About Me

I am the proud mother of 6 children. 5 of our children have autism. We do not feel our world has ended, but just begun. We do not chelate, intervene biochemically, give shots of any kind, practice ABA, etc. We treat them as we treat any humanbeing. We treat them with kindness and respect and expect the same from them. They are exceptional children.

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Saturday, October 21, 2006

My First Experience With Autism

My first experience with autism was not with the birth of our oldest child. It was years before 1991.
My first experience was in 1982. I was needing to get extra money, as being in college, beer cost alot of money and George Strait was costing more and more to see.
I went for an interview at The San Marcos Treatment Center. It was a part of The Brown School's system. They were basically a place for very wealthy people to send their handicapped or emotionally disabled children. Also, if you're state could not find appropriate schooling for your child, they would send them to The San Marcos Treatment Center.
The first dorm I worked on was an all-female dorm. There were older women in 2 rooms (32 to 70 years old), middle-aged women in 2 rooms (18 to 30 years old)_, teenagers in 1 room (11 to 16 years old) and young girls (4 to 10 years old) in the last room.
The majority of the younger girls were labeled Autistic. They were heavily medicated to calm their behaviors. I remember nurses visits 3 times a day for most of the residents. My first one-to-one was a 15 year old autistic girl from Chicago. The second was 16 years and autistic from Chicago also. Not related, by the way.
Our oldest daughter, Caitlin, is exactly like Kim. Jumping, flapping, and defiant at times. I loved Kim. She was a joy to work with.
The older ladies were most definitely autistic. That would make Martha, if she is still alive, in her late 80's or early 90's. Janet would be in her early 80's. Caroline would be in her 80's. Anne would be in her early 60's. They were not labeled autistic, because the label they got by their doctor's were retarded....but believe me, they had all of the autistic characteristics.
So there goes the ever popular question of "Where are the 75 year old autistics?"....Easy answer....they are dead, institutionalized, or heavily medicated. These women and men were not treated the same as they are now. They were not educated like they would be required to be now. They sat in a room and waited for their meds, meals and therapists.
This Brown School's was a very nice place. The residents were taken good care of. They were the lucky ones. They had people who were well-paid, for the time, and cared for them. I know, of all the people that I cared for, I loved them all.

Now that we have autistic children, I have to be thankful for my job at The San Marcos Treatment Center. That job taught me patience, kindness, acceptance and love of what is deemed by others to be abnormal. I wish I could find these people and let them know the lessons they taught me. I hope they are still being well-cared for and loved. I hope wherever they are, they are safe and happy.

I must edit this post, because I wrote it all wrong....

My first experience with autism was when I was 11 years old and hired to babysit a neighbors children. The little girl was 6 and the little boy was 3. The little boy was autistic.
I cannot believe that I totally forgot about this little boy. He was non-verbal and scream most of the night. I did not mind babysitting him, but it was a challenge for a 11 year old girl.
That was in 1971. This child would be around 38 years old now....I wonder where he is?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You wrote this entry 11 years ago, and I don't think you've posted on this blog in several years, so I don't think you'll ever see this comment. But I wanted to share my thoughts.

I was a patient at SMTC from 1983 to 1985. I was on the Sunset Valley dorm (boys 7-13) for most of that time, then was transferred to New Horizons West (co-ed, adolescent dorm) for the last few months.

I remember the Sunshine Hill dorm you describe. It was up the hill, and was in the same building as Somerset, Laurel Heights, and Sunrise Haven. I also remember being told that all these patients were severely retarded, and would spend the rest of their lives there.

I helped deliver patient mail to the dorms, and we had a list of all the patients at SMTC, to help us in sorting the mail. This list also listed the date of admission for each patient. One Sunshine Hill patient had been admitted in 1947, so she had been there 38 years at the time.

I've always thought my time there was interesting. SMTC, San Marcos, and Texas were different from any other place I had been, or have been since. I actually made a trip to San Marcos about 4 years ago, just out of curiosity.

There's a Facebook group for former staff.