In 1976, Charlie and Jane Dyer were at their wit’s end. They felt angry, frustrated, and betrayed that their son Kevin’s public school was not giving him the support he needed to succeed. “Ultimately,” says Charlie, “Jane and I pulled Kevin out of school.”
The Dyers decided that a local hospital for children with developmental disabilities would be the best next step. Kevin spent six months visiting the hospital while the family attempted to get him a diagnosis. As Charlie tells it, “In the 70s and 80s, some psychologists believed that autistic behaviors in children were the result of a troubled home life.” This has long since been debunked, but at the time, both Charlie and Jane were required to attend group meetings to determine if they were contributing to Kevin’s problems.They were doing all the right things, but Kevin still wasn’t getting the care he needed. “The hospital never even shared a useful diagnosis with us,” Charlie told us.
Finally, after a difficult meeting with school administrators, Charlie, Jane, and Kevin visited with Drs. June and Gerry Groden at their new offices on Mount Hope Ave. Kevin reacted well to the positive, calming approach that the Drs. Groden used in their therapeutic care. Once Kevin was finally enrolled at the Groden Center they felt relieved. The family had finally found the right place for Kevin!
As Kevin made progress, the Dyers wanted to support autistic and developmentally disabled individuals like their son. Charlie realized that other parents wanted to meet and support each other, so he helped establish the Groden Parents & Friends Association (PFA). He also became President of the RI Autism Society and served on the Special Education Board in his local school district. In his words, “My goal was to increase awareness and educate people about autism.” As Charlie became more involved, he saw a gap in the care provided to these families.
Now, Kevin happily lives in a semi-independent residence with nine other adults like him on the East Side of Providence. This home is privately funded by the parents as a condo association.
After retirement, Charlie began consulting with the Drs. Groden to create another residence similar to Kevin’s. Eight developmentally disabled people moved into the new home after Charlie’s efforts won a grant and public funding assistance from the City of East Providence.
Charlie and Jane have been continual supporters of the Groden Network. Jane’s loss will be felt deeply throughout our community. You can read her obituary here.