2015 Brittany Greeson – “For Kenth” For Kenth Story summary: It was just a short amount of time and several doctor visits before Britta Rasmussen realized that her son Kenth’s slow development was actually a mental handicap. Prepared to take on the challenge of raising him at home, she soon realized that as he progressed into adulthood so did his mental illness. His violent behavior became overwhelming for the family and Kenth was sent to live in an institution in hopes of a better life. However, the reality that first greeted Kenth was far from ideal. Life in an institution designed for people with Autism only heightened his violence and misery. He retreated to isolation. Years passed until a day came for Kenth to be moved. An institution near his home county called Solund in Skanderborg, Denmark had recently been transitioning into a philosophy called Gentle Teaching. Today, Kenth is 35 and is one of over 200 residents at Solund. Through the support of his family, and the care of his caretakers, his once violent behavior has transformed to reveal a complex and curious man. Almost 8 years in the making, Kenth has a new story. Kenth walks with his caretaker, Hans, in the forest surrounding Solund. When Kenth first arrived at Solund, simple tasks like taking walks seemed impossible as he often retreated to violence and isolation. Today, it’s a frequent activity that Kenth and his caretakers enjoy. “We’re always trying to looking for things to do with him, new experiences for him and for us. You have to be able to look at the positive things no matter what behavior they have when they get here. You have to get a small glimpse of the person inside and to find out whats this person is like, ” Niels Christofferson, a close caretaker of Kenth’s said. Old family photos of Kenth and letters written on postcards from his mother, Britta have been collected over the years that Kenth has been institutionalized. In the right image, Kenth is seen hugging his younger brother, Mark. “At first we thought that Kenth was a normal child. Before finding out for sure, that there was something different about Kenth, we had gone through a long process with many different doctors, hospitals and specialists. At first we just thought that he was a slow starter,” Britta Ebbeson, Kenth’s mother said. Niels Christofferson, Kenth’s caretaker of over 7 years, brushes Kenth’s teeth just before his bedtime. While Kenth is 35, he is mentally around the age of 18 months. Seemingly mundane activities such as having his diaper changed or his shoes tied can often lead to short outbreaks of frustration. Kenth lays on the couch in the common area of House 15, the resident hall in which he lives at Solund. One of Kenth’s closest caretakers named Louise had recently left Solund to pursue another job and it was thought by other staff members that Kenth was grieving her departure by comforting himself with long periods spent on the couch. Kenth asks Niels for chocolate as his housemates and another caretaker sit at the dining table in the common area following dinner. While he cannot verbally speak, Kenth has developed a unique way of communicating with those around him. Certain motions with his hands represent the name of someone close to him or a request for an action or object. A light tap at the tip of his nose is his way of requesting chocolate, his favorite food. Kenth peers from around the corner of his closet in his room. Due to a fall that led to a brain injury during the summer of 2014, Kenth is required to wear a special helmet and his entire room was lined with padding. Over the course of development, Kenth’s toes began curling inward which led to trouble walking and causing him to fall and trip. Even indoors, he has to wear special shoes that balance his steps. Kenth and Niels share a laugh during a walk around the grounds of Solund. Niels and Kenth have developed a close relationship over their time together and from Kenth’s reliance on his caretakers for simple tasks. “Kenth is a lot of things but he’s mostly but he’s mostly funny. I am amazed how easy it is to change his mood from very poor to very very happy,” Niels said. Kenth passes by in the main hallway of his residence hall, the tree outside his window decorated with christmas stars, to go to his room. Although Kenth is attached to the caretakers closest to him, he prefers to spend his time in solitude, often in his room listening to his favorite artist, Thomas Kellerup. Kenth watches the trees rush by as Niels takes him for a drive in the Danish countryside. Kenth’s behavior has improved dramatically over the years, however, there are days where Kenth will be demanding of his caretakers by repeatedly signing and expecting their response. The long drives are often used as a type of therapy. “I suppose that looking from the outside it would seem that he has no life at all, but it’s not true because he’s got so many abilities and has got so much potential for development. I mean when we started working with him it’s been an up going progress and there’s no telling where he’ll be 10 years from now. I’m filled with pride when i think about it and when i think back on the time when he moved in here. Having made a difference, not me alone, but i’ve been apart of it. It’s been a lot of work but it’s definitely worth it,” Niels said. These images are copyright Brittany Greeson and are use here by permission. They may not be used elsewhere without permission.