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Meet Charlie: A Boy With Autism Born in 1951

Mom & Charlie 3(1)Note: Thank you to Laura Hayes for connecting us with Carla Howell, whose brother Charlie, born in 1951, had autism. Our focus is often autism from the 1990s forward. But our genesis was The Age of Autism book Dan Olmsted & Mark Blaxill wrote about the beginning of the first diagnosed cases of autism. Carla's story likely resonates with many in their later years, who have, or had a sibling with special needs.  She wrote a lovely, haunting song called What's Inside Your Head as a tribute to her brother's life. You can find it here. Please join us in welcoming her to the AofA family. Kim

By Carla Howell

The story of my brother Charlie, born in 1951, is quite different from most I’ve heard from families with an autistic child. I have only sketchy information about his early life as I didn't meet him until I was 35 years old. Much of what I know came second or third hand, so I can’t be certain that it’s accurate.

From what I was told, my parents had not acknowledged that there was something wrong with Charlie. So when he was just under three years old and my mother was pregnant with their next child, my grandmother sent my parents on a vacation. While they were gone, she got Charlie diagnosed. He had autism, which was rare in those days. Most people hadn’t heard of it.

At some point thereafter, my parents put him in a private care program run by a woman who later became terminally ill and had to close her business. I don't know if he boarded with her or if it was a day program of some kind. Around the time I was born, they put him in a state institution in our then-home state of Michigan because my parents were afraid that he would hurt my brother or me.

When my mother visited Charlie there, he would get agitated, and the doctors advised her to stop coming. As one who held doctors in high esteem, she obeyed, and that was the end of her direct contact with her son.

We moved to Pittsburgh in 1960. I remember my father taking trips to Detroit to visit Charlie and bringing him gifts. But eventually, Charlie quit recognizing him, so my father eventually quit visiting him as well. 

My parents said that, as a little one, Charlie was quite good at identifying the make of cars he would see when they were driving around. It was one of the few things I grew up knowing about my brother.

When I tried to ask my mother questions about him, she was always willing to answer. But I could feel her discomfort to such a degree that I'd forget my questions. So I'd give up, again, and remain in mystery about my brother. My experience asking my father questions was similar.

I often struggled to explain why I had a brother whom I’d never met. I feared people would think poorly of my parents for abandoning their son. In truth, they were extremely loving people who were caught up in a time when parents were given bad advice about how to handle a child with a developmental disability, which at the time was considered to be a form of mental illness (like Rosemary Kennedy who was given a lobotomy). I know that their loss of Charlie was a life-long wound for which they both suffered immensely. I can only imagine what they went through before I arrived.

I often thought of trying to meet Charlie but didn’t for fear of upsetting my mother.

Then in 1987, she was diagnosed with cancer. One day, as she laid on her deathbed, she suddenly Charlie and Carla 1990awoke. In desperation, she mumbled something about Charlie. I took it to mean she was concerned about his future, so I assured her we would take care of him. She seemed to be relieved and fell back asleep.

That prompted me to finally look him up and visit him in Michigan. I expected to see a man in a rubber room curled up in an embryotic position in some horrific institution. But he had been moved to residential adult care. And although he had only a handful of words at his disposal, Charlie was far higher-functioning than I imagined. We bonded immediately. 

I eventually became his legal guardian. My sister and I considered moving him to Massachusetts where we both lived at the time. But after having a friend in the business evaluate his situation, we decided that it was a relatively good one. The management was very nice and seemed to really like him. Plus, he was in a program doing piecemeal work where he was doing well. So we decided to keep him in Michigan.

In 2001, Charlie passed away at age 50. I look back on his very limited life with sadness but also with gratitude that I got to meet him and make him part of my life.

I wrote the song What’s Inside Your Head for his memorial service. I share it in the hope that it will be soothing for people with autistic loved ones.


Carla Howell has had a passion for medical freedom since 1993. With a background in tech, marketing and management, she became politically active in 1996. She ran for office three times from 1998- 2002 and headed three statewide tax-cut ballot initiatives in Massachusetts from 2002-2010. She served as Political Director and Executive Director for the Libertarian National Committee and was Communications Director for the 2020 Jo Jorgensen for President campaign. In recent years, she has been releasing liberty-themed songs that she composed and recorded. She leads candidate training workshops and speaks publicly about liberty issues. She also volunteers for the Virginia Medical Freedom Alliance, which advocates for parents being fully informed and having choice as to whether to vaccinate their children.

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@John Stone

You are correct. Growing up it was known as German measles or just measles.
Down's syndrome was prevalent in those days as well. Cases have all but disappeared due to pregnancy tests and abortion if positive. It was well known that tests could produce a false positive, as happened to me. Thank God I am pro-life. This same son did develop autism like symptoms and behaviors after his 15 month shot schedule. Through great trial, I was able to recover him so that he leads a fully independent adult life and works for a Fortune 100 company. God is good.


I am not calling the part where the mother caught rubella and caused damage to her unborn child; fiction.

I do personally know a pregnant mother that contacted Rubella.
Her own immunity to rubella or German measles failed.

