Everybody Loves Michael

Mike was a very popular guy when I used to visit him in his group home.

autism sibling girlfriend

I imagine that he still is. Pretty good for a guy who doesn’t talk.

When I lived close by, I frequently got calls about Mike’s condition, usually if he had a seizure or a cut or a bruise.  He was a frequent visitor to the emergency room. The staff didn’t take any chances. He was having an increasingly hard time getting around since one of his eyes developed a cataract. He kept bumping in to things. So they transferred him to a geriatric facility for a higher level of attention. The staff at his old place looked after him very well. We knew everybody’s name, staff and residents alike, and were included in the planning of his care.

What a difference from  Willowbrook! My Mom always used to get calls about Michael being clobbered by another patient. Once, his teeth got knocked out. It was always another patient, so she was told.  Michael certainly took his share of abuse back then.

There was only one occasion in his home where another resident hurt him. The staff wouldn’t tell me who, but I had pretty good idea. When I went to visit, he looked like a Civil War veteran.

autism sibling injury

Even the housemate who cut him thought Michael was a nice guy.

6 thoughts on “Everybody Loves Michael

  1. Being popular has never been high on my priority list but for your brother, its a lovely indicator of his personal qualities that those who have spent a lot of time living with him, value his company. The photo from willowbank however looks like something from a David lynch film.

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  2. Yes, my brother is fortunate to have people who value his company. Both photos were taken at his group home. I don’t have pictures from inside the buildings at Willowbrook. I assume you are referring to his Civil War bandages as reminiscent of a David Lynch film.

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    • Yes, but not just the bandages and not just Mike – the whole photo is incredibly evocative and compelling. The lighting, the contrast, the grain and of course the subject. My little boy has a very high pain threshold and is always ignoring or under-reacting to the bites, crashes on the floor and ‘hot’ things he is so fascinated by. He can cause a fair amount of damage to himself and others, but the thought of someone hurting him…cue shark music! It must have been very concerning for your parents to see him hurt like that.

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  3. Yes, my parents were very concerned. There was a helpless feeling, as well. At Willowbrook, there was no recourse. It was only when Geraldo Rivera exposed the abuses, that something was done – on a State level. At least, with the group home model, and strict oversignt, there are procedures, follow-ups, corrective plans, etc. to address problems. It is a world of difference today than it was back then.

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    • thank goodness! In australia, although we have ‘reasonable’ facilities, group homes etc. they are only now holding a royal commission into abuse in institutions. Hopefully some valuable recommendations will come from that and the government of the day will see fit to implement them. We do have more support around keeping families together, but it’s very patchy. Last year one of our public broadcasters presented a program about ‘relinquishing care’ and the difficulties families have when one of their children has extremely high needs. I thought you might be interested, so here’s the link : http://www.sbs.com.au/insight/episode/watchonline/495/Breaking-Point

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  4. Yes, I’ll take a look at the link. Thanks.

    In the US, there is abuse in some senior care facilities and in some group home settings. However, I think that the potential for abuse is far less that if the patients were housed in the large institutions of yesteryear. In any case, the best oversight for care of a loved one is the interest of a party outside the institution, such as a family member. This is very hard to do in some cases. I live on the opposite coast to my brother, so I am not able to perform that function unfortunately. I have to trust that the reforms arising out of previous abuses have resulted in a better system. Nothing stays the same, so we have to be careful about trends to aggregate patients in large institutions again.

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