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Boy’s death shines spotlight on Autism

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The death of a severely autistic Chicago boy recently made headlines and shined a spotlight on the growing autism epidemic in the United States.

The latest estimates say that one out of every 50 children has Autism.

The local group Austin Trust USA works to help those affected by autism including the 14-year-old boy Alex Spourdalakis from Chicago. Spourdalakis was stabbed and his mother and caregiver have been charged with his murder.

When Autism Trust Usa founder Polly Toomey got a call to help Spourdalakis she found him chained to the bed.

"He was being restrained and he couldn't go to the loo, and the person with key with the restraints and the person with the key would go off," Toomey said. "He was treated kinda like an animal really."

As a mother of a child with autism, Toomey said she knew if she could stop the stomach pain and get Spourdalakis to a gastroenterologist, she believed it could help him.

"He was in a lot of pain," Toomey said. "You couldn't see he was in a lot of pain. He was naked all the time. He can't talk. He can't point to his pain. They have absolutely no idea what to do with him."

Toomey and her team got Spourdalakis released from the hospital and drove through the night from Chicago to New York.

"When we got to New York he was seen by Dr. Krigsman. He had a pill cam procedure, a little cam through his body took hundreds of pics and doctors found really severe bowl disease," Toomey said. "It was awful to see the mother breaking down that long last after all that time she had pleaded for help and confirmed everything and Dr. Krigsman said we could treat this."

Toomey said they were finally in a good place.

"His mother was happy," Toomey said. "His godmother was happy. Alex is happy, and we're in a good space. The problem happened when they got back to Chicago. They had nowhere to live she was going motel to motel."

Then things took a turn for the worse. News broke Spourdalakis was dead. His mother was a named a suspect.

"It was covered by the news in Chicago, and like everybody else we were horrified," Toomey

Toomey said this is not just an American problem, it is a worldwide problem.

"We haven't done a thing about it," Toomey said. "We haven't found a cause. We still don't know what the future is. It doesn't seem to be a priority on any of the government's list."

Toomey's fear is there will be more cases like this one. A Google search of autism and abuse or murder turn up hundreds of results.

Toomey said the murder charge is hard to comprehend after seeing Spourdalakis and his mother interact.

"I don't know why its not a national emergency," Toomey asked. "One in 50 children and for every person six people are badly affected, the siblings, the parents, the grandparents."

Toomey said she is trying to take what is working in the United Kingdom and bring that plan to Austin. She supports creating treatment centers where adults with any level of autism can live, work, and get treatment in one place.

"We will build the Austin one, and then Dallas will need one, then Houston will need one," Toomey said.

If that center was already in existence, she believes Spourdalakis would not be dead.

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