START A PETITION 27,000,000 members: the world's largest community for good
2,197,948 people care about Health Policy

Disability Benefits and the “Adult Baby”

Disability Benefits and the “Adult Baby”

Stanley Thornton is a 30-year-old California man who pretends to be a baby: He sleeps in a (quite large) crib, wears XXL diapers and drinks from a bottle. His roommate Miss Dias, who is not related to him, plays the role of “mother.” Thornton has “infantilism,” says SFGate:

Often infantalism is a sexual fetish, but that’s not the case for Stanley. “I like to play or be treated as a baby to get the love and affection and safeness,” Stanley tells “[National Geographic's Taboo show]. For some people it’s a sexual thing but for most of us we’re doing it to relax. You come home from work and you change into baby mode. You put away your adult stuff and that life gets put on hold.”

Stanley has found a community of fellow infantalists online. When he first started having the urge to act like a baby at age 14, he says that he was really scared and thought his feelings were strange. But now that he has connected with others like himself he’s comfortable with his lifestyle.

A video from the National Geographic show can be seen on YouTube.

According to SFGate, Thornton and his roommate both collect disability payments from the federal government. Republican Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma thinks that Thornton should be able to hold down a job as he’s shown he can work: Since 2000, Thornton has run an online adult baby support group, He also has carpentry skills. On the National Geographic segment, he is shown building baby furniture big enough for an adult. Coburn has asked the Social Security Administration to investigate Thornton’s benefits:

In a letter to Inspector General Patrick O’Carroll, Coburn wrote, “Given that Mr. Thornton is able to determine what is appropriate attire and actions in public, drive himself to complete errands, design and custom make baby furniture to support a 350-pound adult and run an Internet support group, it is possible that he has been improperly collecting disability benefits for a period of time.”

Thornton responded with a letter responding Washington Times saying that:

…he is not capable of working. He said running the website only takes four hours a month, and he said his craftsman skills were overstated by the program, which showed him working on his adult-sized high chair.

“What you saw on camera being drilled was pre-assembled the day before. All I did was drill six holes for the camera,” he said.

On his biography on his website, Thornton says that he worked as a security guard for a year and a half but trauma resulting from childhood abuse and other mental problems left him unable to work. He has been receiving SSI payments for most of the last 10 years.

The term “adult baby” is troubling to me. I’m the mother of an autistic teenager who has lots of challenges in communicating and learning — who can’t talk very well, or read — who won’t be able to live without full-time support. Some people do refer to their adult autistic children with such needs as “toddlers in an adult-size body,” and there are individuals who are severely disabled such that some might say they are “like babies” as far as their not being able to take care of themselves. But I can’t emphasize enough that adults with developmental disabilities, and adults with disabilities including autism spectrum disorders, are NOT “toddlers in adult-size bodies.” 

Many parents and teachers of disabled children have worked hard to teach a child to feed her or himself and to handle their own self-care needs, such as personal hygiene. If anything, we shrink from hearing our children being called something like “adult babies.” With all respects to Thornton and his difficulties (which I know only about from what I’ve read on his website and in the articles cited in this post), I find the association of “adult babies” and disability benefits unsettling as it suggests that those who receive such benefits are indeed “babies” in adult bodies, unable to care for themselves. Quite to the contrary, my son — and many individuals with disabilities — is more than eager to work, but is denied a job, like Elsa Sallard who Starbucks fired rather than making accommodations for her dwarfism.

The Atlantic uses the case of Thornton to talk about disability insurance reform and the need to support individuals with disabilities working so that they have other choices besides becoming “dependent on government checks”:

Social Security disability insurance was designed for the 1950s, when a quarter of the labor force was in manufacturing and employment often meant strenuous labor. In a service and Web economy, thousands of disabled people can still be highly productive in the economy. Autor and Duggan suggest building a universal disability insurance program similar to unemployment insurance, to make disability available to all workers. Shifting disability insurance toward helping people work rather than forcing them to become dependent on the government would both help the economy and save billions of dollars a year.

“Of course, many SSDI recipients are truly incapacitated,” James Ledbetter wrote out in a takedown of SSDI in Slate. But many are employable. We need an insurance system that encourages the disabled to work rather than pay them under the condition that they don’t. It’s time to have this debate.

My son has seven more years of school. Next fall, he moves up to the secondary school program in the county autism center he attends. A huge focus of this program will be on training him for a job. Charlie loves to be busy and to do things. A nightmare for my husband and me would be for him — like some of the autistic adults who’ve graduated from their programs described in the Kennebec Journal — to be sitting at home, unable to use any of the skills his teachers, Jim and I have dedicated our lives to teach him.

One day soon Charlie, and many other autistic children, will be autistic adults; will be adult adults. We need to start creating and supporting opportunities that will enable them to lead the fulfilling, productive and good lives that Charlie and many others can.


