Meet Dean A. A. Poyadue. Dean is many things to many people-a son, a husband, a college student, and an employee. He is also a man living with Down syndrome. Just Call Me Dean is his remarkable story, which he tells with a little help from his mom, Florene.
Dean's innocence and wisdom will capture your heart as he takes you on a journey through the key events of his life, from early childhood to the present. Discover how, with a can-do attitude and the help of his family, Dean has conquered life's milestones-college, employment, marriage, independence, and more.
Full of inspiration of anyone whose life is touched by someone with special needs, Just Call Me Dean seeks to help professionals enhance their empathy and skills. Parents of special needs can broaden their expectations for their own children as they learn of Dean's accomplishments. Finally, Dean's story can help educate the general public about the millions of Americans living with disabilities.
Dean challenges us to seek out life's adventures. Are you up for the challenge?
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Read an Excerpt
Just Call Me DeanAnd Don't Rain on My Parade
By Florene Stewart Poyadue Dean A. A. Poyadue
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2011 Florene Stewart Poyadue
All right reserved.
Chapter One0–6 YEARS OF AGE
In the Beginning ...
I know that ladies do not like to talk about their birthdays, but my mom was forty-one years old when I was born. And if I had just waited seven more days inside of her, my birth date would have been the same as Mom and Dad's wedding anniversary. I think that would have been cool. But instead of crashing in on September 30, their very special day, I was born on September 23, 1975.
My dad named me Dean. I later learned that he had a lot of respect for two guys who were named Dean: Dean Rusk, who was secretary of state under President John F. Kennedy and President Lyndon B. Johnson, and Dean Atcheson, secretary of state under President Harry S. Truman. You can tell my dad knew from the beginning that I was going to be an important guy. My mom insisted on adding her father's name, Archibald, as my middle name because she said that he was a "can do" type of guy. The Catholic priest who christened me added the name Anthony, for that saint who is well known in the church. Not that I am a saint, mind you, but I had to have a saint's name attached to me according to Catholic traditions. Why didn't the priest just use Archibald?
During my christening ceremony, the priest said, "I am not sure that there is a Saint Archibald."
My mom feigned disappointment at the news, as she said, "Do you imply my dear departed father is not a saint?"
The priest made no reply; he just gave a weak smile and continued, "What other saint's name would you like?"
My dad stated proudly but matter-of-factly, "My middle name is Anthony." So, I am called Dean Archibald Anthony Poyadue, a name that I really like. I always try to remember to put my double A's in the middle whenever I am signing anything ... Dean A. A. Poyadue.
And yet, I do have one little regret: I wish they could have found it in their naming ritual to include "Salvadore." Now that is another great sounding name. I like it a lot, and it belonged to my other grandfather. I am very much into "family and traditions," so this will not be the last time Mom and Dad will hear, "Why don't I have Salvadore in my name?" Oh well, I had learned a good lesson early in life: you can't always "have it your way," as is promised at some fast food restaurants.
Now that I was older and had an official name like my sister and brothers before me, Mom took me to the neighbors' homes to introduce me as her "new bundle of joy." She told me that she spent some time on how that introduction would be played out. She settled on just saying, "This is my new son, Dean." She thought that since she did not use an adjective when introducing her last baby ("This is Jill, my genius"), she would not do so when introducing me (such as, "This is Dean, my Downs").
So I was introduced as simply Dean. Mom was determined that I was to be a part of the neighborhood and an integral part of, but not the whole heart of, the family. And if the neighbors or friends had any questions, my mom was eager to educate them all about Down syndrome, starting with the fact that there is no s on the word Down. The physician who identified this syndrome was Dr. Charles Langdon Down, and it is named after him.
About two or three months after my birth, Mom bumped into my pediatrician at the grocery store one day, and he gave her some "exciting" news as we were leaving. He said something like, "Blah, blah, blah ... the test was positive, he does have Down syndrome/ Trisomy 21. It is just plain Trisomy 21, not Mosaic Downs, or any abnormality of the parents' chromosomes. It just happens."
Mom quietly said, "Thanks," and we quickly headed for our car in the parking lot.
My mom is smart, and she's a nurse; so I think she already knew that "exciting" news report before the doctor told her. She seemed to take that "positive" test result as a sign to positively get started to work on my education. While my brothers and sister started school at about three years of age, I was enrolled in an Early Infant Stimulation class before I was three months old. I was so young that, of course I needed a parent right there in class with me. It seems that mom wanted to learn, as much as I needed to learn.
Did the doctors, nurses, and social workers tell my family about that early intervention program? Not really. My parents learned about it from other parents who had children with special needs. Alex's mom and John's mom told my mom about the class when they were at a parent support group meeting.
