To wonder how the hell parents coped with SN 50 years ago?

(256 Posts)
slatternlymother Wed 06-Mar-13 12:36:53

It is heartbreaking reading about it now. Sometimes I read thread and feel so angry on the OP's behalf.

But (and this isn't an 'oooh, think how much worse it could be!' thread), it got me to thinking how hard it must've been to have a child with say, ASD or ADHD back in the 60's.

How people must've judged! And those poor children must've been really misunderstood. I bet some of them really took a hiding for their meltdowns over things sad

Does anyone know anyone who parented a child with SN years ago? Or were they a child with SN?

I'd be really interested to know how things have come along. I like to think that people are better educated now. If I see a child having a meltdown, I certainly don't judge.

I think this really stems from a comment from my Dad's aunt who, years ago said 'of course, you've got all these new fangled disorders coming out of the woodwork now, it's all an excuse for badly behaved little beasts...' I have 2 cousins with ASD sad It's always stuck with me. That attitude must've been really rife 50 years ago.

pigletmania Wed 06-Mar-13 13:35:15

Last week there was an article in te daily mail (groan) abut SEN, te comments from DM readers was shocking. It is so sad tat people hold such horrid attitudes, I thought it would have died out by now.

Yannah2006 Wed 06-Mar-13 13:38:22

My dad was born in 1944 and was regularly told he was stupid and got the cane from his teachers because he was dyslectic sad

I dread to think what it must have been like to have SN or parent a child with SN back then.

DonderandBlitzen Wed 06-Mar-13 13:47:07

I remember seeing a TV programme where they said that mothers of autistic children used to be assumed to be to blame for the autism. Must have been appalling for them to be judged like that.sad

From wikipedia:

"The term refrigerator mother was coined around 1950 as a label for mothers of children diagnosed with autism or schizophrenia. These mothers were often blamed for their children's atypical behavior, which included rigid rituals, speech difficulty, and self-isolation.

The "refrigerator mother" label was based on the assumption that autistic behaviors stem from the emotional frigidity of the children's mothers. As a result, mothers of some children on the autistic spectrum suffered from blame, guilt, and self-doubt from the 1950s throughout the 1970s and beyond[citation needed]: when the prevailing medical belief that autism resulted from inadequate parenting was widely assumed to be correct.

willyoulistentome Wed 06-Mar-13 13:47:20

My cousin who is now in his 40s hsa quite severe Asperger's. He was not accurately diagnosed until he was in his late twenties. He so obviously had something wrong, He has the whole deep monotone voice thing, but I do remember my mother slagging my aunt off for her parenting style. "He's just naughty". My SAINT of an aunt has spent his whole life fighting for her son. He was sectioned, put on drugs for schizophrenia, totally mis diagnosed - passed from pillar to post - one school to the next when they couldn't cope- just awful. My aunt has fought tooth and nail the whole way to get help.
My son has just been diagnosed with Asperger's too. His is not as severe as my cousin's. 'Outsiders' don;t notice it. I haven;t told the wider family yet, I need to tell my Mum before I tell my aunt - only good manners ,but I KNOW I will get full understanding and support from my aunt , and probably loads of useless suggestions from my Mum.

I am so thankful that my sons school recognises his diagnosis and are being incredibly helpful so far.

MadameOvary Wed 06-Mar-13 13:48:44

I was at primary School in the 70's.
We had the "remedial" class which seemed to house the "difficult" children and the ones who were a bit "slow"
Our class had a "difficult" boy who once held the whole class hostage (I can't remember the specifics) he came from the "home" down the road. My brother, who as an adult was diagnosed with ADD was in that same home for a whole, before transferring to an institution down south (referred to as "Boarding School" hmm.) My Mum just couldn't cope with him sad
He has always coped very well, always worked, travelled, but emotionally is another story. His relationships will forever be dysfunctional I think sad

Catchingmockingbirds Wed 06-Mar-13 13:49:14

I think you've answered your question in your OP with your aunts lovely comment. These children would have just been known as badly behaved little beasts sad.

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

rodandtheemu Wed 06-Mar-13 13:52:30

I have watched many documentorys of the institutes these poor souls where put in to and it was heart breaking, many run by monsters sad

Dawndonna Wed 06-Mar-13 14:11:16

I have AS. Mother used to beat me up and call me names. I was a slave. Luckily I had the best Gran on earth who used to rescue me at regular intervals.

