Muscatatuck Oral History - Steve and Vickie Ward Interview
"The very first day of leaving him there, it was just like somebody tore my heart out," recalls Steve Ward. His son Steven entered Muscatatuck State Developmental Center around 1990. Steven was 14 and had had a brain tumor since the age of two, followed by many surgeries. With bad headaches, challenging behavior, and an eating disorder, doctors kept telling the Wards that Steven needed a more structured environment. At home, "he was just totally destructive. He was like a wild bull in a china shop." His mother Vickie admits that they still felt like failures as parents, to have to place him in Muscatatuck. Once in the institutional environment, Steven was no longer over-medicated and he thrived, his parents recall. "Steven knew every minute of every day what he was going to do, and that just erased all of his stress."
When Vickie and Steve were interviewed in May of 2005 at their home Batesville, Indiana, Muscatatuck had all but shut its doors. Steven was 28 years old and had moved to an apartment he shared with a roommate in North Vernon, an hour away. After several years, his parents seemed unsure that being in a community setting was best for their son. "I think the state held Muscatatuck very, very accountable for every little teeny detail, and now they’re way out in the big world, and all that accountability, as much as they try, I think their care depends on who happens to be there that day," Vickie says. She reports that funding cuts had reduced the amount of staff support Steven received, affecting his quality of life. "Steven’s one-on-one is very minimal, and that, I think, is very unfair." Good employment opportunities for Steven were scarce. "There’s not as much out there for handicapped people as they lead you to believe," Steve observes, "and anything that’s out there, there’s a whole bunch of people wanting it."
Vickie looks back at the institution as being "very safe, and us as parents, I didn’t feel we had any worries at all." "Now he’s a handicapped person out in the world with a bunch of normal people that don’t understand him," says Steve. "Even though people try, they don’t understand."
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