—Editor's Note: The following remarks by Doreen Croser were sent via e-mail to the membership of the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AAIDD) on May 20, 2010.
For more than 2 decades, it has been my honor and privilege to serve as your executive director. Thank you for giving me the opportunity of working with you in support of a better quality of life for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in the United States and throughout the world.
When I signed on as an AAMD [American Association on Mental Deficiency; now AAIDD] student member more than 40 years ago, I never realized that I was making a lifetime commitment to the association. At that time, a new era of community services was emerging for people with intellectual disabilities and, like many of you, I was among the early special education pioneers. I was driven to special education and then on to rehabilitation studies because my younger brother, John, was born with multiple disabilities and there were no educational programs or community services to help support John or our family. Like many parents of that era, my mom and dad were unwilling to place John in an institution and his future became a family affair. In fact, my parents joined with a small group of other parents to organize an educational program in the basement of a local church. The church basement was John's first “school,” and it was one of the very few times that he went to school in our hometown. Of course, the whole family “volunteered” in many educational and community activities. Like most young people with significant disabilities in the 1960s, John spent his school years traveling around in the yellow bus to attend classes in out-of-the-way places. Even today, because the area remains fairly rural, John continues to travel far and wide for needed programs and services. He also now lives in a group home that is more than 30 miles from the community where he was an integral member for more than 45 years. And, sadly, at 58 years old, John faces the additional challenges of dementia.
I have mentioned this personal story because over the decades I have been profoundly influenced by all the challenges that my brother John has faced in trying to live an ordinary life that included work, family, friends, fun, and community connections. Many of his experiences have served as a lens through which I have examined our work here at AAIDD. In stepping back to consider these last 2 decades, I can say with some measure of satisfaction that we have done some very good work and we have made some major contributions to a better quality of life for people with intellectual disabilities. We have done our part in advancing human rights and personal dignity both nationally and internationally. We have increased opportunities for people with disabilities by leading the movement for personal supports through our Supports Intensity Scale. We changed our name and the disability terminology in response to cultural changes and evolving demands of our era. We have improved service access and eligibility through our definition and classification work. We have contributed to individual longevity by advocating for health and wellness to include supporting those who are aging or facing the end of life. We have been pioneers in connecting the impact of our environment on the cause and effect of developmental disabilities. We were leaders in establishing the Alliance for Full Participation, and we are partners in the emerging national siblings network. And last, but certainly not least, we have worked tirelessly to eliminate the execution of people with intellectual disabilities.
These are just a few examples of our many pioneering efforts, and all this has been possible thanks to you. You are dedicated, determined, accomplished, and passionate individuals. You care deeply about others and you strive to make a difference in this world. My role here at AAIDD has been to support your efforts and to move our mission and agenda forward. Hopefully, I have done a good job and have represented you in an ethical, responsible manner. Of course, none of our accomplishments would have been possible without the support of our loyal, hardworking national office staff. I thank them for their unwavering support and their personal contributions to the success of our association. I also thank the AAIDD presidents and members of our Boards of Directors over the last 22 years. There are just too many people to name in this short note but our AAIDD leaders have truly been the “eagles” in our field.
Although much has been accomplished, many challenges lie ahead and AAIDD will now have a new, capable leader to guide the association forward. It is my pleasure to personally welcome Dr. Margaret Nygren to AAIDD. Maggie has extensive knowledge in our field and she knows the many issues faced by people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. I wish Maggie much success. I know she will do a great job.
Again, thank you for all that you have given to the association. Working with you has been a wonderful experience, and I have made many friends who have enriched my life. I hope that I, like you, have made a positive contribution to the association, to our field, and to people with intellectual disabilities.
Thank you for allowing me to serve as your executive director.