Connecticut’s only inpatient juvenile autism treatment facility expanding

NEW BRITAIN, Conn. (WTNH) — 14-year-old Ben Ciufolo and his mom Lisa Candera are on a journey. Ben opened up about his inpatient stays at the Hospital for Special Care’s inpatient autism center.

News 8’s Lisa Carberg asked if it helped him.

“I always have my hard days but it’s at a level where it’s manageable because we’re all going to have a bad day. When something really hard happens and that will happen, I want to be kind of like the same… I have all these tools I can use,” Ciufolo said.

Ciufolo and his mom moved to Simsbury where he was acclimating well. But when COVID-19 hit, his behavior and coping skills declined. They starting having trips to a local emergency room in search of help.

That is where Candera learned about the Hospital for Special Care’s Autism Inpatient Unit and got Ben admitted twice. Finally, she felt like the doctors there truly understood their journey and listened.

“I have been put off a lot by doctors saying things like, ‘well, it’s COVID, everybody’s stressed, everybody’s anxious,’ type of thing. He really understood the gravity of the situation and he was ready to act, and it just felt like finally, right, like a big sense of relief,” Candera said.

WEB EXTRA: Lisa Candera discusses her son’s autism diagnosis, treatment at Hospital for Special Care

Candera has made it part of her life to help other mothers like her who are navigating treatment for children with autism through her work at The Autism Mom Coach.

On Wednesday, the inpatient facility will almost double their in-house beds for kids to 20. Treatment is intensive and is for parents who are out of options.

“An inpatient unit really is designed to help those types of children that cannot be managed at home to help stabilize them. Of course, with the longer term goal always of returning them to their home and to their schools where they can continue getting treatment on a long-term basis,” said Dr. Hassan Minhas, the hospital’s chief of autism services.

So many autistic children are currently in need of this treatment.

“Just today I got a call from a neighboring state with a child who’s been stuck in their ER for 20 months. So that just goes to show the need, and we’ve actually seen kids from 17 states across the United States come to us for care,” said Lynn Ricci, Hospital for Special Care’s CEO.