The story of a ten-year-old boy with severe autism being abandoned at a hospital emergency room in Florida is unfortunately not an unusual one. More and more horror stories are surfacing as families with inadequate support systems crack under the strain of caring for a child with autism.
In this case, the father of the boy appeared at the hospital after identifying him from a news report. Apparently, the mother and father were recently separated and the mother, Amanda Mathe, was left to care for the son with autism and his two other siblings, while also enduring an eviction from their foreclosed home. Once located, Mathe claimed that she was “overwhelmed” and didn’t know what else to do.
The amazing aspect of this story is that the state is declining to press charges. Department of Children and Families (DCF) spokesman Mark Riordan explained, “Instead of looking at this like a child abuse or a criminal abandonment-kind of case, it’s one of those where we’re going to do everything we can to make sure the boy receives the services he requires and the parents receive the assistance and the help that they need at this point.”
Currently, the boy is in a foster home that specializes in caring for children with developmental disabilities as investigators are looking into whether or not he can live with the father. Both parents are allowed unsupervised visitation rights.
Florida declining to criminalize a parent’s desperate response to parenting a child with autism is a breath of fresh air. It’s hard to believe this news comes from the same state that placed an earnest and caring mom behind bars for her autism spectrum son’s unavoidable absences from school.
Helping and supporting the family is certainly commendable in lieu of further tearing them apart by incarcerating the mother. One cannot help but wish that a national consensus could be reached within the child protective and legal systems that makes this type of response coin of the realm instead of an anomaly.