View Full Version : Re-Enacting with Disabled Child-Few Questions

04-18-2007, 02:24 PM
Hi Everyone!
Im new to the forums and have a couple of questions.
First, we have a almost 9 yr old daughter who is multi-handicapped. She is in a wheelchair, developmentally delayed, no speech, and has some medical issues.
Both my husband and I use to re-enact. In fact, that is how we met!!
Her disorder is like a combination of cerebal palsy and autism.

Because our daughter's medical issues where a constant ups and downs when she was little, re-enacting was not possible. We have not re-enacted for about ten years, and certainly have missed getting into period clothing.

I was wondering if anyone else has experienced re-enacting with a disabled person/child. We have thought of maybe getting a period wheelchair. Her current wheelchair, is obviously very modern and very hot pink in color!!

My other question is patterns/clothing for girls. I still have alot of my patterns, and Im currently working on a Garabaldi shirt for her. I also plan on making a simple skirt with tucks. I have Swiss Body pattern and a Zonal waist pattern. I thought about using the Zonal waist pattern and cutting one out in the matching fabric as the skirt and attaching it to the skirt. And she could wear this with the garabaldi shirt.

All the pattersn I have are either Period Impressions or Heidi Marsh, but I don't know if they are still in business or not.

Thank you for ya'll support!!

paul hadley
04-18-2007, 03:19 PM
I will forward your question to a friend of mine who used to bring his autistic son to reenactments before the son outgrew our fascination with the 19th Century. The son did well as long as one of the parents was absolutely right there for reassurance, so of course that impacted the types of invents at which my friend could attend.
I hope this works out well for you. My experience with the civilian corps is that there are many plenty of good souls who will do what they can to make this a wonderful learning experience for your child.
Lincoln, Neb.

04-18-2007, 03:34 PM
Thank you Paul!
My husband started out doing Union Cav, then decided to do his own impression of a Union paymaster. I of course, always did civilian. In fact, for awhile I was with the Christian Commission. So for the most part, depending on what my husband does now, our daughter would primarly be with me during events.We now reside in the South, {and loving it I may add!} and he is currently looking at a Confederate unit. Unless he decides to do something civilian himself of course.

04-18-2007, 05:08 PM
Dear Kathleen,

My only suggestion is adding wheels to a wooden chair that your daughter can be secured to. There was family in Rev-War reenacting back when I was doing it who brought their handy capped teenage daughter in a straight back wooden chair with large wooden wheels on the back legs, You may be able to find a sturdy 20th C. wheel chair that "looks" old. I'm sure your friends and fellow reenactors will be supportive.

04-18-2007, 05:37 PM
Depending on the quality of support she needs, you may or may not be able to use a compromise chair for her. If you can, I have an early 19th century folding chair that comes under the heading of *better than most* but certainly not spot on, that I will be glad to give up for the cause. Its simply taking up space here, and I purchased it solely because it looked useful and was a bargain.

I live in west Alabama and am often in Middle Tennessee.

Depending on the abilities of the child, I've seen other families use everything from a towable wagon with bows and a wagon cover for shade to a blanket draped modern chair. Folks are going to cut you a lot of slack on this until you find a solution that works for your child's needs.

As far as larger issues, you already know that much of your time will need to be devoted to her care--and especially to considerations related to temperature control in heat and cold.

At age 9, I'd really stick with dresses and pinafore/aprons rather than a skirt and blouse, for a variety of reasons---(1) More common during the period for girls of her age (2) easier for you to deal with in dressing her as they will not twist or bind as badly in the chair. Dresses will be looser around the waist and enable you to change her with ease if she requires it.

Made properly, this wardrobe choice will hold her into her mid teens and possibly longer.

04-18-2007, 07:11 PM
Also, consider daytrip events if you anticipate temperature drops in the evening.

Some things I'd think of to help a seated child stay comfortable:

* A nice lap quilt in pretty colors (perhaps an applique quilt in an "album" style with bright period colors, with a very thin wool batting inside) will help with slight chills.

* Using a nice petticoat for skirt support, as it will be comfortable to sit on. Drawers legs will look very period appropriate, but they can be made in a very "cut away" style through the body, to allow access to any modern sanitary needs--a good blend of modern medical need and period look.

* Consider fabrics carefully. It may be best to choose very lightweight cotton prints in colors she likes, with pinafores over the top to catch dust, grime, etc. As Terre mentions, dresses will generally be more comfortable. Depending on her mobility, a good adaptation might be to make the dresses front-opening; it's atypical for girl's dresses mid-century, but will make it easier to help her dress, and she won't be leaning back on buttons all day.

* A variety of lightweight wool shawls or wraps can be used to adapt to temperature levels through a day.

