Wish Book

Wish Book: Single mother needs help for her autistic twins

Andromaque Thomas hugs her son Ricky as his twin Rocky reaches out.
Andromaque Thomas hugs her son Ricky as his twin Rocky reaches out. cjuste@miamiherald.com

Ricky and Rocky Thomas seem to never stop moving. They jump on the sofa, pace the hall, open and close kitchen cabinets, and run a plastic hanger along every available surface. The whirr of constant movement can be exhausting — and destructive.

In their small bedroom, the identical twins managed to pull down the plastic blinds and yank the closet doors from their hinges. The 6-year-olds are autistic and in desperate need of therapy.

Their mother, Andromaque Thomas, admits her boys are rarely still. Cartoons and TV shows do little to calm them. Toys are quickly discarded, and even a walk to the nearby park can be a challenge.

“I’m stressed, very stressed,” says Thomas, 40. “And tired.”

Thomas lives in a tidy three-bedroom apartment in South Dade provided by Lutheran Services’ New Beginnings Transitional Housing Program. The twins occupy one bedroom. Her two daughters, a 19-year-old and a 12-year-old, sleep in another. The family moved there in July after spending several months living at a Chapman Partnership emergency homeless shelter, where they had ended up after their North Miami rental apartment was condemned.

Until the birth of the twins, Thomas, who has lived in Miami since 2002, said she managed a spare but stable household. But the twins were born prematurely, and she had to quit her job working at a Winn Dixie. Her husband is now in jail, and she has been left alone to deal with the special needs of her boys. She has no family nearby, except a sister in Boca Raton and a brother in West Palm Beach.

“She doesn’t have a support system,” says Linda Ellis, a Lutheran Services caseworker who nominated the Thomas family for inclusion in the Miami Herald’s Wish Book. “And she needs help to cope with the twins.”

First on the list, Ellis adds, is some kind of respite relief for Thomas, who must care for the children alone when they’re not in school. Ellis is hoping to find a volunteer organization that might provide this kind of service for Thomas: “Two or three hours a week would go a long way to give her a break.”

The Thomas twins also need speech and occupational therapy. Although they attend the special-needs program at Gulfstream Elementary as first-graders, neither boy receives any extra stimulation outside the classroom. In addition, the twins haven’t been assessed since a neurologist first diagnosed them with autism when they were 2.

The twins were put on a waiting list for services then, Thomas recalls, but did not receive any until they went to school when they turned 4.

“I need help,” Thomas says. “I don’t know what to do.”

The Thomas family can live in transitional housing for only a year, so they will have to find some form of subsidized permanent housing by July. Except for her sons’ disability check and food stamps, the family has no other source of income.

Thomas would like to get a job. She is currently attending Robert Morgan Educational School to finish her GED. After that, she wants to enroll in one of its vocational programs to receive certification either as a phlebotomist or patient-care technician. But she will take any job, she says.

“She’s proactive and has a very pleasant personality,” Ellis says, “so she would be a good addition. She is also working to improve her English.”

Ricky and Rocky aren’t toilet trained, so the family could use pull-up diapers, as well as clothing and shoes. The two older girls could benefit from a computer to help them with schoolwork, too. Ellis would also like Thomas to receive counseling to provide her with coping skills.

“She is truly deserving of help,” Ellis says. “She’s trying very hard to better herself.”

How to help: Wish Book is trying to help hundreds of families in need this year. To donate, pay securely at MiamiHerald.com/wishbook. To give via your mobile phone, text WISH to 41444. For information, call 305-376-2906 or email wishbook @MiamiHerald.com. (Most requested items: laptops and tablets for school, furniture, accessible vans.) Read more at MiamiHerald.com/wishbook

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