Autistic Man Left in Locked Van and Dies: You Call This Care?

Autistic Man Was in Minivan for 5 Hours Before Staff Found Him

Bryan Nevins was 20 years old and from Oceanside, New York. He died last Saturday after being left for five hours in a parked and locked minivan on the grounds of Woods Services in Langhorne, PA, where he had lived for six years since he was 14 years old. As reported in the July 28th Philadelphia Inquirer, Bryan and three other residents had gone to Sesame Place with two counselors in the morning. They returned to Woods Services around noon. One counselors dropped off two residents and a counselor and then dropped off another resident and parked the van, with Bryan still inside. Staff did not realize Bryan was missing until around 4pm, when a nurse was to give him his medication. Bryan was found lying down in the backseat.

 

According to Bucks County Coroner Joseph Campbell, ‘”With the temperatures Saturday, in a closed vehicle, it probably reached 125 or 130 degrees in an hour.” Brian Campbell reported, died of hyperthermia within an hour to 90 minutes after he was left in the van. The two counselors have been suspended.

What Went Wrong at Woods Services?

I read about Bryan this morning as I went to work and have been thinking about him all day. My heart goes out to his family.

 

Someday, though not (as far as I can tell) in the near future, my son Charlie (who is on the moderate to severe end of the autism spectrum and who can talk some, though not much), will not be living with us. He will be living in some sort of residence for individuals with disabilities—a group home, some sort of community-based living residence. Currently, the options for housing individuals with disability are few, as is the availability of places (in New Jersey, there are more than 8000 individuals with disabilities on the waiting list for housing; one only gets off the list when, it seems, there is an emergency situation, such as the death of a parent). 

 

One of my biggest concerns is, too, about staff, their training and background, and the support that they are provided to do their job.

Because no matter how many times I read about Brian in that minivan last Saturday, it just seems unbelievable that it took so long (at least four hours) to note that he was missing; that the counselor did not make a last check to make sure about where he was. It was very hot last Saturday here on the east coast and the heat was hard on everyone but in this situation there are no excuses. 

 

I think my son would raise a ruckus if he were locked in a vehicle and couldn’t get out and even try to get himself out—but, on the other hand, he tends to not do things until he gets the nod from us. I hate to say it, but I could see him remaining in a locked vehicle, all the time thinking that ‘they are just taking a very long time to get me.’

 

Shudder.

20th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act: Still a Long Way To Go

July 26th was the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) a law that I’m grateful for as it ensures comprehensive civil rights for my son and persons with disabilities, and legislates against discrimination in employment, public services (including education and transportation), public accommodations and much more. At a July 26th ceremony at the White House, President Barack Obama marked the 20th anniversary of the signing of the ADA and signed an Executive Order that will establish the Federal Government as a model employer of individuals with disabilities. Under the order, a number of federal agencies are directed to 

‘design model recruitment and hiring strategies for agencies seeking to increase their employment of people with disabilities, as well as mandatory training programs for both human resources personnel and hiring managers on the employment of individuals with disabilities.’

This is wonderful news: I worry very much about my son having a job when his education is completed. Charlie loves school, and he is going to need something to fill his days in a meaningful way when he turns 21. He likes to stay busy and likes to finish the tasks he is assigned; he’s already receiving pre-vocational training in school. He will need a job coach; will need staff to support him on the job and, too, for everything, including his residence and living arrangements.

And he must be supported by staff who have adequate and sufficient training and who understand about autism and disabilities. Woods Services is Langhorne is described as a ‘”safe” place to live with “close supervision” ‘— Bryan Nevins’ death, and how he died, suggests quite the opposite.

 

As the 20th anniversary of the ADA suggests, we’ve come a very long way in doing the right things for persons with disabilities. But we sure do have a tremendous way to go. 

Photo by dno1967.

222 comments

William C
William Cabout a year ago

Thanks for the information.

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W. C
W. Cabout a year ago

Thank you for caring and sharing.

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Francesca R.
Francesca R.8 years ago

It is now imperative for all of us to shout out that Autism is here and is not going away. The counselors should not accept these jobs unless they are aware of the needs, trained to provide proper service, and are very cautious.

