- Bronwyn and Allan Pascoe’s son James was diagnosed with severe autism at the age of two but had manageable levels up until the age of 16
- After experiencing trauma from losing his baby sister and grandparents, James’s behaviour began to escalate
- His parents were told their only option was to call the police who would admit James to hospital where he was shackled and sedated
- The Pascoe’s say this cycle has been repeated over the past two years, fuelling James’s fear and anxiety
- Despite persistent pleas for funding to keep James at home, receiving the therapy he needs, they say they have been denied support from the Department of Human Service
- After acting out at a care facility, James was taken to hospital where he has spent the past fortnight strapped to a bed and unable to move
- Mrs Pascoe has launched a Change.org petition begging Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews to address the needs of people with autism
The parents of a young man with severe autism who has been chained to a hospital bed for 14 days claim that healthcare authorities have ignored their pleas for support.
Bronwyn Pascoe’s son James was diagnosed with autism at the age of two, and suffers from high levels of anxiety and trauma, which she said was caused by years of care givers repeatedly ignoring his needs.
Despite persistent calls by Mrs Pascoe and her husband Allan to the Victorian Department of Human Services about the lack of support and appropriate care options, James was apprehended by police at his accommodation centre and taken to the Northern Hospital in Epping, where he has been restrained for 14 days.
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James Pascoe has severe autism and was apprehended by police at his accommodation centre after acting out and was taken to the Northern Hospital in Epping, where he has been restrained for 14 days
Mrs Pascoe’s mother had been a role model for James and a care giver who he adored, but passed away from pancreatic cancer when James was 16.
‘When my mum passed away in 2012 James started showing outbursts of behaviour, and wasn’t coping. He withdrew and became depressed and became obsessed with the fact that people died,’ Mrs Pascoe told Daily Mail Australia.
‘He kept reliving losing her and was haunted by the fact that his baby sister had died at only a few weeks old, and this developed into real trauma,’ she said.
James’s sister Jacinta died at only four and half weeks old, an event which still distresses him, and made the deaths of his grandparents more acute and created a fear of hospitals and death.
After a long battle to develop in-home care that would meet James’s growing needs, the Pascoe’s were finally told that if he became aggressive that they would have to resort to calling the police.
‘We didn’t want to do that, we wanted to have help in our home that would mean we could work with him and provide therapy so he learnt how to deal with his anxiety and anger,’ Mrs Pascoe said.
After struggling to control James’s outbursts and teach him how to deal with his emotions, James’s behaviour continued to escalate and his parents made the heartbreaking decision to phone the police.
James has severe autism and spent his 21st birthday shackled to a hospital bed despite his parent’s desperate pleas to healthcare authorities who they say have failed him
James (centre) with his mother Bronwyn (left) and father Allan (right) say their son has deteriorated as a result of ignorance about his condition and a lack of support from the Victorian Department of Human Services
‘He couldn’t even go in the ambulance to hospital because he was scared that he would die, everyone who had been taken away in an ambulance died,’ Mrs Pascoe said.
Since then, Mrs Pascoe said her son has been through a cycle of being shackled and sedated over the past two years, in and out of respite houses, care facilities, and the hospital, with no treatment plans for the grief and trauma he was experiencing from the bewildering experiences.
Mrs Pascoe said that there was an incident where the family received a letter informing them they were removing him to a facility without consent, despite weeks of negotiations.
‘When I went to visit him in the respite home he was all over me, really touchy-feely because he was alone there, all by himself, with no physical contact. The carers wouldn’t talk to him or interact with him and he was deprived of sensory experiences,’ she said.
A spokesperson from the Department of Human Services said that it was not policy to leave a client in isolation, and that the Department had been working consistently towards finding a solution that was appropriate and were seeking to address James’s needs.
James’s parents said they have exhausted themselves begging for funding to keep him at home to give him the support and therapy he needs with healthcare professionals who know his case and are familiar with him.
‘The problem is the system has put him into a cycle of trauma- he’ll feel safe and secure and then be sent back to square one,’ Mrs Pascoe said.
‘I’m sure if he had normal abilities they wouldn’t be able to treat him like that,’ she said.
‘Had someone worked with us we would never have gotten into cycle. This is bureaucracy gone mad, getting police to deal with our children instead of helping them through grief and loss,’ said Mrs Pascoe
James’s parents said they have exhausted themselves begging for funding to keep him at home to give him the support and therapy he needs
Mrs Pascoe said her son has been through a cycle of being shackled and sedated over the past two years, in and out of respite houses, care facilities, and the hospital with no treatment plans for the grief and trauma he was experiencing from the bewildering experiences
The Pascoe’s believe that the lack of understanding about autism and the level of ignorance even within the Department of Human Services has resulted in her son living in a constant state of fear and anxiety.
The depression and anger he exhibited only continued, exacerbated by a system which James’s family claims refuses to act until their situation reaches a crisis point, and he is shackled and heavily sedated to the point of terror.
‘I feel so powerless because we can’t do anything, and it’s heartbreaking that we cant have him home because we haven’t got the funding,’ Mrs Pascoe said.
‘Had someone worked with us we would never have gotten into cycle. This is bureaucracy gone mad, getting police to deal with our children instead of helping them through grief and loss is not the way to go,’ she said.
On November 21, James was taken to hospital after acting out at a centre in the city of Whittlesea.
The Department of Human Services reportedly has other policies for dealing with such situations, and while calling the police was one option which might be used if needed, it was not the only one available.
Other approaches which could be used such as dimming lights, talking in soft voices, and withdrawing from the room.
James has spent the past fortnight strapped down in Northern Hospital, and his mother said he has been given heavy doses of drugs to prevent him from escaping.
A spokesperson from the Department of Human Services said ‘James was admitted to the Northern Hospital by his family. His family and a consulting physician are making decisions about his care while in hospital,’
‘While several options for support have been offered for James’ long term care, these options have not so far been accepted by his family.’
‘The department will continue to work with James and his family to make sure he gets appropriate and quality care.’
James’s baby sister died at only four and a half weeks old, an event which distresses him still
James’s parents Bronwyn and Allan say that their son has high levels of anxiety and that hospitals scare him
‘He is a prisoner in that room, he isn’t allowed cant go out because they can’t risk it, and he doesn’t get to see daylight, he’s maintained in one room,’ Mrs Pascoe said.
‘Prisoners actually get treated better, and why should he have less because he’s an autistic child? He had no choice in the matter,’ she said.
‘He has a right to be safe and secure and not be labelled as a problem to society,’ she said.
Mrs Pascoe has launched a petition at Change.org pleading with Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews to provide adequate care for people with autism.
The petition has been signed by more than 17,000 people who support the call for greater funding and for James’s needs to be addressed.
‘I didn’t want to use James, but I had to tell his story and put it out there because it was the only way to reach to the community, so people know what has happened to people with autism,’ she said.
‘James needs a voice to show whats happened to him. If we don’t start getting it right we’ll have an epidemic,’
‘People relinquish their kids because they get exhausted with the system crying for help. It’s meant to protect the vulnerable instead of treating them like non-humans.’