Episode 85: Rita | loving bobby : special need’s parenting in the 1950’s

We can all agree that medicine has come a long way in recent decades. Parents can now receive some diagnoses before their child is even born and receive treatments that didn’t exist prior.  Within our society, though there is still a lot of work to do, there have been changes as well. In 1975, the Education for All Handicapped Children Act was signed into law (now known as the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act). This guaranteed access to a free and appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment to every child with a disability. 1975 you guys…1975. That was less than 50 years ago. So, with that in mind, what was it like for families of children with special needs in the 1950’s? 

Rita, along with her daughter Lou, join us to share Bobby’s story. Bobby was diagnosed with Down Syndrome after he was born, and after the doctors gave a less than glowing prognosis for what his life would look like. We hear about his birth, the reaction of the community, and the experience of sending him away to school. We hear the story of a full and fulfilling life that continues to impact those that he touched. 

In this episode, we hear stories of physicians using language that is not used today. We hear nicknames that would now cause us to shudder. This was considered normal and generally accepted at the time. Rita discusses how this began to change during Bobby’s life. By sharing his story, and what life was like when he was younger, we can see that advocacy, love, and passion of his family and others like them have laid the groundwork for improvements that we see today. 

“Out of Bobby being born, I can relate to so many instances where things have evolved.” -Rita

Here’s what Rita and Lou shared that you do not want to miss:

  • Introducing Rita and Lou (4:05)
  • Bobby is born (5:36)
  • Taking Bobby into the world (8:47)
  • No school resources (12:05)
  • Fun memories (15:49)
  • Changes in acceptance (18:36)
  • Getting a diagnosis (19:58)
  • Leaving Bobby (22:05)
  • Sticking up for Bobby (32:48)
  • Advice from Rita (40:53)
  • What gives Rita hope (41:39)

Special needs parenting has its challenges and its joys, no matter what decade you lived or are living through. I hope Rita has shown you that when looking back, you will have fun memories, right alongside the raw tear-filled ones. There is always love and there is always hope. Come visit us in the When Autumn Comes Society or send me a DM on Instagram! I’d love to hear from you.

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