Remarkable people, remarkable work

Today found me and photographer Michael Gallacher at the Early Learning Preschool at Jefferson School to interview Janice Nugent, who has been a speech therapist with Missoula County Public Schools for 41 years and is retiring in June.

Nugent has raised five children; advocated for people with disabilities; takes care of her brother, who has Down Syndrome, during summers; and earned her PhD in special education in 2011 at the age of 61. (“I wanted to prove that I could,” she said about writing a dissertation.)

After our interview, we followed her into a classroom, where she worked with a small group of students — in a coat closet.

The location seemed appropriate, she said good-naturedly.

“Speech therapists never have rooms,” she said.

It just reminds me how amazing the quality of work is that Nugent and others are able to do with limited resources.

 

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New Montana Down Syndrome Association is just getting started!

Happy Friday! And a happy Friday it is!

This morning I read the most wonderful news on Facebook. I’m copying it below in full. It’s from Jessica Kryzsko Crowley, who lives in Missoula with her family and who is a great photographer. In fact, she’s the one who took that beautiful picture of my family in the About Missoula Mom section of this website.

Here’s her message:

Good morning, everyone! I am Jessica Kryzsko Crowley, and I have a beautiful 6 (soon to be 7) year old who was diagnosed with Down Syndrome at birth. He is precious and teaches me lessons in love, acceptance and patience everyday. Last night I went to the very first meeting of what will be the group Montana Down Syndrome Association. So far we are just trying to get our legs under us, gather ideas, hopes, expectations, needs to be filled, and information from families who have children or adults with Down Syndrome. We don’t want to miss anyone for our Buddy Walk mailing list this year, and one of our main goals is connection and communication. While legally we cannot request any personal information from doctors, educators, therapists, or many other professionals, we can ask you as parents, advocators, and loved ones to share with us any contacts and information you wish to help make our group and society more aware, effective, productive and inclusive! If you are uncomfortable sharing here, feel free to message my personal page. I look forward to hearing from each and everyone of you! May God bless you all. Thanks!

Interested in getting involved? Message Jessica on Facebook or, if you don’t do Facebook, you can send me a message and I’ll make sure it gets to her.

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The Montana Legislature will be legislating your kids

That’s right, among the hundreds (thousands?) of proposed bills Montana’s legislators will be looking at this session are dozens related to K-12 education, child welfare and, generally, Montana’s kids.

Public school parents have plenty of education proposals to dig into but home-school parents should be paying attention, too. In fact, there’s a draft bill on hold (LC 0891) that specifically calls for revisions to education law “to protect and support homeschooling.”

Tell you what I’ll do. On an as-I’m-able-to basis, I’ll tackle specific bills as drafts become available.

Let’s start with … hmmm … Senate Bill 44, which basically seeks to raise the age of compulsory school enrollment from 16 to 18. This would mandate that school-age kids would receive an education until they either turned 18 or met graduation requirements. The text of the draft bill is available here, and an Associated Press story on the bill is available here.

On a related note, there’s a rumor going around that another bill has been drafted that proposes to save the state money by returning kindergarten to half-days (currently we have full-day kindergarten in Montana). I’m hoping to come across this as I delve into the legislative session, but if anyone knows what bill contains this proposal please send me the bill number, as it would help me cut to the chase.

And if you have a favorite – or particularly despised – piece of state legislation, just let me know and I’ll tackle it next.

– MM

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A Polson mom shares the story of her unexpected journey

Every day, I am awestruck by the people who share their lives and stories with our newspaper and its readers. This Mother’s Day, Jennifer Groneberg is in my thoughts because of the lovely and remarkably honest story she shared with Missoulian reporter Vince Devlin and photographer Kurt Wilson.

Jennifer is mom to twin boys, Bennett and Avery, and their older brother, Carter. Avery has Down syndrome. And theirs is a story not just of acceptance and adaptation, but of embracing every child for who they are. In this story in Sunday’s Missoulian, Jennifer tells of the grief she felt when Avery was diagnosed with Down syndrome, and of how her other two sons showed her how to move past grieving the Avery she had imagined to cherishing the Avery she received.

“Carter understands Down syndrome because he let Avery teach him what it meant,” she says. “Bennett doesn’t care, because Bennett doesn’t know what it’s like to not have a brother with Down syndrome.”

Now, Jennifer doesn’t know if she would “cure” Avery, even if that were possible. “I love who he is,” she says. “I’d be so scared if you took away the Down syndrome he’d be different.”

You can hear more of Jennifer’s thoughts and see more photographs in our audio slideshow, here.

Happy Mother’s Day, Jennifer. And thank you, for sharing your boys and your story with all moms.

Sherry Devlin

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