Stephen Neary is a twenty-year old man with autism. Up until December last year, he lived with, and was cared for by, his father Mark Neary. When his father contracted flu, he asked for Stephen to be admitted to a respite centre for three days, as he was too unwell to care for his son properly. Like many people with autism, Stephen finds it difficult to communicate with people, which he finds frustrating. He was upset at having been parted from his father, who he knew was ill. Although Stephen had been to the respite centre in the past, they felt unable to cope with his behaviour, and referred him to a Positive Behaviour Unit. Stephen’s method of gaining someone’s attention – a method he’s used all his life – involves tapping someone on the shoulder. However, this action was allegedly logged as an assault by the staff at the Positive Behaviour Unit, and since he did this many times whilst there, he was deemed too dangerous to return to his father. Moreover, his diagnosis has been changed from “autism, severe learning difficulties and challenging behaviour”, to “extreme challenging behaviour, learning difficulties and possible autistic spectrum disorder”. Importantly, this means that the local authority, who – in accordance with their legal obligations – have paid for the carers who normally help his father look after Stephen, will no longer be liable to pay for his care. Instead, it will be the NHS Primary Care Trust who must foot the bill, and they want to send him to a care home in Wales, to further investigate his challenging behaviour (his home is in London). You can read more about Stephen’s case here. There is a facebook group set up by his father here. If you want to sign the petition, it’s here.