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Thorold teen with autism trapped at maximum-security psychiatric ward finally gets spot at group home

The experience left Christie Curran determined to help other families of adult autistic children fight for their rights

A Thorold woman says her autistic son's tumultuous journey through Ontario's medical system revealed that it is broken.

Now, Christie Curran wants to help other parents with adult autistic children avoid the ordeal that she herself can't wait to leave behind.

"This is not right. This should not happen. It should not be a fight to have support for your child," she said. first reported on her son Parker Curran's case in October, when the 19-year-old teen was living inside a room at the maximum-security wing at the St Catharine's hospital psychiatric ward, in lack of being offered a spot at a group home suited for his needs.

Parker was taken to the wing following an incident where police had to control him during a violent outburst, triggered by months of being out of school due to the pandemic and his normal routine - a perilous situation for the Thorold High senior, who relies heavily on structure to function.

But the stay at the hospital, alongside some of the most gravely mentally ill patients in the hospital system, was not tailored to Parker's needs, who saw many of his skills he had worked up vanish as the months rolled on.

His mother Christie describes the ten-month ordeal as a 'nightmare.'

"The whole experience was just traumatic," said Christie.

"He was just sitting there all the time, and we just never heard anything about progress on his case."

It was after making her story public and attracting the attention of Niagara MPP's  Wayne Gates and Jeff Burch, that the first steps were taken toward getting Parker out of the situation he was in.

Apart from both media attention, and groups like Autism Ontario advocating for the family, other families began reaching out to the Curran's, telling similar stories to theirs.

"He (Parker) even has his own Facebook group now. Sometimes there's thousands seeing his story, parents reach out for advice or what to do. You don't realize how broken the system is until you are stuck in a situation like this."

As letters were being written, funds raised and signatures gathered, the wheels were working the background - and to the relief of the family, the long-awaited call finally came close to the end of last year.

As of about six weeks, Parker is spending his days jumping on the trampoline, running, or going with his two assistants for a ride to Tim Horton's for his favorite treat, after a spot opened up at Niagara Support Services in Niagara Falls.

Christie said getting Parker out of the hospital was a collective effort, and left her determined to help others in the same situation.

"I was told later, that had I not advocated, or had the help I had, Parker would likely still be in the hospital."

Right now, due to the pandemic, Christie is only able to visit Parker once per week - something she is hopeful will increase soon.

"I would go see him every day if I could," she said.

The next goal for the family is to get Parker back in the school bench so he can finish his senior year at Thorold High.

"But right now he is living his best life."

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Ludvig Drevfjall

About the Author: Ludvig Drevfjall

Ludvig Drevfjall has been the editor of ThoroldToday since January 2020. He has worked as a journalist in Sweden, British Columbia and Ontario
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