Carol Jean Shepard was born in LaCrosse, Wisconsin in 1932 to Wright and Elsie Shepard.
Shortly after Carol was born, her parents took her to see a doctor in the “big city” of Chicago, as they did not know what Down Syndrome was. They were told that Carol had an extra chromosome, and would pose a hardship to the family if they tried to bring her up with her brother and would be ostracized in the community. The doctor recommended that they should institutionalize Carol to avoid the public shame of having a daughter with down syndrome. Carol’s parents strongly objected to the doctor’s recommendations and took their daughter home. Carol’s mother found other families in her community that had children with disabilities and set up a Sunday School Class and social activities for them at their local church, which continued as they grew to be young adults.