Turning Wheels: A Turner Syndrome and Nonverbal Learning Disabilities Awareness Campaign

The Problem

A truly strong community helps all of its members to reach their fullest potentials despite challenges they may face. I have chosen to focus on a population that is often overlooked and/or forgotten. I am speaking about those with particular medical conditions and learning disabilities. These problems can definitely impact not only an individual’s personal health, but also one’s academic success, self-esteem and social relationships. If family members, friends, teachers and acquaintances understand the situation, perhaps things could be much better for the affected individual. My endeavor, which is close to my heart, is a campaign to spread awareness about Turner Syndrome and Nonverbal Learning Disabilities. Turner Syndrome, a chromosomal disorder that affects only females, is characterized by short stature, other life-long health consequences and some degree of Nonverbal Learning Disabilities. NLD can cause motor skill problems, visual/spatial/organizational misperceptions and social difficulties. Both genders can have NLD, including those with other medical conditions, such as Asperger’s and the like. TS can often be unrecognized, misinterpreted or misdiagnosed. NLD may also be an “invisible disorder” with symptoms that might be misunderstood or mistaken, and subsequently never addressed. I am trying to make the public aware of the dilemmas those with TS and NLD might experience. My mission is to spread knowledge about TS and NLD, eliminate stigmas that hinder those who learn differently, and correct misinformation about TS and learning disabilities. I hope to educate teachers on how to tailor their curriculums to inspire and teach a child with learning disabilities. People with NLD can still be very successful, but it is important that others “encourage” them, when circumstances may seem discouraging.

Plan of Action

This project has been a great community effort. It all started many years ago when my great aunt passed onto me two beautiful dollhouses she built. It inspired me to utilize these pieces for a campaign about TS and NLD awareness. I decided to use miniature dollhouses as a “backdrop” for my campaign as Turner Syndrome shortens a girl’s expected adult height by eight inches if left untreated. I wanted my project to be attention-getting, yet the presented facts to be very memorable to any viewer. “Mini” houses could represent shorter girls and women. Other elements of symbolism were also built into “Turner Town.” The street signs suggest “smallness” (“Little Lane,” “Petite Street”) and even the main character’s name (“Joy”) reflects her spirit and demeanor. “Turner Town” is a “green” project. The collection of full-size dollhouses was recycled – each bought “second-hand” at rummage and garage sales, picked up as “cast-offs” from the curb on trash day or donated from generous relatives or even strangers who heard about the project! The miniature buildings were “fixers-uppers,” needing new paint or wallpaper, doors and windows or roof repairs. I conducted my own garage sales, fundraisers, and bottle/can drives to afford supplies to restore and refurbish the dollhouses and create the lending/reference library I have previously mentioned. Each house was fashioned and decorated in a different theme (Christmas, Halloween, spring, home school, medical office, etc.) which spotlighted a certain characteristic of TS or NLD within the storyline. The stories were meant to be entertaining, yet informative too as each focused on a different chapter in Joy’s life. Both adults and children can enjoy learning while playing with this inter-active village. “Turner Town” has been viewed by literally thousands of people at the display sites (libraries, community clubhouses, public dinners, hospital, hotels) while others have read articles about the project in newspapers such as “The Detroit News” and the “Livonia Observer.” I have received lots of positive feedback for my efforts and was asked to speak at a college rally, church, Exchange Club, YWCA luncheon and Girl Scout troop meeting. Perhaps the most satisfying impact of this project was the chance to advise and support another family affected by these conditions. A pregnant woman noticed my exhibit on display at the library. She had just found out that her baby had Turner Syndrome and her doctors were not optimistic. They only told her the most extreme symptoms of her daughter’s condition and were not encouraging her to continue with the pregnancy. Since terminating her pregnancy was against her personal beliefs, she changed her medical staff and hospital. She was worried about the health of her daughter, but was somewhat relieved after viewing my project, especially looking at the “real-life” photo collages I made. She contacted me right from the library and we quickly became friends. Her daughter is now a beautiful, happy, relatively healthy little girl and the parents are better prepared for any future difficulties that might arise. It was such a good feeling to give this family some peace of mind.

Project Updates

Turner Town is on the road again! Starting April 8, 2011 it is on display at the Redford Township District Library. New components are included as well as an informational book and poster window display. I was very excited to see a photo and write-up about the Town in the "Plymouth Observer."

Hi everyone,

As of March 1st, 2011 my town is now displayed at the Plymouth Public Library on Main Street in Plymouth, Michigan. I had some great response and feedback from the Detroit Children's Museum's showing in December. The Museum's Director reported over 2,000 people viewed the exhibit!

In December 2010, Turner Town School was added. The entire exhibit was on display at the Detroit Children's Museum. I greatly appreciate everyone's support with my campaign. Happy New Year!

Jennifer :-)

Hello everyone on dosomething.org. I am pleased to announce that more scenes and dollhouses have been completed and added to the town. Turner Town now has a dance studio, outdoor circus, sled hill, and farm. The very latest addition was a 4th of July themed beach house. I have taken the dollhouse exhibit to the Turner Syndrome Society of the United States 2010 National Conference in Indianapolis, Indiana. The girls and families enjoyed the display and loved playing with each and every house! The buildings brought smiles to many faces as everyone seemed to relate to the events of Joy's life in the storyboards. :-)

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