Mother pledges to go on hunger strike for her Asperger's syndrome son|
TONYREFAIL, Wales: A desperate mother has pledged to go on hunger strike outside the Welsh Assembly to get help for her Asperger's syndrome son.
Ann Pontin, aged 58, is pressing the authorities to fund a two-year placement at a specialist residential college, costing about £135,000 a year, for her adopted son, Daniel, aged 23.
At her home in Prichard Street, Tonyrefail, she said her husband, Hedley, aged 71, who has serious heart problems, had found the ideal place for Daniel.
Mrs Pontin said: "Beechwood College in Sully has offered him 24-hour care that would enable him to learn to live independently. It;s a new colleage which opened last year and it specialises in autistic disorders. Living there would be the best option because his father has had a quadruple heart bypass and I'm a diabetic - a young lad needs more than we can give him at the moment."
Diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) when he was 1 year old, and Asperger's syndrome just last year. Daniel's parents say his behaviour has worsened since he got older.
"Mrs Pontin said: "One of his main problems is that he has not got any social awareness. If a stranger started talking to him in the street, he would just walk off with them. He doesn't wash or dress himself appropriately and you can't leave him on his own. He can cook a little bit with supervision, but he doesn't see the danger of the things he is doing.
"If he's in the street, and sees someone throw a cigarette butt on the floor, he'll immediately pick it up, even if it's still lit.
"The college will give him back his self-confidence. Our main aim is that he gets some sort of independent living skills. We just want him to experience life as a normal young man."
Daniel, who was a pupil at Cardinal Newman School, Rhydyfelin, recently completed a number of college courses but staff at Coleg Morgannwg have told the family that he has progressed "as far as he can with them."
First Minister Rhodri Morgan said the Department for Education, Lifelong Learning and Skills (DELLS) had reviewed the family's application for funding for Daniel to attend Beechwood College but had concluded that it "did not meet the published criteria."
He said: "The obligation on the Welsh Assembly Government is to secure boarding accommodation where reasonable education faculties cannot be otherwise be secured.
"This does not maen that there is an obligation in the Assembly Government to secure boarding accommodation because this is the preference of the learner and his/her parents. Nor is there such an obligation even if the boarding accommodation is considered to be of higher quality than local provision, provided the local provision is considered to be reasonable."
Mrs Pontin said: "I'm prepared to go down and sit outside the Welsh Assembly on hunger strike until they give us an answer on why my son is being treated as a second-class citizen."
Mr Pontin, who worked at Coedeley coke works for 25 years, said: "We know money is tight, but we've always worked and we just want Daniel to be treated as a young man deserves to be treated. We only want him to have a life."
A Welsh Assembly Government spokesman said: "The Assembly Government is actively working to reach an agreement on how Danel's education needs can be met and a meeting has been arranged."
(Source: Pontypridd Observer, November 9, 2006)