A Human Sampler–Introduction

“Through this anthology of portraits, I have tried to convey the incredible variety of people who are lumped together under the umbrella of intellectually disabled.”

Chuck College

I went into the restroom, leading Chuck behind me, and in one of the stalls I found a Chuck College lunch sack floating in an unflushed bowl. When I pointed at it, Chuck said loudly, “Oh, no!”

Smoking Alone

“Several times Ben was caught stealing, and because the kids who talked him into it had threatened him, he wouldn’t say who they were. He also had a temper, and the tantrums he threw in town frightened some of the neighbors.”

Dancing Fingers

“At school Lisa wouldn’t participate in group activities. When children came with their mothers to her house, she’d set her dolls out for them to play with, then go off by herself.”


“Amy’s voice was hoarse and her speech had a mournful tone, as if to say, all pleasures are fleeting–only weariness and persecution endure.”

I Deep Breath

Wally, a client who loved to provoke him, would sometimes grin and say, “Boulder, Charles? Charles going back to Boulder?” Charles would bite his hand, then grab a paper towel and write, “Mad, Mad—NO MORE BOULDER.”

Oh Fuck! I’m Mad! Oh Fuck!

Whenever a dairy truck drove up to the campground store, Barry would shout, “Whooooooaaaa! Milk!” And whenever an elderly lady came out of a trailer, he’d chant, “Gramma, gramma, gramma….”


“One day when the clients were outside waiting for the buses, I found Leroy around the side of the building, pulling his zipper down. In front of him stood dull, compliant Ruthie, her pants dropped to her ankles.”

Your Mouth!

Grant extended his arm and held it rigid, pointing his fist at Craig. “Your mouth!” he shouted. He slapped his other hand over his face, and a few moments later his voice exploded: “Shut up!! Your mouth!!”

A Mind in Disarray

Afterwards, sitting in a chair, Dave would be breathing hard, his body would be shaking, and his face would be drenched with tears. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” he’d sob, and he’d want to hold hands with the people he had just attacked.


Margo put her thumb on her nose, waved her curled fingers at me, and giggled. “Goo-bye!” she said, and I laughed too. She planted laughter in others wherever she went.


“For Holly, lethargy was not a passing mood, it was a chronic condition. She dragged through the hours, dragged through the days. Life was not a gift she had been given; it was a sentence she had to serve.”

Going to the Bathroom

“One moment Gus would be working in his wheelchair, the next moment his arms would become rigid, his legs would kick out, his eyes would roll up into his head, and his body would be seized with rhythmic convulsions.”

Nothing Comes Easy

“Walking came no more naturally to Ray than talking. After getting up from his seat, he’d stand there swaying, as though he were about to take—and fail—a sobriety test.”

‘Ur Not My Boss!

“Whenever I went over to check her work, Wanda would turn her back to me, bury her glass in her lap, and bend her head down to her knees, becoming as round and impenetrable as a sow bug.”

Feeling Small

It was a typical lunchroom episode in the on-again, off-again romance between Jerry and Candy. “She don’t like me no more!” Jerry shouted. “Candy Allison don’t like me no more! I’m not gonna sit by Candy Allison!”

The Sexual Power of Sadness

“Candy attracted a retinue of suitors whose protective instincts could be aroused by a woman’s tears.”

The Sexual Power of Joy

“I used to marvel at the fact that getting Becky in or out of the work area involved almost the whole crew, with the male clients practically tripping over each other trying to win her attention and her gratitude.”

The Shepherd

“George was breathing rapidly, his head and shoulders were bent forward, tense, and his color had turned ash gray. Inside he was throbbing: his eyes bulged and his head seemed even larger than usual, as menacing as the thick end of a club.”

Bug on Water

“Stan was convinced he always had, and always would, irritate people. Criticism was what he expected from the world; it was what he thought he deserved.”

Between Two Worlds

“Roger reveled in the status he had at the Center, but was tantalized by the possibility of making it on the outside.”

A Woman of Entrances

“Blanche walked down the ramp laughing and shrieking, scattering gleeful hellos upon the silent, puzzled group, like a buxom hostess descending her marble staircase, bantering hysterically.”

The Craftsman

Deeply ingrained in Henry’s personality were certain principles of behavior, certain unshakable habits, from which he never strayed: “Say what you’re supposed to say. Do what you’re supposed to do. And always be accommodating.”


“I enjoyed reading these notes, though I never saw or spoke to the woman who wrote them. I didn’t even know her name. We were two strangers sharing scraps of paper concerning the one person we had in common.”

Sam Was Content Where He Was

“You know, Glenn, I’m really lucky, really lucky, working here at, at Easter Seals. I got, I got all my friends here, and all my girls at Denny’s. I’m really fortunate, I really am.”