KALAMAZOO, Mich. (April 15, 2014) – A West Michigan family is reaching out to FOX 17 after hitting dead ends in the search for treatment for their son with autism.
April is Autism Awareness Month, and according to the CDC, one in 68 children in the U.S. will be diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder.
Patti Skinner says she’s tried everything, and hopes to be a voice for a problem she says many families are facing.
Her 12-year-old son Benjamynn has autism and has been violently aggressive since age four.
“He’s hitting, kicking, biting swearing, punching windows, punching walls, kicking doors,” Patti said.
She says it’s harder to deal with Ben as he gets older because he’s getting bigger and stronger.
Patti says he’s been hospitalized, they’ve called police, doctors and treatment facilities with no solutions for long-term help.
“It’s very difficult because I love him to death but I don’t know how to help him,” she said.
Scott Schrum with Residential Opportunities Incorporated says the Skinners aren’t alone.
“We are seeing and hearing those stories every week from a different family from across the state,” Schrum said.
He says families are at their wit’s end, breaking up, parents are getting divorced and even giving up their rights to their children so they can have access to treatment.
Schrum says there’s a lack of knowledge and funding for autism treatment, unavailable resources for parents who are left not knowing where to turn.
“It’s safe to say there are a lot of people going unserved because of a lack of resources, there simply are not enough Medicaid dollars to support the needs,” he said.
An autism insurance mandate just recently took effect in Michigan in 2012, helping some, but not everyone.
Patti says she’s tried to get Ben into in-patient residential treatment through Medicaid and was told the funding just isn’t there.
Schrum says sometimes it’s the community mental health system saying they already have inadequate services to meet the needs of everybody they’re responsible for and can’t afford placement.
“Health insurance in general, it frequently has not covered mental illness issues and it has not covered autism,” he said.
So for now, Patti and her three other sons live in fear of Ben and his outbursts and the pain that comes to the 12-year-old after those outbursts.
“He’s very soft and sweet and gentle and lovable and he’s a great kid but then he escalates like no tomorrow, but then he comes down and he’s very apologetic, very remorseful,” she said.