Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Pioneers Paving the Way

Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Pioneers Paving the Way

Article excerpt

The Orange Grove Center in Chattanooga, Tennessee is at the forefront of providing innovative services for over 700 people with developmental disabilities. The range of services provided by the Center includes: residential care, healthcare, psychological and therapy services, educational programs, and vocational training. Additionally, the Center offers training to staff members and other practitioners caring for people with mental retardation, as well as serving as part of clinical rotation for many health service disciplines.

We generally assume that successful institutions like the Orange Grove Center have always existed. We fail to recognize the struggles of various people who had to overcome obstacles in order to make them a reality. The Center was founded in the early 1950s, a time when great changes were taking place in this country. The Supreme Court acted on Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka, and Rosa Parks was arrested for not giving tip her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama--ushering in the Civil Rights Era. Elvis Presley was alive and well. Levittown was built, signaling great changes in providing low cost housing. The McDonald's and Holiday Inn chains were started, her-alding the advent of uniformity of services for a newly mobile population. There were, however, few services for individuals with disabilities and parent-run organizations were just beginning to be formed. A number of parents around the country had started to change the American landscape as much as the founders of the new service industries.

Pete and Freda Arnold were living in Chattanooga, Tennessee, with their three children; Doug, Janice, and Hugh Anthony. Doug, then 15-years old, and Janice, nine-years old, were both born with retinitis pigmentosa. The condition caused both of them to have degeneration of the retina, cysts, gross and fine motor delays, and mental retardation. The Arnold's youngest son "Tony," then 11-years old, did not have the disease. Mr. and Mrs. Arnold had moved four or five times searching for a suitable school for their children. It seemed that they would never find an appropriate educational setting for Doug and Janice.

Across town, James and Susan McCullough, the parents of two children, Debra and Allan, faced a similar dilemma. They wanted to find a school for Debra, age five, diagnosed with mental retardation. The McCulloughs sought a facility that would offer their daughter a quality education, as well as teach her daily living skills and offer a safe environment.

Meanwhile, Bennie Dubrow, a local grocery store owner, and his wife Sara, who was pregnant with their second child, searched for a similar school for their son, Joel, age five. …

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