Adult Care for Intellectual Disabilities
Throughout our 123 year history, many have assumed that we are a traditional boarding school accepting students within a particular age range. Since the formation of the school, that has not been the case. Dr. John Quincy Adams Stewart envisioned a school that would serve people with intellectual disabilities of all ages and continue with their education regardless of their age. His vision has continued and lives on today. Every student’s program and daily routine is unique to his or her interests and goals, but is not dependent on their age. Given our three semesters, off and on-campus vocational opportunities, and over thirty classes to choose from, our students have lives that are vibrant and dynamic.
Just as all of our students are diverse, so too are their reasons for become a Stewart Home & School student. We invite you to learn more through the words and experiences of our students and families.
A Friendly Option
written by Robert Reeder, SHS student relative
I’ve started writing this a couple of times and started over a couple of times. I’d worded something wrong. I’d included too many details. Whatever. I’m not a writer.
I finally decided that if you are reading this, you’re not reading it for my elegant prose, but because you are trying to make a difficult and important decision; the same one that I myself made four years ago.
My cousin, Ann, was born in 1943. Ann actually attended the same public school in Indianapolis that I did. That is, until she was about ten years old and the school administrators informed her parents they’d have to find her another school. She wasn’t learning and was holding other students back or something along those lines. That was the end of her formal education, and the last organized social setting where she could interact with peers.
Ann had no siblings and always lived with her parents. Her father died in 1987. Over time her mother and Ann moved into a retirement home. As long as my aunt was alive, Ann had her mother and her mother’s friends for social interaction and this worked beautifully. When my aunt passed away in 2004 and Ann remained in the retirement home, but clearly wasn’t happy. Without Aunt Jane it was no longer a good fit. Living by herself there, Ann had more than adequate security and supervision…what Ann needed was the attention, affection and direction her mother provided. She needed friends/peers.
We looked at the options available, finding nothing. None of the facilities felt like a “home.”
A couple of years into the search I heard about a place in Frankfort, Kentucky…Stewart Home School. I didn’t have many details, only superlatives. I searched the internet and learned what I could. From the SHS web site I read that the school, offered… “a one-of-a-kind community where the intellectually disabled are appreciated for the people they are.”
Frankfort was a three hour drive from Indianapolis. I made an appointment with SHS director Sandra Bell and came to see for myself.
Sandra and I talked for half an hour or so, she introduced me to superintendent David Sellwood who took me on the grand tour. David’s nickname on campus is “Coach”. As many as half of the students we passed called out to Coach in cheery voices. Many came and introduced themselves to me, asking where I was from and telling me where they were from.
Most were dressed like college students…running shoes or sandals, jeans or khakis, but many were wearing sweaters with their own hometown sports team logo and lots of baseball hats. Here was the kicker!!! Ann was 69 years old at that time. Under a lot of the baseball caps SHS students were wearing was gray hair. Going in, I was worried there would be an age gap problem.
I asked her about that. Sandra told me that of the 30 applicants they get each year 2-3 are baby boomers.
One other important thing that I believe you yourself should explore. Back when I was trying to weigh the options, Sandra offered me the contact information for a few SHS families I could get in touch with to ask about their own experience. I asked if she could include on that list families of students who came to Stewart as adults. I think she gave me three.
The first name on the list, Deborah, answered all of my questions. Her sister had come to SHS as an adult. A successful transition with very few glitches. The news was comforting.
We moved Ann to Stewart Home School on November 6, 2012. Her room had been painted the light blue she’d asked for. She had a smile on her face when we left her.
I can’t remember if it was Pam or Sandra who warned me…the first time I came for a visit, I was expecting Ann to have been “needy” and wanting to spend lots of time with me during my visit. The reality was, as they warned, shortly after lunch or dinner off-campus, Ann started looking at her wristwatch. In the short month since I’d first dropped her off she’d established “a routine” and wanted to get back to campus, her routine and her friends.
And finally, “friends” is a key here. Ann now has friends her own age. They do things together. They care about each other. I see Ann and her best friend, Judy, every time I visit. Ann routinely puts Judy on the phone when Ann and I talk.