Autistic teenager left in limbo in Limerick, Ireland|
LIMERICK, Ireland: The future of a teenager in Askeaton, Limerick, who is autistic, cannot speak and who also suffers from behavioural problems, is in limbo – because there is nowhere for him to go now that he has finished school.
Emmet Purcell, 18, was, until a few weeks ago a pupil at St Vincents in Lisnagry where, his mother Breda says, he made good progress. He learnt to communicate properly for the first time by using sign language and a system known as picture-exchange.
This means, Breda explains, that if he needs a drink or something to eat he can let them know by pointing out a picture. This was a big breakthrough for Emmet - and has also made things safer for him. "He suffers from asthma and now, if he is feeling unwell, he can point out his inhaler," she says.
Over the past two or three years, she has watched his progress and seen her son become happier in himself, less frustrated and his occasional violent outbursts have all but disappeared. And she had high hopes his progress would be sustained, after he left St Vincent's, in an "autism-specific placement."
This was what she wanted for him – and indeed what was recommended for him following an assessment last year by the Health Service Executive (HSE). This would have involved him in a day centre, taking part in activities such as gardening and cooking and physical exercise. The most important aspect, Breda says, would be the structure and routine which it would provide – and which Emmet needs.
But now, Breda has discovered, there is no such placement, anywhere, for Emmet because of health services cuts. As recently as three weeks ago, a letter from another section of the HSE informed her that no funding for extra places had been allocated in 2009.
"Rehab provides a service in Crecora but they can't take Emmet because there isn't enough space and no funding for more," Breda explains.
Without a placement, Emmet will have to remain in his residential home in Patrickswell with nothing to do all day – and Breda's big fear is that he will regress and all the progress he has made will be lost.
"People leaving school have a choice – of going to college or getting trained or going on a course. Why shouldn't Emmet have a choice?" she asks. "He is entitled to a service and a placement."
"Long-term, they are cutting off their nose to spite their face," she says of the health services, "because, if Emmet regresses, five years down the road, he will need a lot more care and it will cost a lot more."
She has been consistently lobbying health service officials, the Minister for Health and various TDs (Members of Parliament) in Dublin in the hope that a place can be found for her son. And she is determined to continue to lobby and campaign.
"Why should the vulnerable be hit?" she asks.
(Source: Limerick Leader, July 16, 2009)