Name: Bradley John LaPointe.
Died: October 18, 2016.
Age at death: 22.
Cause of death: Fatal seizure.
Location: Topsham, Maine, USA.
Bradley had an older sister named Carmen, who is also autistic.
When he was 18, Bradley’s parents were interviewed for an article about their children’s future. They weren’t worried about Carmen, who would be able to live on her own. But Bradley, though he had learned some basic self-care skills like eating and using the bathroom, would need a full-time aide partly because of his autism and partly because he needed someone to watch out for him in case he had a seizure. Bradley’s abilities were working against him: Because he needed “only” 24-hour supervision and could do some things for himself, he didn’t qualify for the group homes that housed slightly more disabled young adults.
At the age of 21, Bradley aged out of the services available for students. Because of his ability to care for himself, he was very low-priority on the waiting lists for the group homes that offered the one-to-one assistance he needed; so he had to go and live in a place where most of the residents were more independent, and the staff offered less care than he needed.
He was 22 and had lived in the group home for only six months when he was found dead in his bed. He had most likely had a seizure and died from it, but exactly what happened wasn’t known, because nobody had been there to help him. The overnight carers who were supposed to be available during the night didn’t even check on him enough to find his body–instead, he was found by a manager who came by in the morning.
Editor’s note: This is yet another example of how functioning labels hurt people. It might seem like a compliment to say that someone is high-functioning compared to this or that other person, but when people are compared to others who are more impaired, their needs are ignored. Bradley died because, seeing his abilities, professionals denied him the help he needed. Rather than comparing him to others, they should have evaluated his needs based only on what Bradley himself was capable of doing.
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