Forum: More residential home options needed to ease pressure on parents of kids with autism

My adopted son was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder at the age of two.

He was non-verbal but manageable until the age of about 15. As he went through puberty, he started getting more and more aggressive whenever his demands were not met.

The aggressiveness turned into violent behaviour - hitting his parents and the maid, smashing the TV screen, throwing chairs and banging on windows and doors, among other things.

The episodes became worse and more frequent.

I would try my best but had no way to stop him, as he was bigger, taller and a lot stronger than me. Every episode ended with me or my husband calling the police and an ambulance to take him to the Institute of Mental Health (IMH). Each ambulance trip cost us between $300 and $500.

He has been in and out of IMH five times since April last year. His shortest stay at home after being discharged was four days; the longest was one month and 11 days.

We have had to deal with complaints from neighbours below our unit about noise coming from our home. Despite our best efforts to mitigate the situation, things escalated from constant text messages about the noise to the exchange of lawyers' letters.

My husband, who is a heart patient, had to retire early from his job due to the deterioration of his health from the stress of dealing with the complaints.

We decided to sell the flat and have since moved out.

It has become impossible to leave my son at home with my domestic helper while I go to work, because his unpredictable behaviour would put her in danger.

I have reached out to IMH medical social workers, Pathlight School and SG Enable for help with placing my son in a residential home. I have been informed that there is a long waiting list.

I have met and spoken to parents in a similar situation. It feels like we have hit a brick wall, and there is no light at the end of the tunnel.

The disappointment, frustration and helplessness we feel probably cannot be understood by those who are not in a similar position.

I wish that there were more residential options fully equipped with therapy and programmes for people with autism.

Tan Poh Gek

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