Like many of his peers, Ben Majewski had a lifelong goal of going to college. Now, the 20-year-old who has Down syndrome and hearing problems is living out his dream despite his disability.
Majewski, a graduate of Newton North High School, is in his first semester at Massachusetts Bay Community College’s Wellesley Hills campus, taking a psychology class in career and life planning, getting tutoring, going to the gym, and making new friends.
“I got a buddy here, he has Down syndrome, he’s a veteran around here,’’ Majewski said. “He’s showing me the ropes, teaching me where everything is, and helping me meet new people.’’
Higher education used to be out of the question for students with intellectual disabilities such as Down syndrome or autism spectrum disorders, but now, there are increasing opportunities for such students to go to college in part because of a recent infusion of state and federal funds. In Massachusetts, the Inclusive Current Enrollment Initiative, a partnership between public high schools and seven community colleges that started in 2007, is helping students ages 18 to 22 with intellectual disabilities pursue higher education.
Tim Shriver, CEO of Special Olympics International and son of Special Olympics founder Eunice Kennedy Shriver, will be keynote speaker Saturday in Omaha at a Special Olympics health symposium on how to improve the health of people with intellectual disabilities.
Shriver titled his speech: “Have We Closed the Gap on Unmet Health Needs for People With Intellectual Disability?”
No, he says. Many health-care professionals still don’t have the training to deal with the quality-of-life issues of people with intellectual disabilities. They have been trained to cure people, not support this population and help these people reach their potential.
One politically correct thing to say about The Specials is that Sarah Silverman won’t be adopting them any time soon.
The cast of the 10-episode reality series features five young adults who have slightly varying degrees of learning disabilities; four of them Down’s syndrome, while the fifth, Lewis, has Williams Syndrome. The precedent for a show with an actor living with Down’s goes all the way back to Corky from Life Goes On to the more recent Retarded Policeman. But in The Specials, all the main players are disabled. It creates a far more inclusive dynamic. Each of the five principal cast members narrates scenes and intros and appearances by any other characters are limited.