It affected the heart of her little boy. After numerous operations, as he out grew the artificial heart valve; he died of an infection from his last operation, at age seven. He is buried beside my 27 year old sister. He broke all of our hearts in my community, along with his own, older sister, who was also my good friend. So, again that is not what I was calling fiction.

Fiction is blaming some one bringing it to the pregnant woman.

For my friend, the older sister: German measles was making its usual, and yearly round at school. My friend was in the first or second grade and came down with it. She went home sick. Do we blame her? Let us blame a failing immune system of her Mother's.

What I call fiction is the pinning it on one child when it was everywhere. It must still be everywhere since the vaccine failed some people attending Disney World a few years back Fiction is that part where 40 years later someone says they were sick with measles, and sneaked out of quarantine. Quarantine for measles is fiction too by the way.

Is it just measles? Cause our community had yet another family where the mother was pregnant and a schoolteacher. She did not have the German measles, but she caught something else, and it was a lifetime of trying to help her son learn to read, and function independently. He lived into adulthood, but he never had good health. When he died, it was not what he died from, but what did he not have when he died. The list of diseases we all can catch while pregnant that can cause a lifetime of heartbreak just may be a very long one.

In pregnancy the immune system does dampen down, yet so many women were around German measles, and their immune system did not fail. If they had all failed there would be no one left. Measles was everywhere, you could not hide from it.

My own Mother caught German measles twice as an adult after she had it as a child. She was not pregnant, but a second grade teacher. Why did her immunity fail?

Perhaps I will blame the flu shot that my Mother's principle insisted that she take one year. She did have a reaction to it. She ended up getting the flu. In addition to that she ended up with pneumonia and in the hospital three different times in that one year. She ended up having to take a pneumonia vaccine. Perhaps her immune system failed because of her childhood pertussis shot? She was a teenager when the pertussis vaccine first came out, and during the time she took these three vaccines a few weeks apart; she also had whooping cough. She said she had a whooping cough that lasted all winter and spring.

Same for my two children after their childhood shots, especially the DPT vaccine. They had pneumonia all the time, till we became desperate enough to take the pneumonia vaccine When my children were little the pneumonia shot was not required, or even suggested like it is today.

Hey, those kids in Africa and that study that showed negative survival of the kids that took the DPT vaccine. Just saying.

After the flu shot my Mother had gut trouble. A life time of gut trouble. I think now that all is said and done; that it was a brain injury that signal her problems, and not the gut itself.

.Immunity failing; How about the occurrence of shingles? Has shingles increased? And not just older people, but in the young as well?

Our bodies never clear the chicken pox virus, it is always there, but our immune system keeps it dampened down.
Didn't Dr. Wakefield find the measles virus in the guts of some of these children he treated for the gut, that had the MMR vaccine? Perhaps the measles virus is another one that we never clear either.

Fiction and stories like Agatha Christie and actor, thus dealing in fiction; Tierney, can confuse the public. It is not so simple that if not for a lone child sneaking out of quarantine, all would have been well.

Hey come to think of it; years ago I had to sit through a good friend telling me the story line from "Law and Order" that followed along about the same fiction. Except a child caught measles off of an unvaccinated child in the city park, playground and died.

Failing immune systems, and failing vaccines. How many boosters are they suggesting for the MMR now? When the baby boomers that actually had the German measles are all going away what will happen then? More Disney theme park measle outbreaks?

High Tea at Aunty Morag's

In support of The Cinderella Sector and wonderful 1950's mum's all around .
What's on that "Label " Oh What !
Nerissa and Katherine Bowes-Lyon - Wikipedia .
The Medical Labels have changed from , idiot -imbicile-retard -ethical defective-moral deinquency -mental sub-normal, spastic ., still recorded in paper format medical records /case notes in Lennox Castle Hospital in 1985 also some non definitions eg some kind of sluggish sloppy schizoid personality definition disorder with tentitive tendencies for this ,that or the next thing ? Think Refrigerator Mum's Label !
Medical Head Office , Top down behavioural "Bedlam " Market-teers label department for new labels for old same stuffof "ASBESTOS " Victorian Theories, ideologies and ingrained ignorant attitudes, with same cash cow money making priorities .. Superimposed with a Political Policy and Procedure Manual that The public will be seen ,but not heard ? Oh What!

Moving -forward fearlessly , Home -Work suggestions/further reading , for High Tea gathering robust but respectful conversations ,with no hot topic restrictions ?
What are the current political theories and ideologies affecting the learning disabilities/learning difficulties sector ,still to get sorted and settled for the past 100 years at least , because it's "Bedlam still"
Apparently Florence Nightingale got chucked" The Label"of Neurasthenia after getting sick with some nasty infection?.
Neurasthenia = pure mad -mental-out-of their -heads- hysterical !
Neurasthenia - New Marketeers Label for same is [FND] Functional Neurological Disorder .
Exact same dung heap diagnostic label for the many vaccine injuries and gene therapy "Jags" today .These injured people need support now . they will not be gagged into silence because they can not be gagged it's impossible?
Still Game ; It's the good stuff YouTube
Dr Feelgood - Down at the Doctors YouTube

John Stone


Surely she must have absented herself because of the risk of Rubella which used to be known as German Measles.


