Autism: Mother’s “brutal decision” to leave 19-year-old autistic son
TheStar.com – news/Canada – Amanda Telford says she had no choice but to leave her son Phillip, 19, with Ottawa social services in order to get him the care he needs.
May 01 2013. By: Lesley Ciarula Taylor, News reporter
An Ottawa social services agency was looking for shelter Wednesday for a severely autistic teenager his parents said they were forced to leave with them.
Amanda Telford took her 19-year-old son Phillip to the Ottawa office of Developmental Services Ontario in a desperate move Tuesday — World Autism Day — after she and her husband decided they could no longer handle him.
“It was an absolutely brutal decision, Telford told CTV News, which had cameras follow her and her son as they arrived at the Montreal Rd. agency offices.
“I did everything within the system I felt I could do.”
Phillip cannot speak and functions at the level of a two-year-old. He also suffers from Tourette Syndrome and diabetes. On the weekend, he had been in hospital after swallowing pills, wandered four kilometres from home and then slipped away again to a nearby home.
The teen is more than 6-foot tall and burly.
He had been on a waiting list for a year with DSO for a place to live, one of 393 people with developmental disabilities in the city of Ottawa in need of a group home, said Anna Lacelle, executive director of Service Coordination Ottawa, which works with DSO.
“Let’s hope for Phillip that we will be able to come together as a community to put something together,” she said.
In emergencies such as Phillip’s, she said, the first task is finding a place with a suitable vacancy, she said.
Such emergencies are hardest on families, Lacelle said.
“It’s hard to hear when someone is looking for Mama.”
A neighbour of the Telfords named Ray who knew the teenager years ago said Phillip had tried his door on Monday night.
“He was going door to door. My neighbour two doors down (told) me he had entered her house through the patio back door. Fortunately, she had heard of him and kept him calm and played high five with him.”
Amanda Telford, who worked as a social worker with the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre, played high five with her son at the door of the DSO Ottawa office as she reminded him how much his family loved him.
In his online comments, Ray said, “It is simply unacceptable that the only solution for these parents is to suddenly be out of options and support because this young man grew up.”
Teens with autism lose any entitlement to government services after age 18, and in many cases parents are left with no alternative but to abandon their grown children.
One Thornhill mother was advised by provincial officials to leave her 19-year-old son at a homeless shelter, the Toronto Star has previously reported.
The Star has documented the crisis in Ontario that families with autistic children face in a multimedia project nominated for a National Newspaper Award and a Michener Award.
The series triggered an investigation into the particular plight of families with adult autistic children by Ontario Ombudsman Andre Marin.
That investigation, said Marin spokeswoman Linda Williamson, has collected 722 complaints to date, many of them similar to the Telfords.
The Ontario Auditor General launched a review of services after the Star series and the province struck a panel of experts to examine the system.
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