Letter Box: November 2009

Responses to “Shattering barriers and opening doors”

When I first heard about [the Career and Community Studies Program] three years ago, I was very excited to see that my son, who has Down Syndrome, has the opportunity to attend my alma mater….. I work with students with autism within regular education classrooms at Cherrywood Academy in Clementon, NJ, and I totally agree with [Professor Jerry] Petroff that “it is important to prepare teachers to meet the needs of these students in mainstream classes whenever possible.”… [In respect to Petroff’s class on practices,] my son has been included since he first stepped into a classroom at the age of 2 1/2, and the benefits for him and everyone in the class have been wonderful.

Norma Barragan Pezza ’87

What a joy to know that my alma mater has training for helping those with autism! Hopefully, other colleges will follow suit. My 25-year-old grandson was diagnosed at age 3 with sever ADD, later OD, then autism and, of course, Asperger’s. Today he is on his way to Washington, DC, to work for the Census Department [having] recently graduated with a master’s as a CPA from Michigan State…. It has been a 25-year battle. Those with autism are very intelligent and capable…. They need all the help and training they can get. Hooray for TCNJ!

Mary Waldron Swantek ’40

Thank you for the wonderful piece on the CCS program…. My husband and I are both 1993 graduates of the College and we have two sons diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders (Asperger’s syndrome). I was very alarmed when some master’s-level special education programs were cut from the College a few years ago, since we know from personal experience that there is still such a shortage of teachers trained to educate those with autism. As you know, New Jersey has the highest incidence of autism in the nation, with 1 in 94 children currently diagnosed. It was gratifying to see that the cut programs were very obviously replaced with an innovative program that helps both potential teachers and the nontraditional students in which they will be helping. We know that students with autism are often very intelligent and can accomplish amazing things if properly supported at school and in the workplace. It is wonderful that our alma mater is forward-thinking enough to see that these students should not automatically be relegated to only vocational training.

When a child is diagnosed with autism, the parents’ dreams for that child are often shattered. It takes a long time for the parent to piece together new dreams, hopes, and aspirations. TCNJ has done a wonderful thing with this program. Thank you for restoring a dream for me—that my children may one day be able to attend the college that I did.

Christine Pereira Bakter ’93
New Jersey Chapter Advocacy Chair, Autism Speaks

Remembering Floyd

My husband and I took note of the “Looking back” picture in the latest magazine. We started dating the night that Hurricane Floyd struck—and the photo brought back such fond memories, even though we don’t recognize anyone in it.

Ten years later, we’re happily married and expecting our first child in the fall. It’s hard to believe so much time has passed since then, but it remains one of our favorite memories from TCNJ.

Jim and Mairin (Sutcliffe) Barbiere ’00

I remember that day when the remains of Hurricane Floyd dropped down on TCNJ. I was so frustrated because my classes were still not canceled, and I got drenched walking back and forth across campus to class. I recall looking out from the top of Wolfe Hall see large drops of rain pounding into the windows and seeing many of my fellow colleagues playing in the mud. Many were sliding down the wet, muddy hill near the tennis courts, while others were just tackling one another into puddles. It reminded me of images of what Woodstock was like 30 years prior. The campus sidewalks were like rivers, flowing with massive amounts of water to drainage areas, which were already clogged. The wind was fierce, and I could feel Wolfe Tower swaying a bit. I thought some of the windows would break because of the strength of the wind and water beating on them. It was definitely a memorable time during my college career.

Keith Horbatuck ’04

Thanks for the memories

Thank you for the nostalgia in the September issue. At last, some people I knew! As a kid in Plainfield, I played with Bill Hausdoerffer’s brother. As a “sea captain,” I carried Madeline [Schneider Boswell] on stage in TSC’s production of Twelfth Night. Please continue to remember us really old timers.

Tom McNulty ’49

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