Thursday, April 12, 2007
Ultimate Autism Reality Check - Autistic Children Become Adults
414 Bay Street,
Saint John, NB
Much of the autism discussion found on the internet does not seem directed at the very real concerns of families raising autistic children. Little of it provides practical assistance for the very real challenges facing families with an autistic child to raise and care for. The same is also true for the mainstream media. Despite all the attention generated by Autism Awareness Month in the US and the good efforts by the people at Autism Speaks, Oprah Winfrey and the View, there is very little coverage of, discussion of, or even acknowledgment of the realities of life that await autistic children, particularly those with severe intellectual, communication and behavioral deficits when they grow older, when they become youths and adults.
In New Brunswick Canada our residential care and treatment capacity is extremely limited. Information is not readily available to autism organizations about what facilities and services do exist. Requests for feedback sent to residential care home operators by the New Brunswick Autism Society went unanswered by the owners of those facilities. Government officials generally engage in the time honored tactics of delay and divide the autism community and lumber on with the same inadequate resources currently available.
In New Brunswick youths and adults who reside in residential care facilities will be cared for by staff with little or no training in autism or behavior management techniques. When frustrations and conflict arise from strained relations between untrained staff and persons with autism spectrum disorders there is no one to take the side, or offer the perspective of, the autistic youth or adult. Assault charges then follow against the autistic youth or adult who is supposedly being cared for in the residence.
In New Brunswick a year and a half ago an autistic youth was sent to reside on the grounds of the Miramichi Correctional facility. He had been convicted of no crime or offence. He was sent there because the Province of New Brunswick lacked the residential care or facilities in which he could live and receive treatment. Ultimately he was sent out of the province, out of the country, to a facility in the State of Maine.
New Brunswick has a central mental health facility in which persons with a variety of mental illnesses reside. The facility does have a psychologist on staff but the facts of life for an autistic person living in that facility are not pretty. I have visited that facility in the past with a father who told of arriving on short notice and finding his adult autistic son, barely clothed, in an isolation room with a hard wet floor. When we arrived we found exactly the same situation. There is little in the way of recreational programs or activities organized for severely autistic adults.
It might be different in other provinces and states in North America. Living in New Brunswick Canada this is the future that awaits severely autistic children as they age. As the father of an autistic son, now 11 years old, I can not ignore that future. It is the ultimate autism reality check.