Thank you for the Willamette Scene and the new format. It is much more alumni friendly and worth reading and looking at! For those of us who are 50 years or more past graduation, you feel somewhat out of the loop.
Amaryllis Lilles Powell ’53, MME’66
I found your squib on Robert Hess/Chuck Bowles (Summer 2006) to be congratulatory and engaging. The University is to be lauded for the Hess commission of the sculpture of Mr. Bowles’s likeness for McCulloch Stadium.
But there is another plaudit needed, that of Robert Hess, after some 34 years of enlightenment and artistic giving to the University and the Oregon public. Mr. Hess is, hands down, a remarkable artist. While he might not be asked to sculpt his own tribute, someone should surely do it. His work will be remembered long after those folks who ran laps at McCulloch Stadium.
I really enjoyed looking through your summer issue, especially your story on Prof. Craig. The photo on pp. 36–37 was wonderful. I love stuff like that in magazines. Keep up the great work.
Editor, Swarthmore College Bulletin
I was reading the Scene having just returned from the July wedding of a WU alumna in San Francisco, with several WU alumni in attendance. As I read, I recalled Carson Scholar Chloe Tay ’96. In summer 1995, she created choreography for a 1996 dance concert. When I traveled from Salem to Fresno to view the developing choreography, having coached some of the emerging work, I was immediately thankful for Dean Carson’s insight and initiative in establishing a program that provided Willamette juniors and seniors with a “truly rare opportunity.” Only the Carson Scholars program, under which I was able to sponsor Chloe, allowed that creation to come to fruition.
I feel privileged to have preserved my connection to several WU alumni. I fondly recall my first introduction to the Kresge dance studio in fall 1986. I had descended into the studio early to set up for my first ballet class of the term. A young man was resting there because, he said, there wasn’t really anywhere else he could take a break on campus. We chatted a little and it struck me that this was both an exceptional thinker and personable individual. I enjoyed our chat, and he — Eric Freidenwald-Fishman ’88 — went on his way, in a big way. He has had many laudable accomplishments, not the least of which was, with the help of John Donovan ’88 and under the leadership of then-President Hudson, to establish the Bistro Willamette, which will celebrate its 20th anniversary this year. I hope to stop by the Bistro on Sept. 29 and take a little break, since, thanks to Fishman and Donovan, there is a place on campus to converge.
Former Assistant Professor of Dance, 1985–96
I am the parent of a severely autistic child, diagnosed at age 2 (now 12). We were told that although near to 70 percent of children who are autistic are also mentally retarded, our child is very likely not. At the initial diagnosis by a well-respected developmental pediatrician, when we asked “How do we treat him?” he said “Treat him like any other child... He can have a normal life, but you need to start intervention right away.” Every specialist (neurologists, psychiatrists, therapists) we have visited have recommended services that would nurture and encourage him to grow in every way. These specialists have not expressed the outdated attitudes described in the article on M. Goldberg [Edelson].
Ms. Goldberg is barking up the wrong tree, or most certainly at the wrong people. Challenging the old school of thought has been done successfully. She will do nothing to save these children by writing intellectual articles to other intellectuals, none of whom will have a speck of impact upon those who are really preventing our children from getting what they need and deserve. Those in the school districts need to apply the current theories, which are not as described in the article.
So if you are going to fight the good fight on behalf of our challenged children, Ms. Goldberg, you need to go to those who refuse to acknowledge and abide by the rules with regard to financial support for the services these children need to live lives as productive as they can, and compel them to respect the research that already is well respected.
Melissa Clayman Fountain ’77
Sioux Falls, S.D.
As the parent of a 4-year-old boy diagnosed with autism, I read “Wrong” in the latest issue of the Scene, with great interest. Prof. Meredy Goldberg Edelson’s research challenging the commonly accepted claim that the majority of individuals with autism are mentally retarded is spot on and precisely the kind of work we parents of autistic children have been waiting for.
These are very uncertain times in the world of autism. Not only is the cause of the disorder unknown, but there is much debate over which treatments parents should implement, which treatments insurance should pay for, and which education models educators should espouse to effectively care for and reach autistic children. You can imagine then how difficult it is for parents to advocate for our children and get the care and services they need when much of the medical, insurance and education community is operating under the misperceptions fueled by old research and commonly held myths about autism. People harboring these misperceptions underestimate the autistic child’s abilities and undermine his efforts to reach his full potential. Prof. Edelson’s research supports what many parents of autistic children know to be true: Our children are not mentally retarded, but rather their brains simply process certain types of information differently than the brains of neurotypical children. In the case of autism, “different” means different, not dumb. Hence, an autistic child requires modified teaching methods tailored to his learning style and sensory needs, not a “dumbing down” of existing teaching methods.
I hearken back to my days at WU and fondly recall being introduced to the ever-important concept of critical thinking in my World Views class. I also remember a particular philosophy/religion class in which the concept of a paradigm shift was discussed, and I learned how important it is to suspend previous judgments about what we think we know in order to get closer to the truth, even if doing so means taking a path of greater resistance. These concepts directly apply to the world of autism. New research in the last five to 10 years has sparked a revolution, challenging how we as a society think about and treat autism. Kudos to Prof. Edelson for her critical thinking and contribution to this paradigm shift so that autistic children may be encouraged to reach their full potential and be seen for the very unique, bright individuals they are.
Erika L. Johnson ’93
Editor’s Note: If you are the parent of an autistic child, or are involved in the education or treatment of autistic children, and would like to participate in a follow-up article in a future issue of The Scene, please contact editor Rebecca Brant.