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.

NumericalMum Wed 06-Mar-13 15:16:04

My severely dyslexic uncle is in his 70s. He still can't read as he was labelled stupid and left school at 13. He can write his name but his wife does everything for him. His son is also dyslexic and he got a lot of support from his school. He went to a special school until high school where they had smaller classes. Tragically he is an entitled brat so despite loads of support and good school results does nothing with his life.

slatternlymother Wed 06-Mar-13 15:19:36

Oh dawn sad that is so sad sad

Can I just clarify that in no way do I think it is easy these days? I just wondered, with people's general attitudes years ago, how bad it was then as well hmm

mummylin Wed 06-Mar-13 15:23:37

My ex sister is law has a 53yr old son who was born mentally and physically disabled.he has never been able to talk at all,but he has had a happy life with parents who adored him.Now he is in a residentail care during the week ,but always goes home for the weekends.he is such a loving person who is happy as long as he has his beloved photos or a torch or similar.they have had a few problems along the way with him but have done their utmost to care for him.I really admire them.Now they are older and need looking after themselves.They have many times had abuse from others which ended up with his mum in tears.people are cruel now,but its nothing new.

zzzzz Wed 06-Mar-13 15:23:58

I did read your OP . But the general consensus seems to be that we do a "good job" now. I wondered why that was? Why would you think I hadn't read the OP?

slatternlymother Wed 06-Mar-13 15:27:38

Because you said you wondered why everyone thinks it's so easy now.

I really don't think anyone put that across; much less meant to.

Bunbaker Wed 06-Mar-13 15:30:58

My 84 year old MIL was talking about the son of the local landed gentry (from her childhood). She described him as "stupid" and I said that wasn't a very nice thing to say about someone and we all do silly things from time to time. She replied "no, he was born stupid, he couldn't even sit up on his own". So I gently reminded her that he wasn't stupid but there must have been some kind of brain damage and she said "no, he was just stupid"

Thank goodness we are better educated than that these days.

zzzzz Wed 06-Mar-13 15:32:17

I think many of the posts are about the "bad old days" with an im

zzzzz Wed 06-Mar-13 15:33:08

Sorry phone finger issue!

zzzzz Wed 06-Mar-13 15:48:23

Sorry total technology fail. I think it's impossible to discuss/consider how far we've come, without at least some understanding of where we are now.

I do think there have been some improvements to the lives of all minorities but I don't think provision in the UK is anywhere near what it should be. I think the sn boards on mn have opened my eyes to some extent. I honestly had no idea as to the kind of hurdles people faced on a daily basis, or how utterly awful some people could be. sad

My mum's uncle, now in his 70s has autism and pica, as does my 8yr old son.

I often wonder about how my great uncle's childhood compares with my son's. My great grandmother kept him at home and struggled on, she had a big family and became widowed but continued to care for him until she was too frail to, after which he was placed in residential care. Other children of his generation will have been placed in institutions. There was little understanding of him as a child, he was talked down to, his siblings were embarrassed about him being labelled naughty and odd at school, he had no social life or friends, was not valued as an individual.

Today in 2013 my son struggles in school, struggles with judgemental people, I struggle to care for him on my own and struggle with the reactions of ignorant people and worry what will happen to him when I am older. Not all that different from my great grandmother's experience of raising an autistic child. I'd like to say that society is more tolerant and understanding but my personal experiences tell me different. I'd like to say we are no longer judged as bad parents/ failures but although the term "refrigerator mother" has been debunked, the idea of it being down to bad parenting hasn't. There's still a long way to go.

flangledoodle Wed 06-Mar-13 15:52:03

Zzzzzz, I certainly don't think it's easy now but I was wanting to highlight the difficulty of reaching a diagnosis of autism (which virtually no one had heard of let alone understood in the 1970s) against a background of appauling or non-existent services and acusations of 'refrigerator mothers'. I am currently reading a really excellent book at the moment 'Far from the Tree' by Andrew Solomon. In it he quotes professionals working now who when they were training were called in to see an autstic child as they might never see one again.

Whilst I would never seek to belittle the undoubted struggles families are living through now I do believe we were isolated and misunderstood in a way then that maybe we would not be so much now.

slatternlymother Wed 06-Mar-13 15:53:33

Sorry I don't understand the term 'refrigerator mother'?

