Karen: On Her Way

Produced in 2012 (Run time 6:10)

Maria Gasca: When I was pregnant I always dreamed to have a baby. I always thought many things If the baby was going to be skinny, big, small but I never thought that she could be born sick.

Julia Hernandez: There is this whole stigma of having a child with a disability in the Latino community. We don't talk a lot about it, but it does exist. And oftentimes it's connected to sin, so you misbehaved and obviously you are punished, and this is your punishment.

Maria Gasca: My husband's family thought it was a bad thing we did…to hear these kinds of comments affected me a lot…

Julia Hernandez: So I've been trying to break some of those stigmas with the families by providing just opportunities for the families to do different things, and we're working towards inclusion to have these children and these families participate in everyday life.

Maria Gasca: I also realized that I was not the only one. To see that there were other people who have a child with a disability or with different conditions has helped me a lot.

Lisa Orrin: She has William syndrome. It's a rare genetic disorder that leads to difficulties in development.

Julia Hernandez: People with William syndromes tend to be very social, very happy people. Mom was concerned that Karen didn't have appropriate social skills. So she wanted to work on social skills for Karen so she could behave more appropriately when she was with other children. And we looked at different opportunities, and I said, You know, I've heard really good things about Cesar Chavez. Why don't you try that school? And she already had her other children enrolled in Cesar Chavez, and she loved it immediately.

Larry Martin Williams: Before she got here, she was in a self-contained classroom. So she spent grades one through nine in a self-contained classroom where it's nothing but special ed kids. And it's real simple. They'll give them some toys or some building blocks and here, have at it

Julia Hernandez: The difference was just night and day, because now she is with regular ed and has some special ed classes.

Juan Jose Martinez: So Karen is in a fully inclusive classroom all day every day. She sits next to all of her peers, who are at different levels of learning, as she is, and she has the support of an aide, who is with her all day every day.

Larry Martin Williams: We've been reading Green Eggs and Ham for about four months now. We've yet to finish it, but every day we start at the first page, and if we have to stop for 20 minutes and work on the word that, we're going to stop for 20 minutes and work on the word that.

Lisa Orrin: Karen has the potential to do so much more than was being asked of her before, and I really believe that Mr. Williams and the special ed department and her teachers here have really fostered her ability to grow as a student and pushing her to do more than was expected of her before.

Julia Hernandez: We right away noticed progress with Karen. She's started doing more academics and just maturing more like a regular teenager.

Maria Gasca: It has been a total change! To see Karen count from one to ten, to say two or three letters of the alphabet, it has been an enormous change for me. Maybe it's a change…that is a very small change for her academic level, but for me it is enormous to see the change she has obtained, that now she starts to read a little bit small words and to write.

Larry Martin Williams: If Karen was in an inclusive environment from the beginning, if she started in the first grade, what she knows now, she would have known in the fifth grade. So we could be going further with this. We could be working on money and things that she really needs to know to be independent, and that's ultimately what I think everybody wants is her independence.

Julia Hernandez: The advantages are many for Karen to be here because she has a potential to live a life much fuller, really focused on what she wants. Where before it was whatever is available or whatever we think you should receive, where now it's really the sky is the limit.

Juan Jose Martinez: In two years from now, I fully expect to see Karen in her cap and gown, smiling, and walking across the stage with all her peers and getting a certificate like everyone else.

Maria Gasca: Well, I know that the state of Michigan offers education up to age 26 and I want her to continue in school, learn a trade…

Juan Jose Martinez: The children with special needs are eligible for services beyond the four years of high school, by law, and so when we get closer to that period of time, you know, we'll start to have more and more discussions with Mom and the group that's part of servicing her here at the school to determine, you know, what would be the appropriate next step.

Julia Hernandez: Karen is ready to go. She's ready to finish school, graduate, and move on, and Mom has a little more reluctance, you know. Part of it is our Latino culture and we overprotect. But we're working on getting her ready, so when Karen is ready, Mom is also ready.

Maria Gasca: It hurts but I can see a more independent Karen, someone who does not want to spend all of her time with mommy, and I see her working. I see her doing things for herself.

For more information visit the DDI web site at http://ddi.wayne.edu