* What sorts of playthings does she prefer? Finding period-appropriate equivalents will sometimes require some creativity, but if you'll give us some ideas of the things she likes to do, see, hear now, we can give some ideas on what may be fun for her.

Even if the chair Terre has is large, you could make the interior smaller with cushions and bolsters as needed, to make her comfortable. If she likes to sit on the ground, a nice painted floorcloth and cushions in the shade could be a nice change of pace during an event day.

One avenue to look at, too, is to see what you can find on the methods families used to keep disabled children with them at home. While far more children died young from various medical challenges, and those who survived did not often find a public spotlight, finding out more about how mobility issues were handled mid-century will give you some great talking points to share with visitors, who will very naturally want to know more about your family.

04-18-2007, 07:57 PM
Wow! Such great suggestions!!!

I have thought about the wooden wagons. I've seen some before and thought they were great for families who had little ones. Considering they tire from walking much much sooner than adults.

We are probably going to start out on day trip events. Sleeping arrangements could be difficult. Currently she sleeps in a twin bed with special side rails to confine her. Most times when we've stayed in a hotel, we got a room with a king size bed and kept her in the middle between her dad and I.

As for the clothing, I did buy some nice 100% cottons, white, and a grayish-green with tiny flower prints, and very pretty gingham check in a sky blue. I do remember from my re-enacting past to avoid polysters!!! YUCK! She is still in diapers, so I was thinking of elastic waisted pantaletts. I don't think I would make them crotchless only because she does have a tendency of pulling her skirt up to chew.
She does love being down on the floor or ground moving around. It gives her some freedom from her wheelchair, and she enjoys it. One of her things with her disorder is that she loves to chew, and chew and chew. She has a soft doll that she absolutly loves!! So I thought of making her or buying her a soft period style doll for her, and she would probably enjoy chewing that. Her autistic traits however, she's very into videos. So that could pose a problem. We do have a portable DVD player that I could always conceal inside a tent for her to watch if need be. Alot of times if she's in her chair, she doens't mind as long as we are MOVING! She hates keeping still.

04-18-2007, 09:01 PM
Her autistic traits however, she's very into videos. So that could pose a problem. We do have a portable DVD player that I could always conceal inside a tent for her to watch if need be. Alot of times if she's in her chair, she doens't mind as long as we are MOVING! She hates keeping still.

Just a thought, but there are quite a few fascinating moving toys of the 19th century that might be of interest to her. I'm thinking of things like those dancing men on a stick, that dance when you tap the plank they stand on. Marionettes in general. Thaumatropes. Kaleidoscopes. Not sure how common they were, but maybe zoetropes too. Figures with a weighted base that bob but never fall, or rearing horses with a weight on a wire that extends under a table edge and counter balances. Gyroscopes and tops. Probably lots of other examples too that I can't think of now.

Hank Trent

04-19-2007, 08:02 AM
Those ideas are wonderful! In fact, the figures that bob I think would interest her, as well as the dancing stick toys. Im not sure of the Kaleidoscopes, considering she doesn't really have the understanding to look inside a tube to view the pretty colors. I on the other hand, could be quite amuzed with it!

04-19-2007, 09:14 AM
Having pinafores will help, then--she can easily lift that layer, and enjoy it to her heart's content. :) A vegetable ivory rattle might also be fun... pleasant and cool in the mouth, easy to grip. And if you can site yourself in a somewhat high-traffic area, she will probably enjoy watching people.

For many toys, I like http://www.vintagevolumes.com . They have some good ready-mades as well as books on how to make various things.

Does she enjoy music? Adding period songs to your repetoire of things to sing and amuse her would be nifty for her, and for those who overhear you. If I recall correctly, The Girl's Own Book (Vintage Volumes carries it) has clapping games she might enjoy, if she can stand having you help her clap (an autistic friend of the family doesn't care for it at all, but likes to play "clapping games" by watching the other person clap).

Linda Trent
04-19-2007, 11:34 AM
You may also want to contact Abby Walker. While her children, that she's brought to events, aren't wheelchair bound, she does have various children with disabilities including Downs' Syndrome and autism. She's in the midst of a move, but you may be able to contact her via email or phone.

Contact me privately at lindatrent@zoomnet.net and I'll give you her contact information.


04-20-2007, 12:02 AM
Kathleen - I have an autistic son who will be 5 and while our circumstances are different, I can tell you that I have gotten nothing but support from folks in this community with both suggestions and reassurances. I posted a question on the AC in March about my concerns with scripting, non-period play, the need to be with him all the time and less able to share cooking and demo duties:
http://www.authentic-campaigner.com/forum/showthread.php?t=9866 and got a lot of good responses.

Abby Walker did contact me and while I don't feel free to give out her address as I don't know her personally, I'm confident Linda Trent will be able to put you in touch.

I'll send you a PM with my email address - please feel free to contact me any time.

Joanna Bigler-Jones