Managing Editor's Note: For countless families whose kids are getting older, autism may be the norm in their household, as it is in my own, but it is hardly normal when you live in fear of violence at the hand of your precious child. Institutionalizing your child, whether you call it camp, residential school school or something else, isn't normal either. It's an agonizing decision I've watched friends make. No one wants to have to send their child away because they pose a threat to the rest of the family. This sort of violence is not criminal. People with autism who suffer from myriad physical ailments and live with unrelenting frustration by virtue of their communication deficits are not vicious or evil or bad. But they can be violent - and it's foolish and naive to deny that. Autism is NOT the new normal. Families are drowning, dying even, and the answer isn't "acceptance" because society is not going to accept people who pose a threat. Men who beat their family members or caretakers will face a life of chemical and physical incarceration. We'd best find treatments for those here, prevention for those yet to fall to autism and a whole hell of a lot of services for families like the Koumoutseas, whose lives have been changed forever by their son's autism. We can not remain silent on this issue. It's only going to get worse as the kids get older. We need families in the Koumoutseas's dilemma on the IACC. President Obama, Senator Dodd, Dr. Insel, the disability community leaders need to hear from a Mom with a fat lip and her arm in a sling. THIS IS AUTISM TOO. From The Telegram.com. Please comment on their article.
The profoundly autistic young man was arrested and has thus begun his odyssey through a criminal justice system that doesn’t know what to do with people like him. Legally an adult, but unable to control or appreciate the wrongfulness of his behavior, Adam is the latest sad poster child for a system at a loss. And his violent outburst once again exposes the dark and controversial nature of the mysterious disorder.
In April, 20-year-old John Odgren of Princeton was sentenced to life in prison for the fatal stabbing of a fellow student. Odgren has Asperger’s syndrome, a mild form of autism. In October 2008, police say Shelleigh Wilcox was fatally stabbed by Benjamin Makinen, a 22-year-old autistic man who randomly knocked on her door at 10 Lancaster St. In Ohio last year, a professor at Kent State was beaten to death by her autistic son, 18-year-old Sky Steuernagel, a case that attracted national headlines.
Let’s be clear. Not everyone with autism is violent, and those with the disorder hardly deserve the added stigma. But we can’t deny that an aggressive strain exists in some. And while information on such a link is scarce, a 2008 study found “disruptive, irritable or aggressive behavior” in 8 to 32 percent of children with autism.
“It points out the need for better services and treatments,” said Rita Shreffler, executive director of the National Autism Association. “These situations are horribly sad for everyone involved. Families are overwhelmed and left without resources. Most children with autism are under 21. But a big group of them are getting older, bigger and stronger. And their parents are aging and no longer capable of caring for them.”
John Koumoutseas, 60, has been caring for Adam since birth and assumed custody after he and his wife divorced. He acknowledged that Adam has been violent in the past, both to him and his ex-wife, and said he was in the process of trying to place Adam in a residential facility. Adam has attended 10 schools — he was kicked out of two, and his father removed him from three that failed to provide adequate services. A small-business owner, the elder Koumoutseas said he was once affluent but now faces possible foreclosure because of the expense of keeping his son at home.
“My life has gone to shambles, slowly but surely,” he said. Asked if he loves his son, he said softly, “I love my son too much.”
Peter Wyman of Lancaster understands. Two of his sons are autistic, similar in age and temperament to Adam, he said. He, too, has struggled to keep them at home, but that requires support services not adequately funded by the state. Instead, the state is often willing to place autistic children in residential homes that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.
“The system which enables severely challenged kids to stay home is broken,” Wyman said. “The odds are stacked high against us.”
Worse still, Wyman said he’s sickened that Adam was arrested and hauled into court. He said his own autistic sons have adult bodies with the cognitive abilities of 2-year-old children. Adam was charged with assault and battery and other crimes, and his bail was set at $20,000.
Meanwhile, his mother is in stable condition and his father is hiring a defense lawyer. Neither parent believes that Adam should be subjected to the legal process when he has no idea what he’s done. But as children with autism grow bigger and stronger, solutions and alternatives are scarce
“It’s like something out of 1940,” Wyman said. “These children shouldn’t have to become front-page news before they get help. That’s the bottom line.”
Read more: http://www.telegram.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20101216/COLUMN01/12160854&CSAuthReq=1#ixzz18I2k5RjV