Gwen campbell & associates
Gwen Campbell & Associates provides Special Education advocacy services to parents of school age children with disabilities. They represents a student's best educational interest at school, IEP meetings, 504 Plan Meetings, Expulsion Meetings and Informal Dispute Resolution Meetings. In preparation for such meetings, they review student records and assessment reports, observe the student at school, and work closely with treating professionals and parents/legal guardians to gather information about the students range of educational needs. In this process these advocates formulate, IEP goals, accommodations, behavior plans and determine what special education supports and services to request from school representatives, such as Assistive Technology, Speech and Language Services, and Specializes Academic Instruction. Gwen Campbell & Associates works hard, utilizing knowledge and skill to educate parents about the educational and meeting process and to effectively, advocate and communicate with school representatives. Their goal is to help ensure that the student will benefit from their education as intended under federal and state mandates.
I had the pleasure of talking to Gwen Campbell after finding her site while researching Letchworth Village. Gwen told me that even as a child she knew what she wanted to do but her experience while at Letchworth on a Girl Scout trip really influenced her future career path.
After getting her degree in education from the University of Arizona she went on to study at California State University, Northridge, and received her master's degree from California Lutheran University. Gwen was a special education teacher and had her own therapy practice but when she realized her true calling was to be an advocate, she gave up her practice and became a dedicated special education advocate.
In October of 1969 when Gwen was no older than 9 years old, she participated in a project for her Brownies Girl Scout Troop that involved taking a trip to Letchworth Village to spend time with the children in the facility's custodial care. Before the trip, they didn't get much information about the other kids except for "they are different we are going there to play with them".
When they arrived, they were greeted by a staff member who described the kids as their highest functioning group. They spent a few hours playing games with the children and when Gwen asked to go to the bathroom she was given vague directions and left to find it on her own. She eventually found the bathroom but got lost on her way back and found herself in the auditorium with high-pitched ceilings that allowed the sounds of the kids inside to echo loudly.
What Gwen experienced in that auditorium resonated with her for the rest of her life from that moment going forward. Gwen described seeing nearly 18 children ranging from ages 3 to 7 that were left in the care of two young nurses. The smaller children were in cribs covered with nets while the larger kids, some even bigger than Gwen, were running around either nude or in diapers while being chased by the nurses.
Gwen called out to where one of the nurses had been standing and asked where the bathroom was but the nurse couldn't hear over the sounds of the children. The nurse responded by telling her she shouldn't be in there. Overwhelmed by what she saw and heard, Gwen began asking questions like "why are they in nets? Why? What are they being treated like this?". The nurse rushed her out and ordered that she isn't to tell anyone what she saw. This raised a red flag for Gwen because it made her realize that the adults clearly knew that what was happening was wrong.
When she got back to her Brownie troop, she went up to her leader and said "I have to tell you what I saw" which was when a staff member stepped in saying that not all of the patients are as high functioning as the children they were with that day. It seemed as though the woman knew what Gwen saw so she tried to quiet her and make excuses.
A few years later in 1972, Gwen saw the series of news segments done by Geraldo Rivera exposing the horrific conditions of Letchworth Village and Willowbrook State School. It was at that point that the public finally saw what Gwen saw that day. This was the start of the end for many state schools and psychiatric hospitals of that time.
All photos taken by Sami Fego unless stated otherwise