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Des Moines: Parents place nonverbal 12 y.o. with autism in group home; 'wrenching' choice

Apr 14, 2023, WHO Des Moines: Understanding Autism: A family’s difficult decision

Autism affects 1-in-36 children in this country.

Mitchel Roberts is one of them. He’s twelve years old, loves trains, watching TV and eating macaroni & cheese. He’s also nonverbal and still wearing diapers.

“It’s a busy life,” says his mom Ranae, “you have to watch him at all times. We have special locks on all the doors, lots of other safety measures other people don’t have. The little sister kind of becomes the big sister. It’s a different family life, for sure.”

A year and a half ago they made the difficult decision to move Mitchel into a youth home for autistic children.

“It was a wrenching, emotional experience,” says his dad Ryan. “It was traumatic and we live with a lot of sadness.”

The Roberts were told to expect a three-to-five-year wait to get Mitchel into the youth home. It ended up being a year. They took the opening because they knew one might not come around again soon.

The change was a major one for the entire family. One Ryan and Ranae call a win-win. “We know he’s safe and he’s learning so much. He has two homes now and he loves them both.”


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