To whom it may concern.
I am delighted to have this opportunity to write a brief note about my experiences with Donna Cutler-Landsman. There is so much to be said. I fear space will constrain what important information I need to convey.
Let me start by saying Donna was a close to a “God-send” for my family as one can get. She was that way for me, assisting me in a confusing massive struggle I found myself thrust in, trying to acquire some justice in this world that leaves so many in need simply tossed aside.
A little background. I encountered Donna by happenstance over the internet. She came out of the woodwork responding to me, a complete stranger, requesting some help, any help, from anyone who knew something about 22q11 deletion, VCFS Syndrome. My young nephew was / is afflicted with this condition. He had dropped out of high school at age sixteen and was living life pretty much trapped to the confines of a basement. The public schools were refusing to recognize his special needs and, in particular, their responsibilities to provide the required educational support mandated by the No Child Left Behind laws. To the State Educational system this was “just” a child-parent disciplinary issue to be solved by the parents. The parents were unable to cope with the situation. Nor were the police, nor local authorities (Dept. of Mental Retardation, DMR, for example). In fact, my nephew was caught in between a power/jurisdictional struggle between the State’s educational system and the DMR. I was forced to intervene as an advocate—but in a complex maze of genetic syndromes, law, education, special needs and underfunded economies, way beyond anything I had the experience to address.
Donna offered me the expert support and guidance that enabled me to navigate the exceptionally complex situation end-end.. This resulted in my getting my nephew into a special school well suited to his unique needs. And even further, I used her book, “Educating Children With VCFS”, as a further guide to help the school system itself understand what methods were appropriate to educate my nephew, and other children afflicted with this condition.
That was about 5 years ago. The result was / is my nephew, at 22, just graduated high school, I am VERY pleased and proud to say!
Donna’s actions and skills SAVED A LIFE. Nothing less. Can you imagine the difference in a life, with vs without a high school diploma, in today’s world? Donna’s efforts, guidance, and skilled hands led to that difference for me/my family, my nephew. Last month my nephew graduated. He is now about to start out on “his own”. In large part, thanks to Donna, he is armed with an education to be able to “do battle” in an often times hostile the world, to be self-sufficient and confident in what he can do. The night and day difference in what Donna contributed simply cannot be put into words. God-send is the closest I can get.
My contact with Donna began 5 years ago. She has been with me ever since. We have actually never met! I have encountered Donna only via the internet. Which makes this story, or testimonial if you will, that much more amazing. I asked for help from the great unknown, the internet cloud. Out of this great void, Donna appeared, with kindness and skill and grace beyond description.
It is without hesitation that I recommend Donna’s unique expertise in dealing with anything subject-related to educating children with VCFS, 22q11 deletion. She enlightened me as to the possibilities. And, as a result, she changed life for my nephew, likely in ways so positive and so dramatic that she nor I can ever know. Certainly in a way that I cannot thank her enough.
Chevy Chase, Maryland
Michelle Breedlove-Sells, Dempster Family Foundation:
"Donna Cutler-Landsman is one in a million. I have had the pleasure of working along side this education/advocacy powerhouse for several years. She is nothing if not selfless and determined to have a positive impact on the families and students lucky enough to be on the receiving end of her extraordinary knowledge.
Donna is an invaluable resource to the students she advocates for as well as the teachers, administrators and staff. Coming from a background in teaching and having raised a son with health and developmental challenges, she is uniquely poised to guide both. To say she is compassionate is an understatement. I have personally grown and gained insight by way of my professional relationship with Donna and I would venture a guess that all who have had the pleasure would say the same.
I highly recommend Donna to anyone seeking an expert in the area of education, advocacy, special needs, SSI or specifically 22q11.2 Deletion Syndrome. Working with Donna is a pleasure and an honor.
Parent from Midwest:
I just wanted to say thank you again for all your help in getting our son the school help he needs. Some changes have already been implemented at school even before the IEP goes into effect, which I thought was great! The main one being the switch immediately after our meeting to a different MICRO group with a para already there to help out, so he didn't miss out on anything. This school has such a better way of helping kiddos, I'm amazed.
The whole world of the school willing to help our son out that you have helped us with is just amazing. Last night we had conferences at school and C's teacher was telling me how she had rearranged her order of some of class to accommodate C's new schedule. I was floored. I never expected something like that, but she was worried he wouldn't get the exposure to all of the vocabulary since he was going to be out of class for some of reading. I want to keep this teacher for a few years. :) A long story to say you help work miracles!
Donna Cutler-Landsman is a wonderful resource for our 22q group. Not only is she an educational consultant and teacher, but more importantly she has raised a son with 22q. We have a teenage son with 22q and a long road ahead. It's so great to have her help us through the high school years and help us craft the even more challenging transitional program. Donna has traveled to our high school and spent a day with out son in his classes observing if they were a good fit for him. She spent time meeting with our case manager and teachers to talk about the syndrome itself and to put together a program that would benefit our son. I know our staff benefited from talking to her because they learned more about the syndrome, and ore about the characteristics of our kids. It helped to have a specialist in this field talk to our staff at school.
Parent from East Coast:
Hi Donna, K finally got approved for SSI!...and for social security disability, which I hadn't even thought would be considered so it was a surprise. This is all really good news--what a relief! Now she is set. I guess we will hear from Medicaid soon also. Thanks again for your guidance on this.
I have your book, Educating Children with Velo Cardio Facial Syndrome. It is my bible at IEP meetings. Thank you!
Parent from California:
We are writing to you today to express our sincere gratitude and immense appreciation for Donna Cutler-Landsman’s professional guidance and expertise with our son’s education over the past 10 years. She has helped us tremendously in navigating Joe’s IEP with the school district. Her insight, knowledge, recommendations, & guidance of how to best educate him and provide the supports necessary so that he can reach his fullest potential have been crucial in obtaining an effective IEP. Donna is an invaluable resource and pillar of strength for families who have children with 22q.
In addition, she offers her support with a warm and caring attitude, calm demeanor, and a professional approach. Donna is unique in that she possesses the educational background in special education, a master’s degree in counseling psychology, and first-hand experience with a child who has 22q. Every family affected by this genetic condition should consult with her and needs to read her book, “Educating Children with Velo-Cardio-Facial Syndrome, 22q11.2 Deletion Syndrome, and DiGeorge Syndrome” (Third Edition). She truly deserves an award for her steadfast commitment in helping families and children with 22q!
Thank you Donna, from the bottom of our hearts. Words cannot express how truly grateful we are for you. Our 22q community is so fortunate to have you on our team.
Troy and Dina Metcalf
(Parents of Joe Metcalf, age 15)