In The Politics of Autism, I discuss dangers facing autistic people, including the use of restraint and seclusion.
Once again, government actions against a controversial for-profit company’s chain of group homes for the disabled may have come too late to protect a child. ProPublica has learned that Maryland had begun pulling about 30 children out of homes owned and managed by AdvoServ in August, but hadn’t yet relocated a teenage girl when she died a month later after being manually restrained by staff.
Maryland’s Department of Human Resources had also stopped placing children in AdvoServ homes, following inspections that identified deficiencies in quality control, record-keeping, and conditions in residential and common areas. Last year, ProPublica chronicled AdvoServ’s long record of problematic treatment, its use of mechanical restraints, and its efforts to weaken regulation as it took in more people with developmental or intellectual disabilities and behavior challenges.
The girl was not the first teenager to die at an AdvoServ home. In 1997, a 14-year-old autistic boy with epilepsy was found dead in his bed with low levels of anti-seizure medicine in his blood. In 2013, a 14-year-old autistic girl died at the company’s Florida home after a night in which she was restrained — at times fastened to a bed and chair — while she vomited repeatedly.
“The safety of our children is DHR’s top priority and we are taking this case very seriously,” Maryland spokeswoman Katherine Morris said in an emailed statement, referring to the 15-year-old girl’s death. The company said in a brief statement last month that it was “heartbroken over the loss of a young woman in our care.”