As part of the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center's 50th anniversary celebration, families, researchers, staff, trainees, and others shared their reflections. View a sample below, and select "more" to view additional comments.

A reflection from a family
Susan M. Spickard - Grandmother

Fifty years ago my husband and I had the privilege of hearing President John F. Kennedy speak to the community at the football stadium at Vanderbilt University. It was a great day. We were proud of the University. We are both graduates and my retired husband was part of the Medical faculty for 45 years. Although we were very familiar with the University and the Medical Center, we were not as connected to the Kennedy Center until the birth of our grandson William, who has Down syndrome. He is now 17. William and his parents have received innumerable services from the Center, including hands-on intervention participating in research projects and receiving support at every step of the journey.

Susan M. Spickard - Grandmother

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A reflection from a professional

As a teacher and now as Director of Special Education in Manchester City Schools, I feel very fortunate to have received training from Vanderbilt Kennedy Center TRIAD myself. It helped me better serve my students with this challenging disorder. Now as our district administrator, I strongly encourage and support training opportunities for the teachers in our school system. This year alone over 50% of our special education teachers and/or assistants were involved in a training activity through TRIAD. The quality of this training is unsurpassed. In addition to the sessions offered at regional locations, our district was fortunate to have consultation and training provided on-site at our schools. I do not believe training of this quality and type is available anywhere else and even if it was, it would not be affordable for our school district. Our teachers are better prepared due to the training they received through TRIAD. However, the most important aspect is that our students receive the greatest benefit.

Jenny Thomas - Director of Special Education, Manchester City Schools, Manchester, TN

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A reflection from a researcher
Robert Hodapp, Ph.D. - Special Education

My interest in studying developmental disabilities arose from both my work and my educational experiences. Throughout college and graduate school, I worked as a teacher of children with severe to profound disabilities. Simultaneously in my Ph.D. program, I was learning about children’s development, mother-child interactions, and families of typically developing children. As a postdoctoral fellow, I began to join these two worlds. I began exploring how theories, approaches, and findings derived from work on typically developing children might apply to children with developmental disabilities. I also began examining with Elisabeth Dykens how children with particular genetic disorders differed in their behavioral development, and how behaviors of children with particular syndromes might affect their family members. The VKC combines a strongly held, multidisciplinary focus with a rock-solid commitment to children with disabilities and their families. In addition to the researchers themselves, a skilled, dedicated group of VKC staff help everyone to get things done. With support from several private foundations and federal agencies, the VKC has expanded services to persons with disabilities and their families. Where else can one work every day with such a talented, committed group of scientists, staff, and service providers, all of whom share a mission to learn about and to serve individuals with disabilities and their families?

Robert Hodapp, Ph.D. - Special Education

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A reflection from a trainee

As a UCEDD trainee, the VKC has been very important to me. I have learned so much from contributing to many of its self-advocacy projects for people with disabilities, and I am proud to be a part of all they do in the Nashville community. As a graduate student in Peabody College, I feel that working with the VKC UCEDD has helped me to mature in ways that will make me a successful special education teacher.

Carrie Glover - Graduate student in Special Education and VKC UCEDD Trainee

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