Stories and Poetry

Daryl's Story "Glimpses of a concentration camp"

Love, Peace and Torture

Life in the U.S. with learning disabilities

By Daryl Dixon


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In the late sixties Stanford and other universities were performing experiments on children that would be considered questionable by to days standards. In my case it was research involving learning disabilities. Even though I remembered many of the incidents I never thought I could prove anything. Four years ago I came across some paper work that would substantiate my claims. I went though legal and political channels to try to gain assistance for investigations into these practices. What I found was a great deal of resistance because of time constraints. A friend mine advised me to write about my experiences. This is my story.

My sister and I were adopted in 1959, I was around nine months old. I have always considered myself very lucky to have had such wonderful parents. My parents described me as a happy, active child. My development in the early years was normal. In 1964, at the age of four I started nursery school. I related well with the other students socially and enjoyed the experiences with the teachers and other students of the program. This was where I began to display differences from other children. As we began learning the alphabet and how to write letters I was unable to keep up. While the other children were writing their names, I was still struggling to remember the alphabet and the correct order of letters. In fact, by the time I moved on to Kindergarten I had still not mastered this task.

In Kindergarten it was not that much different than nursery school except for more children in the class. Initially I did feel a little lost due to the size of a class but as the year progressed I began to adjust. I was finally writing my own name but I was still lagging behind in other areas. I was having trouble. understanding numbers and remembering stories in the right sequence of events. I begun to show confidence problems but by the second part of the year this had begun to change. My report card showed this, "Daryl is making a good adjustment to our groups. He is beginning to participate in group activates."

It was 1966 when I entered First Grade, at seven years old. I was doing below average work in most everything. The teacher indicated on my report card that my attention span was short and I was not following though on task completion, that I could be doing better if I put more of a effort into my work. I was beginning to do better in reading and arithmetic. When the teacher was working with me one on one, I began to improve. My math and reading skills had improved by the second half of the year, but the teacher had twenty other students so her ability to provide individual attention was limited. Even though I was still doing poorly I was to advanced to the second grade.

Somewhere in this the period my mother was advised to take me to Stanford University as they were conducting studies with children with learning issues. On my first visit my mother and I went to one of the buildings in the Stanford complex, she was told to leave and come back at a certain time to pick me up. I was taken to a room on one of the upper floors in the building and put into a examining chair. On a metal table next to the chair was a harness of wires, connected to the wires were what appeared to be large tacks or small nails. The other ends were connected to a shelf of some electronic equipment. A nurse came into the room and she began to rub my head with gauze and alcohol. There were a couple of men in the room dressed in whites studying the electronic equipment. The nurse picked up one of the contacts and said "this is not going to hurt a bit," as she pushed it into my head. I felt a sharp pinching feeling. There were possible twenty contacts pushed into my scalp. People were coming and going, their attention on the electronic equipment. This went on for more than hour. Eventually the nurse began to pull the contacts out of my head after she was done I was taken back down stairs to meet by my mother. I returned for this horror repeated times.

Shortly after the last of these experiences my mother and I returned for a different type of test. I was taken to the basement of one of their buildings into a large room that seemed unfinished the walls and floor were concrete. Against the far end of the room with a large steel tank that was disk shaped with a submarine type hatch in the center. After we walked over to the tank the individual I was with opened the hatch and told me to get in. I climbed in and sat in a stiff chair as he shut the door and locked me in. I could barley move even with my small size. I truly felt like I had been buried in a tomb, I could not see anything. When I stretched my elbows they were bumping against the sides of the tank. In front me a square shaped screen lit up, it was very colorful, it was like a rainbow. In the for ground were white symbols; a square, O and triangle. I remember someone outside giving me instruction to remember the order of the symbols after they had changed to a different order. After about twenty minutes I could not focus I felt a fear that I would be forgotten and left to die in the tank. I began to panic. I started beating as hard as I could on the steel walls of the tank. I was yelling for someone to let me out. The tank was finally opened, I was let out and taken back up stairs to my mother.

