Margaret Creedon: A Life well Lived

I have been getting nostalgic as of late and remembering bygone friends. For some reason the memories of the moments that I shared with Margaret Creedon seem to jump to my mind. Margaret died in early May of this year. She had pancreatic cancer which was discovered after a fall and a vertebral fracture. Her last few months were undeservingly painful.

Margaret was an avid reader of this blog and always kept some of the latest in mind to discuss whenever we met. We shared a common interest in autism but from different perspectives. I tried understanding autism from a neurobiological perspective and, during the last 10 years, by instituting clinical trials primarily with TMS and/or other techniques. Margaret in turn was a patient advocate. During her initial years, she offered many lectures to the public along with Temple Grandin. To see one was to see the other; the so-called one-two punch. Many of my friends have said that Temple learned a lot of her oratorical skills from these experiences.  However, while Temple was talking about her own experiences and how autism made her see the world, Margaret spoke of the special problems faced by some autistic individuals. She was especially interested in the challenges faced by those autistic individuals who were either blind or deaf and worked with many of them on a one-to-one basis at special education schools.  Margaret also felt compelled to bring attention to a special problem, that of the susceptibility of the ASD population to sexual abuse.  In this regard, she often acted as a counselor to many victims. Indeed, one by one she sought to change the world.

Unknown to many Margaret was also heavily involved in the design of the squeeze or hug machine. During the last few years of her life she was a consultant to makers of the squeeze machine, trying little by little to perfect the same. She was a firm believer of pressure therapy but she was never able to figure out a mechanism as to its effect.

I asked a close friend of Margaret, Steve Edelson, to write a few words about her:

“Dr. Margaret Creedon was one of the true pioneers in the autism field. Although many parents may not be aware of her many years of dedicated service in the autism community, she worked closely with hundreds of families in the Chicago area where she directed a major therapeutic treatment center. She was also active in the Autism Society of America and worked with and supported professionals worldwide.”

“I was fortunate to have known Margaret for over 25 years. When I became director of the Autism Research Institute (ARI), I asked her to assist me with several programs including the Autistic Global Initiative, a program focused on adult issues. I also wanted ARI to support her work on the Hard of Hearing/Deaf & Visually Impaired/Blind network, a program designed to provide resources to families with children on the autism spectrum as well as to connect them to professionals in their area.  Margaret and I also worked together on sensory-related issues including deep pressure and hearing.”

“Margaret studied under Dr. Ivar Lovaas in the early 1970s and spearheaded “simultaneous communication,” a strategy to enhance speech by teaching sign language and speech at the same time. Besides ABA, Margaret was a major proponent of various sensory interventions involving deep pressure, vision, and hearing. She was also involved in physical and sexual abuse issues and would often provide expert testimony in court cases.”

Dr. David Scheiner was Margaret husband. He courted Margaret for a few years before, according to David, she gave in. Together they formed a beautiful alliance that cultivated many friendships. They both hosted many friends at their home in the suburbs of Chicago where David delighted everybody with his culinary skills as well as his wit. David is well known for his TV appearances both for medicine as well as for politics. During Obama’s pre-presidential years in Chicago, David was his physician. David told me that, “Margaret Creedon was an amazing person. She was an intelligent and beautiful woman who devoted her life to the service of children, both her own two daughters and to the society at large. She was a clinical psychologist with an abiding interest in autism and abuse of the disabled child. She achieved much in her life but at the end, her greatest regret was that she had not done more.”

I will always remember Margaret as the woman with the big bright smile who always cheered my day.  I miss the fact that we won’t be able to spend new moments together while always cherishing those memories that will live with me forever.

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