Family opens up on 60 Minutes about how son’s autism is tearing them apart

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Family opens up on 60 Minutes about how son’s autism is tearing them apart:

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 And they’ve seen Liz and Sean Whelan take the most difficult of decisions to look after their 12-year-old son Max, and at the same time protect their family against a condition none of them control. Max has severe non-verbal autism and an undiagnosed intellectual disability, which make him unpredictably violent and prone to destructive meltdowns that have turned the family home into a war zone. The family’s plight became public earlier this year when Sean’s high profile sister, actor Nicky Whelan, and his other sister Katie Brannaghan, launched a GoFundMe page in an effort to help the family avoid the unthinkable: giving Max up to keep the rest of the family from harm. Launching the drive to raise $80,000 to help the family get Max the help he needs, Nicky Whelan said the heartbreaking situation was tearing the family apart. On Sunday, they will open up about their heartbreaking experience on Channel 9’s 60 Minutes.  As Max moves through puberty, he has developed an “inexplicable” strength which results in frequent and violent meltdowns. Max lives with his parents and three siblings, Thomas, 13, Harrison, 9 and Georgia, 7, in Mount Martha on the Mornington Peninsula. In May, Liz told his frequent violent outbursts — which are beyond his control — meant that the son they love desperately also has the rest of the family living in fear. Max often needs to be physically restrained so he doesn’t hurt himself, or anyone else.  “Our whole family lives on lockdown,” Liz told “We have locks on every window and door in the house. He will try to escape whenever he can.” The family lives with constant anxiety, she said, and has learnt to avoid certain trigger words like the word “no”, which can cause a meltdown in which anyone in Max’s way could become a target. “Usually I am the one getting hit, but he has figured out now that if he hits the dog or his little sister then we all react. And he likes getting a reaction,” Liz said. Max’s siblings now have coded locks on their bedroom doors so they have a safe place to hide. The GoFundMe campaign was set up in the hope the Whelans can find an alternative to the impossible — giving up Max into care to protect the rest of the family. Liz said they knew it was only a matter of time before Max seriously hurt himself or someone else. But, with no facilities or government options available to cater to his needs on a permanent basis, they have had to come up with an alternative plan. The aim is to convert the family home into a personal care facility that will meet Max’s specific needs. The funding will go towards employing specialist carers for Max and allow the rest of the family to move into a small rental home nearby so the other children can have a safe, peaceful home. The plan is for Liz and Sean to still have regular contact with Max and oversee his care. It will also allow them to fit the house out with the necessary equipment required, such as security fences and non-slip surfaces to
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