Chapter 3: Janet's Fight to Further Her Education
14:37:57:25 - 14:39:25:00
Lisa: Janet while you were at AVS did you have the opportunity to continue your education?
Janet: Um, very little because I was stuck on the third grade level. I could read, you know, because of so many things I learned in Philadelphia but none of the school teachers over that grade, I guess because I was mainly self-taught after I went in there cause when I discovered schooling was individualized but then it wasn't because mo-, I think the reason why I said I was helping to teach people with retardation is they couldn't really find anybody for me so then I started reading books people gave me. You know, like romance, mysteries and stuff like that but then Channel 13 started having educational stuff on their TV, on their station. Okay, remind me what's next.
14:39:24:15 - 14:42:45:10
Lisa: That's okay. But I'm curious you said Channel 13 had some educational programing. Is that something that you watched and helped-?
Janet: Well, they had a lot of history stuff, plays and not basic education but anyways, the schooling just wasn't what I thought it was and it kind of made me mad cause I thought I was gonna get an education which was not, almost null and here I was ending up teaching the kids what I knew. I mean I knew how to count and all that cause I had that in Philadelphia but nothing really changed in the first AVS but in the second AVS that's where everything started changing, when the 504 [regulations] came into law and I was told that none of the people with disabilities were gonna move over to AVS and I said, "That is wrong, that is real wrong." So I wrote a letter to Mr. Bouterball at the time and I said, "You know, you're building this real neat school, why can't you make it accessible? The Section 504 says if you get Federal funding you should make one entrance way accessible and also the bathrooms." So then I said, "Why can't you put a ramp in there?" So the next thing I knew they were building, they were building the building and they put a ramp in cottage one, they made the gym accessible, they even put a green house on the campus and that campus had a sort of a college there too and I found myself there and that's where I got some freedoms. I was doing what I needed to do, the intermediate came into being around '74, '75 and they asked me what do you want to do. I said all I want to do is pass the GED and they go "How?". I said, "Well here's a book that my grandmother, my foster grandmother", which I wasn't supposed to have and I got her anyway.
14:42:46:05 - 14:46:34:15
Lisa: Janet you're mentioning foster grandparents. Can you tell me about that?
Janet: All right, the foster grandparents came into being, I think, in '74, '75. All the children on the east and west wing got it but I was a little bit too smart so they figured I didn't deserve it and to me that was wrong. Well, here a couple weeks later I got a foster grandparent, a retired teacher, and she's the one that [said] "Well, how can I help you.' I said, "You know the education programs they had on 13?" She goes, "Yeah, very familiar." "Well, one of the programs is the General Education Developer, I want that." She goes, "Why?" "Well there's five subjects that I can learn from and I just want to pass the test to prove to everybody I'm not retarded", and she got it. She got me the book, helped me to study a little bit and then I moved to the new AVS where I didn't have her no more and I had to depend on being teacher from the intermediate unit. I was like, yeah, so guess what, she helped me study on all five of the books in there and I had, um, trouble with the math, trouble with the English but everything else I was good at. So June, I think, of '74, I think, or '75 I failed and I was like really upset, had to be '74. Yeah, because I waited a month and took the whole test again and here I didn't study that much but guess what, I passed. And when the program director came to pick me up we had betted a spaghetti dinner and I said, for when I seen him I said, "I guess I get my spaghetti dinner". He goes, "What are you talking about?" I said, "I passed". And he was the program director for all the older children and we did all kinds of things, but on my own I start taking pictures. Some of them I still have but they're buried deep in my ___but I only brought one or a couple with me today. But anyway, then things started happening.
14:46:54:07 - 14:47:08:10
Lisa: How long were you at AVS?
Janet: I was at AVS from February 2, 1966 to March 29th of '76.
14:47:09:05 - 14:51:13:05
Lisa: You were there for 10 years. I'm wondering how often you saw family, your parents, your siblings, maybe even your grandmother.
