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Mentally Challenged kids - Should they be alienated?

Updated on January 25, 2013

Rejoice! The baby is born.

Those parents, who might have already had the horrifying experience of being confronted in their past, with that one single life changing moment, when it had felt like being hit by a bolt of lightning, would better understand the misery and helplessness associated with the crude reality of giving birth to, and nurturing, a mentally challenged baby. The journey of such grief stricken parents, generally, starts with an irreconcilable shock and uncontrolled tears but gradually ends in acceptance, mitigation and salvaging whatever is left. Did I say salvaging? Some parents get so much blinded with grief and mental chaos that they tend to (unintentionally) ignore the ‘salvaging’ part by neglecting their other children. What happens to the siblings in a house infested with insanity, violence, screams, depression and frenzy? The parents are, no doubt, the worst sufferers but are the siblings any less affected?

Let me share a story (true story) with you and you decide for yourself, the best recourse in such situations. This is a story of a woman (Alisha) who spent her entire childhood and youth witnessing the aggression and violence of her mentally challenged sister (Nancy). I had a long talk with her once but towards the end of the conversation, I was completely at a loss; I wasn’t able to identify someone who could be held responsible for her predicament. Assessing the state of affairs from where she stood, my heart went out to her. It seemed that even after being married for a very long time, the memories of her unhealthy childhood had left deep rooted scars on her psyche. She looked at me with those empty eyes and started off by saying, “we do certain things which seem so right at a given point of time and later keep wishing for the rest of our lives that we hadn’t.”

Without stepping into an arena of passing a verdict, let me put down the excerpt (from our conversation) for your perusal and we’ll proceed from thereon. At this juncture, I wouldn’t like to miss an opportunity to confess that her life story inspired me to an extent that I compiled her eye-opening experiences in my Novel, ‘From the desk of a daughter’ (Link given on my profile page). Let’s move further. Here's what Alisha had to say.

Lonely childhood of a sibling

From the eyes of a sibling…

“My parents had turned every stone possible with a hope to see Nancy (mentally challenged sister) at least approach normalcy but over the years all their hopes had died down. Her violent behavior aggravated as she grew up. She would not let anyone enter our house and have a normal conversation with my parents; I never recollect having been able to talk to my mother or father for more than a few seconds, at any given point of time. She would start crying and shouting on the top of her voice whenever she saw any one of us talking to each other or to any visitor, for that matter. A strange behavior for which no doctor had an answer! It used to be a source of huge embarrassment for my parents. The worst thing she did to us was that we lost contact with the outside world; no visitors allowed.

We could not even put Nancy in some special school as there were no such schools in the city we lived in. Very soon I realized that there was no social life left for us. More than any of us this proved detrimental to my father’s career as his profession needed him to be socially active. Who doesn’t know that one cannot survive in journalism by confining himself to his house for most of the time! It was like a fish out of water twitching on dry earth and still hoping to live. I saw him, struggling, barely being able to support his family and always under a constant fear of losing his job. He denied many lucrative work opportunities which could have proved a boon for his career, just for the reason that he could not travel out of the city, leaving his wife all alone to take care of Nancy, who was a total liability and needed one person round the clock to take care of her needs. The doctors had told my parents soon after Nancy’s birth that she could never be a normal person and that it would be in the best interest of the family if the child was alienated and put in some kind of a facility so that the other members wouldn’t get affected by her abnormal behavior. I guess my father never felt strong enough to let his minor and mentally retarded daughter, go out of his sight even for a single day. It was indeed a dilemma! My parents had to make a choice and they made it; Nancy was to stay put ….”


Her parents had made a choice; a choice of keeping Nancy in the house as they never felt strong enough to put her in some facility but they had probably not anticipated the adverse effect it eventually had on their other two daughters (the youngest one passed away when she was in High School). As I delved deep into her heart-rending story, I could very well imagine what Alisha might have gone through and what she might have had to withstand, with her heart bleeding and mouth shut all the time. Apparently, she had never been able to get from her parents, the love and attention which she had so much craved for, in her childhood. Nancy had devoured each and every moment of the happiness which she rightfully deserved. I could clearly see why Alisha had turned into an introvert, quiet, hypersensitive and an enigmatic person. She surprised me when she blatantly admitted that despite trying hard to be normal in her personal life, she had never been able to live like any other woman of her age. “May be I suffer from some psychological disorder which I don’t even know about.” She briefly paused and looked down (her hands clasped together) as she wound up, putting the entire blame on her own self, for her unsuccessful married and social life. What else could a daughter do?

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