It was not long after my exposure to the steel tank that we again returned to Stanford. She left me with someone at one of their buildings were I was guided to one of the upper floors. I was guided down a long hallway and brought to a closed door. Next to the door there was a large window in the wall that I could see though. The individual opened the door and told me to enter. The room was sparse with little furniture, if any at all. There were maybe six to eight other children in the room playing on the floor with wooden blocks. I looked at the window, it was now a mirror. Within a short time I began to feel uneasy, anxious. I was staring at the mirror and felt some one was watching from the other side. I found it difficult to socialize with the other children, not only I did not know them, but I was preoccupied by who might be watching us. The only thing I knew was I wanted to get out of that room. I felt like an animal in the zoo.

I became very morose in my home life. I had begun to have nightmares and I would wake up screaming into the darkness. My mother would come into my room after hearing me and try to calm me down, It took her hours. Motion also became a problem with me. When I would get off a elevator I felt the up and down movement amplified hundred times more than inside it. It felt like I was in a airplane in heavy turbulence: a rising and dropping so intense I would be running around yelling for it to stop. I think I embarrassed my mother more than once with this behavior. I began to fear being trapped in a dark pit and nobody ever finding me. All of this testing began truly manifesting into sleep disturbances and physical disorders.

I never related my experiences at Stanford to my mother because I truly believed they were going to help keep up in school. I did not want to be called dumb or stupid by my classmates. Even though the memories of Stanford would not go away I continued to try to bury them. the anger and fears.

I started Second Grade in 1967. I was still doing below average work in all subjects, not reading at a satisfactory level, and still struggling in math. I was not displaying any behavioral problems, but got on well with the other children and continued to enjoy the social environment of the classroom. The beginning part of the year I was showing a little improvement but I was still behind the other children in my comprehension of the work. By the end of the first part of the year I had begun to make much more progress due to my parents. My report card showed the strives I made and read, "Daryl is serious about his work and tries to follow instructions. He has shown progress in all areas, partly because of your help".

By midyear my work in school had not changed enough and I was returned to submit to an evaluation. Elisabeth Bing a clinical child psychologist at Stanford reported the following: "Daryl was unusually anxious and frighten for a 7 year old boy. During the beginning of the session he cried and sucked his finger. He acted like a preschool child, wanting not to leave his mother. Throughout the session he perseverated in a negative attitude. As he became more relaxed, his winning and sullen attitude changed to a more demanding and resentful one. He argued the he had done the tasks correctly when he had not, and when tasks became difficult, he said "I can’t do it" without even trying. At the end of the session his mother was not in the waiting room which made him again upset, although he understood that she might have gone to the cafeteria. He ran and told me first that he had founder her. This thoughtful gesture suggests that is some areas Daryl is functioning on a more mature level and that he has a better potential for adequate coping with social situations than one might think, judging from his overly dependent way of handling the testing situation in the clinic."

"On the WISC, Daryl obtained a Verbal Scale score of 99, a performance Sale Score of 94, and a Full scale I.Q. score of 96. His highest score was with vocabulary (Scaled Score 13) and his lowest scores were information, digit span, and block Design (Scored Score: 8) the later still being within the normal range. Although the scatter is not remarkable, the relativity low digit span and block Design Sore are compatible with a medical diagnosis of minimal brain dysfunction."

"This impression is consistent with Daryl’s difficulties on the Bender, where he functioned on a developmental level of 6 years, and showed at least one sign which has been found to be diagnostic of brain damage, on the whole, his Bender figures were poorly integrated and angles inadequately executed, especially on diamond and hexagon figures. He seems to have definite visual-motor problem."

"Daryl’s reading achievement was on the 1.7 year grade level which is a year below his chronological age and actual grade placement.

"Daryl’s behavior gives the impression that in addition to possible neurological problems, there are definite emotional difficulties which need further attention. A placement in E.H class seems to be highly desirable."

