I was only 9 years old when I was sent to the Hannah Neil Center for Children. Today, I am 35 years old. For me, age 9 was a lifetime ago. However, for some reason, the memories that I have sometimes seem like they only took place yesterday. I have been told that I was lucky because a lot of the children who are sent to behavioral modification facilities do not make it out of there alive. One good thing I think that can come from this is to share my story with others, letting them know that they are not alone. Perhaps, a parent may see this and decide that these places are not one of the best alternatives for their child. I may be a survivor, however I have also been diagnosed with PTSD and major depression because of what I have been though, and will have to live with that for the rest of my life.
How it all started
When I was 3 years old, I was adopted by my grandparents because my mom was not currently working and she was in the process of a divorce with my biological father. As I got older, on the block where I lived, there was no kids who lived on that block, let alone the same street I was on. So basically, all of my life, I was around older people, and could not relate to kids my own age.
When I was sent away
In 1980, I was 9 and in the fourth grade at the time. The committee at my home school voted unanimously to send me to a residential treatment center called the Hannah Neil Center for Children. Ironically my fourth grade teacher, Ms. Makely, was one of those who was active on the committee at that time.
Three infractions at my home school led to this decision. The first one was when a girl in my class brought in a prank ketchup bottle. The girl who did this I had a serious crush on ever since the second grade. A lot of my classmates thought that both of us would have made a great couple. Anyways, she brought this to school, and one day she said my name, I turned around and she squirted it at me. The bottle had retractable red yarn in it, but I didn't know it at the time and I blew up. She told me to look down and nothing was on my shirt.
Looking back, I know that I over reacted. To this day, I don't know exactly why. It's hard to describe. The only way I know how to describe it was that I liked her, I thought she liked me, and I felt embarrassed and humiliated when everyone was standing around laughing. No one else seemed to feel that way. When she did the same to other kids, they laughed and played along. My teacher walked in as this was going on. She didn't take my reaction very well. She even tried telling me "Don't you think she might be doing that to you because she likes you and wants your attention?" Unfortunately, to no avail that did not work for me. Infraction #1: cannot relate to his own peers very well - aggressive and confrontational.
The next infraction was my home school's Halloween parade. We would dress up in costumes and parade in the downtown streets of our town for everyone to watch. I dressed up as Darth Vader that year.
Every year my grandmother would stand at the same spot, right in front of town hall watching to see me and talk to me. I stopped by like I had done every single year, except this year my fourth grade teacher took exception to this. That I never did understand. My first, second, and third grade teacher didn't. It was only my fourth grade teacher who did.
She came running back and said "C'mon, let's go! You're supposed to be in a parade." My grandmother said, "I just wanted to talk to my grandson for a minute." I kept talking to my grandmother and my teacher said, "Now! Let's go! I'm not going to tell you again!" I then turned and looked at my teacher and said "My grandmother wanted to say something to me. I'll catch up with the rest of you."
My teacher was a cowgirl for that year. As I was waiting to hear what my grandmother wanted to say to me, she took her lasso, through it around me as if I was a piece of cattle, and she said "When I say now, I mean NOW! Not an hour, not a few minutes, not even a second. Now means now!", and she dragged me on the ground about 5 feet, right in front of my grandmother and other onlookers. My grandmother just stood there and said "Don't fight her, I'll tell you later when you get home." Infraction #2: insubordination - has problems following orders.
Later in that year, we had a show and tell in our class. One of the classmates who lived in the country decided to bring one of his horses to school. I watched as he was talking about his horse and he was showing others how to ride one, how to steer a horse from left to right, how to pick up speed, how to slow it down, etc. Then, he demonstrated and rode off for, I would say, a few hundred feet in this field that belonged to the school.
As he rode up, everyone came up and pet the horse. I just stood back and watched. My teacher said, "Don't you want to pet the horse?" I said "No." She said, "Why not?" I said, "Because I just don't want to." She then said, "Ah, c'mon! Everyone else is petting the horse." I then said, "Yeah, but I just don't feel like it." She then let out a big sigh and said "Well, guess what? You're going to pet the horse whether you want to or not." She grabbed a hold of my arm, dragged my toward the horse, and having a hold of my wrist, she forced my hand, and moved it across the side of the horse." She said, "There. That wasn't so bad was it? Nothing to be afraid of there." Infraction #3: Defies authority, will not conform - incorrigible.
After that episode is when the school decided that I needed to be sent away to learn how other kids interact, so the school decided that in my best interest, I should be sent to Hannah Neil Center for Children. It was outpatient, which meant I was allowed to come home after school was up, where some had to stay there and live. The first two weeks were the worst. During the first two weeks there, I was beaten up and a victim of same sex assault by one of the classmates. This is what my psychologist believes today is the cause of my PTSD.