DisAstrophe Wed 06-Mar-13 15:54:02

slatternly - I was nodding in agreement to your view that people's general attitudes had improved. And then I read the thread in AIBU. A women who struggles to get her child with ASD into school on times is being roundly and soundly roasted and told she has poor parenting skills. angry sad

ouryve Wed 06-Mar-13 15:56:27

I suspect that both of my boys would have been institutionalised, 50 years ago: DS1 in a correctional school. Though he would probably have been heavily sedated, too.

It doesn't bear thinking about sad

flangledoodle Wed 06-Mar-13 15:58:05

A respected psychiatrist or neurologist, can't remember his name posited that autistic children were a product of emotioally cold mothers ie it really was the result of child abuse/neglect and this apparently was an accepted view at the time. Imagine trying to deal with that as you wonder what has happened to your once happy, talking and responsive toddler as the signs of autism emerge.

NulliusInBlurba Wed 06-Mar-13 15:59:23

""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!"

Quite - I've just been doing some genealogical research and the 1891 census has an entire column headed 'Lunatic, imbecile or idiot' sad. So what was the technical difference between an 'imbecile' and an 'idiot'?

My mum died last year aged 76 and I've since realised, through reading through her files (with permission) that she clearly had dyspraxia and dyscalculia, but was just labelled stupid and clumsy by everyone - including her husband and parents. A maths teacher (this was during WW2) once threw a blackboard eraser at her for being 'slow' and cut her head open.

ouryve Wed 06-Mar-13 16:00:01

And I wasn't that late talking, but I simply didn't talk (from my own memories, I was selectively mute). My mum was told, in the 70s, not to expect much of me because I was probably "a bit backward".

MrsMushroom Wed 06-Mar-13 16:01:18

In the 80s I was in secondary and there was a girl in my class who was looking back, obviously very ASD. She was bullied terribly. I can still see her face and am haunted by the fact that she was probably very unhappy and confused and had NO help whatsoever.

I have googled her name in case I can find something about her doing really well...or to say sorry for not helping her...but never find her. sad

akaemmafrost Wed 06-Mar-13 16:03:10

It's probably been said but cases of ASD the mums were blamed "Refrigerator Mother" and children were removed for their own well being and parents were allowed to visit once or twice a year sad.

flangledoodle Wed 06-Mar-13 16:03:29

I know it's not a comparable thing, but I have really embraced my ds's dx of dyspraxia. I feel that it makes them easier to be understood/ accepted etc and would be v open about it, but maybe I am naive, maybe people will still judge/be narrow minded... how depressing.

akaemmafrost Wed 06-Mar-13 16:06:50

Leo Kanner Was the name of the psychologist who coined the phrase refrigerator mother, he believed this as he often observed them seemingly being cold and aloof (apparently) there was no consideration at the time that autism often has a genetic component and the mothers may have had ASD too.

CrunchyFrog Wed 06-Mar-13 16:07:38

Imbecile referred to moderate LD, idiot to severe. Cretin is a specific disability caused by iodine deficiency I think. Moron referred to milder disability.

I used to have some medical textbooks that were fascinating, but horribly offensive by today's standards.

Astley Wed 06-Mar-13 16:07:48

I actually think he is embarrassed of his children. They remind him of both when he was married to KK, obviously, and also when he was overweight.

He sees them as a reflection of times he wants to erase.

MadameOvary Wed 06-Mar-13 16:08:10

Fucking hell, some of these responses are heartbreaking sad.
DD has a friend at nursery who has speech delay, toileting and sensory processing issues and displays impulsive behaviours. Fortunately the nursery and attached school are being very supportive and he is in the process of being assessed for autism. He is adorable but his Mum finds his behaviour frustrating and exhausting, so is grateful for the support.

However his behaviour is nowhere near as frustrating or exhausting as all the people who question her as to why he is having to be held back a year and claim there is nothing wrong with him, esp his twat of a father whose mother is clearly in denial about her son's issues.
She is constantly saying that "he just needs to learn to adapt to x and y" angry
I see in this child the little boy my brother used to be; sweet, loving, but easily distracted and very guarded and protective of his space. If not for the massive efforts of his mother and the school he could easily have been labelled naughty, difficult, oversensitive etc. and I'm cheering them both on.

TheSeniorWrangler Wed 06-Mar-13 16:09:20

my mum is in her 60s, both my brother and i are on the spectrum, as are many of our maternal cousins.

mum is hfa, very probably aspergers, she was put in the 'stupid' class and allowed to leave school at 15.

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