British Columbia

Murder-suicide of B.C. mom and autistic son hasn't changed anything: advocates

One year after B.C. mom Angie Robinson and her 16-year-old autistic son Robbie died in what was deemed a murder-suicide, parents with autistic children say it is as difficult as ever to access support services in remote areas.

Angie Robinson and her son Robbie were found dead after she was denied a long-term placement for him

The bodies of Robbie Robinson and his mother Angie were found in their Prince Rupert, B.C. home one year ago in what was deemed a murder-suicide. (http://autism-memorial.livejournal.com/43470.html)

One year after B.C. mother Angie Robinson and her 16-year-old autistic son Robbie died in what was deemed a murder-suicide, parents with autistic children say it is as difficult as ever to access support services in remote areas. 

Prince George mother Wendi McKay, who stays at home with her autistic son, is among those still struggling. She says she's been waiting for two years for funding to hire someone to look after him and his siblings.

"He is just the smartest kid and given the right circumstances he could blossom," she told Daybreak North.

"But anxiety, sound, light, too many people — it can be really, really overwhelming for him, and yeah, he acts out.

"Unfortunately, the school's solution — for the safety of everybody, so they tell me — is to keep him out of the classroom."

The struggles of families with autistic children was brought into sharp relief when Angie Robinson and her son were found dead in April 2014.

Robbie Robinson had severe autism and was prone to violent fits. A suicide note left behind by his mother indicated she was having problems caring for him.

She had asked Family Services for a long-term placement for her son, but was told it wasn't possible. After they were found dead days later, advocates said things had to change for families with autistic children.

Parents feel isolated, want respite

Christine Danroth's six-year-old son Parker struggles with autism. (Tyler Meers)
Prince Rupert mother Christine Danroth frequently takes her six-year-son Parker to Vancouver to get help with his food disorder, anxiety and repetitive behaviour.

Due to changes to autism support in the province, she now only gets $6,000 a year instead of $22,000 for specialized support.

"I think it's incredibly isolating, even with all the support we've had," Danroth said.

"There have been times when I have felt very isolated, and I think for families and people who don't have a good system, who aren't getting breaks, who don't even have people coming to work with them, it's depressing."

Funding cuts making things worse: NDP critic

NDP Critic for Children and Family Development Doug Donaldson says funding cuts to in-school programming for children with special needs is exacerbating the problem.

"Even to have $6,000 as a family to try to access the services that are needed when the services don't exist in the north, that's a completely different level that needs to be addressed," he said.

B.C.'s Representative for Children and Youth Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond says families shouldn't have to feel like they need to put their children in care in order to get support.

She says a model that "actually respects and supports children with developmental disabilities and their families" is needed.

The Ministry of Children and Family Development was not available for comment.

At the time of Angie and Robbie Robinson's deaths, Minister Stephanie Cadieux said while the situation was tragic, it was up to families to work with their social worker to ensure they're getting all the services they're entitled to and need.

Cadieux also said the ministry was always looking for ways to improve the services it provides.

To hear the full story, listen to the audio labelled: Autism advocates say access to resources remain difficult

With files from Carolina DeRyk

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