Aug 292013

On Wednesday’s episode of Philosophy in Action Radio, I interviewed mom-of-twins Cheryl Hein about “Parenting a Child with Disabilities.” The podcast of that episode is now available for streaming or downloading.

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Podcast: 28 August 2013

What are some of the rewards and challenges of parenting a child with disabilities? How should parents navigate family dynamics, education, and social interactions? How can parents do right by their disabled child, as well as themselves and other family members?

Cheryl Hein is the mother of nineteen year old boy-girl twins, one of whom, her daughter, was born with developmental disabilities, including Down syndrome and autism. In choosing the approaches for educating their twins, Ms. Hein and her husband considered a number of key values, such as effective education, opportunities for intellectual and social enrichment, family dynamics, and, as they got older, their kids’ preferences; practical considerations such as cost and logistics were also weighed. Ms. Hein became heavily involved in understanding and navigating public school special education services and other available private and government programs for educating her children, and in advocating for the choices she believed were right for them. As she has lived with the daily and long range parenting challenges, she has also thought deeply about matters of family, private and government support for the education, care and keeping of children and adults with intellectual disabilities.

Ms. Hein received a B.S. degree in Industrial Engineering from the University of Wisconsin, Madison and an M.S. degree in Mechanical Engineering from UCLA. She has managed multi-million dollar R&D programs for private industry, state and federal governments for more than 30 years, in settings as broad as manufacturing, product development, private research laboratories and university research organizations. Most recently, as managing director of the UCLA Center for Advanced Surgical and Interventional Technology (CASIT) and in private entrepreneurial efforts, she has focused on fostering advances in technologies for education and training based on combining findings from the science of learning with interactive computer technologies such as simulation and games to create learning systems that align effectively with how our brains work.

Listen or Download:


  • About her daughter’s developmental disabilities
  • More about apraxia of speech
  • The pregnancy
  • Heart surgery as an infant
  • Prior experience with Downs Syndrome
  • Response to the heart surgery
  • The diagnoses of apraxia of speech and autism
  • Early education via UCLA
  • Lessons learned from UCLA
  • Preschool: keeping the kids together
  • The sibling relationship
  • Elementary school: full inclusion
  • Speech development and reading
  • Her effect on other kids in the classroom
  • Middle school and beyond: segregated special education classes
  • A better education: private schools, homeschooling, and Montessori
  • Improvements in education, medicine, and home life for developmentally disabled kids
  • The dangers of reducing the person to the disability
  • Grief for the child, love for the child
  • Plans for the future, after school ends
  • Advice for parents of disabled children

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