Yesterday I took my daughter to the mall to get out of the house. I bought her a Happy Meal and we went to the big fountain to sit there and eat. She loves to watch the fountain when we go to the mall. I noticed that day that she isn’t the only one.
We saw this group of people with disabilities and their care givers enjoying lunch by the fountain. Actually, they all had front row seats. The man in the chair in the middle was playing with the water while he was lovingly fed by his care giver.
It was quite a touching sight as all three of the people in the wheelchairs seemed to have care givers that actually cared. They were all treated like people and not animals by people who did it with love.
I have seen several examples where that did not seem to be the case. It’s quite unfortunate.
But watching these people yesterday brought to mind how times have changed. Many group homes or institutions bring their charges out to a mall for a change of scenery. There was a time where that was greatly frowned upon and sometimes downright forbidden.
When I as a very young child, my parents ran a home for handicapped children (as they were called back then). They didn’t run it for long, though. My parents had their own four children and took care of, I think, six. And my dad, when he had errands to run outside of the home, would do what a lot of parents would do. If you have to go shopping, you take one or two of your children with you. My dad would do that with the children in their care. And he got in trouble for it.
“Don’t put these kids on display!” is what he would hear. Keep them hidden away in the homes they live in until they die.
That was 35 years ago. If you go back 70 years, imagine what it was like back then. A great example of what it was like is in John Steinbeck’s book Of Mice and Men, a book about mental & physical disabilities, the aged and racial issues in the 1930’s. (It’s an excellent book, I highly recommend it.) John Malkovich and Gary Sinise did a pretty good rendition of this book in the movie of the same title.
And even before that, horrible things were done to people who were different; boiling them in hot water or oil, drilling holes in their skulls to let the evil spirits out and things like that.
Being the mother of special needs children, I find it encouraging to see that there is loving care available and I find myself grateful that we aren’t living in times of the past. There have been amazing advancements in care and it’s availability even in the lifetime of my oldest son. That doesn’t, however, mean that I’m not starting to freak out about my oldest son graduating next year…I don’t know what we’re going to do with him then.
He’s a very high functioning autistic young man. He’s quite capable of a lot of things. He could hold a job down with no problem, as long as it’s routine and he doesn’t have to come up with things on his own. Whether he’ll stay living with us or move into some type of assisted living facility, I don’t know yet. I worry, though, about him leaving my house. He doesn’t possess common sense and I fear of him being taken advantage of.
But I guess he is one more thing I have to leave in the hands of God. I know God will show us the right thing to do for him.
Knowing what it’s like to have a mildly disabled child, I have to wonder how parents with severely disabled children do it.
The grace of God I guess…what better way?