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Calls to Action

Autism Speaks' Statement on Teen With Autism Left Alone in Basement

May 15, 2015

A 13-year-old teenager with autism in Brookfield, WI, was left to live alone "like an animal" in an unfinished basement for at least a year before being rescued from the home, according to local reports. The child was allegedly locked in the basement with no toilet or sink, forced to wear a diaper and not allowed to sit on furniture, according to Fox6Now

The Waukesha County Department of Health and Human Services was notified 10 times about concerns for the child's welfare, according to Fox6Now, but the New Berlin police investigations were closed due to insufficient evidence.

Autism Speaks released the statement below regarding the incident:

The system that is supposed to protect the most vulnerable members of our community failed this teenager, multiple times and at every level. It is important to investigate how this inhumane situation continued, despite numerous reports and visible signs of neglect and abuse.  

This heartbreaking case illustrates the need for a comprehensive approach to caring for people with autism, particularly those who cannot advocate for themselves. We urge families and communities to reach out for support, long before a difficult situation becomes a crisis. Last year alone, Autism Speaks' Autism Response Team answered 47,000 emails and phone calls seeking information and local resources. We have seen how effective parents, caregivers, schools, social services and  first responders can be when they join together to act with urgency and compassion.

The teen's mother and stepfather, Patrick and Alicyn Keller, have both pleaded not guilty to child neglect charges. The teenager is now living with her biological father and her grandparents.

Read more about the story on

Find resources from Autism Speaks on Recognizing and Preventing Abuse here.