My son Neli is an 18 yr old Autistic young man. Specifically he has Aspergers and Pervasive Developmental Disorder, Not Otherwise Specified. He attends a private day school through the county and sees a therapist weekly. He has no friends and pretty much just goes to school everyday, comes home and frequents the local library. He walks a lot because that is his outlet. The library is where he hangs out because there’s a teen room there where he can communicate with other young adults his age. He goes to the library quite often (at least a few times a week).
Since the time we moved here my son has been having a difficult time in school. We didn’t get an Aspergers diagnosis until the 8th grade. He struggled with academics and we placed him in the Huntingon Learning Center for 6 hours per week to get additional help. My son did his best to fit in socially, but everyday was a struggle for him. We worked very closely with school administration to ensure that he was getting the assistance he needed. When we felt he wasn’t, my husband and I went to the local school board to express our concerns. When we complained about his educational care, we were temporarily given comfort, but it didn’t last. When he entered high school, it became increasingly obvious that the school was unable to provide for his needs. The area had become overpopulated and he was attending a brand new school with an average of 30 children per class and his grades and self-esteem started to suffer greatly. This is where I noticed a marked decline in his self-esteem and I knew I had to do something.
I did some research to see if I could find a school that would better be able to serve his needs. I found a place called Youth for Tomorrow http://www.youthfortomorrow.org/ founded by Joe Gibbs, former coach of the Washington Redskins. It is a residential program that caters to the needs of at risk youth, to include children with learning disabilities. It is a very expensive program for parents to pay out of pocket, but when I contacted them, they led me to Virginia’s COMPREHENSIVE SERVICES ACT FOR AT RISK YOUTH AND FAMILIES (CSA) website http://www.csa.state.va.us/ to have the program funded for him. They directed me to my local CSA and said that determination had to be made by a Family Assessment and Planning Team (FAPT). So I requested a FAPT team meeting and the outcome was disapproval. At this time my son was placed in a private day school, which he currently attends. While the staff has always been very good, I didn’t feel the environment was the best for him socially. There were a lot of kids there who had more severe disabilities that he did and he started to feel like an outcast.
After about a year he decided he no longer wanted to attend school and we suggested a military sponsored program called The Virginia Commonwealth Challenge http://www.ngycp.org/site/state/va . We though the structure would be great for him, while giving him an opportunity to get his GED. This is a great program by the way, and I’m very appreciative that they exist to help our youth for free.
At first, he excelled even winning two awards. But as the other kids moved on to the other phases, his differences became more and more apparent. He became depressed, took an entire bottle of cold medicine and went AWOL. He was missing for an entire night before he was found. My husband and I picked him up and he went to Florida to stay with his grandmother for a few months while we decided what to do next. Again, I went back to the FAPT team with the request of allowing him to go to Youth for Tomorrow. That was in 2009. I was denied once again because they said he didn’t qualify. I appealed the decision at the next higher level, however, I was still denied. I had no choice but to return him to the private day school that he is now attending.
Through all of this, my son’s mental state of well-being continued to decline. My husband and I have done the best we can to try and deal with it with very little resources.
Now here we are today facing my deepest fears of what could possible happen to my son if he didn’t get the help he needed in those crucial adolescent years. I am not blaming anyone. And there is no way to know if the outcome would have been different had our requests been granted. The bottom line is that, there is no face for Aspergers for the average people out there. I believe that my son is a victim. He needs help, not imprisonment. Now he is facing years in prison on three felony counts and I know that he cannot make it through this. How much more must he and this family suffer before people really begin to wake up and understand this epidemic that is growing in numbers?
I am currently trying to obtain a good legal team for him. Preferably those that understand and are sympathetic to autistic children. I believe in my heart that the right person is out there and will turn out to help. This is not just about my son. Autism is an epidemic plaguing this nation and seemingly nothing is being done about it. What’s going to happen the half a million children growing up with autism when they reach adulthood? If average parents do not stand up and fight for their cause, they will have no future. I am taking a stance.
I would like to get this story out to the press. Because of this, my family and my son has been ostracized. That’s why I believe that the type of attorney that I secure must be well versed in cases of this matter.