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Autistic Boy Left in ER By “Overwhelmed” Mother

Autistic Boy Left in ER By “Overwhelmed” Mother

Last Friday, a 10-year-old autistic boy was found wandering in the ER room at Broward General Medical Center. Police in Fort Lauderdale said a man in his 30s driving a minivan dropped the boy off around noon and then left, says the Sun-Sentinel. They were eventually able to find out that the boy’s mother, Amanda Mathe, had abandoned him because she was “overwhelmed” and could not find anyone to help her. The boy, whose name is Benjamin, is now in the custody of Florida’s Department of Children & Families and has been placed in a foster home with experience in caring for children with special needs.

Mathe, who has two other children, is going through separation from her husband, has no job and is being evicted from her foreclosed home. She’s also said that she is bipolar and she had “tried everything I could with raising Benjamin.” Noting that he has “serious behavioral and medical issues” and ”gets very violent on reactions to any medication,” she had told Benjamin’s father that, if she “could not handle this,” she would “put him in DCF.” Regarding her recent separation and her husband, Erick Mathe, leaving South Florida, Mathe said to WSVN,

“On the day that we moved in, it was, ‘Here’s Ben. Bye-bye,’ so I had all three kids,”.When I was trying to contact Mr. Mathe, he wouldn’t return any calls, he wouldn’t return my e-mails.”

Erick Mathe, who only found out what happened to Benjamin from news reports, is currently seeking custody of all three of his children.

The state is not pressing charges on the parents and is allowing them unsupervised visits with their son until a hearing next week. Mark Riordan, a spokeman for DCF, has said that

“”Instead of looking at this like a child abuse- or a criminal abandonment-kind of case, it’s one of those where we’re going to do everything we can to make sure the boy receives the services he requires and the parents receive the assistance and the help that they need at this point.

“”They’re not bad parents. We’re talking about parents who tried everything else and got desperate, so we’re working with them.”

Commenting on this story, Julie Ryan Evans at The Stir says:

So many of the headlines we read about autism explore what causes it, how we can prevent it, and how families cope with the initial blow when they’re told their toddler falls somewhere on the autism spectrum. What we don’t hear nearly as often about is all the challenges and day-to-day struggles that can be involved in raising a child who has autism for the rest of his or her life.

She’s right. The main stories about autism in the news are relentlessly about causes — I just wrote yesterday about some new study asking if the “absence of breast-feeding” puts a child at “increased risk for autism.” Last week the main news about autism was about whether “environmental” factors like maternal age and whether a mother was taking anti-depressants while pregnant might increase “autism risk.” That is, the majority of autism news the average person hears is about studies and theories about how to prevent future cases of autism.

Meanwhile, there are plenty of families with autistic children exhausted from caring for children who need extra supports; cuts to services (to early intervention funding in New Jersey) and the govenment shutdown in Minnesota make it even harder. There are also lots of autistic adults out there in need of supports. Autistic children get the lion’s share of attention in photo-ops, but autism is a lifelong disability and many, including my teenage son Charlie will need supports throughout their lives.

This is not to say that children like Benjamin and my son are “burdens”: Given the appropriate education and supports, autistic children and individuals can thrive and contribute greatly, as a New York Times article on a company that draws on the unique abilities of autistic persons attests to.  It’s not easy raising my son but it’s also not impossible and it’s certainly not a nightmare — indeed, a nightmare situation to us would be what happened to a family in British Columbia, when a state agency removed an autistic girl, Ayn Van Dyk, from the home where she is loved and cared for. The abandonment of Benjamin Mathe is a stark reminder that we need to do a lot more to support autistic individuals and those who care for them by providing, and funding, services and supports in the community.

 

Related Care2 Coverage

What Happened to Ayn Could Happen to Any Autistic Child

Basket Holds & Take Downs: Restraints in Public Schools Need More Scrutiny

Understanding Autism: Causes, Genes, Brain Function, Symmetry

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75 comments

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10:50AM PDT on Jul 20, 2011

Please read "The Brain that Changes Itself" by Doidge,N. It can enlighten the way for the treatment of autism with out the use of drugs and getting results.

9:41PM PDT on Jul 16, 2011

Autism is difficult and for a single family home with all the difficulties of finance, this is terrible for everyone. I have worked with people with autism spectrum disorder for 20 years, I very much enjoy working and trying to find something that will help them in their world. However I do it 8 hours a day and get to go home. I have the utmost respect for parents of kids with disabilities they need more support not less. I hope things work out for this woman and her family.

2:37PM PDT on Jul 15, 2011

She has my deepest sympathy. They need help and support now!

1:31PM PDT on Jul 15, 2011

I hope they get help soon! This is so sad.

11:56AM PDT on Jul 15, 2011

I think it is unfortunate how little help the parents are given and also how ignorant schools can be of understanding it.

11:17AM PDT on Jul 15, 2011

Without proper help this is a nightmare for parents.

It's a nightmare with autistic kids.

Parents can become desperate, lonely, depressed, anxiety ridden, fearful, panicked, violent and unable to cope.

It is easy to say these kids are not a burden when IT IS NOT YOU who have to cope with them 24h a day 365 days a year.....

Lets help and NOT blame them!

9:27AM PDT on Jul 15, 2011

This is a sticky one. It could have ended in a much worse way.....even the death of an innocent child, like many in the past. Thank goodness he was left in an ER and not put out on the street or left at a babysitters or simply disposed of. Good thing Casey Anthony wasn't his mom!! I am not making light of the abandonment issues.

7:28AM PDT on Jul 15, 2011

I have a an adult child who is boarderline autistic, he could do a normal job, but in todays economy the bar keeps beeing raised higher and higher for basic employment. So he stays home with me, not a good solution, and I worry what will hapen to him if anything were to happen to me or my husband. I also worry about his social skills heading down hill, he does go to church with us, but thats about it (luckily they are a great group of people and they accept him as he is). Which is a problem with autism (even with my sons very mild form) it is very hard for them to fit in and seem "normal". I think it would help if the economy turned around, then he could find a basic job somewhere (even a few hours a week would be good).
There was a place like that here in our city but a big foreign corp bought out the company and they where not interested in the part of the company that worked with these special needs people.

7:23AM PDT on Jul 15, 2011

I agree w/most of you all.This poor soul was looseing everything,her home,her ability to life,liberty and the pursuit of haopoyness,and justice.We should not judge her cruely at all,she did the right thing,maryw

4:00AM PDT on Jul 15, 2011

My half brothr is a man in hos 40's who has autism. HIs father cares for him 24/7 with no help. My mother passed away a few years ago. There is no plan for him, no place for him to go after his dad passes away. What then? I live with bipolar disorder, and he has no other siblings, Aunts, Uncles, or anyone to care for him. The fund for his care after his parents pass consisted of investments which tanked. SO what now? Who will care for my brother? He cannot care for himself. Who will help his father care for him? There is NOTHING for adults with Autism, no help,no hope it seems.

I feel for this mother, she was sick, broke, not getting help, and losing her home. What she did was a cry for help for him, for her, for all concerned.

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