“I Love Him to Death But I Don’t Know How to Help Him:” Family of Child With Autism Speaks Out During Awareness Month

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KALAMAZOO, Mich. (April 15, 2014) – A West Michigan family is reaching out to FOX 17 after hitting dead ends in the search for treatment for their son with autism.

April is Autism Awareness Month, and according to the CDC, one in 68 children in the U.S. will be diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder.

Patti Skinner says she’s tried everything, and hopes to be a voice for a problem she says many families are facing.

Her 12-year-old son Benjamynn has autism and has been violently aggressive since age four.

“He’s hitting, kicking, biting swearing, punching windows, punching walls, kicking doors,” Patti said.

She says it’s harder to deal with Ben as he gets older because he’s getting bigger and stronger.

Patti says he’s been hospitalized, they’ve called police, doctors and treatment facilities with no solutions for long-term help.

“It’s very difficult because I love him to death but I don’t know how to help him,” she said.

Scott Schrum with Residential Opportunities Incorporated says the Skinners aren’t alone.

“We are seeing and hearing those stories every week from a different family from across the state,” Schrum said.

He says families are at their wit’s end, breaking up, parents are getting divorced and even giving up their rights to their children so they can have access to treatment.

Schrum says there’s a lack of knowledge and funding for autism treatment, unavailable resources for parents who are left not knowing where to turn.

“It’s safe to say there are a lot of people going unserved because of a lack of resources, there simply are not enough Medicaid dollars to support the needs,” he said.

An autism insurance mandate just recently took effect in Michigan in 2012, helping some, but not everyone.

Patti says she’s tried to get Ben into in-patient residential treatment through Medicaid and was told the funding just isn’t there.

Schrum says sometimes it’s the community mental health system saying they already have inadequate services to meet the needs of everybody they’re responsible for and can’t afford placement.

“Health insurance in general, it frequently has not covered mental illness issues and it has not covered autism,” he said.

So for now, Patti and her three other sons live in fear of Ben and his outbursts and the pain that comes to the 12-year-old after those outbursts.

“He’s very soft and sweet and gentle and lovable and he’s a great kid but then he escalates like no tomorrow, but then he comes down and he’s very apologetic, very remorseful,” she said.

You can find resources for autism treatement through the CDC and Autism Treatment Research.

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  • Cheri Craddock

    I too have a 12 year old with a new diagnoses of Aspergers with the exact same problems. It is bad enough that we have the out bursts and destructive tempers, but now puberty is setting in and now these problems are amplified by 10. Without the short-span out bursts through out the day, my son as well is a very loving, overly kind and generous person. and when these tantrums are finished he is very remorseful and apologizes for his actions.
    there is not enough help in the school system, many teachers are untrained on exactly how to handle children with behavioral disorders, and counseling is a waste of time because Medicaid programs stink. Soon my sons actions will find himself behind bar with a system that just would rather throw the key away then to deal with the problem.
    My son has been getting help sense he was three years old and we have made very little head way .
    help would be a miracle. I would hate to see my son behind bars simply because our States system has given up on him.
    thanks. any help would help tremendously.

  • Wishful thinking

    What I don't understand, there was a doctor that, while in the medical circles was wrong, started to use a certain Alzheimer's drug on autistic children with outstanding results. While yes the drug was never approved for this application it showed a lot of promise, but yet, where is the FDA starting testing for this issue. While there are studies being tested on the small scale, it has been proven it works. Being an uncle of a child with autism, and one with aspergers, I would love to see a medical breakthrough either in treatment or prevention.

  • Sheryl V

    Watching this segment was like watching my family 3 years ago before finding a solution. We had the same things going on. After watching some of the (BCI)videos we had a huge change in our family! It has been a miracle! It has been a year now since we have seen any destructive behaviors. Peace is now the norm. I hope that you can give this info to the family, so they can have the family they want and help their child. Tell them to google" Beyond consequences, logic and control." These children need to be parented in a totally different way than typical children because of their diagnoses. This parenting plan is amazing! It really works. It isn't easy but it is defiantly worth it!

      • angela i

        There is a very big difference between parenting a neurotypical child and a child with autism. As a parent of a 14 year old daughter with autism, I take any parenting advice I can. You never know what may work with your child’s behavioral issues, and it should not be viewed as an insult to make suggestions.

  • Joe L

    To the people in the video, I feel your pain. I know exactly what you are going through. My family went through the same thing you are. I wish I had "the" answer for you. The reason for the past tense is that my son is now in a group home and so far is doing pretty well. We miss him dearly and visit him as often as we can. If you (or anyone else), would like to talk to someone who can really relate to your situation feel free to contact me at gr_raven@netzero.com. We tried a lot of things, some helped, others didn't.

  • Sandra Tucker

    I have a sibling with Autism and his violence growing up was just as difficult. I love him and we are very close but it can be difficult. I have started an organization for siblings of people with special needs called Sibling Tree. I started it because trying to tell people outside our family about what was going on was always difficult. It was either our fault or we were being dramatic. I was close to my mom so I was able to talk to someone about what was going on but I want all siblings to be able to have a place where they feel safe to talk about what is happening and to know they are not alone. Please feel free to email me at any time for any reason. Sometimes it's just nice to get it out to a non judging ear. sandra@siblingtree.org

    • Kelly Allen

      Video game addictions are one of the most common things that we see when working with others with Asperger’s. Not only do we see them, but I was heavily into video games growing up, and spent most of my years through Junior High & High School playing video games, instead of socializing

  • Clint

    My son is similar..and my son usually will act out if hes in any pain or discomfort ! have youre child evaluated from head to toe !

  • cannabisforautism

    Please look into cannabinoids such as CBD and possibly THC too, move to COLORADO, CA, or another medical cannabis-friendly state if you can. Best of luck x

    Please spread the word: Cannabis may reduce some symptoms of autism!

  • Molly

    I'm curious what kind of diet this child may be on. He likely needs to be on a gluten, casein and soy free diet with organic meats, fruits/vegetables and fermented foods. No sugar, dyes or high fructose corn syrup. My daughter has made HUGE gains with addressing diet changes and gut issues.

  • sarah

    my daughter takes cannabis for seizure control but it has also helped her autistic behaviors significantly. i believe cannabis is the answer that will help this boy and the many others that suffer like this

  • Raeneal

    Along with diet which has a huge impact on autism related behaviors, If I could choose only one thing among the overwhelming sea of theories, treatments, solutions out there it would be Son Rise program.
    It will give you healing for the whole family, it will help his outbursts fade and will give you your son back. I can't say enough about it.


    Raun Kaufman has a new book out that will give you a look into what you can do to help your son. Please check it out and see if it is the answer you have been so desperately looking for. I hope this helps! Autism Breakthrough: The Groundbreaking Method that Has Helped Families All Over the World by Raun Kaufman
    Autism Treatment Center of America, Son Rise Program (check out their website as well)
    I have an autistic son as well and Son-Rise has really helped my family and I have seen so many stories of success in bringing children even completely out of autism.
    I hope this helps! I am sending you love and prayers

  • Angela Summers

    I know how this lady feels. I have a 17 yr old that has had violent outburst since anout age 5. He has been in a residential facility, probation, inpatient. Has punched holes in walls, broke property, and has the two younger siblings scared of him.

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