Hear Me Roar
September 2019 Issue
Photography (top) by Christian Lee
Dr. Hilary Drammis
Hometown: Phillipsburg, NJ
Mother of a handicapped child
Biggest Passion: My children
What did you want to be when you grew up?
I always wanted to get my Ph.D in clinical psychology and be a psychologist.
Where did you actually land in your career? I achieved my doctorate and had a private practice in Chicago until my son, Evan, was diagnosed as autistic. Then I quit my practice to focus on helping/treat him.
Tell us about your son Evan (pictured above):
My son is currently 28 years old, is profoundly deaf (has a cochlear implant) and is severely autistic (non-verbal).
What are the top resources in the Lowcountry for parents with special needs children?
When we moved here Evan attended a resource classroom at Hilton Head High school, and at age 21, he started attending a wonderful day program called PEP (programs for exceptional people). PEP’s mission is to help individuals with intellectual, as well as some physical disabilities, realize their full potential and become integrated into the community via employment, such as its ceramics program, where members sell their artwork at local venues like farmers’ markets and PEP’s own retail store.
Tell us about your journey with PEP. Until a year ago PEP was located on Mathews Drive on Hilton Head. The building was not large enough to accommodate the growing population of adults with special needs. I was asked to be on the board and elected president, so I, along with my Vice President Carol Myers, began looking for a larger building. The board decided to purchase a 15,000 square foot building at 39 Sheridan Park Drive in Bluffton. The building is terrific with plenty of room for our awesome members and for a store for our pottery, which members create under the direction of our staff artist, Kara Artman.
The members of PEP are truly exceptional; they make a difference in the lives of others. They are amazing adults who demonstrate what is valuable in life. They care for others and show love without any judgment or prejudice. They always have a compliment and a smile to give, and they deal with adversity in a positive manner. They are my heroes! I learn valuable lessons from these special individuals, including how to be patient, kind and caring Being a parent of a child with special needs can be extremely challenging, so PEP is crucial to me and Evan. The staff at PEP are amazing, and I am so grateful for all they do for my son and the other members. Currently PEP serves about 70 members. It is my privilege to serve on the board.
How has this journey changed your life? How has it changed Evan’s?
Evan’s disabilities definitely changed my life. My chosen career abruptly ended, I moved to a different state and my world and heart was turned upside down. My heart breaks to see my son struggle and experience pain and disappointment. However PEP is the bright spot, as I know he spends the day with staff who are caring and who work hard to give the members happiness and self esteem. I am so fortunate to be able to have Evan at this day program, where he is comfortable, so I can attend to other things that life brings. Evan is happy at PEP and loves the attention he receives. The other members are so complimentary and reinforcing of one another. PEP is truly a family, and certainly I consider the members and staff as a part of my family. My gratitude for this program is immense. I invite all to visit our new home and meet our staff and members. You will truly have a wonderful experience.
How can the community support PEP?
PEP exists due to the generosity of others. We rely on funding from the community. Donations can be sent to Programs for Exceptional People, 39 Sheridan Park Circle, Suite 2, Bluffton, S.C. 29910 or logon to www.pephhi.org
Pep’s annual fundraising gala is September 10th at Sea Pines Country Club.
This is always a great, fun evening! Your support is much needed and appreciated. All are welcome. Tickets are $100 and includes dinner and dancing. Please call PEP to purchase your tickets and help a great cause. (843-681-8413).
What is the biggest blessing of working with special needs people? They teach me how to be a better person and to focus on what is truly important in life, such as kindness towards and acceptance of your fellow man, without prejudice, judgment, envy or anger.
What is the biggest accomplishment you have witnessed in moving forward in the special needs world?
Regarding the medical field, I would say the promise of hope and treatment that adult stem cells offer. My son has received adult stem cells and they have ameliorated his pain, allowing him to attend and learn. This area of research brings much hope for numerous maladies/illnesses and relief from such suffering.
What is the most fun thing you and Evan have ever done together?
Evan loves to go to Disney World. He enjoys the rides, and I love his happiness indicated by his beautiful smile!
How hard is it to single parent a special needs child? Having a child with special needs is extremely challenging and heartbreaking—sometimes the heartache seems unbearable. I rely on my faith in God to help me cope. My ex-husband helps, too, which is a blessing.
What is your advice to families with special needs children?
Continue to learn about what help is available for your child. If your child is 18 or older, visit PEP and learn about this terrific program. Also keep abreast of the current research, especially regarding stem cells, and if these emerging treatments can help your loved one. Talk to other parents with special needs children, stay hopeful and ask for God’s help and guidance.
What is the silver lining in all of this? I have learned to be a much better person and realize what is truly important in life—helping one another to smile.
I want the world to Hear Me Roar about… asking people to care for those who can’t care for themselves due to disabilities; the future of adult stem cells and the hope they bring to cure/treat many illnesses. Also, know when you see a handicapped/special needs person, you are in the presence of God’s angels!