CALIFORNIA: An Indian couple in California is facing a lawsuit over the behaviour of their 11 year old autistic son. It has forced them to give up their house in which they had lived for seven years.
Vidyut Gopal, a silicon valley engineer and his wife Parul Agrawal, who is a research scientist at NASA, have left the Sunnyvale City neighbourhood after two other families living in the area filed a lawsuit which called their autistic child a ‘public nuisance’, according to local media reports.
When neighbors complained about the child’s alleged pulling children’s hair, biting a woman and other menacing behavior, the couple hired caregivers, gave the boy special medication, and put him in therapeutic classes, a local paper reported on Thursday.
The couple’s legal battle has sparked outrage among parents of children with autism, raising troubling questions about how to coexist with neighbors with special needs kids.
“This has been pretty devastating for us, but we are doing our best to cope with it,” said the father.
The lawsuit, which was filed last year, alleges that the boy’s disruptive behavior also created an “unquantified chilling effect on the otherwise ‘hot’ local real estate market” and that “people feel constrained in the marketability of their homes as this issue remains unresolved and the nuisance remains unabated.”
A Santa Clara County Superior Court judge last October issued a preliminary injunction against them to ensure their son does not strike, assault, or batter anyone in the neighborhood or their personal property.
The case will return to court on Tuesday, when a judge will hear arguments about whether the complainants should have access to the boy’s school and medical records, the paper said.
The plaintiffs could not be reached for comment. But some neighbors not involved in the legal case said they feel compassion for Gopal and Agrawal. Still, they believe the lawsuit was necessary after communication with the couple — and requests that the parents better supervise and control their son’s behavior — broke down. The lawsuit claims that over the years the boy, now 11, had struck a baby with his hand, spit at and tried to ride his bicycle into neighbors, and repeatedly sat on a neighbor’s cat.
“It was painful,” said Sue Alford, a 61-year-old retired registered nurse who has lived for decades with her family in a home next to one of the families that sued Gopal and Agrawal.
“We all met with them and talked to them about their son, but they didn’t see our point of view,” Alford said. “We wanted the street to be a safe place for other children.”
While she said she “didn’t want to make enemies of any of my neighbors,” she said outsiders should not judge the residents on Arlington Court.
“We went out of our way to be understanding and kind to him,” Alford said. “When you see everything, all of the pieces will fit together and maybe there will be an understanding.”
Nieves Diaz, 63, who lives across the street from Gopal and Agrawal’s house, said the ordeal has “been very unsettling.”
“It was awful, because he couldn’t play outside with the kids,” Diaz recalled of the times she would see the couple’s son looking forlornly out of the front window at the other neighborhood children playing on the street.
The couple, meanwhile, said they remain focused on helping their son, hoping that this case “will raise awareness about autism and educate the public” about the challenges that families of children with autism face.