Impact Feature Issue on Stories of Advocacy, Stories of Change from People with Disabilities, Their Families, and Allies (1988-2013)

Taking the Vision Into Adulthood (Part 2, 2013)


Gary Ellis

Diane Kozlak

Marlo Ellis

Anne Ellis is 29 years old today, and in this 2013 update her family shares how that early vision of inclusion has traveled with her into adulthood.

Anne has grown and blossomed since the article about her early school experience 23 years ago. She has gone on to finish her Mounds View school program and live independently as part of a four-person house in Vadnais Heights, a St. Paul suburb, managed by ACR. She was fortunate to begin schooling at a time when significant change was coming about for kids with disabilities, especially those with disabilities in the more severe range like hers. Her early years were one of those brief periods of expanding programming and funding. The early successes with the integrative model helped lay the groundwork that continued with similar programming, in one form or another, throughout her school years.

One of the biggest benefits from this programming approach is that Anne was able to become part of the larger community, first through her introductions at school and later through programs that took her in to the community. Fewer of those opportunities had existed for earlier students with disabilities. She had the opportunity to make acquaintances and friendships with a broad spectrum of classmates and people. These mutually beneficial relationships helped Anne grow and learn in a more normal way. It also had a strong impact on her classmates, a couple of whom went on to careers in special education.

Anne’s sister Marlo writes, “Anne’s inclusion in her neighborhood school was just the start of paving the way. Anne continued on to middle school and high school with the rest of the kids from the neighborhood. After graduating she moved out of her home at age 18 like most other teenagers. While living in her group home Anne has continued to surround herself with great friends that she meets for coffee at local shops and who attend parties, concerts and many other social activities with her. Her normal and my normal are pretty much the same. Both of us go to our work/day programs on the weekdays, enjoy spending time with our friends in our free time and enjoy family dinners at our parents’ home on Sunday evenings.”

A recent article I read identified the five most important skills necessary for students to learn to be constructive, functioning members of 21st century society: persistence, resilience, patience, courage and grit. That hit home with me because those same core skills are at the heart of being a strong advocate and building community. Along the way we have seen these skills demonstrated many times over by people who have worked with Anne. We are grateful for all the many community builders that have helped and continue to support Anne in her journey through school and in adult life. Without that support she could not have become the beautiful young woman many of us know today.

Gary, Diane, Anne, and Marlo all live in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area.