I want to let you know how much I enjoyed Dream Catcher. Stan’s story is so important, a story for our time, in helping us to see how essential it is that each child is accepted, included, and embraced in society and what they have to offer. Stan was fortunate that he had family and friends who fought for this and who believed in him. Thank you for writing this book, for sharing the gift of your family’s experience — the gift of Stan’s story. It is so perfectly titled.
Back in the eighties, I volunteered at a church for what was called Saturday School for adults with Down’s syndrome and autism and other cognitive challenges. Class was usually followed by a church service that these beautiful people themselves led and conducted. I thought they were pretty amazing. They understood alot more than what we often gave them credit for. I sometimes wondered what they were doing in a class all by themselves and had alot of mixed feelings about it. It seemed that the class was more for the “benefit” of others who didn’t want these people mainstreamed, aside from the “once a year” services when they were actually included. I remember thinking that this is how it should be every Sunday.
I used to be in total amazement of a little girl at one of the schools I used to substitute teach in. She was about seven and blind and was allowed to be in a regular classroom. Do you know that little girl could type word for word a whole story that I would read to her? She would type as I spoke. I would wait between sentences, but she let me know in no uncertain terms that I didn’t need to wait for her to “catch up”. She was always one step ahead of me.
The other side of that coin are schools who group all “special needs” or cognitively impaired children together, shut up in a classroom by themselves with no interaction with other children, even for lunch. I realize the challenges but there’s something wrong with this. It seems that all it does is foster and reinforce old stereotypes. Both sides lose.
Some years ago I suffered neurological symptoms that affected my speech and mobility. My entire life was flung upside-down in a matter of moments. I was pretty much homebound for sometime afterwards and I will never forget the intense pain of the isolation I felt. But many of these children endure isolation even into adulthood for all their lives.
When friends at my current church asked for help for the Buddy Walk (for Down’s children), I volunteered. They have a son with Down’s and had been involved with organizing the walk for several years. It was very rewarding to be involved with an organization that promotes inclusion of these children and interaction with them. We live in a society that loves and worships what is “normal” (if even that can be defined), a society that often doesn’t have the time or capacity to cope with people on a personal level out of the ordinary “stream” of life.
Your book offers hope by standing strong against stubborn stereotypes. I heartily recommend it to every parent and teacher. It should be in every educator’s library. Thank you, Yvonne, for investing in writing this book. I believe it will be a strong voice for acceptance as more and more people are inspired by it.
Wishing you continued success!