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A lifetime of work with Down syndrome children

Wednesday, 21 June 2006

MIT employee honoured for a lifetime of work with Down syndrome children

A Manukau Institute of Technology employee has become the first person to be awarded life membership of the New Zealand Down Syndrome Association.

Colleen Brown, a programme leader at MIT’s School of Communication Studies, received the award for her work over the last 25 years upholding the key principles of the association.

The award is the first and only one of its type to be awarded in New Zealand and was presented during a special event hosted by Governor-General Dame Silvia Cartwright at Government House in Wellington, as the association was celebrating its 25th anniversary.

Receiving the award is a humbling experience, says Colleen, whose son, Travers, has Down syndrome. “It is a fantastic honour to be recognised by your fellow parents. To get an award like this is very special and humbling.”

Colleen was one of the founding members of the first New Zealand Down Syndrome Association branch, based in Auckland.

“We were rather naïve in those days. We just went out there and did what needed to be done. If there was a politician to see, we went and saw them. There was no real holding back on the issues that confronted us as parents,” she says.

One of the great accomplishments of those times for Colleen was being part of the parent lobby to have the Education Act changed to give disabled children the right to attend school, which was achieved in 1989.

“That was an enormous victory. What a proud moment that was for parents and disabled students. They were there in their local schools as of right.”

Colleen went on to train as a member of Parent to Parent, the telephone support group for parents of children with Down syndrome. She also led the Coalition of Parents for Special Education and has been an advocate for families particularly in the area of education. She is the current chairperson of the Parent and Family Resource Centre and still writes and researches on the impact of disability on families.


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