students do an internship, so Dawn was given the
opportunity to spend several hours twice a week at a local day care center as
a provider. Since she has not been around large numbers of toddlers, this was
a real growing experience for Dawn! But she grew!
Another student who is studying special education picks her up at the day
care center, they have lunch on campus and prepare for class. This young lady
is an absolute Godsend, and has become Dawn's pal and confidant. I try to
help Dawn with her homework and Journals in the evening.
A major breakthrough came when our letter of invitation to the local
sororities was answered by the Alpha Phi chapter on campus. A group of young
ladies came to visit Dawn, immediately fell in love with her (of course!) and
have reached out to us and Dawn in many ways since then.
She spends time at the Sorority house on some afternoons after class, and in
the evening they attend various events on campus, such as Christian youth
activities, etc. They have permitted us to establish a "Circle of Friends"
with weekly meetings at the Sorority house, and have become very engaged in
planning Dawn's next semester. They initiated the article in the 16 April 96
(Vol. 92, No 50) issue of "The Northern Iowan." college paper referred to
above, (The headline read, "Dawn Recker-Breaking Down Barriers-A Look at the
Life of a Student with Special Needs." ) and have met with several professors
who are known to be open to this sort of thing.
They are leading the charge to get Dawn on campus officially! What a
refreshing force of energy they have become. We will no doubt have some
setbacks, but they have moved us a long ways in a short time. At our next
meetings we will be trying to involve more teaching and administrative people
from the university. I think our chances for success are much higher with a
leadership group such as this initiating many of the meetings and
One of our major focuses for this next semester is to get Dawn "legally" on
campus, but not overwhelm her with academic workload. Our interest is as much
in her social development and daily quality of living skills as academics.
There is some potential for employment on or near campus; this would be a
great improvement over what she does now. We want to continue her employment
to keep her in the Vocational Rehabilitation "System" for at least a while
longer, in case this falls apart for some reason.
This has been a stress on Dawn, but she really enjoys the fellowship of
having 75 "sisters" and the chance to just spend time with them. They seem to
genuinely appreciate Dawn. Her good social skills and dress really help her
to fit in.
The NBC media exposure came about in a similar manner. A person named Tracy
Finch who has authored a World Wide Web page on Down Syndrome posted my
original plea for help and information. I get one or two e-mail responses to
it each month, and I try to reply to them. This page was noticed by the
producers of "Real Life" and they called me for an update in our status. I
had a long telephone interview with them, and they decided to run a story.
They were here last week. As you all know, you never know how a media
exposure event is going to turn out, but we prepared a "press kit" on Dawn
for them, and the reporter, a lady named Terri Merryman seemed very positive
and upbeat. She is a real professional. I have not seen any of their shows,
but they say they are like "Dateline" but not as hard hitting, shorter
segments, more good newsy, and targeted for the stay-at-home mother morning
market, whatever that is. (I hope I haven't offended anyone!)
The camera crew told me as they were leaving that they had some excellent
sound bytes, and the University would be getting a lot of very positive PR
from this. I hope he is right. I wish I could give you more specific
information on the broadcast. If you e-mail me, I will give you an update
when I have it. [One of the story themes is how we used the Internet to
locate resources to help us reach our goal. Some of the film footage shows
Dawn at the computer sending her friend an e-mail message.]
That is the end of my long report for now. As you can see, it has been an
interesting time for Dawn, Kay, & I. We have learned that it is a lot more
fun to make progress through good relationships with great people than trying
to convince people who don't "get it" to do something out of the ordinary.
Our journey is only beginning-who knows where the path leads until we follow
it. But we remain focused on "The Best" quality of life possible for Dawn. We
never take our eye off that goal.
My advice to all you in similar situations is to hang in there and keep
trying new approaches to the same problem. Do not hesitate to use the
Internet and ALL resources to accomplish your goals.
If there is a gem in this, it is that once again, Dawn has made her own path
possible through her excellent people skills, social grace, and good
grooming. Those of you with young children, heed this advice to the best of
your ability, and you will be rewarded as we have.
Best regards, until the next update
e-mail: BobRecker at aol.com
permission is granted to forward, post, reproduce this document as needed
Earlier messages about Dawn can be found at the Down Syndrome WWW page, URL
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