‘My Asperger’s son died because authorities did not understand his condition’

A single mother says her only son, who had Asperger’s syndrome, lost his life because the authorities did not understand his disability.

Glennys Jones’ son, David, 23, was found dead on December 31 last year, following an overdose of prescription drugs. Last week, a coroner recorded an open verdict at an inquest into his death.

Now Miss Jones is calling for more awareness of his condition.

David was found at his home in Belvedere Road, Crystal Palace, where he had been moved seven months earlier by Bromley Council. He had previously been a Broomleigh Housing Association tenant in Crown Lane, Bromley, but had to be relocated after falling victim to homophobic abuse.

As Broomleigh was unable to rehouse him at the time, it was decided David would go into temporary council care.

A social services meeting in April last year concluded that David needed to remain in the area so he could continue receiving his network of support.

Despite this advice, Bromley Council rehoused David in Crystal Palace, forcing him to register with a new doctor.

Miss Jones says she stressed her son’s vulnerability but was told that, as David had accepted the offer, it would not be reconsidered.

The 56-year-old said: “I told them their actions were totally irresponsible and, by moving David out of his safety net area, they were putting his life at risk.”

Following the move, David’s drug prescriptions for conditions which included anxiety and stress increased dramatically and he began to rely heavily on out-of-hours surgery services.

Miss Jones, of Newbury Road, Bromley, said: “If Bromley Council had not ignored recommendations from myself and social services, my son would still be alive. Neither Bromley Council nor David’s new GP understood his disability. Although it was not visible, he was not able to comprehend and assess information in the way you or I can.

“I can no longer do anything to help David, but I can raise awareness of this disability so another parent does not have to suffer such a tragic loss.”

A council spokesman said: “The council expresses its sympathy. While it would not be appropriate to go into detail about this particular case, the council can confirm that assistance with rehousing was provided to Mr Jones at his request.”

Asperger’s syndrome was first identified in 1944 but it did not become a clinical diagnosis until the mid-90s. A developmental condition affecting the way the brain processes information, there is no cure for the syndrome, which affects more men than women. Symptoms of the disorder can include poor communication and social skills, and sometimes physical clumsiness. Sufferers can have difficulty reading body language and making eye contact. Establishing set patterns and routines is also common, which can lead to distress when these are changed.

Strong attention to detail and the ability to memorise facts and figures also characterises Asperger’s syndrome. Renaissance artist Michaelangelo, the Victorian botanist, Charles Darwin, and the scientist, Albert Einstein, are all thought by some researchers to have had the disorder.

(Source: News Shopper, August 23, 2006)

CRYSTAL PALACE, London, UK

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