The burden of ASD

Imagine your child who you love so much suffering mental distress. You would literally do anything for them. Their anxiety reaches a point where they become so frustrated it turns to anger and rage.

Violence erupts. You act in self-defence, and the family home is up-ended, debris everywhere. The Gardaí are called for your protection, and the family’s protection. They are empathetic, as they have siblings suffering the same anxiety. They know the pain.

Yet gardaí barely receive one hour’s training in dealing with mental health and the turmoil, and they tell you that. Some gardaí are not so empathetic, but it seems they are in the minority, and you hope they don’t call to your home the next time.

You busily search for answers. You cannot understand how the school didn’t point out instances when things happened and you as a parent were not told. The teachers are burdened with so much paperwork and form-filling, they are worked to the bone, and their job has become too much. The burden of mental health in the school environment is torturous.

The Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services are understaffed, and they cannot find the professional expertise to cover all the vacancies. You eventually find a space at CAMHS, and the burden is lifted a little. The doctors engage and understand, and they help to answer unanswered questions.

“Autism-spectrum disorder—what is that?” a barrister asks when approaching a case dealing with an adult who happens to appear in court. The courts are filled with people being tried who suffer huge mental health issues. Most have no family support, and they end up in prison and the continuous cycle of imprisonment. Nothing is being done to care for these people, and they become pawns in the criminal underworld, used and abused.

Those who supposedly know better think that most of these teenagers and young adults who have mental health issues have serious learning issues. They just don’t understand how to handle a person with a high intellect and who suffers with ASD, as described in a letter from Dr Yolande Ferguson, clinical director and consultant psychiatrist for Dublin South-Central Mental Health Service at Tallaght University Hospital in November last year, where she stated: “Unfortunately there are no specific psychiatric services available for adults with ASD. This is a national issue.”

It is only if your child has a famous parent, as for example with the recent publicity over Dr Tom Clonan’s child, that you might be lucky and get some deserved medical help. This state may cherish the children of the nation equally, but some more equally than others.