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If you saw Madison Plaisance at her prom, you might have mistaken her for a princess. And she would say you were correct.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
When I started at Kennedy Krieger Middle School, I was very frustrated and angry because I did not think I needed to be here. Slowly, though, I began to see that Kennedy Krieger was the right school for me. But it took time. Today I realize that I needed to be here to get the education I needed, because I might not have done as well anywhere else. Knowing this makes it easy for me to go to school and even easier to do what I have to in order to have a successful future.
Given a choice, Kevin Sargeant says he could do without all of the independence and opportunities that adulthood promises. But adulthood, it seems, is coming for him nonetheless.
Six years ago, the prospect would have had him quivering in confusion, fear, and anxiety—if he chose to acknowledge it at all. Back then, Kevin says, he was shelled up, locked in, lower-functioning, or any other of the myriad terms often used to describe children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders.
"Mom, Lauren pinched me," Justin calls back to his mother. He and his little sister, Lauren, are walking arm in arm through Baltimore's Inner Harbor on their way to the National Aquarium. Just over a year ago, this trip might not have been possible.
News & Updates
Read inspiring stories, news and updates about the Institute's patient care, research, special education, professional training, and community programs.
A free resource that provides access to information and support for individuals and families living with developmental disabilities.