When Scott draws, he pushes the ballpoint pen nearly through the paper, scribbling vicious circles or blanketing the yellow legal pad in blue ink, as if he were sketching the seizures that strike him nearly every day.
Intractable epilepsy has caused Scott’s mental retardation and psychosis, which, combined with his size 6 feet and 200 pounds can make him hard to handle. “He has good days and bad days,” says his mother, Liz. “His condition is never the same two days in a row.”
|Scott lives with his foster family on the South Side. “He’s a child in a man’s body. He’s come a long way,” says his foster mother, Rosalinda. “He’s part of the family.” (courtesy photo)|
So since 2003, Scott, 34, has lived with his foster family, Rosalinda and her parents. On weekends, he stays with his parents at their home on the Northwest Side.
Today, he sits on the couch, drinking a caffeine-free soda, and preparing for his trip home.
“I hear you have a birthday coming up,” I say to break the ice.
“I don’t want to talk about it,” he replies. “Let’s go.”
His clothes are on hangers; his suitcase is packed.
“What are you doing this weekend? Going to Sea World?”
“I don’t want to talk about it. Let’s go.”
“In a minute Scott,” Liz says kindly, but firmly.
At home with Rosalinda, he spends time on the screened-in back porch drawing or singing along to oldies radio, in the living room watching M*A*S*H, his favorite show, or occasionally doing chores. He’s also gone camping with his foster family.
As a child, Scott attended special-education classes in San Antonio. But as his behavior worsened, he became more isolated. As a teenager, Scott enrolled at the Stewart School in Kentucky, which specializes in people with cognitive disabilities. After three years, he returned to San Antonio and lived in several small group homes; in one, Liz says Scott was abused by a staff member who jammed a toothbrush into his mouth, ripping his lip. Group-home officials denied the allegation, but the state verified the abuse.
“I took him home and he had no services,” Liz says. “I kept saying I want a foster family. But people told me, He’s too difficult.“
Liz finally found Rosalinda, who arranged to meet Scott and his family at the San Antonio Zoo. They bonded immediately. “I really like the hard ones,” says Rosalinda, who ran group homes in Hondo and worked at the Willows, a large private institution, where the ratio of residents to staff was 14 to 1. “The first impression is that he’s a big, scary man. But he’s the sweetest, kindest person. People need to give him a chance.”
During the day, Scott attends Casa de Amistad, a day program for people who can’t participate in workshops. Although it serves primarily the elderly, it is also open to the mentally retarded. At Casa, he sits on a couch all day, occasionally chatting with friends.
“He sits, but that’s what he wants,” says Liz. “It’s all compromise. Other day programs are bigger, but there he wouldn’t be watched enough. The Casa staff is always caring, always watching him.”
Two case managers check on Scott, while Liz and Rosalinda monitor his medication, which is prescribed by a doctor. “He’s fragile,” Liz says. “And there are times when he’s with us, and my husband and I are worried about him he could die at any time and we hear him giggle in the next room. He gives us such joy. He’s taught us about what’s really important.” •
By Lisa Sorg
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