ProudAS Wed 06-Mar-13 14:16:55

I was diagnosed with Aspergers at 30 having never even heard of the condition till I was in my 20s. I was very academic and one for playing by the rules so wound up as teacher's pet at school but lived in fear of other children.

I hindsight one of my classmates obviously had ADHD and probably had a worse time from teachers but not so much other kids. His father was a policeman and his mother didn't seem the sort to not care what her little darling was up to.

I lived on a small Scottish island for a few years, and did a big of digging in the island's history. I found a census for the 50's and it said:

Mr and Mrs 'Jones', two daughters (one spastic, kept indoors).

I will never forget my shock at reading that.

flangledoodle Wed 06-Mar-13 14:17:55

My older brother was born in 1966 to my parents aged something like 21 and 22 respectively. He is very severely autistic. It took 6 years to get a diagnosis. I remember once my father took my other brother and I away to relatives and made her promise to put him into the local children's hospital for restbite. She said it was horrific and she spent all day everyday up there cos she couldn't bear to leave him alone in those conditions.

It was very tough for all of us, those years, and now he is permenantly settled incare all of us bear the scars. My parents are old beyond their years and very prone to anxiety (especially my mum).

Recently my 2 sons have been dx dyspraxic and this has thrown a lot of this up again. It's amazing the knowledge that is out there now eg sensory issues and makes me wonder how different things might have been for my db if he was young now. It all makes me very sad.

My uncle had moderate/severe dyslexia and was born in the 50s. It wasn't diagnosed though I think they knew there was an issue. He ended up being sent to lots of different schools and ran away from at least one of them, poor kid. I think my grandparents actually coped pretty well but I think it took a huge amount of effort and my uncle didn't end up with a great education really - he still struggles to write coherently even though he's done reasonably well for himself, and he has a bad stammer (the two things often go together) which he never really got any help for. Interestingly, he was very keen to sort things out for his oldest son, who is also dyslexic, and his son has gone on to do very well, is very confident and has managed to sort out most of his difficulties, so there is a positive side to it in the next generation.

I can imagine with other kinds of disability like ADHD or autism it must have been terrible. I've read accounts by or about Lorna Wing, whose daughter was born in the 50s and had autism. Wing pretty much pioneered work on autism in this country. I've got an article here that's interesting: www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2011/may/24/autistic-spectrum-disorder-lorna-wing

Lancelottie Wed 06-Mar-13 14:22:20

My oldest brother (who would now be 50 if he'd lived) had severe hydrocephalus. So far as I can make out, when he developed breathing difficulties as a baby the hospital staff simply told my parents it would be 'kinder to let him go' and didn't try to assist him.

PeriPathetic Wed 06-Mar-13 14:23:04

Very similar to MadameOvary My primary school in the 70s had the 'Remedial Class' where the children stayed right the way through school regardless of age. I don't know what special needs they had though. We all mixed together at break times and - as far as I recall - there was no segregation or name-calling by the kids.

A boy in my class probably had undiagnosed-in-those-days ADHD. He just had to try and fit in with normal lessons.

A close family member just a few years younger than me has severe (?) Down's Syndrome. He went to a 'special school' and is now in a residential institution as his parents are too old and infirm to give him the intense care he needs.

In secondary school another 'special school' saw many pupils from the area - it was called Borstal.

propertyNIGHTmareBEFOREXMAS Wed 06-Mar-13 14:24:48

A lot more smacking would have gone on, I suspect.

wigglesrock Wed 06-Mar-13 14:26:08

I have 2 relatives in their very early to mid 50s who have Downs Syndrome, they are part of big families and lived at home, they did go to the local primary school and then I'm not sure. One still lives with his m but the other has survived both her parents and lives in Fold (supervised independent living)

One of my ex-boyfriends grew up in Oxfordshire in the 1960s... he was severely dyslexic but they didn't call it that back then, they just said he was 'stupid'. He was scolded and humiliated every day at school for years and years, constantly called stupid and told he would never amount to anything. He left school as soon as he could.

