Arroyo Grande woman to sit on board of state developmental disability council

Andrea Vergne with her adopted grandson.
Andrea Vergne with her adopted grandson.

Correction: An earlier version of this story included incorrect information on Gov. Jerry Brown’s appointment of Andrea Vergne of Arroyo Grande to a regional board. Vergne was appointed to area Board 9 of the California State Council on Developmental Disabilities.

Andrea Vergne of Arroyo Grande, a passionate advocate for the rights of developmentally disabled children, has been appointed by Gov. Jerry Brown to area Board 9 of the California State Council on Developmental Disabilities.

Andrea is the mother of three children, including Joseph, 13, who attends Paulding Middle School. She and her husband, Joe, have adopted their developmentally delayed grandson, Cade, who is 15. Cade attends a new Special Day class at Arroyo Grande High School.

Cade has been diagnosed with a rare chromosomal abnormality, an “unbalanced translocation between chromosomes 8 and 12.” Andrea has been advocating for him since he was little, since he did not do the developmental tasks expected of a child, such as learning to talk, walk, eat, toilet, and so forth.

However, it was difficult to obtain services for a child with no clear diagnosis. Cade was falling through the cracks in the school system. While he was put in special classes, it wasn’t clear what services and treatments were in his best interests.

Children with this syndrome have several characteristics in common, including seizures, muscle weakness, poor coordination, facial differences, developmental delays, enlarged head, and obesity.

“I knocked and knocked and knocked on the door and the door finally opened,” Andrea exclaimed. She wanted Cade to be able to go to high school, but AGHS did not have a special day class for moderately to severely developmentally disabled students last year, when Cade was finishing middle school.

She went to the school board in June, seeking permission for him to attend high school and be part of the athletics department, even if it was sitting there and wearing an Eagles shirt (AGHS team name).

This fall the new Special Day Class opened at Arroyo Grande High, with Jacqueline Williams as the teacher. Andrea is very pleased with Williams. “AGHS is so good with following through with the medical stuff,” she said.

Dr. Amy Webb of Pismo Beach has been Cade’s pediatrician since he was little. “He is a very special patient to me,” she said. “He’s so sweet, so special.”

Webb participated in a study on behalf of Cade, conducted by Katherine Rudd, Ph.D. in the Department of Human Genetics at Emory University School of Medicine. The study was on children with the unbalanced translocation between chromosomes 8 and 12. It was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a scientific journal, in September.

Webb said there are only about nine people in the world with this particular chromosomal imbalance. This study has been a big step in helping to understand Cade and how to help him progress. “We want more and more help for kids like Cade,” she said, adding that Andrea Vergne “is amazing with everything she’s done for Cade.”

Andrea is the poster child for how to advocate for one’s child. In addition to going to the AGHS school board, she has met with new South County supervisor, Caren Ray, and plans to meet with Lucia Mar School District Superintendent Jim Hogeboom.

Andrea learned from Ray that the school district has many surplus computers. Why couldn’t some of them be given to students like Cade?

“For my husband and I, we do the best that we can...my love is to serve in any way possible,” concluded Andrea. She is also is a board member of the Latino Outreach Council of SLO County.