HarperCollins Speakers Bureau

Terrell Dougan

Author, Advocate for the Developmentally Disabled, & Humorist


  • That Went Well: Adventures in Caring for My Sister
  • Six Lessons My Sister Taught Me: Confessions of a Co-Dependent
  • Strolling Through the Mine Field or, How to Get What is Needed from Your Family Member's Caregivers
  • The Writing Life: Six Silly Secrets That Work
  • Eight Tricks to Reaching Your Golden Anniversary Without Killing Each Other
  • Aging Gracefully for Fun and Profit in Your Spare Time



Terrell Harris Dougan became active in advocating for the mentally disabled when she was 12. Her sister, Irene, then six, had just been diagnosed as mentally disabled as a result of a birth injury. Her father started the first Salt Lake County Association for Retarded Children, created a day care center, and organized and created more services for developmentally disabled children. In 1968, Dougan became the president of the Utah Association for Retarded Children (now the Arc of Utah), and in 1972 was invited to be on the board of directors of the National Association for Retarded Citizens (now the Arc of the United States). Her latest book, That Went Well: Adventures in Caring for My Sister (Hyperion) is a humorous and touching memoir about life with her special needs sister.

An in-demand speaker, Dougan was previously a motivational speaker on health and fitness for mature adults, and has spoken nationwide at conventions, conferences, corporations, and community organizations. Though Dougan is proficient in all aspects of the options for care, and the historical progressions of benefits and rights for developmentally disabled citizens, her presentations appeal not just to families of special needs children and adults. They are perfect for any sponsor looking for an educational and uplifting story for their organization, employees, students, or clients to enjoy.

Her sister Irene lived at home until she was 18, and then spent five years at the Devereux School in Goleta, CA. After that, Irene came home to take advantage of the new community services springing up in Utah. After several years in group homes and supervised apartments, she moved on to a private program run by Dougan with hired companions in various apartments and homes. That Went Well tells of the adventures they had together trying to make Irene’s life work in the community. Dougan uses her skills has a humor writer in lightening up a potentially tragic subject, sharing the joys as well as the frustrations known by every sibling or parent of someone with special needs.

Dougan’s other books include (with Jo Rose) This is the Place: A Guide to Salt Lake City, which was updated 10 times over 20 years, and (with Lyn Isbell and Pat Vyas), We Have Been There: A Guidebook for Families of People With Mental Retardation, a collection of stories from the heart from families all over Utah, and by the mentally disabled themselves. It is still used in college classrooms in special education around the country. She has been a journalist since she was in grade school, writing reports from her school to the local newspapaer, then a correspondent for Good Housekeeping, reporting college trends from her school, Stanford University in the late 1950’s. She won a Guest Editorship at Mademoiselle magazine in her sophomore year.  She worked next in the Manila, Philippines, for the U.S. Information Agency’s Free World magazine. After the birth of her two daughters, she wrote an award-winning weekly column called “Of All Things” for Salt Lake City’s Deseret News, which ran for 13 years.

Dougan took a vacation from writing while working for Governor Scott Matheson of Utah. She also got her private pilot’s license, acted in many commercials and on the stage of Pioneer Theater in Salt Lake. She lives with her husband of 49 years, Paul, in Salt Lake City. Her two daughters and their families live five minutes away, and Irene lives just up the hill, happy and busy with companions who care for her and love her.

Praise for Terrell Dougan

"Within the first five minutes that you spend with Terrell Dougan you feel as if you have just reunited with a childhood friend...she is fun, engaging and most importantly, she is truly interested in connecting with the people she is there to address. The world needs more Terrell Dougan's in it!"

—Susan A. Brandt, Assistant Executive Director for Public Information and Special Projects, New York State Chapter of the The Arc, Inc.

Praise for That Went Well

“Irene is a very special lady who makes others feel better about lots of things. Her sister Terrell shares her shadow, just like my dad shares mine.”

—Kim Peek, the original model for Rain Man

“Terrell Dougan writes with humor, humanity, and complete honesty. In this tale of two sisters - one who never gives up her dolls, one who never loses her pluck - she takes readers on a thought-provoking, endearing journey through life. Along the way, she shows readers the changing social attitudes of the last half century, and her personal odyssey from resistance to acceptance.”

—Rachel Simon, Author of Riding The Bus With My Sister

“I love this book. It is—let me count the ways—enormously touching, funny, wise, breathtakingly honest, thoughtful, compellingly readable, comforting, and a great gift to caretakers everywhere. But you don't have to be a caretaker to love this book, and to love Terrell Dougan for what she has done and what she is teaching us all.”

—Judith Viorst, author of Forever Fifty

“As I read That Went Well, I realized (a little shocked at myself) that I was laughing at the foibles of a grown-up person with mental disabilities. But then it struck me that I'd accidentally gotten the whole point of the book. As Terrell writes about herself and her sister, indeed it is funny, and wonderful, and horrible, and happy and sad—it is all of those things that you go through in life, whether you're the one with mental retardation, or just someone who loves them. I'm grateful to Terrell Dougan for reminding me that joy comes from strange places sometimes. Certainly, it comes from this book.”

—Muffy Mead-Ferro, author of Confessions of a Slacker Mom

“With heartache and humor, tenderness and honesty, Dougan reminds us to accept difference, to refuse to surrender, and to fight for the right of every human being to matter, to be included, and to be loved. Against the backdrop of the struggle for human rights and decency, That Went Well is the story of Dougan’s uncompromising determination to secure a place in the world for her mentally disabled sister, to know when to let go and when to intervene, and to find a future that sustains the love that she and her sister have for one another. In the face of unfairness and tragedy, Dougan inspires us to remember the kindness, joy, and grace that forever remain life’s possibility.”

—Andrew Bridge, author of Hope’s Boy

“A book after my own heart. Her sister Irene and my son have a world in common—a world inhabited by people with special needs and by their families. Painting this world with a mixture of grace, humor, and heartbreaking accuracy, Dougan made me laugh through my tears and tear up in the middle of belly laughs—all of which might sound like a recommendation meant for those who, like Ms. Dougan, have responsibility for people like Irene. But this is a book for everyone, a book guaranteed to engage cynics and the soft-hearted alike. The path Dougan and her sister follow as they learn to cope and to communicate can be a roadmap for all of us because, bottom line, we all have ‘special needs.’ Chock full of empathy and insight,That Went Well will open a window into an unfamiliar world. for some and hugely entertain all of us in the process. I loved it.”                      

—Betsy Burton, The King's English Bookshop, Salt Lake City, Utah