Chapter 3: Involvement with Chester County ARC
22:01:04:16 - 22:05:05:08
L. So Charlotte you were talking about reaching out to other parents and you found, um, a local ARC chapter which connected you with other parents who had children with disabilities.
L. I'm wondering what that experience was like; to connect and to share the experience of being a parent of a child with disabilities with other parents similarly situated?
C. Well, it was very comforting. Uh, the fact that you could share your experience with someone else and it was nice to know that they had some goals at the time because there really was nothing much around and if a child were just what they called slow, in other words their IQ would be fairly close to normal, they might be able to get into school then; so on and so forth. But if you had a child who was more involved there was no schooling, um, at the time and there were no nursery schools and you were at a loss as to know what to do. And I was, as I said, I was really dumbfounded because I had never really known anyone personally that had this problem. I remember in my first little house that down the street there was a family who had a little girl who was mentally challenged and I would see her walking up the street to go to the school bus and uh she was fairly high functioning, at least able to go to school. I mean but I didn't know her and I didn't know the family. I really and truly was, well I was very young on top of everything else. I guess when Beverly was born I was in my early twenties. I'm trying to think. Oh probably 24 or something like that and as I say, had absolutely no experience with something like this. So it was wonderful to find, as I sat, other parents and we would talk about it and they were very interested, at the time, in creating a nursery school, a pre-school type thing and they did and so Beverly attended the pre-school. Before that occurred I did find a pre-school down nearby town about ten miles away I guess and so I signed Beverly up for that. I think she went about three days a week but it wasn't easy because by that time I had another child. Uh, I had my second son and he would be taking his morning nap and I'd have to get him up in the wintertime, get his snowsuit on, get him out in the car, head down for Wayne, Pennsylvania, which is where the place was, and take Bev and then she's only be there maybe two and a half hours and it'd be time to go get her and bring her back but I felt that the contact with other children and just getting her out and doing something was very good for her and I'm sure that it was. And again I met other parents too there who I had conversations with and that I shared with and that was very helpful to me.
22:05:05:15 - 22:06:36:06
L. I wonder, Charlotte, who some of those parents were. I think of the ARC, that particular chapter, having some very strong and wonderful parent advocates. I wonder if you encountered some parents, men or women, who made a difference in your life or who were inspirational figures for you.
C. Mm-hmm. Well the second person to be Executive Director there was Ruth Wood and as it turned out Ruth Wood was the mother of a little girl I had seen going to the school bus so I remembered her daughter. Melody was her name and uh, Ruth was active along with as I previously mentioned Doug Bickley and there was another family that were prominent in it and that was Richard and Monnie Zobel. These were some of the persons that were initial in starting that ARC of Chester County and they were very helpful. All of them had children that were involved.
22:07:36:03 - 22:09:33:04
L. Charlotte you mentioned that one of the interesting things for you in belonging to the ARC was here was an organization that had goals. Um certainly education as you described was one of the ARC's goals. Were there other areas in which the parents were working to make a difference for their children with disabilities?
C. Well I think they were working even back then, for acceptance and for inclusion which certainly were two buzz words that came to the forefront years later but even then they were working for those goals and they were working eventually for a Public Law 94142 uh to include all children in public education so even though it was just starting, I mean these were the things that were on everyone's mind. You know, what are these children, where are they going? What are they going to do? And placing them in an institution was not what anyone wanted at the time but in many cases it was the only alternative and so that was unfortunate. And they were fundraising and very busy organizations with meetings and fundraising and talking to legislatures and trying to get laws passed and because we all learned that unless it becomes a law it's moved very slowly. And so everyone was learning and everyone was pushing and trying to get a foothold in getting ahead and getting some good things passed for these children so that they wouldn't be just lost in the shuffle and put in an institution and forgotten.
22:09:33:20 - 22:11:26:05
L. Charlotte was your husband involved with the ARC as well?
C. Not really. My husband, as I say, we were in the restaurant business and it was, I don't want to say 24/7, it wasn't that bad but it was every day. It was certainly every day. We were open seven days a week and fairly long hours and so my husband was very involved in the restaurant and this is what he enjoyed doing and he had a tough time accepting the fact that Beverly was mentally challenged. He adored her and she was his little princess and he realized that I was out there trying to belong to this and that and make it some advancement and he said look you, whatever you need, whatever you need to do, wherever you need to go, whatever you need, do it. Do it. You know, and he said it's fine but he's as much as said I can't always be there but you go ahead and be there. So I said good, okay, I'll take over and I did. And he was agreeable. I don't ever remember him not agreeing to whatever. He truly had faith in what I was trying to do and he always agreed that whatever you say I believe in it so do it. So that was helpful because it would have been very difficult for him or for me, uh, if he had given me a hard time about some things because it wasn't always easy that's for sure but he was very agreeable.
22:11:26:23 - 22:13:18:05
L. I know that many families discuss the impact of disability on their marriages and relationships.
L. Was disability… did it make an impact on your family life?
C. I can't say truly, I guess, of course it made an impact. It's going to make an impact. I mean I can't imagine that it wouldn't make an impact but my husband and I came from very stable families and we had no desire to do anything but make a good home for our kids and work towards a nicer living, uh, experience. Maybe a nice little bit bigger home, um, by that time we had two boys that needed raising and we felt a responsibility to raise them as normally as we could and they needed time so um we just tried to make the best of whatever came our way and my husband was very fortunate and I was too that the business was very successful. And we weren't wealthy but we certainly could afford to give the children what they needed and to be comfortable. And we worked very hard. It didn't come sailing along and fall in our lap. We put in long hours and my mother was very helpful. Uh, she was a widow, of course, and she, my children were her first grandchildren so she spent a lot of time in our home and she helped out a lot with Beverly and uh, she was a great, great influence in all of us.
More Interview Chapters
- Childhood, Early Adulthood, and Marriage
- Children and Discovering Daughter's Disability
- YOU ARE HERE: Involvement with Chester County ARC
- Looking for Supports for Daughter, Placement at Elwyn
- Community Living, Successes and Challenges
- Charlotte's Current Advocacy Efforts and Thoughts on the Current System
- Reflections on Work, Inspirations
About Charlotte Twaddell
Born: Philadelphia, PA
Parent, Advocate, Former President Chester County ARC, Former President Pennsylvania ARC
ARC, Community, Elwyn, Embreeville, Group Homes, Guardianship, Medication, Nursing Homes, Pennhurst