Alex's mom and John's mom seemed to know a lot about what was available to help me learn and grow. They seemed happy and eager to tell my mom all they knew. They explained that the Infant Stimulation class consisted of six to ten parents. The parents were almost always moms—not that dads could not come if they wanted. The class meetings were held at the home of one of the participating parents of a child with special needs.
The children had all kinds of special needs such as spina bifida, cerebral palsy, hydrocephalous, and other developmental disabilities. Some of them had become disabled through injury. And some of them were having problems, but they had no specific diagnosis. Parents of children in this last group seemed to have more concerns, confusion, and anger than many of the other parents. Many parents in this last group said that it was worse for them not having a specific diagnosis from which to plan for the future, or proceed with care and interventions for their children. Some said that there was just something very frustrating about "not knowing." For them, not having a name to attach to their child's problem had become a major problem itself.
Like the other kids (actually babies), I sat on Mom's lap, as she sat in a circle on the floor with the other parents and professional helpers at our Infant Stimulation class (it was also called "Atypical Infant Motivation"). They sang songs to us, exercised and massaged our arms and legs, or performed whatever activity was appropriate for helping the individual child progress or improve. They discussed all kinds of issues: health care, education, their feelings, concerns for spouses, our brothers and sisters and the rest of the family, our progress (or lack thereof), and services available. They were especially interested in discussing those services and cures that were not available that they so strongly wished for. They learned how to strengthen our bodies and minds, and perhaps to strengthen their own. These were parents helping each other, while helping us kids as well.
I have often heard Mom say that parents need to take care of themselves and their relationship with each other as one of the first steps to taking good care of their children. She would say that the mom and dad are like the trunk of a tree, which must be strong if it is to support the branches, which are the children, and different problems the family might face.
One of the hardest things these parents had to get comfortable with was the idea that their child's condition was something that was not going to get all better and go away. Many professionals also have trouble coping with the fact that while they may have a diagnosis for their patient or client, there is no prescription they can provide that will cure it. This is going to be lifelong—ongoing—forever. Even I had to learn this. You will see me confront this issue a bit later. Just keep reading.
A social worker with a master's degree (MSW) and an occupational therapist (OT) conducted the Infant Stimulation program for an agency called Hope. Isn't that a neat name for the agency helping us? The OT concentrated on the kids' needs. Meanwhile, the MSW concentrated on the parents' needs. The morning hours went by quickly. We attended this training and therapy class once or twice a week.
Before we knew it, I was off of Mom's lap and walking by twelve months of age. Wow! My first big accomplishment; medical books say it takes some of us kids two or three years to learn to walk. By fourteen months of age, they kicked me out of Early Infant Stimulation and moved me up to the special school for eighteen-month-old kids. I was on a roll, four whole months ahead of my time schedule.
There were only six kids in this new class. What a lucky day for me! We had a teacher, two teacher's aides, as well as a speech therapist and a psychologist on special days. This was really good—it was one-on-one care and training most of the time. The staff's philosophy was to expect that we could master some, if not all, normal behavior if they presented information in the right way, presented it often enough, and presented it with added rewards. The goal for us kids was to reach for the norm, and the staff's goal was to maintain their high expectation that we could learn. It was amazing how well it worked.
Thank goodness they did not accept or teach to abnormal behavior. I think they realized that if they did not offer age appropriate goals, we could not even venture into that more "normal" realm of behavior. Our teachers needed to expect us to learn, in order for us to have a good chance at learning.
Probably, all teachers need to believe in their students' ability to learn, if the students are to do their best and reach their full potential.
In this class, I had my first real teacher. Teacher Pat was great! She became a true friend of the family—attending my birthday parties, helping my mom create a parent-to-parent organization called Parents Helping Parents, as well as writing notes back and forth to my family about what I was doing in class. These notes also explained what my family should work on in order to help me reach my next milestone or developmental goals (physical development, speech, toilet training, and everything else).
You will hear more about Teacher Pat as you read on. For example, much later, when I graduated from high school, she was right there to celebrate with us. Can you believe it? It has been over thirty years, and she is still in my life, cheering me on!
I learned so much from Teacher Pat about making sounds, saying words, raising my hand to take turns, working with special toys, potty training, learning sign language, feeding myself, and a lot of other things. Actually, I learned so much that by three years of age, I was moved up to a Head Start class. My family was so proud and pleased that I was ready to leave the special program, but they also seemed a little concerned that I would now be competing with "regular" kids in Head Start. Head Start is a government-supported preschool for children of low-income families and children with disabilities. They reserved about 10 percent of their registration slots for children with special needs.
