‘Living with autistic child in a hotel is really tough’

By Mary Dennehy

A MOTHER and father who have been living in a hotel for nine months with their autistic son have spoken of their concerns for the health, mental wellbeing and development of their child.

Originally from Rossfield, Linda McDonnell has been living in a room in the Maldron Hotel at Newlands Cross with her husband Robert and eight-year-old son Dylan since August – a situation which she believes is impacting negatively on her son’s physical and mental wellbeing.

Linda McDonnell  02 

Due to a lack of cooking facilities, Linda told The Echo that she spends more than €200 per week eating out or buying takeaways – a “distressing” reality which she believes has contributed to her son losing significant weight since the family became homeless in January 2015.

Linda also stressed how a lack of space results in Dylan becoming quite agitated as, due to his autism, he is not content to sit and watch telly – with the eight-year-old enjoying his own space and engaging in activities.

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Linda, whose son Dylan goes to school in Brookfield, told The Echo: “We became homeless in January 2015 and before we came to the Maldron we were placed in a hostel

“Over that time we have been trying to do our best for our son. However, I can’t even cook him a dinner, he should be eating healthy and all I can give him is takeaways and convenient foods.

“Once a week we go for a carvery and feed up on vegetables and potatoes but we can’t afford this for the three of us every day.

“I don’t eat that much, so I can try and give Dylan more of the food he should be eating but I know it’s not enough – he needs proper dinners.”

She added: “I know that there is a housing crisis and we are not the only people struggling, but living with an autistic child in a hotel room is really tough.

“Dylan isn’t into watching cartoons and a lot of the time he’s bouncing off the walls because he needs stimulation and space.

“I try to do my best, but he needs his own space and I’m so afraid if we don’t get somewhere more suitable that I will lose him.

“I do everything I can for Dylan, he’s my life, but sometimes I wonder if for his benefit he would be better off somewhere else until we get housed? This is my worst fear and thinking about it breaks my heart, but what else do we do?

“Just stay here in this one room and allow our boy to deteriorate?

“He is not as happy as he once was and has even stopped wanting to go to school.

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“He has lost a lot of weight over the past year and I’m afraid that not eating healthily and the confinement is impacting on his wellbeing – both physically and mentally.

“I’m not looking for a big house, just a place that has two rooms – a modular home, anything that would enhance our life and give our son the space he needs and the normality of a home-cooked meal.”

Sinn Féin councillor Dermot Richardson has been in touch with the family and has made representation on their behalf to the council.

He said: “I have raised it with the council to try and get the family shifted to somewhere with even a little more space.

“They have been in this hotel room for a long time and I totally understand the family’s frustration.

“The council is working as hard as it can to look after families. However, there is a massive backlog and hundreds of families right across the county are looking for homes.”

The family is linked in with South Dublin County Council and the Central Placement Service in Parkgate Hall in the city centre.

When contacted by The Echo, a spokesperson for South Dublin County Council said: “We do not comment on individual cases but we do try to prioritise families from hotels as soon as possible. If there are specific reason that might warrant additional priority for some families these cases are dealt with on an individual basis.” 

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