News Local

Ministry pushed to let autistic son live at special-needs school

By Michael Mui, 24 Hours Vancouver

A Vancouver family is battling the Ministry of Family and Child Development to let their son live at a preferred special needs school in attempt to curb his aggressive behaviour.

Peter Sklavenitis, 17, is diagnosed with severe autism. He has attended Vancouver's Glen Eden Multimodal Centre special needs school since age four.

In the past few years, however, the transition between going to school and coming home has become increasingly difficult because of the teen's violent tantrums - once punching himself in the eye until a nerve burst.

Opposition MLA Jenny Kwan and Sklavenitis' family spoke publicly Thursday in attempt to pressure the province to fund a 'residential program' that would allow the boy to stay at Glen Eden under 24/7 supervision in hope he would eventually learn to be independent.

"He's been with these people for 12 years, they are his family. They're the people that helped me raise Peter," said mother Angela Sklavenitis. "The other alternatives would be too different."

Minister Mary MacNeil said staff determined Glen Eden wasn't appropriate for Peter, and sympathized with the family's hardship.

"We have shared our reasons with the family and it's tough, because sometimes family prefer a specific program or facility," she said.

"We have increased in-home support to the family, while continuing to work with them to find an appropriate alternative."

According to the boy's caseworker, Jennifer Burrowes, it would cost around $15,000 monthly during the early stages of his full-time stay. Glen Eden currently has two live-in clients under the ministry-funded program among its 23 clients.