I have a severely autistic son who is 15. I am thinking of putting him in a group home because he has become very violent towards himself and me. I am not sure if this is the right choice? I need help in understanding what is right for him. I love my son so much but not sure if he is better in a group home or not? Thank you.
From: Carmen, San Jose, CA
This is such a huge and complex question that I wouldn't begin to presume to be able to help you. For one thing, I have no idea what's available in California. But I consulted with Michelle Alkon, a friend who is the coordinator of Adult Services at AANE (Aspergerís Association of New England) and also the parent of two kids with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs).
Here are her thoughts:
"A 'group home' is not typically one of the service delivery models offered to a 15-year old, absent other support services. There are some wonderful residential programs that offer group living options but it is part of a spectrum of services offered to educate the child. There is so much we donít know about Carmenís situation that we would have to understand before we could help her. It sounds like she is talking about putting him in a sort of foster care situation -- giving him up because she cannot care for him adequately. There are many alternatives available before ceding guardianship to the state (they are as varied as a residential school or home-based respite services). She may have gone through these options already or is just at her witsí end."
Chances are you already know about these resources, but in case you don't, here's where to turn for help. Any one of them should be able to steer you to folks who have the experience and expertise to help you in your decisions:
(1) Autism Speaks, which is based in New York City.
(2) The Online Asperger Syndrome Information and Support Center (OASIS) (enter your state and look under information & advocacy).
(3) The California Department of Developmental Services: Alkon says that last agency ought to be able to provide you with someone on the ground, who can help 1:1.
(4) Last but not least, if be sure to be in touch with your school and community liaison person.
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