It’s estimated there are some 8 and half million Americans with intellectual disabilities. Dr Sandy Fenton is the chair of pediatric dentistry at the University of Texas Dental Branch and is a global clinical adviser for the Special Olympics Special Smiles Program. He says he met Eunice Shriver in 1992 when she invited him to the Special Olympics International HQ in Washington, DC. He talked about some of the problems of access for dental care for individuals with intellectual disabilities.
“Sometimes it may be difficult in having an athlete tell us, a health care professional, that there’s something that is hurting them. But, if you use a lot of tender loving care and you really look, you’re able to understand the severity of some of that disease and then you’re more able to treat them accordingly.”
Fenton says early on there were no specific courses in teaching dental students how to provide comprehensive dental services for them.
“Eunice Shriver was instrumental in assisting us to actually get the Commission on Dental Accreditation to put standards for which all schools are accredited and because of her work and others, we now see that all schools have to show some significant hands on treatment of individuals with special health care needs.”
He says Shriver also helped begin programs in eye care, hearing, physical therapy, podiatry, health and nutrition for Special Olympians.
PH, KUHF-Houston Public Radio News.
Eunice Kennedy Shriver / David Lenz, 2009 / National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; Commissioned as part of the First Prize, Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition 2006.