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March is Developmental Disability Month

Posted: Thursday, Mar 28th, 2013


Marilyn is shown with her brother, Larry.


March is Develop-mental Disability Awareness Month, and one womanís journey illustrates how the changing attitudes and support system have impacted lives in the community.

Marilyn, who is developmentally disabled, was the fifth child born in 1939 into a family of 12 in Watertown.

At the age of 5 she was injured in a sledding accident. The accident damaged one eye, and it eventually had to be removed.

Since special education services did not become widely available until the middle 1950s, Marilyn participated in a typical school classroom.

School was a struggle for her, and without support she was not able to keep up with the other students.

She was 9 and in the fourth grade when her parents decided to have her stop attending school because she was too far behind the other students.

For the next 30 years Marilyn remained at home with her parents, helping with her younger siblings, nieces, nephews and her youngest sister, Kathi, who was born with Down Syndrome.

By this time, special education services were available and Kathi was able to attend school in Huron, at both Lincoln and Helen Buchanan schools.

In 1976 Kathi transitioned out of school and into adult services.

Marilyn, who was by then 37 years old, joined Kathi when she enrolled in day services at the newly formed Huron Area Adjustment Training Center, now known as Center For Independence.

Marilyn and Kathi received vocational services at the Center and both continued to live at home, with their parents, for the next four years.

Like many parents in this situation, they were becoming increasingly concerned about who would support their children, with disabilities, when they were no longer able.

At this time, The Center For Independence had only one residential environment which supported 12 people, and there were no openings.

In 1980, their parents made the difficult decision to have Marilyn and Kathi enter services at the Developmental Center in Redfield. They hoped that their daughters would gain the skills needed to live successfully on their own.

The separation was too much for Mrs. Frey, and her daughters moved back home less than a year later. When the Center in Huron opened a new group home in 1984, Marilyn took advantage of the opportunity to begin living on her own.

She quickly demonstrated the skills to live more independently.

Even now, at 74, Marilyn lives independently, with moderate support from the Centerís staff. Marilyn expressed her appreciation for the fact that she has been able to remain living in her community, participating as an active family member and friend, and is thankful to the Center for making it possible.

The evolution of attitudes and community support systems have made it possible for Marilyn to live a typical life with full access to family, friends and community.

For the complete article see the 03-27-2013 issue.

Click here to purchase an electronic version of the 03-27-2013 paper.


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