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Crippen asks Bob Williams-Findlay to share his experiences with the former Spastics Society / 2 November 2009

Following on from Bob Williams-Findlay’s comment last week about his experiences with the Spastics Society (now Scope), I invited him to write something for this week’s blog.

“It is very difficult to explain my mixed emotions regarding the Spastics Society, now renamed Scope. In many ways I feel I achieved what I did despite being subjected to psychological abuse whilst in one of their segregated schools.

There is little doubt that, up to the last two years at the Society-run Thomas Delarue School, my formal education was of a high standard and I obtained a range of ‘O’ levels. However the impact of activities outside the classroom was to have a massive affect both on my ‘A’ level studies and the rest of my life.

I’ve never been an Angel, but I doubt I was that much different to most 16-17 year olds. I became interested in my own sexuality, and attracted to a young girl at the school. This was viewed as a threat to the establishment, and my refusal to stop the relationship had dire consequences. The first sign of trouble was when I had my collection of poetry seized. I was banned from writing ‘pornographic filth’ and could only have my work returned at the end of term when I had to take it home. The offending line was: “I want to run naked through the long grass/ Feel the warmth of the sun on my skin…”

I was deeply unhappy about the many injustices that occurred at the school and this affected by studies. I failed my A levels and left school and went to another Spastics Society-run institution where I floundered for another year. At this time two important events took place; my father died, and I got engaged.

When I got engaged, the Spastics Society sent a social worker to talk to me about why I had done this. Unknown to me at the time, after our meeting the Social worker asked my mother if she knew what I had done and wasn’t she worried that I was probably an “over-sexed young man”.

Now, how one works out that somebody’s over-sexed from an hour meeting is beyond me but really that isn’t the agenda is it? The agenda is that at that time – we were talking about the early Seventies – disabled people were supposed to be asexual and incapable of intercourse.

My treatment wasn’t a one-off; others have revealed similar tales; including physical and sexual abuse. At no time have I been approached by Scope about what went on at Delarue, nor have I seen them take ownership of their ‘discriminatory history’, so forgive me if I don’t take their stance on disablism too seriously.”


Keywords: charities,disabled people's movement,young disabled people,


Kevin Rowan-Drewitt

15 November 2009

In the 80's every year year I would collect money from 50 of my neighbours for the Spastics Society in those little envelopes they would send out. It horrifies me to think I was helping to fund abuse and persecution. I hope they have cleaned up their act now or I won't be shopping in their shops anymore. Thanks to everyone who has told their story here. I know it is very hard to speak out like that.


5 November 2009

There's a lot of pain out there with regard to people's experiences with the former Spastics Society. I've been contacted on FaceBook and by email from other Spastics Society survivors. So far only Joe and Bob have been prepared to share their experiences with us in this way. Credit to them both. As an abuse survivor myself I know how difficult this is. I know that both Bob and Joe would be pleased to hear from others with similiar experiences. I'll forward on any mails that you wish to send to them -

Joe - Spastic Society Survivor

5 November 2009

I also went to Delarue, as did many disabled people that I know. Though staff did their utmost to suppress us both physically and sexually as experimenting teenagers, the truth is the place was really a hot bed of sex and not all of it legal or healthy.

I have spoken since to a lot of those involved and it seems that for most of us we were previously abused either by family members or (as in my case) at a previous Spastic Society School! I also experienced stuff at Delarue which as an adult I now know only inhabit the darker places of the internet.

It's messed with every adult relationship I ever had because either my true emotions were still struggling to get out, or my experiences led me to places which are difficult to reconcile in a 'Normal' relationship. It's as though my feelings and physical needs are so intertwined its really difficult to understand the difference between love and lust. As a result I have just been lonely for most of my adult life.

One time, I returned to the school previous to Delarue in order to confront them about my treatment, but it was impossible. The remaining staff closed ranks and old pupils were unwilling to talk.

The Spastic Society are responsible for causing damage to many young people who were in their care, including myself, but to my shame perhaps I no longer have the anger to do anything about it.


4 November 2009

And I like the cartoon - that was in the "lost draft"...


4 November 2009

(Lost my "draft" while googling for Neil Marcus' name and his play, "Storm". Neil Marcus has dystonia and has written about

romance in his life, with spastic disability.)(I know Neil - although he is on the other coast. I was having a "senior moment" or a CFS/ME memory glitch.)

How vulnerable are teens around sexuality. This personal story is moving.

My disability began in middle age, and I'm female. I have read how disabled people have been thought of as asexual - especially girls/women. A young male was labeled "oversexed". Yet, so many of the young grow up despite the folks who are supposed to be "helpers". Bravo Bob Williams-Findlay!

The comment about segregation is such a good point,too.

Someone I once met, who was involved in art as well as being a therapist for disabled people (the therapist is also disabled) has done writing on sexuality and woman who are disabled. I had a disagreement with the person when my work was being looked at for a show of artists who are disabled. The therapist and I spoke about a mentoring program that I was too ill (CFS/ME) to be involved with.

I spoke about getting to art, my dream, finally at age 25. The therapist said the girls were not encouraged to be artists because it didn't earn a living. I pointed out that I'd worked other jobs to support my art career predisability (and so does the therapist, I realize now). I went thru the whole "security" monetary-art is not with family and followed my dream. I suggested rather strongly to the therapist that a young person's dream should NOT be squashed....

Great how kids ignore...


4 November 2009

I remember our confusion when the spasatics society renmaeditself scope and wondered what it meant.

My mate, Peter Hope, said it simply meant Spastics Cope.

Sounds like bob and many others are having to cope with an oppressed history wherein charities actively abuse. Sorry to hear the tale but not surprised by it. That was my exerience of segregated schooling too - only it was education authority not charity.

4 November 2009

Such an interesting, so well writen and *educating*-sorry, but can't find another word....- reading.!!!!

Thank you so much Bob Williams-Findlay’s for sharing your story.....

As for the Fantastic Cartoon to ilustrate this.....yet another Fantastic toon!!!!!!

Thank you Crippen Disabled Cartoonist.

I have to admit that this has made me found out more about Spasticity or Muscular Hypertonicity, which I don't know much about.

Great DAO again for this,

Marisha =^.^=