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S. Carolina: Mom with son with severe autism desperate for help; waitlists months long

May 4, 2023, WYFF, Greenville, SC: SC mother tries finding help for son with severe autism with autism resources spread thin


What happens when what's best for your child is just out of reach, and every day is a struggle to keep them from hurting themselves and others?

Brandy Hoyle is a single mother who says that's been her reality for more than a decade. She loves her kids, 6-month-old Asher and 15-year-old Aiden. But their lives are not without challenges.

Aiden is severely autistic and nonverbal, and when he can't express himself, Hoyle said he'll often have violent outbursts. As he's grown, she says it's become a daily struggle to keep him from hurting himself, the baby, or her.

"But at this point, he's 288 pounds, he's 6-foot-2, and he's 15," Hoyle said. "And without specialized care and 24-hour supervision, it's just not possible to keep him safe."

Hoyle said she can't keep both children in the same house anymore, and if she can't find help soon, she may be forced to place Aiden with DSS.

"It's hard enough to get to the point to admit that you're afraid to be alone with your child. But to admit that it's not safe and you need help, help that you're not getting, that's even worse," said Hoyle.

Aiden has been in the hospital for 48 days. According to Hoyle, that's because, during a recent outburst, Aiden shattered mirrors and cut himself, giving her a concussion in the process. She said she tried reaching out for help, but the roadblocks are never-ending.

Hoyle says she's been told, "He's too mentally delayed for their treatment program, he's nonverbal, so he would not be able to participate in treatment, or he's aggressive and would be a danger to their staff."

Hoyle said the nonprofits that specialize in children like Aiden often have waitlists that are several months long.

According to Elizabeth Buschéy with Project Hope, which specializes in autism care, COVID-19 has exasperated existing challenges with hiring and retaining staff, as well as the high cost of care versus the low rate of reimbursement.

"It's a challenge for everybody who is providing services because the rates of autism continue to rise, and we want to help as many people as we can. So, in order to help those people, we have to have the staff available and the training available, and you know, it's an ever-growing need," she said.

We reached out to nearly a dozen autism care facilities that confirmed this claim.

"The demand for specialized care for children with autism far outdistances our capacity, which presents ongoing challenges for serving all of the families who need help," officials with Springbrook Behavioral Health said.

Hoyle believes more resources should be made available for organizations like these in South Carolina, but in the meantime, she finds herself in an impossible situation: find help or risk her son seriously hurting her, her baby, or himself.

She continued, "He's still in the ER. He's still waiting on placement somewhere, and he needs help."

We reached out to Aiden's advocate with AbleSC, a nonprofit that advocates for people with disabilities.

"Because these different places feel that they cannot participate in his treatment due to nonverbal status, he's being denied those services, which really is a direct affront to his rights," said Mary Alex Kopp with AbleSC. "He has every right to be able to approach these services, to receive these services."


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