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Student Profiles

A teacher and former fellow of Kennedy Krieger's Center for Innovation and Leadership in Special Education gives back to the very community that supported her as a child with a disability.
Teacher and former Kennedy Krieger fellow Erin Richmond sits at a desk, surrounded by books and teaching materials.

Growing up, I loved school. I was a curious, bright and steadfast learner.

As a child with a disability, I learned first-hand the value of special education. The supportive services I received at school helped me achieve far more than doctors initially thought possible. I graduated in the top 5 percent of my class, and went to college and graduate school.

I have Treacher Collins syndrome, a rare genetic condition that affects the development of the bones and tissues in my face. At 4 months old, I went into full respiratory and cardiac arrest at home. Doctors told my parents I might not live through the night and feared severe neurological damage if I survived. Several days later, I made my first trip to the operating room for a tracheostomy. Since then, I’ve had more than 50 surgeries.

Ninth-grader Mikey, who has autism, thrives on the individualized educational programming his Kennedy Krieger teachers provide.
Mikey stands outside Kennedy Krieger High School, with a black backpack on his back.

Mikey loves keeping busy. He loves music videos and video games. He loves the rides at amusement parks and riding on airplanes. He loves to dance, and he’s fascinated by news tickers. He reads every word as it slides across the bottom of the television screen.

He’s quick, too. Every morning, when he gets to his classroom at Kennedy Krieger High School, he pulls out his binder and gets right to work, sometimes completing activities before his teachers have the next ones ready.

He thrives on routine, and on checking off tasks as he finishes them. He’s very curious: He loves walking through the school, seeing what everyone is up to as he heads down locker-filled hallways to the library, cafeteria or school store.

And he takes pride in himself and in his work. When another student receives praise for an activity or task, Mikey—not to be outdone—quickly finishes the same task with intentional perfection. The praise he receives encourages him to put his best foot forward as he starts his next task.

It’s the perfect school environment for Mikey, but it’s not how things started out.

Kennedy Krieger once helped Amy Dykes recover from a brain injury. Now, she teaches the lessons she learned as a patient to her students at the Institute's Fairmount Campus.

When I was 18 and in my first semester of college, surgeons removed a large tumor from my brainstem and cerebellum.

The surgery was successful, but side effects were similar to those of a traumatic brain injury. I developed cerebellar cognitive affective syndrome, which disturbed my executive functioning, spatial cognition and language skills. I developed sympathetic storms, in which—for no apparent reason—I’d be thrown into a state of extreme agitation and hypertension. I lost most of my reflexes and developed hallucinations and insomnia.

My doctors transferred me to Kennedy Krieger Institute, where days became weeks, and weeks became months.

My neurological recovery was very slow and my future was uncertain. But my doctors, nurses and therapists were incredible. They continued to tolerate my unfiltered verbal outbursts and echolalia.

A Special Prom for Kids With Autism

If you saw Madison Plaisance at her prom, you might have mistaken her for a princess. And she would say you were correct.

Bennett helps athletes with disabilities get off the sidelines and into the game
Bennett Institute Physically Challenged Sports Program

Did you know that Kennedy Krieger has a wheelchair tennis team, a basketball team, and an ice hockey team? Some 20 sports make up the Bennett Institute Physically Challenged Sports Program at Kennedy Krieger, and directors Gerry and Gwena Herman expect the program to grow even more with the recent addition of a new adaptive sports park at the Greenspring campus.

Defying the Odds
Makaile Stanley

I remember the moment I knew I would be the first person in my family to attend college. When I was 16, a doctor recommended that I apply to a technical school instead of a four-year college because of my Asperger’s syndrome. I was crushed and broke down in tears. I took red permanent marker and made a giant “X” on his report and threw it away. I decided then and there that I wanted to go to college. I wanted to do better.

A mother’s emotional journey to find help for her son with autism leads her to Kennedy Krieger Schools. Jake, who has autism, was scared to go to school and totally unhinged once he got there—running in circles, biting his hand, melting down.

The year my son was in the third grade, I didn’t eat. I never left my phone, even to take a shower. Jake, who has autism, was scared to go to school and totally unhinged once he got there—running in circles, biting his hand, melting down. Desks would fly if one thing went wrong. He would return home from school exhausted, with fingernails chewed to the quick and tear-stained cheeks. It was torture seeing him so miserable. 

Special education teacher Katie Cascio is inspired by a student who comes into his own at Kennedy Krieger High School.
student and teacher

I was lucky enough to meet DeVante—a shy, reserved student with autism spectrum disorder—during my first year as an assistant teacher at Kennedy Krieger High School. During my first week, DeVante approached me with his head down and in a soft voice, he asked me to sign his “autograph book. ”

Great Expectations
Bob Nobles in his Young Marines uniform

I started attending Kennedy Krieger in fifth grade. I’m now a junior in high school. It’s been a really good experience. I don’t think I’d be where I am now if it hadn’t been for Kennedy Krieger. Before I came here, I was below grade level on everything, I had low self-esteem, and my behavior was an issue.

Navigating the path to adulthood can be at turns frustrating, overwhelming, and rewarding.
A graduate contemplates his future

When Damian Jackson was younger, his mother, Carla Dixon, worried about what life would be like for her son after he left the safe environment of Kennedy Krieger High School. The school provided Damian—who has autism—with structure, socialization, and extensive therapy services. But Dixon knew that when school ended, so would the school-based services.


Bradley L. Schlaggar, M.D., Ph.D., Named President and CEO of Kennedy Krieger Institute

We’re thrilled to welcome Bradley L. Schlaggar, M.D., Ph.D., to the Kennedy Krieger family as our next President and CEO.

Learn more.


Read inspiring stories, news and updates about the Institute's patient care, research, special education, professional training, and community programs.


Resource Finder


A free resource that provides access to information and support for individuals and families living with developmental disabilities.