By Mary Thurwachter
A few years ago, Marilyn Morgan wrote a book detailing the trials and triumphs of raising a special needs child. It’s a subject she knows well. Her oldest son has Fragile X, a genetic condition that causes a range of developmental problems, including learning disabilities and cognitive impairment.
“We did not have the diagnosis for our son Dan until he was 21 years old,” said Morgan, a retired reading and language teacher. “After all those years of using trial and error to obtain results, I had a story to share, to enable me to assist other parents trying to raise a special needs child.”
She titled the book The Broken Toy: The Story of a Fragile X Syndrome Child.
“My younger son Bob wrote the poem entitled ‘The Broken Toy’ for a poetry assignment,” Morgan said when explaining how she chose the title. “He compared Dan to a favorite toy that no longer was intact, but was loved more than any other toy.”
Dan, now 33, is participating in a five-month drug study in Nashville for people with Fragile X, and his mother remains hopeful about the outcome. She plans to update her book, too.
Dan is doing well, she said. He takes Palm Tran to his job as a french fry chef at McDonald’s. He enjoys swimming and is a big White Sox fan. He continues to excel at Special Olympics bowling events. His constant companion is Mandy, a zippy Shih Tzu-poodle mix service dog he walks three times a day.
In October, Dan will accompany his parents to Chicago where he will be the best man at his brother’s wedding.
Meanwhile, Marilyn and her husband, Mike, who began as high school sweethearts, are happy to be living beside the ocean in Highland Beach.
Q. Where did you grow up and go to school?
A. Chicago. Ill. I was determined to obtain a master’s degree and did graduate with a master’s degree in education, 20 years after my undergraduate graduation. I was forced to stop and delay my continued education twice to care for Dan, who was a very sick infant.
Q. How did you choose to make your home in Highland Beach?
A. We found our dream location in Highland Beach four years ago.
We had been coming to Florida on vacations and wanted to live here.
Q. What is your favorite part about living in Highland Beach?
A. Living on the beach is my favorite part of living here. A daily view of the ocean is spiritually uplifting.
Q. What’s the last book you read?
A. The Help. It’s a great book about women of courage.
Q. If someone made a movie of your life, who would you like to play you and why?
A. Angelina Jolie. She is a strong, caring woman who has faced many obstacles and still gives back to the world and puts her family first.
Q. What music do you listen to when you need inspiration? When you want to relax?
A. Music by Taylor Swift, Sister Hazel, Plain White Tees and James Taylor.
Q. What do people not know about you that you wish they did?
A. That I am very sensitive to others feelings, and that if you are my friend, you are my friend for life. I also have time now to pursue my hobby of oil painting.
Q. Do you have a favorite quote that inspires your decisions?
A. I love when a plan comes together.
Q. Have you had mentors in your life? Individuals who have inspired your life decisions?
A. My parents have always inspired me. I strive to show integrity and strength as my father always did, and to make family a priority as both my parents did.
Q. Who or what makes you laugh?
A. My husband, Mike, (also a retired teacher) is always there for comfort and humor.