Slipping through the cracks

Emily Ramshaw

Cameron Maedgen knows he’s dangerous. The autistic, brain-damaged and often suicidal 19-year-old — turned over to the foster care system as a drug-addicted infant — has violent outbursts and a fascination with guns. He's been jailed three times and admitted to a San Angelo-area psychiatric hospital six times since January.

But his adoptive mother’s tireless effort to find her son structure — a group home or residential setting where he’ll be safe and well-treated — has been foiled by a single factor: his IQ score. The state calls Maedgen too high-functioning for a residential facility or for the in-home program it funds for people with disabilities. Karen Bartholomeo says her son is too low-functioning, and certainly too unstable, to go without them.

Maedgen isn’t the only one in this conundrum. Advocates say a rising number of autistic and mentally ill children are reaching adulthood without the prospect of services because their IQs are simply too high. The state limits admission to its state-supported living centers to disabled people with IQs under 70 — and generally caps community-based care at an IQ of 75. Just because an autistic person’s IQ averages out higher, these advocates say, doesn’t mean he or she can manage without care.

“There’s nothing for us,” Bartholomeo says, her voice tinged with desperation. “Right now, my only hope is that he doesn’t kill himself, that he doesn’t hurt anyone else, and that he stays out of the prison system.”

In the inverse situation, advocates say, are people with disabilities whose IQs are just low enough to keep them in state institutions, but who might be better served in the community. But if their IQs test above 75, they not only don't qualify for the state-supported living centers. They don't qualify for most community-based programs either.

Full story from the Texas Tribune here

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