Wednesday, March 18, 2009

St. Margaret of Castello

Saint Margaret of Castello, patron saint of children with disabilities, shown here as a fairy God-mother protecting and appreciating a small child who was born differently abled.

There is a news item on NPR today about some horrifying abuse occurring at a state institution in Texas:

Morning Edition, March 18, 2009 · At a state institution for people with mental retardation in Texas, six staff members have been charged with taking part in staging what have been called human cockfights, using residents with mental retardation. The accusations have raised questions about how workers trained and hired to care for some of the most vulnerable people in society could instead treat them with cruelty. Read the rest of this article:

My older brother, Wally, was diagnosed with autism when he was around 2 years old. The doctor recommended that my parents place him in an institution where he could get "professional" help, and focus their attention on my sister and I- the two "normal" children. This was in the late sixties, and a lot of parents were still choosing to institutionalize their children who had disabilities. My mom and dad decided that Wally would remain at home, and so he has until this very day. Even so I was exposed to the horrors of institutions at a very young age: Wally's day school, Wildwood, for a time was located at O.D.Heck Developmental Center. Being the youngest I went there with my mom to bring Wally to and from school and for meetings. I remember being horrified and frightened for my brother when we were shown a closet where kids having tantrums were put. We had a book with photographs of Willowbrook. I looked at it once as a child and I was just sick over it. The thing that haunted me the most was a made for TV movie- it may have been "Sonshine"- about a family like ours. The parents checked out an institution and the dad took a detour from the approved tour and found rooms full of children tied to chairs, just sitting neglected, because they were like my brother. I grew up fearing that if something happened to my parents my brother would end up in one of these horrible places. How are institutions different really from concentration camps, where a person is incarcerated and robbed of their human rights because they were born "different" and somehow unjustly deemed unacceptable by those in power?

Make no mistake-people who are "normal" cause pain and suffering for people with "disabilities", more than their actual "disability" ever has! I would love to see a class action lawsuit come out of this horror in Texas, along with criminal charges of course, and an amendment to the constitution to protect people with disabilities from the kind of "help" these prisons are offering!

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