A Child Is Waiting (1963) Poster

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  • No. "A Child is Waiting" was based on a story and script by American film-maker Abby Mann.

  • Jean Hansen (Judy Garland) applies for a teaching job at a school for developmentally-disabled children run by Dr Matthew Clark (Burt Lancaster), whose philosophy is teach the children to be as independent as possible. While feeling her way around the job, she encounters young Reuben Witticombe (Bruce Ritchey), whose parents have abandoned him at the school. Although she tries to follow Dr Clark's rules, she disagrees with some of his methods, especially when it comes to getting Reuben's parents to visit him.

  • Garland plays a pianist who was trained at Julliard, and one of the tasks she is given at the school is to work with the children to develop a Thanksgiving play. In doing so, she sings four lines of a simple ditty called "Snowflakes". She is also shown singing "Roll Out the Barrel" with the children while in a car returning from a field trip to a park.

  • The movie states that, after being seen by several doctors, Reuben is diagnosed as being mentally retarded. Considering the advances that have been made in the diagnoses and care of developmentally-disabled children since this film was made (1963), many viewers think a more proper diagnosis might be one of autism.

  • Dr Clark is referring to Rosemary Kennedy, sister of John F. Kennedy, the 35th President of the United States, serving from 1961 until his assassination in 1963. Rosemary Kennedy was publicly declared mentally retarded and was lobotomized at age 23, leaving her with an infantile mentality. Rosemary lived out the rest of her life at the St Coletta School for Exceptional Children in Jefferson, Wisconsin where she died in 2005. Considerable controversy has arisen about the nature of Rosemary's diagnosis and the manner in which she was treated.

  • Reuben runs away from the school and his parents are very worried, at least his mom is, but they still can't bring themselves to come and see him. Reuben is found and brought back to the school. Dr Clark takes Ms Hansen to an institution for adults to see what most of the children become. She realizes she cannot become so emotionally attached to an individual student. Mr Witticombe (Steven Hill) comes to talk to Dr Clark about transferring Reuben to another school, but the children are right in the middle of putting on their Thanksgiving play. He witnesses Reuben reciting his lines and sees how he responds to the applause. He begins to understand his son's need for that sense of achievement. When Reuben sees his father in the audience, the two of them hug each other. In the final scene, new parents approach Dr Clark saying that they have brought their son Earl to start school, but he won't get out of the car. Dr Clark sends Ms Hansen out to get him, since she really has a way of communicating with the children.

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