Profile: DEANNA TOUTANT
Deanna Toutant hasn’t changed much since she was young. Her mom, Karen Toutant, says Deanna is aware that she has Down Syndrome but is very positive in her attitude. Deanna is the only girl and middle child, with two brothers in her family. When Deanna was born, Karen was advised to send her to Michener Center in Red Deer, something she refused to do. Deanna lived at home until she was twelve years old.
Karen says there were very few resources available for special needs children at the time. While she lived at home, Karen treated Deanna the same way she treated her brothers. She was never babied and had to grow up in the same way the boys did. Karen thinks this approach helped Deanna in the long run.
Karen’s doctor mentioned that the best she could do for Deanna was to get involved with organizations for the handicapped so she went to work at the Barrydale Dorm
during the time that Deanna lived there. Karen was skeptical at first but ended up working for thirteen years at Barrydale Dorm. She worked as the “laundry lady, cook and housemother.” Karen remembers that at one time there were forty two resident living in the dorm and only six or seven staff members to care for them. Deanna was a student at the Peace School of Hope. She remembers meeting a lot of other people and loved gym class at the Peace School. In the school's Christmas concert she played Mary and one time she was an angel.
Karen’s time working with the handicapped over the years helped her to realize that “there are all types of people in the world." She thinks workers in the field should just “do the best they can and try to make their lives comfortable.” A highlight for Karen was the opportunity to see the kids grow and learn. She sees a lot of changes since the early days when people would “give you the look” on outings with the handicapped kids. She says now the disabled are far more accepted in the community. Another change Karen notices is in the area of programming and funding, both of which have come a long way since she was first introduced to the system.
Deanna now lives with Debbie Sydorko and her longtime friend, Joy Rosin. Deanna has lived with Debbie and Joy for fourteen years and she says she loves them both very much and considers them as family. Debbie takes Deanna on trips to Fairview to attend the NPDRA (North Peace Drag Racing Association) events. Deanna knows most of the drivers and has even been invited to ride along in one of the cars. Deanna also loves camping and fishing. She proudly describes one special fishing trip when she caught two fish in one day.
Deanna has volunteered for eleven years at Stepping Stones Day Care, where she helps to look after the kids, sings with them and reads stories with them. The Day Care held a party to celebrate Deanna's ten year anniversary with them.
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