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DVD explores the history of disabilities in ND

A new DVD featuring interviews with six individuals puts a human face on the North Dakota Developmental Center at Grafton. Approximately 20,000 people lived there over its first 100 years.

Brent Askvig, Ph.D., executive director of the North Dakota Center for Persons with Disabilities on Minot State University’ campus, wrote a book in 2004 called "One Hundred Years: The History and Chronology of the North Dakota Developmental Center." It recounts the institution’s history using documents and old records.

Later, Askvig collaborated with Norwegian researchers who had done similar work on the history of institutionalization in their country. Norwegians Bjorn-Eirik Johnsen and Leif Lysvik produced a DVD called "Coming to Trastad," which included interviews with Norwegians who had been institutionalized.

Using the same format and questions as the Norwegian researchers to produce his DVD, Askvig found people who had their own guardianship and who were articulate, remembered their early experiences and were willing to be interviewed about how they came to be institutionalized at Grafton. For the past two years, Askvig has gone to Norway each fall to collaborate with another Norwegian professor, Jan Meyer, on focus group research with persons with intellectual disabilities. Eventually, he and his Norwegian colleagues plan to publish a scholarly paper comparing the experiences of institutionalized residents in Norway and in North Dakota.