My fourth grade teacher took a 4 month leave of absence when she found out she was pregnant. We were told that this was so the baby wouldn't be exposed to measles. These mostly benign childhood diseases were not uncommon during my childhood, but no one knew of any cases of autism. As an adult, I have enjoyed lifelong natural immunity from these diseases.

Two water tragedies....
Obama Chef DROWNED On Martha's Vineyard Property
Please make sure you and your children wear life vests during summer water activities! Especially those with autism.

John Stone

From Wiki:

Developing the character of Marina Gregg[edit]
Clinical and Experimental Ophthalmology emphasized that "Gregg" is the surname of the ophthalmologist who first described cataracts in congenital rubella syndrome, Norman Gregg, and described this as "one of [Christie's] most subtle clues to identify the murderer".[8]

The official site of the Agatha Christie estate suggests that, in writing Gregg, Christie was "influenced" by the life of American actress Gene Tierney.[9][10][11]

Tierney contracted German measles while pregnant with her first child, during her only appearance at the Hollywood Canteen in June 1943. The baby developed congenital rubella syndrome and was born prematurely, underweight and needing a total blood transfusion. Doctors told the parents on the day of the birth that the premature birth and the child's mental and physical disabilities were due to the mother contracting German measles in the first four months of the pregnancy; this was very hard news to absorb.[12]

The deaf, partially blind and developmentally disabled child was later institutionalised in a psychiatric hospital. About two years after that birth a woman asked Tierney for an autograph at a garden party.[13] The woman said she had, while ill with German measles, skipped quarantine in order to visit the Hollywood Canteen and meet Tierney.[14]

Tierney's story was publicised before the novel was written.[citation needed] Tierney described the event in her autobiography 16 years after Christie wrote the novel.[10]


Gayle; Nice fiction.
Now what is a special medical unit that this child with measles was suppose to be in? A movie star is out somewhere around soldiers helping boost the sprits of the men soldiers, and thee is a medical unit for children with the measles?

Measles and she sneaked out cause she was under quarantine? No one was under quarantine for the measles. I know how it was back in the 60s, same as it was in the 30s. Every body had the measles.
There is no way you could pin it down to one lone child.


I have an adult son with autism and this story reminds me of another famous and tragic case. Gene Tierney, who was a movie star in the 1930s and 1940s, was doing volunteer work for the war effort and was part of the Hollywood Canteen of stars who also were volunteering for the war effort. She was pregnant with her daughter and a young girl who had the measles sneaked out of her medical unit to meet Gene. When she met the pregnant Gene she kissed her while being sick with measles and then went back to her medical unit. When Gene Tierney gave birth to her daughter she was severely injured and disabled with loss of hearing, poor eyesight and other developmental disabilities due to her exposure to measles while in the womb. Gene and her husband tried everything and saw many medical professionals in hopes of curing their daughter, only to be told that it was hopeless and the child should be institutionalized. Gene was devastated and this tragedy resulted in her having mental illness that later interfered with her acting career. The same girl caught up with Gene years later and said do you remember me because I am the person who visited you in the Hollywood Canteen? Then Gene realized that this girl was the one who destroyed her and her daughter's life. Agatha Christie wrote a mystery play about what happened to Gene, called "The Mirror Cracked."

Laura Hayes


Thank you for sharing your family's story, and your beautiful song, with us here at AoA.

Your mother no doubt thought about her son, Charlie, every single day of her life. She also no doubt suffered the cruel pain of separation from her precious child every single day of her life.

Your family sounds like a loving one, one that would have accepted and loved Charlie all his years, and would have learned to successfully incorporate him into family life. He is yet another clarion call to parents worldwide to stop listening to and deferring to "bad advice", which is so often from "experts"...and to instead take charge, trusting in your own instincts, common sense, abilities, and innate love for your child.

How wonderful that you and your sister connected with Charlie for many years before his death...a blessing for all three of you :)


This 2015 article is worth a read. Operation Warp Speed has precedence.

How World War II spurred vaccine innovation


A beautiful, insightful tribute song to her brother.

Here is the vaccine schedule for 1951:
"The next routinely recommended vaccines were developed early in the 20th century. These included vaccines that protect against pertussis (1914), diphtheria (1926), and tetanus (1938). These three vaccines were combined in 1948 and given as the DTP vaccine.
Late 1940s | Recommended Vaccines
* Given in combination as DTP"
Notice that the 3 vaccines were combined for the first time three years prior.
Many fathers would have recently returned from WWll and were exposed to vaccines and diseases of war. Before 1986, higher complaints of vax injury were for DTP jab. They changed to DTap in 1991-1996.


Thanks for sharing this. Beautiful and sad at the same time.


My son has autism. It is difficult but we are trying to heal him. This story makes me sad knowing that the government and others could do much more to prevent autism but have chosen not to….

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