Nfld. & Labrador

Complaint about autistic boy shows need for outreach, Autism Society says

The Autism Society of Newfoundland and Labrador says a recent anonymous complaint about an autistic boy is sad but not surprising.
Ryan Downey is an autistic boy who was the subject of an anonymous letter earlier this month. (Submitted)

The Autism Society of Newfoundland and Labrador says a recent anonymous complaint about an autistic boy is sad, but not surprising.

Tamara Downey of Kippens in western Newfoundland received a three-page letter criticizing her 12-year-old son's behaviour.

Her son Ryan can't speak and requires round-the-clock care. Someone wrote the family a letter accusing him of damaging property and disrupting traffic while he was riding his bicycle. 

Scott Crocker with the Autism Society told CBC's Corner Brook Morning Show many people don't understand the challenges of raising an autistic child.

"This particular family, they have no support," he said.

They have absolutely nothing and then to have this sort of thing happen while you're trying to do your very best, it's got to be disheartening."

Crocker, who has heard of three or four similar cases over the last few months, says the Autism Society offers education and awareness programs for teachers, schools and first responders.

However, he wants to see more sessions take place for other areas of the province.

"One of the things we've got to start doing is … some awareness sessions just with families in communities and with people who do not have people in their immediate family or extended family with autism," he said.

"Those of us who are in the know know that the behaviours themselves are the autism, and not just a matter of family and parents not caring or trying."

In light of the recent case in Kippens, the provincial autism society hopes to hold a public meeting in the community later this week.

"We want people to come away from it understanding and knowing that it's not a matter of poor parenting," he said.

"This is the condition, this is autism — and this is how it presents itself sometimes."


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