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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.

GeorgianMumto5 Fri 08-Mar-13 14:55:59

My mum once said, 'There was none of this adhd in my day...'

I asked her, 'What about the kid at the back of the class who never joined in, rarely shut up, indulged in risky behaviour and who got sent to the headteacher a lot? He probably had ADHD.'

Mum said, 'Oh yeah...'

MrsMushroom Fri 08-Mar-13 14:28:42

Lain we also had a boy with extreme behaviour in our village school in the 70s. He used to expose himself all the time and as a result was often beaten up by older brothers etc. sad it's very sad to think that a 10 year old, with real SN was treated so badly. He simply didn't realise it was wrong and I don't even think it was sexual...he was a young ten.

lainiekazan Fri 08-Mar-13 12:49:02

I went to a small village school in the 1970s. I think there was rather too much integration when there was no support. Children who very obviously had problems were just lumped in with everyone else (class of 43, one teacher) and they most definitely sunk rather than swam. There was one boy who displayed quite "scary" behaviour and looking back I find it extraordinary that there didn't seem to be any intervention. I remember he was found, er, excuse the tmi here, excavating the newly-installed sanitary towel bin in the girls' loos and was caned.

MrsMushroom Fri 08-Mar-13 11:46:21

I am 40 Holly and I remember the Spcial School was next door but there was no attempt to intergrate the kids at all...nothing. My DD's school has strong links with the local Special Needs Primary and they visit and do activities together on a regular basis.

Their generation will be more understanding of children with difficulties.

mummytime Fri 08-Mar-13 10:30:32

I'm probably a similar age to you holly, most children with disabilities in my day went to "special schools" which I didn't realise at the time were not even under the Department of Education. There was one boy who wore a Caliper on his leg at my Primary school. Some schools had a "special Unit" eg. for the deaf. Of course there were also children I was at school with, who I would hope would be diagnosed as Dyslexic or had ASD (or mental health issues as well). Some of those with hidden disabilities got some special help from "remedial" teachers, others seemed to slip through the cracks or were in constant trouble.

Owllady Fri 08-Mar-13 08:40:05

I am not sure they do know though if they just stop visiting the child in hospital confused

HollyBerryBush Fri 08-Mar-13 06:12:51

I'm not even 50, and I don't remember any children with obvious disabilities at school. I suppose they were either home educated or 'put away' even in these recent times.

On the other hand, I'd be curious of there is statistical evidence regarding learning difficulties in conjunction with premature/difficult births. Medicine has moved on, and babies that would have died without intervention now live.

IneedAsockamnesty Thu 07-Mar-13 22:57:23

I watched that juvenile program it was quite petting viewing.

On the other hand I think if a parent willingly gives up a child that they know they can not look after to a person who can then that is the most loving thing they can do.

saintlyjimjams Thu 07-Mar-13 22:50:21

working9while5 - what a lovely story. I have to admit I feel the same as zzzz and fairly unforgiving of people who give up their children (please note I do not remotely count attending resi as giving up your children - when people get to that stage it is usually putting the child first to allow resi iyswim) and it's heartwarming to think there were people able to stand up to the system even then. (I also know my tough as boots grandmother would have one that). I also find it quite inspiring tbh - and a sort of reminder that there's always been a spirit there than can inspire us, even today.

The BLack Balloon is a fab film about severe autism and there's a line in there about looking after your own which I identify strongly with (albeit recognising - perhaps more than the film does - that that can include resi)

gimmeanaxe Thu 07-Mar-13 21:09:49

Annies Coming Out

Greensleeves Thu 07-Mar-13 20:24:04

Some really harrowing stories here sad

Does anyone remember an Australian film called Annie's Coming Out? My mother used to watch it quite often and I was about 8 when I first saw it. I remember thinking that there couldn't really be places like that.

MrsMushroom Thu 07-Mar-13 18:54:05

Zeb I also worry about that. Making children learn for 5 days a week indoors for instance...I think in the future...I hope...that we may be more flexible and allow for children of ALL types to learn in the best way for them.

Some benefit from a classroom environment, some from being outdoors all day...some are academic...others artistic...I hope they will all be well catered for in the future whether they have SN, SEN or are NT.

zebrafinch Thu 07-Mar-13 18:20:01

In the same way we are looking back now I often think when dealing with all the professionals that help my son that what is seen today as cutting edge and progress will be viewed 50 years on with hindsight as did we really do that!!"

spottyblanket Thu 07-Mar-13 18:15:31

Extract from The War and Careers for Girls, 1940:

"Teachers of the mentally defective:......there are also some openings as helpers, at a small salary, for girls of 16 and 17 in occupation centres for mental defectives, but it was considered that this might be unduly depressing for the young and that a training and experience with normal children is a better preliminary."

spottyblanket Thu 07-Mar-13 17:49:57

My mother worked in one of those big psychiatric institutions that closed in the 80s. It had previously been a workhouse. Here's a couple of examples:

4 brothers, all with SN, came from a farm where they had each been chained to a leg of the kitchen table. When they grew to 6ft+ they were sent to the institution.