At Hannah Neil, they had what were referred to as time out rooms (aka seclusion rooms) with doors that were locked for kids who didn't behave. It was a metal door that was painted red on year, yellow the next, had a square window with shatterproof glass with a grid towards the bottom for ventilation purposes. The door did not have a handle from the inside and could only be opened from the outside. The walls were made of concrete squares, painted white, and both the door and the walls had fingernail scratches on them, which was creepy. My automatic reaction was "I wonder what went on in here to make kids want to get out that badly?" Sometimes walking passed that place, you could hear screams. Nothing like let me out, put high pitched as if someone was being tortured in there. I would tense up and my stomach would knot up everything I walked passed there. Even if the outer door was closed to go into that room where those cells were located, it was just knowing what was there behind that door.
They also had a room which was called the "OT Room" (which stood for the Off Trust Room). This one wasn't quite as creepy as the time out room. It just looked like a vacant office. What was different is the doors would be locked by a key, instead of the surface bolts that were used on the time out room cells, and this room had no lights, unlike the time out rooms. So, if you went in this one, it would be pitch darkness. No windows, no nothing. You were monitored by an infrared camera and communicated with through a speaker in the ceiling and that was it.
I was sent to the Time Out room once for fighting. I was defending myself against another kid who was there for awhile. Because no teachers saw who threw the first punch, both of us had to go. It was for 1 day. You had to take off your shoes, if you wore a belt, you had to take that off as well, and give it to a teacher. They brought your classwork to the room and if you couldn't figure it out for yourself, tough luck. It was your fault that you weren't in class that day when teachers were explaining everything. No scissors, paper clips, staples, pens, pencils, or markers. You had to do your class work in black crayon. They brought lunch for you in styrofoam containers with plastic forks, knifes, and spoons. You had to eat your food in there. If you had to use the restroom, you were escorted into the restroom, watched while using the restroom, and you were escorted back. If you couldn't go because someone was watching you as to tried to go, they accused you of trying to get time off from being in there, and they would tack another day on top of what you already had, even if it was only for a few minutes.
Basically, when I was at this place, I was treated like a criminal for awhile. You were automatically assumed guilty and had to prove that you were innocent.
They had a point and level system, where you earned both good points and bad points. Good points meritted trust and certain privledges, where bad points would subtract the good points you earned, moved you back from certain levels (there were 4 of them), and if it was severe enough, you would be placed on "Off Trust" which meant no privledges whatsoever and you would have to start all over again. Once you reached Level 4 and achieved all of it's objectives, you were then released back to you home school.
One they always tried to get me on was "daydreaming". Even if I was just deep in thought, just thinking or pondering over what happened that day, they would try to accuse me of daydreaming and place me on "Off Trust" for it even though daydreaming was never on their list of infractions.
In 1983, I was sent to a psychologist by the name of Dr. Jeff A. Christiansen, PsyD. This was also a total nightmare. When he asked me questions, I tried to answer them to my best ability, only to be accused of lying to him. He also played mind games with me, asking me if I enjoyed the sexual assault. When I told him no, he said, "Ah, c'mon. Not even a little bit? Alot of times those are initiations they that they select only for people that they want in their group." Another was when he called me a "demanding little bastard" because I could not tell someone that I liked them without knowing that they liked me first.
Behavior Modification is a very controversial forms of psychological therapy. It is extremely intrusive. It seeks to manipulate outward behavior through pain, whether it's physical or emotional, or a denial of affirmation (i.e. head games).
The theory is that behavior modification (aka aversion therapy) trains the individual away from unwanted behavior. Most of the people who are sent to these camps are kids who display anti-social behavior. The purpose is to cause them to break down through "organized punishment" so that the therapist can mold them into whatever they want them to be.
Some methods used in behavior modification are electric shocks without anesthetic AKA "bad behavior shocks", vomit inducing injections such as apomorphine which makes the patient violently ill, respiratory paralysis drugs such as succinylcholine, which impedes on the person's breathing while preventing them from passing out.
If a parent is reading this right now, please think long and hard before sending your kid to a behavior modification facility and/or psychologist. When my parents sent me to a psychologist, they believed that any psychologist is a psychologist. That is not true. There are many different psychologists who are experts in different areas. One, of course, is behavior modification, others are experts in PTSD, DID, schizophrenia, criminology, family and marriage counselors, and the list goes on.
Before doing anything, research it in it's entirety before making any rash decisions or commitments of any kind. By doing so, you could very well prevent your own child from the grief and suffering I had to endure.
- The original testimony (From CAICA)