He never recovered from it, he spent the rest of his life struggling with depression and alcoholism. He recently took his own life at the age of 50. sad

Obviously a lot of things led to that but honestly, I mostly blame what happened to him at school. It scarred him for life and he never really had a chance. No matter what good things happened to him in life, he always felt like that stupid little boy.

1944girl Wed 06-Mar-13 14:51:48

My DS2 is 40 now.When he started school he had great difficulty learning to read and write.The teachers told me he was a ''slow reader'' and would have to learn to buck up his ideas.When he tried to write he would do mirror writing and would often go from right to left across the page.I was told it was because he was left handed
All of his words did not make sense,only he could understand them.When he got to secondary school he started playing truant because the teachers shouted at him and some of the other pupils called him a ''spacker''which in the local dialect meant mentally handicapped, as he still could not read or write properly.
He left school at 16 without any GCSEs and got a place training as a motor mechanic.He passed his driving test first time at 17, got married just before his 19th birthday, and is now father of five children.He is now a talented photographer.His reading and writing have improved over the years but is still not up to standard.He can read well now, but still struggles with written work.
I never worried too much about his IQ status as he was above average in other ways.We both now realise he is dyslexic but help for dyslexic children came too late for him it just was not recognised
I can remember mentally handicapped people and children from when I was young, people called them ''spastic or silly''.A boy who lived near me as a child was clearly mentally handicapped, he was a bit older than me and would walk round the streets grinning and talking to himself, my mother told me to keep away from him as he might hurt you.
My DH trained as a nurse of the mentally handicapped in the late 50s.He worked in a large hospital where some of the patients had been abandoned by their parents when still children, they had been told to put he or she in hospital and forget you have him or her.
Some of these unfortunate people however did get cared for by their families, people would look on the parents with pity.
I apologise for using the word mentally handicapped on here, this is what the term was then for anyone who was of low IQ.While I was doing research into family's history I came across a census report from 1891 and on it a relative of my grandfather's was entered as ''imbecile'' she was seven years old.

INeverSaidThat Wed 06-Mar-13 15:02:05

This is a sad thread.
In the 70's our comprehensive school had a home for people with quite severe SN next door to it and the residents (of all ages) used to come every week and do activities with us. (mostly dancing and running around the main hall)
I remember the scheme won awards for being 'progressive'
They probably wouldn't allow it now for health and safety reasons.

INeverSaidThat Wed 06-Mar-13 15:03:29

My very dyslexic brother was given Janet and John books to read when he was a teenager confused. Why would anyone ever think that would work?

CrunchyFrog Wed 06-Mar-13 15:08:17

I have a friend with DS who is now late 40s.

Her parents kept her at home (not the done thing) and insisted on mainstream education. They were very careful with diet and fitness. She lives semi-independently now and is very strong-willed and confident.

But I also worked with a group of women in the early 90s who were being released from a long stay ward. They came to our respite centre, 12 of them with one bin bag full of communal clothing. One woman, with moderate learning difficulties, was entirely responsible for the care of another, with PMLD. Another had no diagnosis, but had been hospitalised since birth because her mother had conceived her through rape. There were also women with conditions you never see now, cretinism for example.

The men were worse. Many had been through horrific sex abuse. One had destroyed his own eyes through repetitive behaviours. Some had literally never been out of bed. Untreated hydrocephalus, untreated scoliosis. Absolutely horrific.

I am so glad I was part of the workforce that got those people out of those hell holes and back into the community. Most of them are dead now, very often far younger than they needed to die, because even 10 years ago, in fact, even now, there are very poor attitudes towards decent treatment for those of us with SLD.

My son has HFA. I'm very glad to live in a time when he is not punished for it.

CrunchyFrog Wed 06-Mar-13 15:11:33

1944girl when I began working in the field, "mentally handicapped" was the progressive politically correct term. Not long before that, it was "educationally subnormal."

"imbecile" had a proper definition, as did "idiot." They were inoffensive, descriptive words, until they were abused. "Special needs" is a term of abuse now FGS!

zzzzz Wed 06-Mar-13 15:13:25

I wonder why you all think it is so easy now?

slatternlymother Wed 06-Mar-13 15:15:30

zzzzz if you read my OP, I NEVER said it was easy now.

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