After my evaluation I beginning to feel defeated. I was still trying keep up in school, but my experiences in the Stanford labs (they had left me with crippling fears) and my anxiety about failing school were all getting the best of me.

It was at the end of the second grade that things truly began to go bad for me as I began to fear school. I was feeling inadequate around the other children. I began to imagine they were noticing that I was not keeping up with them. I thought I would have to repeat the second grade. My mother was having a hard time getting me to go to school. I was having angry outburst and I wanted to quit.

After school one day I again was taken to participate in the 1st of a series of experiments. We were met at the door by a man with longish brown hair and a scruffy beard. He invited me in and to a large room that looked like a dance studio. It had a mirror and railing that ran the center length of one wall. There were other children scattered about the room fifteen or more, a mix of boys and girls all leaning on the walls. I was told by the man to go wait by them. A few more children showed, the man shut the door and locked it. He instructed us to line up in the middle of the room in two columns. when we did not line up evenly he grabbed us and moved us around like a bunch of chess pieces until the columns were even with each other. When we were all lined up he demonstrated what he wanted. He told us if he said "right leg and left arm" that we were supposed to make one step forward with our right leg and stick our left arm out and vice versa. I began to feel very anxious as, I did not know my right from my left. I felt like I was thrown into pool without knowing how to swim.

He left and entered a separate room with a large mirror constructed within its wall. Moments later we could hear his voice "right arm left leg." Every one moved but no one got it right. He began yelling very loudly calling us "morons," "stupid," "idiots" and a variety of other insults, some which I had never heard before. Many of the children were crying and he told them to shut up. This went on for a number of minutes then his voice went calm. He said left arm, right leg and again the yelling and insults began because nobody got it right. I felt like I was crawling though barbwire any wrong move and I would be ripped apart by his insults. After about an hour we were told to go to a adjoining room. We were seated at desks and instructed to take a written test. The test took about a hour when we finished we went out to meet our parents. I was never religious but my family and I went to church every Sunday. Three weeks into this experiment I began to pray, pray for god to kill this man but not to make his death easy rather by a car accident or being shot. Every time my mother took me back to this building I had hoped he would not be there anymore but he always was. I had never felt this way in my life, I did not like it but I could not help it, I went twice a week for over a month, maybe two. When it was over I could distinguish my left from my right, but barely.

It was decided by the next school year that I would continue into the third grade even with my poor performance in the last part of the second grade. My behavior had changed. I was starting to act immaturely and having tantrums. I was not finishing my home work , sometimes I would not do it at all. I was at a friend’s birthday party one afternoon when I developed a severe chest pains. I could barely breath without feeling a great deal of discomfort. I spent a week in the hospital but The doctors could not find anything wrong with me. By the second quarter of third grade I was in trouble. The teacher commented on my report card "Daryl’s work is not satisfactory for third grade achievement." I had grown disinterested with my school work especially with math. I was becoming more withdrawn and less social with other children. By the end of the third grade the bottom of my report card, the principle had written that I would be placed in a special education class, and transferred to a new school.

During the period I had gone to Stanford University and other facilities in the in the Bay Area for testing my behavior drastically changed. I had developed many fears and a great deal of stress and anxiety. The evaluator herself became a culmination of the people and the experiences I had in these experiments. I saw her as a monster.

I was seventeen when I decided to continue with my education. One day my mother initiated a conversation with me, and said that she and my father would like to help me more financially, but could not. She went on to say that much of the research done early on in my life had been very costly.

I think she realized for some time that something had been bothering me. My mother went on to relate how many the universities and colleges were promising cures for learning disabilities. That neither she, nor my father, would be allowed to monitor any of the experiments. My mother talked about how she trusted these people, as they were the leading experts of their time. She said that she became suspicious when my behavior began to change and pulled me out of the research. She said that she and my father had only my best interest at heart and wanted for me to have happy and normal life. I knew this.

Copyrite 2010