Delaware woman honored for her work with people with intellectual disabilities

    A Delaware entrepreneur and mom is receiving the prestigious Community Health Leaders Award from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.  


    Deborah Jastrebski of Newark is being honored for her work in creating health-care options for people with intellectual disabilities.

    Jastrebski’s son Mark, who is 22, has Down syndrome along with several health issues and has undergone many surgeries. As a child, he became terrified of all medical procedures. Jastrebski says simple dentist visits and blood draws turned into nightmares, with Mark screaming and being held down or subdued.

    “As a mom that just tore me apart, and I said ‘we won’t do this to him anymore,’ I had to find another way,” Jastrebski recalled.

    Jastrebski started to practice medical procedures with her son in a step-by-step approach. “He could hold his arm out, that wasn’t too scary for him. He could sit in a chair, that wasn’t too scary for him. And even when it came time to put the needle in his arm, we simulated it with a paper clip, and he could do that,” she said. “Eventually he realized he could do it all put together.”

    Since so many other families were experiencing the same difficulties, she turned this method into “Practice without Pressure” in 2002. Now hundreds of patients come to the offices annually to practice or to receive treatments. Practice without Pressure offers simple medical procedures, dental care as well as personal care. Staff is especially trained to first train patients to feel comfortable, and to make sure they remain comfortable and at ease during procedures.

    Jastrebski says she is humbled and grateful to be honored for her work–and hopes to spread her method to train more health-care providers.

    The annual Robert Wood Johnson “Community Health Leaders Award” honors ten individuals who work to improve the health and quality of life for disadvantaged or under-served communities across the country.

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