Mom’s search for a place for Mike was long and arduous. In the 1950s, medical professionals were not accustomed to take care of individuals with my brother’s condition. Mike is autistic (a relatively unknown condition at that time), low functioning (using the parlance of the time: ‘retarded’), and nonverbal. He was placed at Willowbrook, an institution on Staten Island, NY, USA. This was the end of Mike’s childhood and a beginning of a phase for the rest of the family.
Much has been written about Willowbrook. For many parents, Willowbrook was a last resort. It offered families a solution to providing care for their loved ones who were unable to take care of themselves. But, those who are helpless, difficult to understand, and who have little understanding themselves, are easily abused. Today, a search for ‘willowbrook’ and ‘holocaust’ on the internet yields 310,000 hits.
Parents do not knowingly expose their children to harm, my Mom and Dad certainly did not. However, in Mike’s case, injuries (always “from other patients”) kept happening; vague promises of resolution were given and not kept.