By: Carole Norman Scott
Excerpts taken from letters I had written to my parents through the years.
May 6th, 1970…Ben, 8 years old
I got my best birthday present today at Ben’s School. I talked with the counselor for about one hour, and she said that she and the administrator had made up the classes for next year and that Ben could go there FOR SURE! They will work with the new teachers in dealing with him. Just pray now that the new teacher turns out to be even better than we can imagine! She said he can also go to the Summer Camp (June 15th to July 3rd). It’s from 9:00am to 2:00pm, and the school bus will pick him up and bring him home. They get to go swimming some, horse-back riding…and more physical, athletic-type things. I think he’ll really enjoy that. He sure gets to do more things here than we even hoped for. I’ve been taking him to his swimming lesson each week. Next week is the last one until next fall. The same boy has worked with him each week, and he is a jewel. He’s also going to be a counselor at the Summer Camp…so Ben will see a familiar face.
August 18, 1970…Ben, 8 years old
I just got a call from the school asking if I could bring Ben over there at 1:30pm tomorrow. They want to demonstrate “Operant Conditioning” techniques to a group from the Children’s Colony at Conway, AR (where Ben now lives). All of the teachers at Bost School have taken courses and workshops this summer on this subject and are going to try to use it in their everyday teaching. I think that might be real great for Ben.
September 2, 1970…Ben, 8 years old
I took Ben to school Monday morning and it was confirmed again that he will be going to school a FULL DAY this year (His first time ever). The bus picks him up at 8:15am or so, and he will get home about 3:15pm. He will take lunch money and eat there. I still can hardly believe it. They are all going only ½ day all this week and will start the full schedule Monday. Ben seems real happy going—so let’s pray that he controls himself so he’ll get to continue. I really think that school has helped him a lot already. They seem to be pretty attached to him there. They have a whole new set-up this year. Someone has been hired by the state of Arkansas to put something into action on the new Bill they passed to help retarded children. Since Bost School has the best set-up in the state, he chose it for his “demonstration” school for the Behavior Modification technique. They are going to try to keep the children’s individual personalities in mind, and reward them according to their needs—such as praise, a pat, etc.—instead of M & M’s. They are real excited and seemed to think it worked great for Ben the day I took him over there before school started. Mother, do you realize this may be the answer to our prayers? A school where he can go all day, be at home at night, and go everywhere with us; and where they will employ the technique that has been recommended for Ben. Also, they have a special Gym teacher this year and Ben will get to have Physical Education every day. Tell everyone you know who was praying for Ben not to stop NOW, he needs to get to STAY there!
When he was 8 years old–1970:
“Maureen (10-his sister) was playing school with Ben (8) and Johnny (3-his brother), and the next day I noticed she had written on the blackboard, “Please be more RULY!” (That was a new one on me–Ha!) Speaking of playing school, I started working with Ben again last week and one day, I was so thrilled, I tried to call you. I was having him trace over a big fat B and E for his name, and he copied around them perfectly (which he couldn’t do last time I tried), and after he did the B and E all by himself, he drew a backward N after the E. He REALLY knew it came next, and he was really acting interested in learning. Also, I put an ace, two, three, four and five of cards down on the floor and handed him the other aces, twos, threes, etc. one at a time and told him to put the two on the two pile, etc. He did every one of them perfectly, without even hesitating. I thought, “This is too good to be true”–, so I put the six, seven, eight, nine, ten, Jack, Queen, King down and handed him the rest as before. Again, he matched them perfectly—didn’t even mix up the Jack, Queen and King—all the time he was seeming to enjoy it. Even a year earlier, he NEVER put them on the right pile. In fact, it was so consistently wrong, that we felt he was doing it on purpose…yet he exhibited no hostility.
1970…Ben, 8 years old
I got the “Shape-O” toy and he took it, and would look at the block and then turn the Shape-O around and around until HE found the right hole. He put all of them in, and then sat and did them all four more times of his own accord. I can remember when he wouldn’t even have looked at it, or would have thrown it down the minute the first one didn’t fit in the right hole. He would try all the different holes and then go on to the next. Then he would look at the block again, and you could tell he was really taking in what shapes matched! It hasn’t been all “peaches and cream” however, as it seems whenever he does better in THAT respect, his temper gets worse. He’s had quite a few tantrums (of sorts)—lots of stomping and whining. Some days he does pretty good though. I was really encouraged…more at him showing the “interest” than what he actually did!
1971…Ben, 9 years old
Ben got a red mark at school in performance (the best) today and the rest were blue marks (next best). The P.T.A. meeting was a demonstration of what all they do in their P.E. class. It was VERY interesting, and they really have a very good program set up for them. Yesterday morning Jay asked Ben if he would go downstairs, open the door, get the milk, and put it in the refrigerator (four things). He went down and did it all perfectly, with no further prodding or instructions. Yesterday, I told him he could wear his sweatshirt (it was warmer) and he said, “heavy coat,” and I said, “sweatshirt” and he said, “heavy coat”…back and forth about four times. He was actually verbally arguing with me about it (a FIRST)! I thought that was a step towards normalcy…using language instead of gritting his teeth and flying into a rage. I tried to impress this on the counselor at the school…how we thought he had improved in his overall behavior. I realize too though, how it must be to deal with him all day long at school, and not get the other children too upset. That is a different story.
1972…Ben 10 year old
Ben is talking more and more. You won’t believe what he said to me the other day. He is trying to tease now. I was trying to get him to say his name real plain and I said, “Ben Scott,” and he would say, “Cot.” (You know he says Ben “Sot” now). Finally, I said, “Your name is Ben …..,” and with a twinkle in his eye, he instantly said, “Franklin!” Isn’t that something? He HAS listened much more than we thought.
1972…Ben 10 year old
Ben has settled down again, and Friday, he wanted to go swimming and I had washed my hair and he had to wait until it dried…while I took the curlers out…and finally, while I was combing it. He came over and looked me right in the eye and said, “Slowpoke!”
1972…Ben 10 years old
Ben has done real well at school this week. He got two red marks yesterday and ate some of THEIR chicken and noodles and asked for a second helping. Last night at the dinner table, he got started talking and I wish so badly we had had the tape recorder on. He talked for a solid ten minutes. He started out saying, “Gook is in the front seat of the car.” (We found out that “Gook” is BEN!) Then he said, “Gook has the car keys,” “Gook is going to Kansas City, ” “Gook is at Grandma’s house,” “Gook is in the basement,” “Gook fell down,” “Good is stuck,” “Gook likes Pumpkin Pie—with cream on it,” “Gook is going swimming,” “Gook will splash on you,” “Time to dry off Gook”—and on and on. He had a twinkle in his eye and was enjoying the attention, and thinking as fast as he could as to what to add to it. We would ask him questions about who “Gook” was, but he gave it away when he said Gook liked Pumpkin Pie, and added “with cream on it.” We got so tickled at him. HE initiated it ALL!
1973…Ben 10 year old
Ben is doing well this week. There has been no mention of trouble at lunch this week. I am surprised because yesterday morning, he got into the red-hots and ate the whole container full (about one cup), before I got up. He came up and looked me right in the eye and said, “You stay out of the red-hots!” His conscience was bothering him anyway! I guess it didn’t make him sick though. Sunday night, I had left the salt shaker sitting on the gold lamp table and he came up Monday morning and said, “Did you spill salt on the rug? You leave the salt shaker alone!” He had accidentally taken the cork out, and it had spilled on the table, divan and rug, and that worried him. I think those are good signs.