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Norma Valez said she was frustrated about a meeting at the Developmental Center in American Fork that addressed the retarded rather than people with disabilities and institutions instead of homes (Forum, April 17, 1995).

The meeting was the annual meeting of the Mental Retardation Association of Utah. The guest speaker, Polly Spare, is the national president of Voice of the Retarded. It is quite obvious the focus of the meeting should be about people with the specific disability of retardation and for people with that concern. Everything Polly Spare had to say was quite appropriate and correct.In her letter, Valez bashes the Developmental Center, the superintendent, staff and parents of people living there. She called it a farce.

If it weren't for a dedicated staff at the Center, we would have had a son confined to a wheelchair. After five years of us failing to get him on his feet, he was admitted to the center. The staff targeted to have him walking within a year. They achieved their goal and Thayne walked to his father to go home for a Christmas visit on his father's birthday. The staff wanted father's birthday that year to be special.

The word "institution" doesn't connotate bad things. There are "institutions" of higher learning called colleges and universities. Schools in the public school system in Utah are institutions because they are operated by government. The environment there, of drugs, knives, guns, sex and crowded class rooms, doesn't mean education doesn't happen.

We have 71 years of experience with three mentally handicapped sons. Those years have included the community programs and the Developmental Center. Neither is perfect but can be made better if everyone works together.

Mr. and Mrs. Don Day

American Fork