Janet: Um, let's say, maybe four times, five times a year. I'd like to tell you something weird that happened. In the, in the, February on Valentine's Day I got a letter from my mom. My foster grandparents was with me and some of the staff and I got this strange letter saying that, um, my grandfather was in touch with my grandmother and we wanted to let you know about her. Little did I know or little did they know I had this psychic power, I knew my grandfather and what was funny about it he had been contacting me because what was strange was about it, when I seen my parents later on because he wanted to come back and live with my grandmother and they said "no" and I told them that I knew he was going to be coming back. It was weird but I couldn't stop thinking about him 'cause I never heard about him. Anyways the spring of '75 my parents came to see me and I thought that was unusual cause it wasn't their time and then I told them, "I know why you're here." They go, "why?" "You're here to tell me that my grandfather had died." I knew it before they did, because him and I weren't communicating no more. They were dumbfounded. I was the psychic one in the family and then they knew I wasn't kidding because I made several other predictions. What I told them was, I wasn't retarded and someday I'll be getting out of that school and that's when they said I was gonna stay there. I didn't argue with them. All I said, "You'll see" and I saw them for my birthday and I think Christmas that year. Now and then I just talk to them.
14:51:14:05 - 14:51:47:10
Lisa: Did you see your siblings or your grandmother?
Janet: Um, I didn't see my grandmother. No, but I didn't-- I saw my two sisters off and on between '74 and '75 cause they didn't like the school and I think my mom was going through some trouble, I don't know. But, um, that's my mom.
14:51:47:25 - 14:58:41:25
Lisa: So, in 1975, Janet, life changed for you dramatically, um, starting with a trip to the hospital and I wondered if you could tell me about that?
Janet: Okay. January of '75 school made arrangements I'm to have an operation cause I, they didn't want my legs to be closed all the time and I was growing and I was getting older and things were starting to happen, I guess, or they were afraid. And so I said- So as the girl was taking me to the hospital I seen this folder and I said "You mind"? And she goes "no". So I opened it up and read the diagnosis and closed it back up said "Thank you". She goes, "Why are you doing that?" I said, "You'll find out." Okay, no sooner that they put me in my room I think about in the evening, that evening a bunch of doctors came into the room. Had to be 25 to 30 and I says, um, who is my doctor. This little old man came and he says I'm Dr. Rosenberg, I'm your doctor. I said, "Well, do me a favor. Please read my diagnosis out loud." He says, "I'm not." I says, "You got my permission, read it." He says, "Well, you have cerebral palsy, spastic in all four limbs with mild retardation." I said, "I don't think I'm retarded" and he goes "Well we'll see." He goes, "I want you to say your alphabet backwards." So I went "Y, Z, X," you know all the way up to "N" and he goes "Okay, you did that right, now you count from a thousand backwards", and I did that. And he says, "Sometimes when children are born or tested they are diagnosed with mild retardation and I see that she might've been misdiagnosed." So he goes "okay, after the operation we'll start testing you." So I got the operation the next day and here, when I was woken up, they were starting to test me with pictures and I had to tell the shadow where it was and stuff. I remember all that and once I got a little bit better they started doing things with me and that was the intellectual, intelligent test and two weeks later they [Dr. Rosenberg] go, "Janet, you're no more retarded than my little finger." I said, "Thanks. Now I can get out of that school."
Janet: I went back and at that time I talked to somebody from United Cerebral Palsy and they said you're still 'gonna have a community living arrangement. They go, "Yeah, we're looking for candidates." I say, "You're looking at one right now." And so I had a talk with my case-worker at the time and I says, "I really want to get out of here" and they go, "You have to have a place." I said, "For everything I've seen on the walls, the Bill of Rights, what you need to get out of here I already knew and I'm already doing that. Why would I be here learning how to cook, learning how to be on my own and I can't get out of here?" I said, "I'm gonna' do it." So, anyway, I applied for housing and I did this and this and they told me, "Well, the housing rejected you." I said, "Oh shoot." But they said I could move out of AVS cause I had a staffing and I had to tell the staff that, that I think they faked the test. They go, "why?" Because if I passed the GED and they I failed the psychological test then how come I'm running their green house, their ___, have an Avon business helping somebody selling and having two accounts that add up to $600 and I'm not incompetent as he said I was. And there's no, and according to the law if I have someplace to go I can go as long as there's somebody to supervise me in there. And guess what? March 29th came and I went goodbye and they took me out to the community living arrangement.
More Interview Chapters
- Childhood and Family
- Move to Allegheny Valley School
- YOU ARE HERE: Janet's Fight to Further Her Education
- Move to Community, Marriage to Harry
- Reflections on Life, Career
About Janet Evans
AVS School, Boards, Cerebral palsy, HMS School, Institutions, Marriage, Mental retardation, Self-advocacy