Ed Skarnulis Interviews Rosemary and Gunnar Dybwad

"How did you two get involved in this field?"

Produced in 1987 (Run time 3:12)

Ed Skarnulis: I'd like to start my questions with Rosemary and ask her to relate to us, if you could, how the two of you got involved in the field of developmental disabilities and if you could recount for us some of the early struggles that brought us where we are today?

Dr. Rosemary Dybwad: Well, it may surprise you, but we came in the backdoor. We had been involved in first in work in prisons. I wrote my dissertation on social work in American women's prisons. This was in a German university and they knew even less than I knew about it at that time. But it was exciting thing to be involved in, and then eventually we moved to juvenile delinquency, worked in an institution in New York State.

And, finally, Gunnar was Executive Director of the Child Study Association of America, which was a parent involvement organization which was excellent training for becoming Executive Director of the National Association... the ARCUS. And those were very exciting times.

As anybody who has been around the world can remember, everybody was against anything the parents tried to do, it seemed. Of course, we came in not only by the backdoor but late, because this was now 1957 and the parent movement, as such, had started in 1950.

But I remember particularly how impressed I was at, when I first began to work as a volunteer, I was called in to help answer some of the letters that were coming from all over the world. Already in 1957-58, the ARCP people were involved with what was happening in other countries. They wanted to know what was going on. And eventually they were the ones who knew more than anybody else. They had to.

Dr. Gunnar Dybwad: I would like to make one little comment about our background in prison work and juvenile delinquency. So see, there were met up with a lot of people who were considered, who were judged to be mentally retarded, but they're not mentally retarded at all.

There had been school failures. They had not been allowed to go school. They came from families of migratory workers who had no money, no opportunities. So from the very beginning, we learned to be rather suspicious about labeling, learned to be rather suspicious about people who made judgments on other people, quite unjustifiably, and this has been a good background for us because we have felt all along and to this day very often we discriminate against other people, feel they're different, when, in fact, that they are by no means as different.

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