A family going through “hell” while stuck in hotel quarantine in NSW has received an exemption to finish isolating from home after the confined conditions were causing tremendous distress to their severely autistic son.
The family in question has decided to remain anonymous, though they have given permission for Nicole Rogerson, CEO of Autism Awareness Australia to speak on their behalf.
Ms Rogerson told Yahoo News Australia the family had all tested negative for COVID-19 and an onsite doctor had written a report recommending the family complete their quarantine from home.
The ten-year-old boy has severe autism, Ms Rogerson explained, and being confined to the hotel had caused distress not only for him, but also his parents and his three siblings - including a newborn.
The family had recently returned from overseas where the son was receiving treatment.
Family ‘dreaded’ idea of staying another night
“The parents are dreading going into another night,” she said on Tuesday.
“Because he can't sleep, he's not with his familiar things, they're awake all night.
“He won't eat, the family are not allowed to have a toaster in the room and his child has a very limited diet he lives on fries and dry toast.”
Ms Rogerson appealed for help on Tuesday morning on her Twitter, asking both NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard and Premier Gladys Berejiklian to intervene.
URGENT: Desperate call to @BradHazzard @GladysB to come to the aide of one of our autism families in quarantine. They have a son with severe autism who is struggling in the confined space. 3 other children including a new born. Parents completely desperate. @AutismAwareAus— Nicole Rogerson (@NicRogerson) September 22, 2020
Ms Rogerson said she understands how necessary hotel quarantine is amid the pandemic, but felt an exception could be made for the struggling family.
“I understand the stress of COVID, I understand there's a lot going on, but this seems like a real one-off extreme case that it might be okay for somebody to step in and make this go faster,” she said.
The family had medical reports ready for NSW Health upon returning from overseas to prove their son would not cope in quarantine.
“The trouble is, for some people with autism, this kind of confinement is just impossible for them to cope,” Ms Rogerson explained.
“He's very distressed. His parents are distressed watching it. You can imagine what that's doing to the younger siblings, and then add a newborn baby into that mix. I mean, it's just hell for them all.”
Ms Rogerson said the young boy did not understand the dire nature of the pandemic, nor could he comprehend why his world had changed so drastically and why he was being confined to the hotel.
Intervention granted to grateful family
On late Tuesday night, Ms Rogerson tweeted that the mother of the ten-year-old boy had received a phone call from Mr Hazzard letting her know they were able to finish quarantining from home.
“This young man is finally going home & the family can settle back into life in Australia,” Ms Rogerson tweeted.
“Special thank you to @BradHazzard who was kind enough to call the mum personally & talk her through the decision. This is politics and Government at its best.”
This young man is finally going home & the family can settle back into life in Australia. May he flourish and the family settle. Thank you to everyone who cared. I can tell you...this is one HAPPY family! @AutismAwareAus— Nicole Rogerson (@NicRogerson) September 22, 2020
A spokesperson for NSW Health told Yahoo News Australia they had been in contact with the family.
“NSW Health has been providing a high level of care to this family currently in quarantine while their request for an exemption is being urgently worked through,” the spokesperson said.
Ms Rogerson said being months into the pandemic, there have been enough experiences to understand how hotel quarantine may affect people with mental illnesses or developmental conditions.
“I'm really hoping that maybe this shines a light on the fact that hotel quarantine won't be even for everybody,” she said.
“There'll be different people having different experiences.
“Why can't we think of the most special accommodations that could be made for people who are going to find this as distressing as the family found this experience?”
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