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Deaf Man Might Be Released : Courts: A 38-year-old who after alleged misdiagnosis spent many years in state hospitals could be allowed to live with his parents.

October 28, 1989|CATHERINE GEWERTZ | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Current plans call for Valdez to live with his parents, Margarita and Isabel Valdez, and to have a companion who can use sign language to help him develop his rudimentary communication skills and to convey his needs to the speaking world, McDonald said. He would have two conservators: one to pay all his bills from the annuity fund and another to take care of all the other details of his life.

He would take classes in independent living--learning such basics as how to get around on buses, keep a bank account, cook, clean and grocery shop--from a private tutor or at a school that specializes in such training, she said.

And hopefully, McDonald said, Valdez could hold a job. He has worked successfully as a busboy, gardener, painter and furniture mover in supervised work programs off the state hospital grounds, she said.

"He's very reliable and meticulous," he said. "He loves order and schedules. When we visit him and he knows he has to be at work soon, he starts fidgeting and pointing at his watch. He takes it very seriously."

Valdez's parents do not know sign language, but Lupe Valdez said that she knows a little and that her brother, who lives nearby, is studying hard in preparation for Alberto's return. The homecoming will be joyful, she said, but tinged with culture shock as well.

"My mom's a little worried," she said. "She cooks Mexican food and she wonders, will he like it? He's so used to that hospital food, for 30 years. That's a long time."

BACKGROUND

Alberto Valdez, a deaf man who never learned to speak, has spent nearly 30 of his 38 years in mental institutions. His friends and family say he was misdiagnosed and should come home, and a legal settlement last year gave him the funds to do so. Now attorneys are trying to work it out. Next month, the decision will be left to a Superior Court judge.

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