The Letter that Started It All

Bergen Evening Record

October 12, 1946

Editor, Bergen – Evening Record.

Dear Sir: There are several hundred families in this country faced with the problem of a mentally deficient or mentally handicapped child. Each year many more are unwillingly, and usually unexpectedly, added to this number.

There are any number of ways in which a person may react to this tragic news, depending upon the individual. The most realistic as well as the most idealistic reaction is to face the problem squarely, find out as much about it as one can, and assume a matter-of-fact attitude toward the child and his difficulty. Above all it should be realized that the child’s condition is no reflection upon himself or his family and certainly no fault of his or his mother’s. However, this is not always so easy to do, and it is little wonder that so many parents, particularly mothers, become bitter, defiant, defensive, seclusive and evasive, desperately grief-stricken or just plain martyrs when faced with this trying situation.

The thought uppermost in mind of most parents is: “What can I do to help my child?” The answer is usually; “Nothing much, except to provide for his care as best as you can to lead a normal life yourself.” But there is another larger answer, which lies in the fact that there are thousands of children like him everywhere. That answer is that each parent can ultimately help his own child by doing something to help all children similarly afflicted. If each parent would try in his own small way to do something to promote the general welfare of all mentally handicapped children, then the possibility of his own child’s being well treated and eventually helped would be that much greater.

Therefore I suggest an organization for all parents of mentally retarded children particularly for those with children under 15 years of age. It could also be open to professional workers interested in their welfare. It might be called Parents of Retarded Children Association or perhaps Retarded Children’s Assistance Association. Its aim and objectives would be;

For parents to get together and discuss their mutual problems and thus encourage and assist one another.

To act as a sort of P.T.A. to state institutions, not to interfere in their administration, but to help in much the same way that a well run P.T.A. works in a public school.

To form committees to visit private schools and nursing homes and make descriptive lists for interested parents.

To have a list of experienced sympathetic mothers available to call on and encourage new mothers recently acquainted with their heartbreaking problem.

If the organization reaches the fund-raising stage, through benefits, entertainments, and the like to use those funds to help desperate needy cases and to endow well run laboratories engaged in scientific research into the causes-and, we hope, someday the cures-of mental deficiencies.

Perhaps to conduct publicity campaigns to enlighten and soften the general attitude toward mental deficiency.

This venture should be open to all parents, whether their children are at home or in public or private institutions. So come on: you parents of Bergen County. Lift your chins and get together and form what may well prove to be the first chapter in a nation-wide organization. All those interested might write notes to this column. Although this letter is appearing with only initials, if enough people are sincerely interested, I will gladly give my full name and address at a later date.

L.S.B.