'Exhausted' parents leave autistic son at government office

Unable to get enough help from social services, an Ottawa family says they had no choice but to leave their son — who is living with severe developmental delays — in the hands of the government.

Amanda Telford says family can't keep 19-year-old safe anymore

Desperate mother's decision

9 years ago
Duration 4:29
Amanda Telford talks about leaving her autistic son at a government office.

Unable to get enough help from social services, an Ottawa family says they had no choice but to leave their son — who is living with severe developmental delays — in the hands of the government.

Amanda Telford said she brought her 19-year-old son Philipp to a provincial developmental services office on Tuesday and left him there.

"It's the most heart-wrenching, gut-wrenching feeling in the world to have to do this," she told CBC News.

"I felt dizzy, nauseous, upset, I've spent a very teary-eyed day today. This hasn't been a very fun thing to have to do."

Functions at 2-year-old level

Telford said Philipp is living with a severe form of autism that has him functioning at the level of a two-year-old. He also has Tourette's syndrome and insulin-dependent diabetes.

Amanda Telford says three incidents over the weekend made her realize she can't keep her son Philipp safe any longer. (CBC)

He often wanders away and puts himself in danger, she said.

"[A few days ago], he ended up four kilometres away at a restaurant at Ogilvie [Road] and St. Laurent Boulevard," she said.

"Ogilvy and St. Laurent is an extremely dangerous intersection."

Philipp also swallowed 14 pills of high-blood pressure medication, which required seven hours of hospitalization on Monday, Telford said.

After he got home, his mother said he wandered away again.

Politicians little help

Telford said she's asked for help from both provincial and City of Ottawa agencies, as well as her MP and MPP.

She said the response has been that there's no room for Philipp in the over-burdened, under-funded social system.

"My husband and I are absolutely exhausted and medically unwell," she said. "I am not able to do this anymore."

Autism Ontario caseworker Anne Borbey-Schwartz said the situation the Telfords find themselves in is not unique. There has been a rise in the number of developmentally delayed adults with autism.

"This family is very brave, first of all," Borbey-Schwartz said.

"[They] represent many families across the province, if not across the country, that are facing aging adults with autism, with a variety of needs, with very little support and very little services."

Telford told CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning host Hallie Cotnam her family has been getting "passport" funding from the province, but it's been frozen for eight years and now only lasts six to eight months of the year.

She said her son is getting medical and social care at a south Ottawa hospice, a place he's been at on and off since he was 16 and somewhere she said he's "very happy."

His mother said it's a temporary solution that she hopes will lead to a permanent placement.