There is no other life than this one. It doesn’t matter what one believes regarding death and the after life, this is the one life we have, right here, right now. How will we live it? What we do, what we say, how we behave in this moment is indicative of how we do anything.
I’m reading Rosemary Crossley’s first book, Annie’s Coming Out, which she wrote with Anne McDonald and was made into a movie in the 80’s, released in the US under the title, “A Test of Love.” (As a side note, I find it interesting that the book’s title places Annie as the protagonist and yet the US film title suggests the therapist is. By the way, I’m one of the people who believes both Anne and Rosemary were/are heroic and have nothing but tremendous respect for both.)
“Children, even children who could sit up, were generally laid down to be fed. Their heads would rest in the nurse’s lap, and their bodies would lie across another chair placed in front of her knees. This meant children were being fed with their heads tilted right back, a method called, for obvious reasons, ‘bird feeding’: gravity drops the food straight to the back of the throat, and there is no chance to chew. Children were encouraged not to shut their mouths – a second mouthful immediately followed the first. I have filmed a nurse feeding a child: food is piling high on his face because he is unable to swallow it at the rate the nurse spoons it in.” ~ Annie’s Coming Out by Rosemary Crossley and Anne McDonald
The above is, but one of many harrowing passages in the book describing the institution Anne McDonald was placed in when she was three years old.
“To be imprisoned inside one’s own body is dreadful. To be confined in an institution for the profoundly retarded does not crush you in the same way; it just removes all hope.” ~ Anne McDonald in the book Annie’s Coming Out
It is impossible to read this book and not feel horror. Horror at our ignorance, horror that a place like St. Nicholas Hospital was more the norm than not, horror for all we didn’t understand or know, horror for our capacity as human beings to treat one another with such indifference and cruelty. It is easy to console oneself with the thought that this happened more than thirty years ago and this sort of thing would never happen now, not here in the United States, not now.
How will we view the “treatments” commonly used with Autistic children thirty, forty years from now? What will we think about the commonly held views regarding autism and Autistic people. Will we look back with the same horror I feel as I read Annie’s Coming Out?
Anne McDonald and Rosemary Crossley