An extraordinary, ordinary family

LANSDOWNE, Pa. - November 25, 2009

It wasn't until 1999 that a law was passed to allow the intellectually disabled to care for their children in their homes. It led to more focus on providing support for these adults, who simply want what all parents want - the right to raise their child.

Bonnie Brown and her daughter Myra are a loving family of two. They are so ordinary in many ways, but so different in others.

While Bonnie is intellectually disabled, with an IQ around 70, Myra is academically gifted.

A 5th grader at the WB Evans School in Yeadon, Myra excels in math and most of her other classes.

"She'll struggle with the regular kid things, but in terms of taking care of business, she's ahead of the game, there," 5th grade teacher Dawn Murray.

While Myra's at school, Bonnie has help at home with everyday tasks:

Trained support staff with the nonprofit organization, Community Interactions, spends a total of 20 hours a week with Bonnie, helping her with everything from doing her bills to preparing meals.

"I don't live far so if she needs me, I'm here," Annette Williams of Community Interactions said.

After school, Myra takes the bus to meet a former CI staffer. her godmother, who helps with her homework.

Rosemary Northcraft, or Mom-Mom to Myra, was there when she was born and helped Bonnie learn how to care for her baby.

"If the baby got sick, I made sure I went over, took it's temperature, showed Bonnie how to do the temperature," Rosemary said.

Bonnie doesn't have a cell phone or a bank account; she doesn't drive, but she has a relationship with her daughter that many parents would envy.

"I have a disability and Myra doesn't see my disability, she just sees me as her mother, as a human being," Bonnie said.

"We do things together and I care about her and she cares about me," Myra said.

As Myra approaches her teen years, the challenges of parenting are becoming more complex, but Bonnie isn't worried.

"I think we're going to be just fine. I'm very spiritual and I believe if God allowed me to have Myra, if it was his plan, he's going to take care of everything for me and Myra," Bonnie said.

Bonnie has received support from Community Interactions for more than 20 years which provides a host of other services.

Myra says she wants to be a marine biologist. She's trying to decide whether to study at Cambridge, Harvard or Yale, and then she wants to return to Lansdowne to be close to her mom.


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