Barb Gillis

Barb Gillis is calling on the Nova Scotia government to change the "archaic" way it deals with adults with severe autism. (CBC)

A Fall River mother is calling on the Nova Scotia government to change the "archaic" way it deals with adults with severe autism.

Barb Gillis's son, Paul, was diagnosed with autism when he was five. He is now 23 years old and living at Quest, a facility in Lower Sackville for people with developmental disabilities or chronic mental illness.

"He's intelligent, usually quick-witted and happy," Gillis said of her son, adding that he's sometimes aggressive.

Gillis said her son needs a community home environment where he can have purpose and programs that meet his needs.

"School was a holding pen. Quest is a holding pen. There was never a program put into place so he would have something to work towards and something to live for," she said.

"I see things going on that break your heart."

Gillis said her son is living an empty life. Loud noises and smells can upset him, but if he reacts angrily he is often sedated, she said.

"An institution is detrimental," Gillis said.

Nova Scotia in 'crisis'

Cynthia Carroll, the executive director of Autism Nova Scotia, said she hears similar stories almost daily.

"We are absolutely at a housing crisis in Nova Scotia," she said.

Carroll said people with severe autism can be productive, but they need the right housing and programming. Autism Nova Scotia is urging families dealing with autism to contact the government and push for change.

Gills said she hopes to meet with Premier-designate Stephen McNeil to talk about the issue.