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Karyn Lazareck

 
READ KARYN LAZARECK'S MOVING SPEECH ON BEING HONOURED FOR HER WORK TO BENEFIT CHILDREN WITH SPECIAL NEEDS

Lazareck honoured by Dasch Foundation

by Rhonda Spivak, May 11, 2011

 

Karyn Lazareck was honored at the DASCH Foundation’s Recognition Awards Luncheon on April 29th, 2011.

DASCH – which stands for Direct Action in Support of Community Homes – was established in 1974 and provides fully staffed homes and supportive living services for youth and adults with a range of intellectual disabilities.   Currently DASCH owns and manages 50 homes in the Winnipeg area as well as running a number of specialized day programs for non-resident individuals and families who are part of the DASCH family.

Lazareck became a pioneer on the issue of special needs programing after learning that her son Jordan had autism .She opened up a fund at the Jewish Foundation for his Bar Mitzvah to help fund programs for special needs in the community-- a fund which grew from about 13, 000 dollars in 1994 to now over 1.2 million dollars.

Lazareck was introduced by Marsha Cowan, CEO of the Jewish Foundation,[to learn more about the importance of the Jewish Foundation and what it does, go to www.jewishfoundation.org.

Cowan who noted that in 1991 Lazareck spearheaded the special needs initiative in Winnipeg’s Jewish community, and a year later she co-chaired the community’s inaugural conference on special needs – a watershed event that launched major initiatives within the community and promoted inclusion in the areas of recreation, camping, education, religious life and vocational training.

In her resourceful and engaging way she inspired many people to join her in this pursuit,” Cowan said. “How did it happen? First and foremost she is a mother… a mother with a child   and a woman with a vision who knew that she could make the world a better place.”

 In 1992  Karyn founded G.R.O.W. (Gaining Resources Our Way), a unique, non-denominational life skills summer program in Gimli, Manitoba designed to help young adults with autism and other cognitive disorders achieve greater independence through life skills training.   Last year   G.R.O.W. which is a program administered by the Rady J.C.C,  launched a transitional 18-24 month day program here in Winnipeg offering a more intensive and comprehensive life skills education experience.

"We are humbled by your accomplishments," Cowan said. 

What follows is the moving speech that Lazareck gave at the luncheon [As an editor, I could have tried to give excerpts of this speech only, but after reading it several times I decided that I didn't want to touch it--it is best kept whole] 

KARYN LAZARECK'S SPEECH

In 1938 a young boy and his parents  boarded the train in Meridian Mississippi  headed for Baltimore, Maryland .They  were going there to consult  the nation’s top child psychiatrist, Dr.Leo  Kanner of Johns Hopkins University.

The family came from the town of Forest,Mississippi and the child’s name was Donald Gray Triplett.Donald would be remembered forever as “Case #1-Donald T when Dr. Kanner published his research findings in 1943 in a journal called “The Nervous Child”. Donald was the  first subject described as having the complex neurological ailment now most often called an autism spectrum disorder.That was 68 years ago.

Now 77 years old ,Donald still lives in his home town of Forest.  When journalists  recently went to see for themselves how life had turned out for the first person ever diagnosed with autism-they discovered  that it had turned out remarkably well!

Donald’s life - now - resembles an idyllic  version of how to live out ones golden years. He enjoys his morning coffee/drives out to the golf course where everyone recognizes his distinctive gait and even more distinctive swing/ has a weekly dinner date with his brother and sister-in law and successfully manages his daily requirements.It is interesting to note that he learned to play golf at 23-drive a car at 27 and  at 37 began to travel the world.

It seems that Donald, who  most assuredly  is still autistic, reached his potential in large part because of  how his community decided to respond to the odd child in its midst.

He was accepted by family,classmates and neighbours who were not only able to shrug off his oddities but openly admire his strengths.Donald was, and still is -part of his community.

His story  is a wonderful example of what a community can and should be. It also serves as a reminder that the critical components for Donald’s success lay not only with his  abilities  and an accepting community , but with the financial support his family could provide and with the  opportunities  they were able to give him to learn new skills  as he matured.

Donald’s  story also  struck a personal chord   because of our experience in raising   our youngest son Jordan , born 30 years ago , with a hearing loss and his own set of unusual behaviors.

We also  travelled to different medical centres in an effort to find out more about our unusual child .We were searching-searching for a diagnosis-searching for a cure-searching for a miracle   You might say that  Jordan was   Case#1-Jordan L. in the Winnipeg Jewish community since  it seemed that until Jordan there hadn’t been a child as visible  in our community  who was so clearly affected with the singularities found in autistic individuals.

When Jordan  was young most activities for children with special needs took place in the community at large.I discovered that inclusion of  such children and adults  into Jewish  community life was not a priority let alone  a consideration and what little support there was depended on the largesse and compassion of a few people-not on a policy of inclusion.

Frankly this came as a disappointment because I had grown up in Winnipeg during the 1950’s as part of a generation who enjoyed a rich community life.We were the lucky beneficiaries of earlier Jewish immigrants whose foresight and financial support  had built an infrastructure and programming for children just like me.

Now 40 years later I realized that those activities  which I had taken for granted were not an option for Jordan-or children like him.

In fact the community seemed unaware that it had anyone to accommodate.

 
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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.


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