I fit in just fine at Head Start. I knew more about raising my hands to take turns than some of the other kids. I had more classroom experience. Remember, I had been going to school for almost three years, since I was about three months old. This was the first time away from home, and in a school setting, for many of my new classmates. The other kids thought that I was extra smart because I had already learned some sign language.
I had learned how to use sign language at a special nonprofit agency called Crippled Children's Society (CCS, now called Via). It was strange: once I learned to say a word, I would stop signing it. My dad was worried that I would get all caught up in signing and stop talking. But the opposite happened- signing enhanced my desire to speak more. Anyway, the Head Start kids and the kids in our neighborhood thought it was cool that a little kid like me could sign. I felt especially smart and proud of myself. Finally, I could teach the other kids something.
While I was switching to education in the Head Start setting, the speech therapists and the psychologist who had worked with me in Teacher Pat's class continued to see me a couple of times a week in my Head Start classroom. That was a part of my Individual Education Plan (IEP). Public Law 94-142, a federal law passed in 1975, the same year that I was born, guaranteed the education rights of all handicapped children. Finally, we had a legal right to a free, appropriate education, in the least restricted environment. We had a right to go to public schools just like everyone else. Starting at age three, an IEP was a part of the requirements of the law. The IEP listed my learning goals and how I was to reach them. It included therapies that I needed and what transportation would be provided if I needed to be driven to a certain school to better attain my written goals in the plan. This federal law was for kids all over the country, in every state.
Yes, Mom continued to hang around the classroom and help the teacher and other kids just about every day, but she never worked with me. That was okay with me; I knew her job was to help the teacher. We would just smile at each other now and then. If my tongue protruded from my mouth, she would smack her lips together with a very light popping sound, and I would remember that my tongue needed to go back inside. We would smile again at each other. It seemed like keeping my tongue inside of my mouth was just about the hardest thing I had to learn to do at that time of my life. It is amazing, even though I am much older now, Mom can get that smacking sound to work (not that she needs to use it very often anymore, actually almost never).
Head Start was just fine for the next three years. There were field trips to the zoo, picnics in the park, and other great learning experiences. Besides that, Head Start was where I met my first girlfriend; her name was Tia. She had beautiful black skin, big dark brown eyes, curly hair, and a beautiful smile. The most important thing about Tia was, she liked me very much. She would save a seat for me each morning right by her side for singing time, and we would do special projects together during the day. Even though she was called a "regular" kid, and I was a "special" kid, it did not matter to her. I guess she just could not resist such a "handsome dude," as my sister used to call me.
When I was four years of age, I was invited to appear on a television show in San Francisco called People Are Talking with host Ross and hostess Ann. My mom wanted everyone to know how much I could do. She was hoping it would raise the expectations others had for children with special needs, including their own parents, the general public, and professionals, especially teachers and physicians. She also wanted the world to know that I was a valuable person, one who was loved by my family, neighbors, and friends.
Whenever I was on television, my parents made sure that I was not wearing clothing that was silky or velvety. Why? Whenever I touched something smooth with my fingers, my tongue seemed to automatically protrude from my mouth. We never knew why that would happen. But we did know why keeping my tongue inside my mouth was harder for me than for most people. It is because my tongue is a bit bigger than average, my muscles are not quite as strong as other people's so they have less control, and most especially, the roof of my mouth is higher than normal. Therefore, my tongue cannot automatically reach its usual resting place when not in use, which is where most tongues go to rest in one's mouth—up on the roof.
In order to get others to have a bit of empathy for my situation, whenever Mom and I would teach a class at a university or at a hospital for doctors, nurses, and social workers, she would ask the participants in the class to stick their tongues out of their mouths. Then she would insist that they keep their tongues out for a very brief amount of time. The students would keep their tongues out for just a few seconds and then retract them. She would then say, "Now you know what a hard job Dean has keeping his tongue in ... just as hard as you are having to consciously keep yours out." They would usually all laugh, but I think they got the message. And they learned a valuable old lesson about not judging another person until you have walked a mile in their shoes.
Excerpted from Just Call Me Dean by Florene Stewart Poyadue Dean A. A. Poyadue Copyright © 2011 by Florene Stewart Poyadue. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Chapter 1 0–6 Years of Age....................1
Chapter 2 6–12 Years of Age....................15
Chapter 3 12–15 Years of Age....................33
Chapter 4 15–19 Years of Age....................43
Chapter 5 19–21 Years of Age....................55
Chapter 6 Bachelor Years....................77
Chapter 7 Forever After Years....................101
Epilogue A Word from My Mom....................115
Today, as Always....................131