Special-ed grad transitions into working world
Deborah Rothweiler hardly expected her daughter to live past the age of 5, let alone work her first paid job as a full-blown adult.
Nonetheless, Kori Rothweiler stepped aboard a King County Access bus on the morning of April 29 and went to Seattle’s Children’s Hospital for her first day of work as a general assistant in the psychiatric department.
The 21-year-old Bothell resident suffers from tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC), a rare disease that causes tumors on vital organs.
It can affect anything from the kidneys to the brain, and often results in seizures, developmental delays and skin abnormalities.
Kori has all of that.
She can read at a college level, but has the overall mental capacity of a 10-year-old.
“I didn’t know what would happen once she got out of high school,” Deborah said. “I just wanted to keep her out of the institutions.”
Kori participated in the Northshore School District’s special-education program for 16 years.
Her early prognoses were grim.
A teacher once reported that Kori’s behavioral traits were preventing her from success and acceptance at school.
He noted she was controlling, confrontational and suffering from misplaced fears.
Kori would became panicked that monster trucks — construction vehicles — were going to get her as she walked to class from the bus.
There were periods when she took three rounds of medications a day — with up to 10 pills each time — to control anxiety, depression and the dozens of seizures she would have.
Doctors were constantly examining Kori, as much to study her condition as to treat the symptoms.
“I was really sour about it,” she said. “I just feel like the world doesn’t need to know about it. It makes me feel like a guinea pig.”
Things started to look up during Kori’s teenage years.
She was having fewer seizures and taking less medication.
She attended high-school dances — including her senior prom — and was nominated for the Bothell homecoming court in 2006.
Her life skills had improved, as well. She could dress herself, ride the bus and do laundry.
“Everyone said there was no hope for Kori,” Deborah said. “She’s a strong-willed person. She’ll fight you, but she’ll fight for herself just as hard. It’s carried her through life.”
Kori graduated April 24 from the Northshore School District’s Adult Transition Program, which trains disabled students for the working world and finds employment opportunities for them.
Her duties at Children’s Hospital include dusting, filing, data input and copying.
They’re relatively simple things that keep her engaged and productive.
“I absolutely love it,” Kori said. “Everyone’s very friendly. It’s a very good atmosphere to be working in.”
Kori has avoided the institutional life. She gets to play with her dog every day, watch the evening news with her mom and help her family host barbecues.
She goes to sleep each night at home in a room where her mother and aunt painted mermaids, princesses, castles and waterfalls on every wall.
It’s a fairy-tale world for a girl who’s working out an ever after.
• The Tuberous Sclerosis Alliance of the Pacific Northwest will hold its annual walkathon fund-raiser May 17 at Sand Point Magnuson Park in Seattle. For information or to register, call (206) 729-5924 or visit www.stepforwardtocuretsc.org.