Parents tell RTÉ Prime Time of their fears for their family’s safety due to lack of support for their nine-year-old son with severe autism 

by Aishling Conway
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A mother tells of her fears for her family and others from her nine-year-old son with severe autism and pleads for help in an interview with RTÉ Prime Time.
Audrey Dore-Geraghty, a mother based in Wexford, shares her family’s heart-wrenching journey of raising her nine-year-old son Harrison, who has been diagnosed with severe autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

Audrey and her husband, Huw, speak to RTÉ Prime Time tonight highlighting the critical need for support and services for children like Harrison and their desperate families.  In a candid interview with Miriam O’Callaghan, Audrey expresses the overwhelming fear and concern that grips their family daily.

“We’re in a situation now where we’re scared to be in the house on our own with Harrison and scared for the safety of our younger children,” she revealed. Harrison’s escalating behaviour issues have left the family feeling trapped in their own home.  Audrey and Huw now live on constant three-day rotations. One parent works in Dublin “and gets a full night’s sleep” while the other cares for Harrison and their two younger children in Wexford. Some help comes in the form of their families, especially Audrey’s parents. But his care is taking a serious toll on them as parents.    Harrison’s autism is further complicated by several mental health illnesses, including anxiety, oppositional defiance disorder, pathological demand avoidance, and possible bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

Audrey emphasized, “The hits are harder, the bites are stronger, the kicks are stronger, the risk to the other children is massive, and we know that he’s growing.” The family is grappling with the pressing need for support as Harrison grows older and larger, exacerbating the already immense difficulty of caring for him.  Audrey has tirelessly sought support for Harrison, but he has been continually denied the treatment he desperately needs. Despite their best efforts, they have been unable to access crucial services designed to assist children like Harrison, such as the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS).  In a desperate bid for help, Audrey and Huw sought psychiatric assistance abroad for Harrison.

A psychiatrist in Spain prescribed antipsychotic medication, providing temporary relief, but resulting in significant side effects. Harrison ceased the medication earlier this year due to discomfort and distress caused by the side effects.  The family has called on CAMHS and the wider health and care system for the essential help Harrison requires. They fear that without proper intervention and a multidisciplinary approach, Harrison’s behaviour may escalate to a point where he becomes a risk to both society and those within their household. 

Audrey emphasizes, “We worry that if he doesn’t get managed and his behaviour doesn’t get controlled with a multidisciplinary team, that he could end up in a very difficult place, which would be a very difficult place for us, too.”  The Dore-Geraghty family went public with their concerns last month and their story sheds light on the critical need for improved support and services for individuals with severe autism and their families. Speaking to Miriam tonight on RTÉ Prime Time, Audrey said “I’ve had to go public on this story in an effort to make people listen and also to speak for other families who aren’t being listened to.” Their plea for help is a call to action for authorities to address this pressing issue and ensure the well-being and safety of all those affected by autism spectrum disorders. 

Watch RTÉ Prime Time tonight, Thursday, 5 October at 9:35pm on RTÉ One and RTÉ Player. 

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