Boy, 13, with autism on hospital ward due to shortage of places in residential disability services

A 13-year-old boy with autism is spending his 12th day on a children’s hospital ward because of a shortage of places in residential disability services.

That is according to his parents Karen and Paul McConnon who say they are “in crisis” and their son “urgently needs a place in the residential disability services.”

He was diagnosed with ADHD when he was seven and last year he was also diagnosed with autism.

His parents said that in the last two years his behaviour has deteriorated and has become very challenging.

He is currently in a room on his own in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda, Co Louth as he waits for a placement.

“This would have been unnecessary if he got the help he needed before now. This is wrong on every level for a child with his diagnosis,” his mum Karen said.

They are the second family in the last week in such a situation that Jacinta Walsh of Autism Support Louth & Meath, is aware of.

Paul and Karen McConnon. Picture: Ciara Wilkinson
Paul and Karen McConnon. Picture: Ciara Wilkinson

Jacinta said, "Sadly I was not shocked to hear of another child with autism having to remain in hospital as his family try to find a residential placement or some suitable support for him.”

Jacinta’s son Sam has severe autism and she has spoken before about campaigning for resources and support services.

She said today: "This is the second family in this situation I have spoken to in the last five days. This child, who is in a crisis situation and has been for sometime, desperately needs help and the HSE do not have the resources to support him.”

There are an increasing number of children presenting with severe and complex needs and there urgently needs to be some change and additional specific resources within the HSE and CAMHS to support these children.

She the families in these situations “are at their wits end trying to get support for their child but where do they go? I empathise fully with this family and urge the HSE to find a placement for this child as a matter of extreme urgency and furthermore really look at the resources and supports that are put in place for families way before it gets to this point.”

Karen said, “Our son is distressed at being here. He needs a placement in a residential centre which can provide the services he needs.”

She and her husband have been in the hospital with him since he was brought there by ambulance on May 9.

The ambulance was called to the family home outside Slane, Co Meath as his family feared he was having a seizure.

Paul said: “He is a child that likes to be outside, he is used to being outside.”

They want him to be able to access a short-term residential placement and get the help he needs so he can then return home.

Meath deputy Thomas Byrne has met Karen and Paul and said, “the family in this case are at breaking point. While there is no doubt that the hospital has done everything it can, the child has fallen between the cracks in the health service.”

The hospital is not an appropriate setting for the child. The child needs urgent attention from the HSE disability services as well as urgent attention from CAMHS. The child is not getting the help that they need.

He said he will be raising the issue in the Dáil today.

The HSE said it does not comment on individual cases but it is aware of this case and acknowledged "the extreme difficulties for the family".

It said it is doing its utmost "to source an appropriate placement to meet the needs of this young person."

It said it will, "continue to provide the necessary supports to the family until a suitable residential placement becomes available."

It said residential placements are provided on the basis of need and within available resources. The HSE engages with families to ensure that those with the greatest need are prioritised.

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