Previous Care2 Coverage

Starbucks Sued For Discrimination Against Worker with Dwarfism


Read more: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Photo by Tracy O

have you shared this story yet?

some of the best people we know are doing it


+ add your own
10:06AM PDT on May 28, 2014

(9 and the last one). If you have any questions I didn't get to, just ask me. My personal e-mail is And if you wish to know all the details about the two shows I did (Taboo & My Crazy Obsession) you can read about both shows as well as the SSI investigation which is included in the Taboo article I put together. You can read both here. (Taboo), (My Crazy Obsession) And also on the site is my biography for those who wish to know even more about me.

-Stanley from the Taboo show mentioned above.

9:57AM PDT on May 28, 2014

(Post 8) As for “he should get therapy”. I have. I was seeing a therapist until she decided that I had too many problems and told me she couldn’t see me anymore. And finding her took 6 years of searching and begging county mental health for help getting a therapist. There are several therapists in Shasta County. However after they read my charts they tell me I am too severe and they don’t want to take my case. They say I should really be in the psych hospital. But the psych hospital says I am not severe enough to be in it full time and so send me back home. I can’t even get a psychiatrist for meds. My medical doc prescribes my Ritalin, but that’s it. He says “I am not a psychiatrist and don’t feel comfortable prescribing psych meds, you need to find a psychiatrist”. Great, can’t get one, so now what? It’s one thing to want a therapist, but what do you do when they say your too severe for them to take you on? Your left with nothing. So, next advice?

9:56AM PDT on May 28, 2014

(Post 7) And as one person mentioned, we did try to run a AB nursery ones. But failed HORRIBLY. First, there were no AB’s in northern California. And the ONE adult baby who did come, came once and wasn’t happy with the limited stuff I could do. And we didn’t have a “separate” nursery in the house. The one AB who stayed slept in my crib while I slept in my chair that night. So in fact, we had just one person come in 2005. That’s it. So not so much money as people THINK we got. So we closed it down. And even then, the one who stayed, stayed for free. It was a “try it once and pay next time thing”. So not only did it fail, but we didn’t make one dime during the one person who came. And besides, any money I get has to be claimed to SSI and which is deducted out of my check. So basically anything I do is done for free as any money made is taken out of my SSI thus I did the task for free. So now you have the facts on that.

Or my favorite comment here “he’s a fake, I heard it on the news the other night”. Hmm, really, did you also hear after the 6 month 3 agency (SSI, FBI and Attorney General’s office) investigation that I was found cleared of any fraud (innocent of fraud) and found to indeed be disabled under SSI’s rules and approved to continue getting my SSI. So guess you shouldn’t believe everything you hear on TV. And if you remember, the senator said I was SUSPECTED of fraud, not that it was for sur

9:55AM PDT on May 28, 2014

(Post 6) What people didn’t know is at the time Sandra had just been taken to the hospital by ambulance when she woke up unable to walk. Turned out she had a serious sepsis infection. 24 hours later she had a major heart attack in the ICU and had died, but they got her back. Then had another heart attack 2 days later. On top of being upset my best friend was going to die, I was going to lose the apartment because I couldn’t afford it myself and would have to live out of my car. And then I get the letter saying my SSI is going to be cut off which means I wouldn’t be able to get food and such while homeless in the car.

So looking at all this at once I was thinking of just taking my life and saying screw it. I was upset, as anyone would have been in that situation. You try being in that situation and not being very upset! But the comment was taken and twisted by the news paper to make it sound like I was threatening to take my life ONLY because of the SSI payments possibly being taken away. So now you know there was far more to it than that.

9:54AM PDT on May 28, 2014

(Post 5) As for woodworking skills people think I have, I don’t have as many skills as people assume. The high chair isn’t a special design. It’s a very basic design I saw online made up of all squares or figure 8’s made of wood. I just changed a few things to make it my own design. I don’t have a lot of tools either. I don’t have a “workshop”. I have 2 workhorses that NatGeo paid for as I didn’t have any till then, a drill, a jig saw and a palm sander I got for Christmas one year. Those are the only 3 tools I have. And the only “skill” I have is from one year of wood shop in jr high and watching some home improvement shows on TV. But I am actually quite flattered people think I am some kind of wood working expert or something. I didn’t think the high chair was all that fancy. So thanks for thinking it was “well made”. Makes me proud of my work, thank you.

Then there was the comments about me saying I would end my life if I got cut off. I wasn’t threatening suicide to avoid being cut off SSI. I was actually highly upset at the time the e-mail from the newspaper came in asking me how I felt about the senator going to have me cut off.

9:53AM PDT on May 28, 2014

(post 4) The playpen was 60.00 and thus took 5 months to save up for. The blanket penguin sleeper was a Christmas gift in 2002. The high chair was paid for by NatGeo in exchange for doing the show. And the blue onesie I got in 2012 was paid for by TLC in exchange for doing their show “My Crazy Obsession”. Otherwise I couldn’t afford it since I am a big guy a stuff made my size isn’t cheap. The sleeper and onesie are the only “baby clothes” I have.

So no, the SSI money doesn’t go to pay for my baby stuff as people think. People assume I spend it on that though as people here have. Now, I CAN spend a portion of the SSI money on “entertainment” which could go for baby stuff, but I don’t use it for that. And frankly, I have all the baby stuff I would ever want, so there is no need for me to buy anything else babyish. I am fine with the things I have.

