Parents of autistic son beg Florida Gov. DeSantis to lift coronavirus mandate barring visitors in group homes

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By Yael Halon, Fox News, July 22 2020

As the coronavirus pandemic continues, Americans are embracing a new “normal” and trying to adapt to everyday life in a time of fear and uncertainty.

But for children with an autism spectrum disorder — which affects about one in 54 children in the U.S., according to federal estimates — adjusting to change presents a far greater challenge, as has been the case for 26-year-old Billy Caulley.

Billy’s parents, Jan and Greg Caulley told “The Daily Briefing” on Wednesday that due to Florida state regulations restricting access to visitors in assisted home facilities, their son, who was regularly visited three times a week prior to the pandemic, has become confused and aggressive as they try to explain their sudden distance.

“Our son Billy doesn’t understand,” Greg Caulley explained. “We’re using excuses like ‘his mother’s sick or something’ but he doesn’t have any comprehension.”

“He has no understanding. He probably feels like we have abandoned him,” he added. “We do get to FaceTime him. The group homes have been very good about that every night. But he makes it short. Sometimes as short as three minutes and he wants off. Because he wants us there.”

The couple said they have been trying to contact Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to encourage him to lift the visitor ban on group homes housing children with special needs — but their calls remain unanswered.

“We truly and fully support him [DeSantis] trying to protect the senior citizens,” Jan Caulley said, “but he also needs to know that the health and mental health of the young autistic community is at risk here.”

“Autistic people don’t take sudden change very well and that’s how this whole thing happened… One day we could see him and then we couldn’t…,” Greg Caulley explained.

The concerned dad added that if essential workers are allowed to enter the facility, “as parents that are actively involved like we are, we are as essential as anybody.”

“We might not be feeding him or giving a bath on his day-to-day care, but I think the love we provide as parents, the support… he knows us and he is used to us being there three times a week. And now all of a sudden we are gone and he doesn’t understand and it’s causing anxiety,” he said.

“It’s causing what I see is depression and I worry about how far back he’s gonna fall,” Greg Caulley added. “With all the work we’ve been trying it may take years to recover the four months we have missed already.”