Browndale


Hugging Kids Hitting Kids and Such at Browndale
I joined Browndale In 1970 after I married a former Warrendale/Browndale girl Andrea who had grown up and worked for Browndale. Browndale was an institution for 'Emotionally Disturbed Children' I am still not sure what that means. we had a couple of dozen kids to deal with fom 3yrs to 18 with varied problems that could be considered autistic although I never heard that word, to schizophrenic. Mostly I found the kids incredibly clever and they could really be destructive to themselves and others and you really spent most of the day just trying to keep ahead of them. It was most important to keep an even keel have a positive outlook and never take anything person. We were hired as resource staff and worked at the free school for Newmarket kids and was locate on a farm near Keswick. Andrea more or less prepared lunch and tried to get kids interested preparing food and kitchen stuff. I had a room upstairs and taught arts and crafts to 3 or 4 kids at a time. Doug was the principal and he originated different projects which I often helped with. The kids mostly had a personal staff which accompanied them and depending would work with their kid or others reading playing etc.
We were encouraged to touch the kids as much as possible. By todays standards mostly this would be considered assault. This was in no way sexual, but patting their back or shoulder and hugging and holding close etc. This was done in an almost parental way but more so. it was done to make the child felt loved and wanted. I came from a non hugging family and it took me a bit to get to used to but I cannot think of a child I worked with that I didn't hug or hold and felt comfortable with and they felt comfortable with me most of the time. it is interesting to watch the latest theories on bullying. If I walked into a room and all the kids were picking on shouting at or hitting a kid I would grab that kid and say "Ok what did you do?"
We kept a flock of chickens in the barn and if one of the kids came to you and said that one of the chickens was limping you could bet that that kid had kicked it.
When a child freaked out and became unmanageable or had a tantrum etc.  One of the staff would put the child in a holding this was a method of wrapping yourself around the child holding their arms and wrapping your legs around theirs so the child could not move or hurt themselves or you. At the school we might have one or two of these a week. And I have to say they worked well after holding a kid like this for a half hour or so finally calmed them down and either you or their own staff would take them aside and have post mortem.  We had one boy who a real problem, he became totally disruptive and he was too big to hold. He stuck his oar in every aspect of the school throwing everything. It was decided at a top level meeting that I should confront him, challenge him, wrestle with him slap him etc what ever it took to show him who was boss.  I did this with some reluctance but it didn't take long for him to start. I grabbed him and told him that it was it. No more shit I threw him around a bit but before it really got anywhere all the female staff jumped me while the kid was put in a car and driven home.  No body had told the staff what I was doing. It was pretty funny and The kid did smarten up for a while. We had four or five young teenage girls and we hugged and patted them just like the others.
As a man I had to be careful where I touched and also fend off flirts and slight and even overt sexual advances as they tested their femininity. We also had to watch for older kids diddling younger kids etc. These kids were experts at every sort of manipulation. It was a totally engrossing job, you could not let up for a minute and it took a toll on all the staff.  The B staff were younger and mostly one on one with very difficult kids and would burn out in about 2 years. I hate to think of their psychological problems on leaving, I know of a few that had real problems. i saved one kid from Penetanguishene. he was in my class and while slow was responsive. he was missing the next day and because I made an effort to show that he was disturbed rather than impossible saved him from never-never land.
I came up with a program for the summer where we took 3 kids on our farm for a week as a vacation from treatment. I gave the kids enormous freedom to just act normal and be responsible and I was heartened when most of our kids had to be revaluated.

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