Anyone familiar with autism is aware that this condition presents itself on a spectrum. Not all people diagnosed with autism are high-functioning, independent savants. As a result, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to empowering people with autism and ensuring they get treatment and services appropriate to their personal experiences.
For families of people with severe autism whose sole means of communication is aggression, keeping the person in the family home can actually be a danger to the rest of the family members. One such case is the Ratcliffe family.
Single mother Heather Ratcliffe struggled with a heartbreaking question when Austin, her son with autism, became too big and too violent for her to handle on her own. Should she keep Austin in the home and endanger her other children, or send him away for specialized housing and care but lose his presence in her home?
Finally, she decided what was best for her and her entire family was to get Austin into specialized housing through New York’s Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD).
Austin was put on a waiting list.
“That was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. We had to meet with the people at the OPWDD. They asked me, ‘Why can’t you handle your son any more? Why do you want to send him to a home?’ Well, you don’t want to. No parent wants to lose their child, but I can’t do this myself. It killed me, but I had to do it,” said Ratcliffe in an interview with the Democrat and Chronicle.
They waited for five years.