A boy with SN had been found living in a barn with the dogs on a farm in the Dales. His father had dumped him with the aunt. It was only when she died that he was discovered, now an adult. My mother adored him.

zebrafinch Thu 07-Mar-13 17:43:18

When I was at primary school in the 1960s there was a school adjoining us which was for children with behavioural problems. Sometimes a brick would be lobbed over ino our playground. In all my primary years I never set sight on any of the children there, they must have started and left at different times to us so we did not meet and we never had any interaction with them.
After my son was born with severe cerebral palsy I asked my mother about what happended to children with special needs when she was young. My mother was born in 1923 and grew up in rural Ireland, she remembered the policemans son had a difficult birth and he was looked after at home, staying by the fireside and rarely going out. It must have been difficult to get hold of a wheelchair and the country roads were poor. My mother had a friend who had a child with Downs syndrome in the late 1940s. This child lived to her fifties and was loved and cared for by her family and seemed to have a happy life being included in family life.

BalloonSlayer Thu 07-Mar-13 17:32:41

It's not all sad.

My Dad had HFA, and was born in the 1930s.

All his life he had an all-encompassing hobby that he valued above everything ( a classic one for autistic men).

He was not successful at school, he must have been beaten into submission at some point, although he never said so. He left school aged 14 to do an apprenticeship (in those days an apprenticeship was paid for by the parents) at an artisan trade which required massive attention to detail.

He worked at this trade for about 30 years before swapping to another one which required great mechanical aptitude.

He was married twice - to my mum who divorced him due to lack of affection and empathy, and to my stepmother who found him equally difficult but their marriage limped on until she died.

He eventually died earlier than he should have done as he was unable to motivate himself to manage his medical condition, even with the aid of carers - he had moved a long way away from us, and we and SS did our best.

Right up to the end of his life he carried on with his hobby, with his little band of chums who were . . . ahem . . . very similar to him.

He was never unemployed, owned his own house, lived independently, wasn't short of money, had plenty of friends, was married twice, was rarely bored (though frequently boring!), and had three daughters who loved him and miss him very much.

Pretty good really.

Badvoc Thu 07-Mar-13 16:49:07

My aunt had a baby with DS.
Or was mongoloid as they called it back then.
She fought to bring her home and did so, but the poor mite dies at 3 months from associated heart problems.
My aunt attempted suicide afterwards.
She never got over the loss of her little girl
I am always reminded of them both when people talk of parents of sn kids not caring or putting them "away".
Rip Lucy x

working9while5 Thu 07-Mar-13 16:27:43

My grandmother's sister had Down Syndrome (my grandmother is 91). My great-grandparents were advised to send their Mongol child sad to an institution. They didn't: they said boldly, that is OUR daughter you are talking about. She is a gift from God and she will live here with us as any of our children would.

My grandaunt lived with her family for all of her life, moving in with her older sister when they became adults. When she died, she was 69 which was the oldest anyone in that country had been with DS at that point. It must have taken huge courage in a small, intolerant community as she was also nonverbal. I am really proud of my great grandparents for the stand they took.

redwellybluewelly Thu 07-Mar-13 15:35:02

^ zzzzz I agree that the support isn't there and that which is there is hard to access

I feel compassion for those who give their child up purely based on my experience, however everyone is different and everyone does make different decisions.

zzzzz Thu 07-Mar-13 15:20:12

I find the concept of giving your child away because its needs are too much for you, very difficult to feel compassionate about. The mercy killing (which. In no way condone) sits easier for me. I'm not sure why this is.

I think things have improved for more mildly disabled children, but for those with more profound disabilities, I don't think the support is really there.

redwellybluewelly Thu 07-Mar-13 14:47:15


Tanith voluntary death by dehydration is still practised in the 'developed' world. It is still seen as causing less suffering than to let a baby with severe disabilities continue to need intensive care. Thats not a dailyfail report BTW but a real and known medical practice.

My experience is less ASD and more with children who have suffered oxygen deprivation at birth, they range from children who have mild CP to those unable to swallow, move, maintain a safe airway and suffer from constant aspiration pneumonias, epilepsy (which doesn't always respond to meds), unable to digest food so on a constant feed, months and months and months spent in childrens wards, parents having to arrange end of life care and very minimal access to respite.

Thats not to say they are loved any less or are any less or a human being but I would not in any way judge any parent or couple who opted to try to return to 'normal' life by having their child fostered or adopted.

zzzzz Thu 07-Mar-13 14:45:33

Tanith better that their mums cuddled them while they died than they were alone. sad

VikingLady Thu 07-Mar-13 14:24:21

I did read that in times of yore, midwives carried a hatpin for "dealing with" disabled babies, so they would be classed as stillbirths. I don't know how true this is. I hope it's not!

orangeandlemons Thu 07-Mar-13 14:12:29

I had severe anxiety as a very little child. I will be 50 this year. I was frequently told I was spoilt, demanding, making a fuss over nothing or weak minded!

Nobody seemed to consider that the fact my dad had tried to kill himself when I was 4 and was sectioned, whilst my mother struggled to cope would have any effect on me.

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