John McC's reminiscences of the Douglas Institute in Lasalle brought back some of my memories of the "Looney Bin". As John so aptly put it, "We were not politically correct" in those days nor were we sympathetic to the needs of the patients. I and my friends from Verdun and NDG would also ride by hoping to see an 'inmate" so that we could heckle them.
Ahhh! The compassion of youth, the ignorance of our time.
As many of your readers are aware my Mom and Dad took in many foster children in their lifetime. One such case occurred while we lived on Campbell in the Park. We received a young baby by the name of Douglas, actually Dougie was over two years old when he came to live with us.
Dougie was so malnourished that he was the size of a 5 or 6 month old baby. His legs were curled up and inward, the prognosis was not good, the doctors told mom and dad that they doubted Dougie's ability to walk would ever return.
Mom being the perennial optimist, and not having training in physiotherapy, would grab Dougie's ankles while changing his diaper, stretch out his legs and, with great affection say, "You're going to walk, you little bastard". At first Dougie would cry out in pain but gradually his legs straightened out and eventually he was able to walk.
Dougie was severely autistic and of course we knew little about autism in those days. By the way Sandy R., I learned the trick about sticking the bobby pin in the wall plug from Dougie except Dougie did it without benefit of a T-Square and would giggle like crazy as the electricity ran through his body.
In later years Mom and Dad could no longer cope with Dougie and arrangements were were made to have him attend the Douglas Institute where professionals could train him to function in a such a way as to be able to provide himself with meager financial support. Because of his illness repetitious acts were acts of pleasure and training him to do work that you and I find boring was relatively easy.
We were told to allow him an adjustment period before visiting him at the Douglas. Once we felt he was comfortably settled we went to visit. I cannot explain in written words how heartrendering that experience was, not just for Dougie but for all those youngsters that we encountered there.
To this day I can still smell the urine, see the faces of these urchins as they followed us around, holding our hands or trying to put their hand in our pocket to see if we had a treat for them.
Dougie is now in his late forties and in a group home.