Mum lives in fear as crowded home drives non-verbal son to harmful and risky behaviour

3 mins read

Friday 17 September 2021

Tags: counting the costs, housing

Kirsten can’t remember the last time she had a good night’s sleep. She shares a bed with her one-year-old son Phoenix so that her two other boys, five-year-old Hunter and three-year-old Elijah, can split the second bedroom. But Hunter, a non-verbal autistic child desperate for his own space, is resorting to increasingly harmful and challenging behaviour to keep his younger brother out.

Hunter becomes upset at anyone coming into his room, so Kirsten usually waits for him to fall asleep before putting Elijah to bed. During the night, he has difficulty sleeping and will scream and throw things around. Kirsten is terrified of the possibility of Hunter hurting himself or Elijah while he sleeps.

His behaviour during the day can also be challenging. He will often kick, bite and punch his mum if she walks into his room and sometimes climbs on top of furniture and windowsills, putting himself at risk.

Both boys are suffering as a result. Elijah has trouble staying awake at school because of disturbed sleep, and Hunter is unable to communicate his needs or let his mum know if something is wrong.

Kirsten’s mental health is taking a plunge, but she doesn’t know where else to turn. Hunter’s occupational therapist says he isn’t entitled to his own space because he doesn’t have a physical disability, and Kirsten is still waiting to hear anything from her local authority about her request for a third bedroom.

Unsuitable housing affects thousands of families

Unfortunately, Kirsten isn’t alone in this struggle. In our Counting the Costs survey of more than 4,100 families with disabled children in the UK, we heard countless stories of autistic children – most of whom need space and quiet – having to share rooms because their home is overcrowded. Others live in a house that isn’t safe for children with a passion for doors, locks and escaping.

In fact, 27% of UK families say their home makes their child’s condition worse or puts them at risk, while a staggering 41% live in a house that doesn’t meet their child’s needs.

That’s why we are calling on the government to:

  • Build more accessible and affordable social housing, and give greater priority to families with disabled children needing social housing
  • Reduce waiting times for specialist home adaptions and increase the grants available
  • Introduce higher accessibility standards when building new homes
  • Create more and safer supported housing for disabled young people

Take action by joining our #CountingTheCosts campaign. Together, we can make a change.