Indian couple in US sued over autistic son’s behaviour

Washington, Sep 19 (IANS) An Indian couple is being sued in the US state of California, alleging that their autistic son is a “public nuisance” and created an “as-yet unquantified chilling effect” on the otherwise ‘hot’ local real estate market”, a media report said.

Vidyut Gopal and Parul Agrawal got slapped with a lawsuit filed by their two neighbours. They were ultimately forced to leave their home of seven years in Sunnyvale, one of the major cities that make up Silicon Valley, the San Jose Mercury News reported on Thursday.

“This has been pretty devastating for us, but we are doing our best to cope with it,” Gopal, an engineer at a Silicon Valley company, was quoted as saying.

The couple’s hired caregivers gave the boy special medication and put him in therapeutic classes after neighbours complained about the young boy pulling children’s hair, biting a woman and other menacing behaviour.

Last year, the couple was slapped with a lawsuit that alleges the boy’s disruptive behaviour created an “as-yet 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”.

To the Indian-origin parents’ dismay, 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 neighbourhood or their personal property.

Next week, a judge will hear arguments about whether the plaintiffs should have access to the boy’s school and medical records.

Agrawal, a research scientist at NASA Ames Research Centre, said they remain focused on helping their son. But they hope this case “will raise awareness about autism and educate the public” about the challenges that families of children with autism face.

Parents of children with autism fear that such lawsuits could be slapped against them as well.

“What scared us in the Bay Area is that there are thousands of kids just like this one,” Jill Escher, president of the board of the Autism Society of the San Francisco Bay Area, was quoted as saying.

Meanwhile, Gopal and Agrawal have decided not to return to their former home, which they have now rented to another family.

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