Letters to the editor

Autism story shows contrast to earlier days

Congratulations on your article about autism in the winter Quarterly. It is truly amazing to see how many media stories there are now about autism spectrum disorders, something few people knew of back in 1974 when I was hired to teach a class of 3-year-old autistic children.

I answered an ad in the local Westchester County newspaper looking for a teacher in this field. When I read the ad, I thought it said “artistic” children. Since I had majored in art at Wheaton and had a master’s degree in elementary education, I thought I’d apply. Little did I know what I was getting into. I had four children in my first class, all nonverbal, severely autistic, self-abusive, spinning, no social skills, etc., and it was quite something to deal with.

We had 12 children in the school, a psychologist, a speech therapist and a music therapist. It was definitely on-the-job training, experimenting with lots of ways to reach these children.

In 1974 autistic children were not mandated to be educated in the public setting. (A 1978 law changed that.) We taught many of these kids good behavior skills and communication through the use of sign language, believing that the more visual clues the kids had, the more they could learn spoken language.

I taught at the school (Westchester Exceptional Children, Inc., in North Salem, N.Y.) for 27 years. The school grew and thrived and now serves about 85 special-needs children. Once they reach 21, many of these students will move into adult group homes and lead productive lives.

—Lydia Smith Kaeyer ’62

Great looking Quarterly

My copy of the Wheaton Quarterly arrived today. The new format is beautiful. I read it from cover to cover with great interest and pride. Whoever is behind the new look should be congratulated.

—June Daisley Lockhart ’42

Editor’s note: The Quarterly has long benefited from excellent design work by the now-retired Mike Kurgansky and Art Director Barbara Dill. The new “look” reflects the contributions of our current graphic designer, David Laferriere, who began designing the magazine in January 2010.

Nice winter cover

I liked the Quarterly cover this issue. It has nice colors and is interesting to look at again and again.

—Kimberly Corey ’91

Applause for role of music in Crutcher’s life

I loved the Convergence essay by President Crutcher in the winter Quarterly about his lifelong experience of playing the cello. I was fortunate to meet him a couple of times during the year leading up to my 50th Reunion in 2008. We talked a lot about music, as I am a serious amateur pianist. One of the aspects I admire most about President Crutcher is that he is a musician, and I am convinced that this is what makes him such an effective president. Playing music uses every part of the human being: It uses our physical self, as it takes enormous amounts of physical coordination; it uses our minds, in that it takes more concentration than any other activity; and, of course, it engages our spirit and soul to hear and produce beautiful sounds.

—Helen Wardwell Du Bois ’58