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A Personal Letter from Dr. Bill Heinrich on Down Syndrome Awareness Month & Our Latest Podcasts

Every fall since I can remember, I was pretty excited about the new school year, all the way into my career in and adjacent to higher education. It made sense then when my partner and I had kiddos, that we would get them excited too. School years came and went, and we proceeded with the expectation of fitting into a system…until plans changed. Our second kiddo, Maeve, was born with Trisomy 21 (aka Down syndrome). Maeve is now 8 and loves to read and swim and play with LEGO.

Just a quick note: October is Down syndrome awareness month and making space for disability, inclusion, and learning is what we can facilitate with Accommodate.

Maeve’s lived reality requires us to change the way we set expectations about learning and growth and change and development. Milestones are a bit delayed sometimes and right on time in other cases. Physical and emotional capacity changes at different times too.  And since we are raising Maeve and her older sibling to be capable, compassionate humans for the future, what really shocked us was the strength of expectations for age-and-learning correlation in several public-school systems. Like any system, we find fantastic teachers and administrators who are ready to see Maeve as someone who has potential and can learn, but too often some folks are not able to see Maeve as someone who can succeed.

Today I want to highlight a future for Maeve and other kids with intellectual disabilities. I interviewed Beth Foraker at the University of California, Davis. Beth has 4 kiddos, one of whom has Trisomy 21, which is how I found out about Beth’s work of founding and co-directing the Redwood Seed Program. Beth’s work in creating a university program for learners like future Maeve is nothing short of transformational. Beth cites some harrowing facts about employment and inclusion for adults with intellectual disabilities (in the State of California) and I’m guessing other states and provinces aren’t much different. But importantly, Beth talks about the ways the Redwood Seed program helps the system do a reset on expectations of potential and capacity and how to bridge the gap between the old system of isolation and the updated path toward more inclusive education and employment opportunities.

In the US and Canada, there are nearly 300 college and university efforts geared at training and education for individuals with intellectual disabilities and I can’t stress enough how much hope this gives me for Maeve and other kiddos with additional and special needs in schools now.

How can you change the system of expectations on your campus, even in small ways? Find out here and check out the podcast with Beth Foraker.

From your biggest fan at Mindset,

Bill Heinrich


Check out these links too:

Canada Provincial resources

To search US based programs