In our August 21 edition, we published a letter to the editor from an unnamed single mother who was having considerable difficulties accessing help and services to help cope with her 11-year-old son, who has autism.  The mother explained that her son has tried to stab her and had exhibited other violent behaviour at home and in public.

The mother wrote that she was having difficulties receiving adequate direction on how to respond to the violent situations and how to manage them.

The situation caused the woman considerable anxiety and stress which she said led to a suicide attempt.

According to a recent conversation with the parent, conditions in her home and family have recently improved.

The son is attending a new school and his mother said the change has helped.

Valoris, the local children and youth services agency, is visiting her home weekly to ensure everything is going well.

In addition to the son having autism, the mother and her 12-year-old daughter also have Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of high-functioning autism.

Autism Ontario Ottawa Chapter Vice President Nicole Taylor of Hawkesbury, whose son has autism, said the first step a parent dealing with a violent situation should take is to contact an agency like Valoris.  However, if there is a dangerous emergency, parents should contact the police.

Taylor acknowledged that many parents are afraid to contact children’s services or police because they are afraid of their children being taken away from them or fear they will face consequences.  She explained that these situations are not treated the same as regular assault or domestic dispute situations.

Taylor said parents who are injured should seek medical attention.

The Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) in Ottawa has a regional mandate to provide autism services across eastern Ontario.

“It’s worth the drive to CHEO,” was Taylor’s endorsement of the autism services provided there.

Autism Ontario’s Ottawa Chapter has a Service Navigator on its staff who assists families with children on the autism spectrum on how to obtain programs and services.

The Ottawa Chapter also has a Facebook support group that parents are welcome to join.

“There’s been friendships built from that,” Taylor said.

The parent who wrote the letter to the editor said she has participated in support groups before and meets with other parents whose children who have autism for coffee and to discuss hobbies like gardening and art, which she said help her deal with anxiety.

Single parents, and those with limited finances often feel isolated and under more stress.  Having reliable, caring friends is important, according to Taylor.

According to Valoris Director of Services, Pierre-Louis Lefebvre, if parents in violent situations feel there is an imminent risk to safety, they should call 9-1-1.  Valoris also has a toll-free, 24-hour emergency support line, which is 1-800-675-6168.