Family Has To Stop Visiting Autistic Son in Group Son Due To COVID-19

Every Friday, Amie Estrella drops off Dunkin' Donuts to her 17-year-old son Jack's group home, but she hasn't been able to go inside and see him since March when stay at home orders took place. Jack, who is nonverbal and autistic, doesn't understand why his family won't come see him anymore, and it breaks the Estrella's hearts. 

Amie and her husband, Matt, have explained to Jack over FaceTime what is happening and why they can't go inside to see him, but they worry he isn't comprehending exactly what is going on and they worry he thinks they have forgotten about him. When she drops off  his donuts, she has asked the group home staff to make sure he doesn't see her so he won't get upset. 

“Everyone else has a plan for reopening — businesses, beaches, casinos, but we don’t have any indication of what the plan is for group homes,” Estrella said. The state has not told them when the visitation ban will be lifted. "There are about 38,000 New Yorkers living in 7,250 group homes regulated by the state Office for People with Developmental Disabilities" according to Syracuse.com.

OPWDD said it will soon allow "window visits" so residents can still see their families without the fear of COVID-19 contamination, but Estrella and other parents are worried this type of visit may backfire.

“He (Jack) will think we are there to bring him home,” she said. “I’m afraid he will come out the door and run to us. The staff will have to restrain him. That would be traumatic for him and us." 

OPWDD staff hopes to instate outdoor, socially distant visits soon. 

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