Mom Who Abandoned Autistic Son Isn't a Criminal


AutismSo many of the headlines we read about autism explore what causes it, how we can prevent it, and how families cope with the initial blow when they're told their toddler falls somewhere on the autism spectrum. What we don't hear nearly as often about is all the challenges and day-to-day struggles that can be involved in raising a child who has autism for the rest of his or her life. A story out of Florida, however, paints a picture of just how difficult it can be.

Last week Amanda Mathe says she was "overwhelmed" by caring for her 10-year-old autistic son, so she had a friend drop him off at a local hospital. The boy was left there, unattended, until hospital workers found him wandering about the emergency room.

On Saturday Mathe and her husband, whom she is in the process of separating from, appeared before a judge and tried to explain the inexplicable -- how a mother could abandon her own a child, a child who clearly needs her so much.

According to the Sun Sentinel, she said she's bipolar, has two other children to support, is unemployed, and is being evicted from her home. So while my sympathy is for this poor child who was left alone, I can also imagine just how difficult and overwhelming things must have been for her.

"I tried everything I could with raising Benjamin," said Mathe. "I didn't know what else to do."

While dropping him off alone wasn't the safest of choices, at least she didn't harm him. Because the sad fact is that some parents of children they find "overwhelming" do much worse. Last week in the spotlight was Yvonne Freaney, a woman who killed her 11-year-old son by strangling him with a belt in an airport restroom. She said she killed him so "no one could point fingers at him" when he was in heaven.

Heartbreaking and shocking, and those are just a couple of the recent cases that have made headlines. But behind doors in neighborhoods everywhere are families struggling and trying to the best they can in the world of autism. Some do better than others, but all of them need more support, more understanding, and clearly more resources for the times they do find life too overwhelming and the burden too great. Because at the center of every struggle is a child who is struggling, who didn't ask to be born with autism, and who needs help.

In the case of Mathe, the state isn't going to press charges, but rather try to find assistance for the parents. I'm glad. While child abandonment is never okay, criminal charges in a case like this aren't going to help. As a spokesperson for the state Department of Children & Families said:

They're not bad parents. We're talking about parents who tried everything else and got desperate, so we're working with them.

Hopefully this case won't be seen as sending a message to other struggling families that abandoning one's child is okay, but rather as a message to society in general that we need to find ways to help families before they get to that point.

Do you think this woman should have been charged criminally for abandoning her son?

Image via BLW Photography/Flickr

autism, kid health


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meatb... meatball77

Seems a lot better than abusing the kid or leaving him at the park.

These child abuse charges drive me nuts.  How does putting someone in jail protect or help the child.  This mom needs help.

Lynette Lynette

she does need help but she also needs to be criminally charged as well.  that poor kid.

nonmember avatar Shelly

Yes. What she did, is illegal child neglect/abandonment. So, according to's OK to abandon your child and break the law...because the intent was "different," and she could have murdered him instead? Not a precedent I'm willing to set. She deserves to be punished, for breaking the law.

jaxmadre jaxmadre

I'm glad she's getting help, but I hope this doesn't stir up a new trend amongst overwhelmed parents. We probably need some activism about resources for overwhelmed parents.

Courtney Paige Neale

NO SYMPATHY HERE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I am the oldest of 3 and my youngest sibling, my sister, is autistic. We went through hell for years with her. All she did was scream till she was 5 or 6 years old. Yes, my parents were very frusterated and had to deal with 2 other children as well. I have a few mental issues myself that are NOT easy to deal with so she can just save that for her maker when she dies and has to answer for the terrible person that she is. I just....I am so angry right now I could go punch that woman in her face! ALL CHILDREN are gifts from god but to me, the special ones are even greater gifts! I am a far better person for having my sister in my life. I hope that they find this boy the loving, accepting, patient parents that he deserves! Throw her @ss in jail!! Life is tough lady but you need to get the F over it and be a mother!!!!!

nonmember avatar Anon

She still abandoned him. She nor her friend told the hospital she could not cope. The child was abandoned in a hospital and the staff had no idea. It was not okay. What she and her friend did was a crime and there definitely need to be charges for this.

Jamie Metzger-Maxaner

I as well have no sympathy!!! AT of my older sisters are ver menatly handicap that causes her to have very very violent outburst which caused har to our home as well as the other children(even with my father trying to restain her)...this lasted our whole lives, on top of that my family was as poor as they come! eating plain pasta and water 3xs a was tough...on top of that their was 14 children and 2 parent...and they NEVER EVER gave up or tryed to abandon us!!!! SHE NEEDS TO GO TO JAIL!!

Rhond... RhondaVeggie

They're not bad parents? I think abandoning your kid in a dangerous place like an ER is the definition of bad parenting. This woman can't keep a job or a home or a husband or a kid so she clearly needs help as do the kids. Ordinarily I'd be against taking an autistic kid out of a familiar situation but this situation is just so bad that I think foster care would be the lesser evil.

nonmember avatar Christina

I personally know this woman and she is definelty not a bad mother she is a great mother that just has alot going on and instead of hurting the child she did the next best thing and that was to get help for him yes I think she should have made sure he got there safe and not just abandoned him but she is a great mother who could not do it anymore and needs help to raise him for all who has talked bad about her she is definetly not a bad mother at all.

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