9:52AM PDT on May 28, 2014

(Post 3) Like everyone I was turned down the first time. I had to reapply again and fight. Meanwhile I only had my unemployment to keep me going. And 8 months later I was finally approved. So it wasn’t so easy as applying and getting approved right away, because I wasn’t. I had to fight for it just like everyone else. And for those who think I should be checked out more often, I already am. SSI reviews my case every 2 years these days. But when I first got on it, I was reviewed every year for re-evaluation by SSI’s own doctors. So I am checked frequently to see if my disability claim has changed.

I also am not using my SSI/SSA “JUST” to live as a baby. People misunderstand. I don’t role play 24/7. I role play around 1-3 hours a day. Most days it’s closer to 1-2 hours. The rest of the day is spent as most adults. Taking care of house work best I can, taking care of my two cats needs and such. And no, my SSI doesn’t go to my “fetish”. 80% of my baby stuff was bought when I was working security. 10% were gifts for Christmas and birthdays such as the crib rail toys for example. The rest has been bought by using money from recycling cans and bottles friends and family gave to me once or twice a month which comes to between 7-12 dollars a month.

9:51AM PDT on May 28, 2014

(post 2) And I also went with security because the company didn’t require a me to have finished high school as I dropped out due to the abuse. Such as my first day of school at Tobinworld where I was nearly suffocated to death by a staff member who accused me of taking his pen that was in fact mine. He slammed me to the floor and laid on me. Then a second staff joined thinking I was “going off” even though I wasn’t fighting. Under both their weight I was unable to breath and almost died.

Anyway, to my point, in 2001 I had my break down while at work, among trying to hide other problems the company never was told about such as my back injury. At that point I wasn’t able to work, and couldn’t anyway as my company wanted to fire me but didn’t want to pay unemployment. So instead the reduced my hours to 3 hours a week hoping I would quit.

Family helped me go through the labor board who reviewed the case and decided that cutting my hours to 3 hours a week was the same as firing me and ordered the company to officially fire me and then I was put on unemployment. And at the same time the hospital I was in, the social worker of the hospital applied me for SSI.

9:50AM PDT on May 28, 2014

(post 1 of a lot) Another little post. Someone wanted to know what problems I am on SSI for. Here’s the full list. PTSD, ADHD, RAD (Reactive Attachment Disorder), Bipolar 2, adjustment disorder, anxiety, suicidal ideation, personality disorder, self injury (though doing much better on that front, no cutting since 9/42003), spinal injury and urinary incontinence that started as just bed wetting from 13-16 which is when the spinal injury happened. I was paralyzed the day it happened but so thankfully I was able to walk again but the severe pain remains.

Another person made it seem like I was approved all simple over someone else. I wasn’t instantly approved. It was a battle just like everyone else who applies. What helped was I was on it as a child. From 16-18. At 18 I got off of it because I really wanted to be a security guard. As a child I dreamed of being a police officer but was turned off the idea by meeting so many cops who abused their power. And also because I couldn’t do the physical such as running 5 miles without stopping, pulling a 250 pound dummy 100 feet and other such feats due to my back injury.

10:23PM PDT on May 27, 2014

I see many people have replied not having the full information. I am the Stanley from the Taboo show mentioned above. Reading some of the comments, people need to get their facts straight. First, I am NOT on SSI/SSA because I role play as a baby. I have been doing that since I was 14. Role playing is not a disability. I get it for legit and documented health and psychological issues that have been checked out by SSI's own doctors and have been documented from age 10 (1990). I grew up in special education schools because of many of them.

As for the high chair, I had help building it. The chair wasn't built in one day as it appears on the show. It was actually built before the film crew even arrived. It took me almost 3 weeks to make with help from friends. What I drilled was a piece of left over wood from making the chair to make it seem like they were filming me making it. Much of TV is highly edited stuff. We filmed on and off for a total of 8 hours each day for 4 days. Only 12 minutes of that was put into the Taboo episode. So that should give a idea of how much was cut out.

One person "Alex O" claims to have seen me go to the wood store, measure and do all the stuff. Guess he/she didn't watch close enough. I went to the store, and the staff measured and cut the wood for me. I just told them what sizes I needed. And then they loaded the wood in the car for me. And then once home I slowly unloaded the wood over 3 days before getting started. I have a severe spinal inj

add your comment

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

Care2 - Be Extraordinary - Start a Care2 Petition
ads keep care2 free

Recent Comments from Causes

My comment seems to have disappeared. Again. Ricky T, you're right about the Moms being like Carrie's…

Signed and thank you for sharing the news

meet our writers

Kristina Chew Kristina Chew teaches and writes about ancient Greek and Latin and is Online Advocacy and Marketing... more
ads keep care2 free

Select names from your address book   |   Help

We hate spam. We do not sell or share the email addresses you provide.

site feedback


Problem on this page? Briefly let us know what isn't working for you and we'll try to make it right!