An Oasis of Care for People With Intellectual Disabilities

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A mother needs to get her son out the door. Thick white socks cover his contorted feet, a coat drapes his twisted shoulders, a water bottle with a straw nestles in the concave of his chest, and black straps on his wheelchair secure his wrists. He is 33 years old, and she has to get him to an appointment.

“I always forget something,” the mother, Mimi Kramer, says, looking about her small, immaculate house. “Oh. A change of pants, just in case.”

Her son, Trey, has intellectual disability, autism and cerebral palsy. He was a joy as a child, she says, but with puberty came violent acts of frustration: biting himself until he bleeds, raging against sounds as faint as a fork scrape on a plate, lashing out with his muscular right arm. He nearly bit her finger off one Kentucky Derby Day when she tried to swipe away foam that he had gnawed from his wheelchair’s armrest.

Trey Kramer during a physical therapy session at the Lee Specialty Clinic in Louisville, Ky., which provides treatments to people with intellectual disability. Credit Luke Sharrett for The New York Times

“But he’ll also definitely make you smile when he’s happy,” says Ms. Kramer, 52, a slight, divorced woman who has raised her son mostly alone. “His smile will light up the room.”

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