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(Ireland) Family with severely autistic 9 y.o. 'at breaking point'; 'systemic neglect by system

Sept 10, 2023, Independent: ‘I love my son but I’m scared of him… we are prisoners in our own home’ – mother of severely autistic boy (9) who needs urgent care

Audrey Dore-Geraghty loves her nine-year-old son Harrison, but she is also frightened of him. He is severely autistic, as well as potentially schizophrenic, and is so unmanageable right now that the Wexford-based family is in “crisis”, according to his mother. This follows years of “systematic neglect” by the health services. Ms Dore-Geraghty says her family is at “breaking point”, with no State support to deal with her increasingly volatile son. His behaviour is so violent that the mother of three is currently staying elsewhere with her younger children, while her husband and his father remain with Harrison in the family home. The couple hope his behaviour stabilises to the point where the family all feel safe sleeping under the same roof again soon. But unless Harrison receives the urgent help he needs, his future is bleak, Ms Dore-Geraghty believes…. “I am at a family member’s place with my six-year-old son and 13-week-old daughter. I have been going to see Harrison every day with the other children, but that’s because my husband and his father are there. If I was on my own, I would be terrified he would attack me, but I’m mostly concerned for the other two kids. My husband can restrain him, [but] I can’t anymore.” ​Harrison Geraghty-Anthony was diagnosed with autism shortly before he turned three. Over the next couple of years his parents, who are dentists, made attempts to access State supports. They found services so lacking they paid for private therapy. Then Dublin-based, they sent Harrison to an autism-specialised pre-school, where he was a “huge challenge” to staff, according to his mother…. Harrison got a place in the autism unit at Kilrane National School in Rosslare. Audrey praised the school and its staff but it wasn’t long before his behaviour became so problematic that he had to be kept almost completely segregated. It became clear to his parents that unless his behaviour improved, he would be unable to stay at the school. Unable to find a psychiatrist who would treat Harrison in the short term, the couple were forced to look abroad. They found a Spanish psychiatrist and the medication she prescribed helped…. CHI attempted to refer Harrison to the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (Camhs) in Wexford, as well as a children’s disability service, but neither could accept him as he does not have a “verified intellectual disability”. As a consequence, he cannot access local psychiatric services. “At a minimum, we require urgent respite services,” his mother added. “Urgent for the sake of the younger children’s lives and our mental health. We are all prisoners in our own home and the other children are suffering terribly. We are scared in our own home of our nine-year-old, who we know is only going to get bigger and stronger.” When asked a series of questions about the concerns outlined by Harrison’s mother, a spokesperson for HSE/South East Community Healthcare said it was aware of the child’s case but could not comment specifically. They said: “At this time, our staff and the families we support are coping with waiting times and staffing shortages which mean that often our service falls short of what people and families expect, and what our staff would want to deliver. Because of a limited pool of qualified and experienced staff, many of our teams are working with fewer members than they need… [We] regret where there is an extensive waiting time for an assessment or for supports and therapies that would help children and their family.”

Audrey Dore Geraghty and her son Harrison from Rosslare, Co Wexford. Photo: Patrick Browne

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