Karen Denny, Children’s Development Services staff
member and a 26 year employee of Abilities United. 

In 1986, Karen Denny began an impressive 26-year teaching career with Abilities United that has enabled her to help some 500 families with children who have disabilities.

Karen speaks humbly and factually about successes at Abilities United that, to the rest of us, are nothing short of miracles. “We’ve had children who were told they would never walk; but then they do. We’ve had children who were expected to never talk; but then they’ve learned to speak. That’s what we do.”

Focused on children from birth until age three, Karen tells the amazing story of two year old Taylor, who came to Abilities United as an infant. “Taylor wanted to be in close physical contact with her mom anytime she was here, such that she couldn’t participate in physical therapy, speech therapy or her classroom activities.” said Karen. “Separating from their parents is often a hard thing to do for many children with special needs, as so often in their young lives whenever they’ve been taken away from their parents it’s to go into surgery or something equally unpleasant. However, this was an extreme case, and unless things changed drastically, Taylor wouldn’t be able to go to preschool. Several of us worked together on a Separation Behavior Plan; like everything at Abilities United it was a team effort. Today, just six months later, this beautiful little girl cruises down the hall with her walker, smiling from ear to ear, singing, and greeting people she doesn’t even know. The transformation is incredible.” Karen pauses for a moment. “The things our kids can do never cease to amaze us.”

Karen has seen some very positive changes for children with developmental delays in the past 25 years. “There’s been an explosion of research, that we at Abilities United are turning into good practice. For kids with autism, and for their parents, services have generally become much better in recent years.”

Looking forward, Karen hopes to see continued improvement in acceptance and integration, and at Abilities United both the Milestones Preschool and the Independent Living Skills programs are working towards that goal. “It was wonderful to see the TV show Glee have two kids with developmental delays in the show,” she says. “It’s a great example, and an inspiration for so many of our parents, to see a couple of teens with special needs being accepted as equal members of the group.” That’s the future that Karen and so many others at Abilities United are working for.

Based on an interview with Karen Denny in 2012. Written by Bob Thomas. Edited by Karen Denny and Wendy Kuehnl.