A Suffolk County father is suing a local group home, alleging that his teen son with autism was abused.
Michael Schuch, of Mattituck, says his 19-year-old son Michael Jr. has autism, is nonverbal and requires 24-hour care.
The teen lives at the Developmental Disabilities Institute in Smithtown.
Schuch says he went to visit his then-17-year-old son for lunch at DDI last year and saw that Michael Jr. had cuts and scratches all over his arms.
“It was getting to me, irking me. He’s nonverbal as you can tell, he can’t say anything but ‘Let’s go Mets,’ and ‘I want a grilled cheese,’” says Schuch.
The father says he filed a complaint with the group home and received a response six months later. Schuch tells News 12 the institute told him they found security camera footage of several staff members and his son.
“One staff member was pouring water over his head as water torture to make him stop doing things like asking for food, basically for behavior modification,” says Schuch. “Sometimes I’ll go to bed and literally almost to tears thinking about my boy.”
Schuch says soon after this, DDI stopped answering his questions, which prompted him to hire a lawyer to sue the institute and find out who allegedly mistreated his son.
Schuch’s lawyer Brad Gerstman says, “Apparently the person who put the scratches into Michael Jr. is not the same person who waterboarded Michael Jr. So now you have two individuals in the home, of which we don’t know who they are.”
The CEO of DDI declined to go on camera, but issued a statement responding to the allegations against the institute, saying in part, “We are pleased that the Schuch family continues to entrust the care of their son to DDI… DDI has been transparent and cooperative to ensure any claim is fully investigated and appropriately addressed.”
Schuch says his son is still living at DDI while he searches for a new home to help him.
The Mattituck man hopes his lawsuit will shine a light on any more possible cases of mistreatment at the group home. His lawyers say they’ve also contacted the police.