This was what I wrote to the school Psychologist in 1970 when she suggested that our autistic son, Ben (at age seven), was too disruptive for their school, and needed to be placed elsewhere! She listened to what I said, and he was at this school for another six years. She was a very loving, caring mother herself, very astute in her profession, and I appreciated her a great deal. This is only one of MANY such letters I wrote to teachers and doctors concerning Ben…but this one pretty much “says it all!” CNS
Dear Mrs. ———–, January 27, 1970
I have had a good long time to think about our conversation last Friday concerning our son, Ben Scott. The more I think on it, the more I feel compelled to write to you about him and his future.
You say the Bost School may not be the best place for Ben. We say, it is the only place for him as of yet. We can tell you from first-hand experience that although Ben may not be exactly like the other children there, he is definitely not like the other children at homes and schools for the emotionally disturbed.
I would imagine I could say in all honestly…that Ben is the only child of his kind in Ft. Smith. We have never met any other child (or parents of children like him) in Springfield or Kansas City, Missouri…or in Fort Smith. I’m sure there must have been a few in Kansas City, but the doctors we saw there about Ben could think of no other child to compare him to. So you see, autism, or autistic tendencies (or whatever the label is), is very rare. There is a school there called HEED, that takes autistic children, but there was up to a two-year waiting period to be admitted. The other cities mentioned had no facilities for these children other than the schools for the retarded!
If there was only some way to make you understand that we agree with all you say about Ben…how he is frustrating and disruptive…believe me, we know that better than anyone! But you must be told that Ben is making progress. He can only be compared with himself — how he used to be — and I hope with all my heart that you will listen to me when I say — please don’t give up on him now! Not now, when he is just beginning to “wake up” out of his deep, deep sleep. Just since he started to school there, we have noticed changes in his awareness. He has said some things that have surprised us so! Do you realize what it means when a child like this talks at all…much less starts to offer information…no matter how simple the thought or sentence seems at first? He actually told me the other day, “I played with Sharon and Mark.” He told the teacher, “It’s MINE!” That is absolutely the first time he has ever used that pronoun with no prompting…and appropriately. If you only knew that less than a year ago, Ben would not look you in the eye or even look at the object you were trying to show him. He is beginning to actually show an interest in learning! This is the key for him: motivation and wanting to learn — knowing that he can learn. Even though he cannot actually play the games the other children in the neighborhood play, he enjoys having them around, and has even said to one little boy, “Will you chase me Chris?”
I know the progress is so slow, but let me ask you, how fast do you expect the other children there to progress? Please remember that there used to be no place for retarded children until people, parents and the community pooled their efforts to provide schools for them. We are just beginning to get organized and to be heard. These children cannot be “thrown away” while they are waiting for their chance.
Ben is not to be sent away from home. He needs home and family — just as the other children there do. He cannot be given up on…when there is the hope and the potential that he shows in “fleeting” glimpses. He is not mean, destructive, or self-destructive. He is only frustrated by inner tensions, and disruptive because he cannot communicate or deal with these tensions that produces. It does not mean he is beyond help, and believe me, help is not what he will get at an institution. We have seen what they do for them there first-hand. Just because they are called a “Mental Institution” or a “Home for Emotionally Disturbed Children” does not mean that they have any “secret” teaching techniques or ways to handle them. Therefore, they are without the love and security of home, as well as the stabilizing force of a school routine.
Ben needs a chance…that’s it in one word! For him to go to the same school two or three years in a row where they could know and measure his progress…would be of the utmost benefit to him and perhaps to the school too! All I am trying to say is that we know there is no other place that will have a secret knowledge as to how to get through to him. He can do too many things right and good to be given up on at the age of seven. Think what all he may be able to do by the age of ten.
Believe me, my husband and I have thought this out very carefully. This is not just an emotional outburst of a mother for her son. It is based on the knowledge we have gathered throughout the past five years; by actually talking with many doctors, teachers, parent’s groups, counselors, and foremost…having lived with Ben on a twenty-four hour basis for seven years.
You will find that no one and no place will be anxious to work with Ben or children like him. He does not fit into any already established classifications now receiving schooling. It is only by dealing with him day in and day out that a parent or teacher can learn how thrilling it can be to see the look of awareness cross his face, and feel the sense of accomplishment at being the one person that has not “given up” on him, and has brought him one step closer to “feeling” LIFE around him! Most Sincerely, Carole Scott
PS Scroll down (quite a ways) to “Symptoms of Autism”–Ben’s Characteristics as a Child and then… as an Adult! I hope and pray that you will find it most interesting and helpful! Carole