Being the mother of an Autism Spectum person and knowing the 1 in 110 figure reshapes America and is not likely to go away. We all have differences, this is what makes it interesting to live. Let us respect and support, as well as, protect those who are different and must have their fellowman as their helper. Remember, without them there would not have been a job to be suspended from or the opportunity to go to any type of recreational outing. If the job were not there who would die from hunger, heat, abuse or other reasons connected with employment and the financial downfall of our country

No one is better off than anyone one else. This has got to be the perspective we work from or our country will fail because of our inattentiveness to skills of those who can provide supplemental help for those who lack a particular expertise. Get it together. The face of society is changing and we must learn to evolve/adapt with it or we will deplete our life span as a people.

To the family of this man, thank you for providing the necessary environment for life. To the agency and the counselors: enter into only what you can give 100% to and know there are consequences for your actions. In my opinion, firing and arrest would serve best here.

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Francesca R.
Francesca R.8 years ago

It is now imperaqtive for all of us to shout out that Autism is here and is not going away. The counselors should not accept these jobs unless they are aware of the needs, trained to provide and very cautious. Being the mother of an Autism Spectum person and knowing he 1 in 110 figure reshapes America and is not likely to go away. We all have differences, thisis what makes it interesting to live. Let us respect and support, as well as, protect those who are different and must have their fellowman teir helper. Remember, without them there would not have been a job to be suspended from or the opportunity to go to any type of recreational outing. If the job we not there who would die from hunger, heat, abuse or other reasons connected with employment and the financial downfall of our country. No one is better off than anyone one else. This has got to be the perspective we work from or our country will fail because of our inattentiveness to those who can peovide supplemental skills of those who lack a particular expertise. Get it together. The face of society is changing and we must learn to evolve/adapt with it or we will deplete our life span as a people. To the family of this man, thank you for providing the necessary environment for lifee. To the agency and thee counselors: enter into only what you can give 100% to and know there are consequences for your actions. In my opinion, firing and arrest would serve best here.

SEND
Karen C.
Karen C8 years ago

This is a very sad story. The man had lived at the home for over 6 years. What is the history of the home? I hope this is just a very tragic accident and not a pattern.

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michele n.
michele n8 years ago

i tear up and choke up reading this.my son has aspergers syndrome,a form of autism.hes 12 y/o.i cannot ever picture me putting him in an institution.i dont judge others though because i dont know what i would do if he ever became violent or aggressive which can be a tendency for people with autism.i just pray that i teach him 2 be self sufficent enough that when i die any of my family would take him in without hesitation or without worry of him becoming a burden.i love him as much as my 2 daughters but im more "protective" of him.

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Elizabeth Feller
Elizabeth Feller8 years ago

This story is absolutely heartbreaking. I hope the 2 counselors and the facility are held fully accountable for their inhumane treatment of this poor young man.

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Elizabeth Feller
Elizabeth Feller8 years ago

This story is absolutely heartbreaking. I hope the 2 counselors and the facility are held fully accountable for their inhumane treatment of this poor young man.

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Cindy B.
Cindy Black8 years ago

Yes, I've heard this story. What can one say.... Just horrible? That's pretty trite, isn't it. Maybe this will help a similar situation never to happen again.

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Ed G.
Ed G8 years ago

About 5 years ago I had to go into a nursing home as I was just out of major surgery and could not take of myself. In Chicago we have a less than sterling reputation for nursing homes. I ended up at one that was for the birds. It was so bad that one time the nurses came around in the morning to take everyone's vitals and they did not have enough plastic covers for the thermometer. and before you ask no they not not clean off the bear metal probe after each persons temperature was taken.
The nursing home refused to give me a sugar glucose test even though the doctor authorized it. I made up a list of 40 separate items of major issue after I left the nursing home and mailed it to the state board too see if they would do something about the place. This unfortunately is typical at one time of Chicago nursing homes, from loosing patients in the winter time to patient mistreatment Chicago is not the black hole in Calcutta
but it is in the running. Unfortunately the state agencies that supposedly overlook these do not have the resources to do their job.

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