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Autism a Problem

Raising Five Sons Alone Takes a Toll on a Mother’s Body

NEW YORK--Though Melissa Ferrer moved into her new home in July, she has refused to paint her sons’ bedroom walls blue. She does not dare get too comfortable, a symptom of her years of homelessness. Mrs. Ferrer, 33, is a single mother of five sons. All of them have spent portions of their childhoods in New York City’s shelter system. What made the experience even worse, Mrs. Ferrer said, was that her three youngest children--Aiden Soto, 3; Angel Soto, 7; and Justin Ferrer, 8--are autistic. They also have attention deficit disorder and anxiety disorders. “It’s not a good life,” she said. “It’s hard and it’s stressful and it hurts. Not only for me to live that life but to see the children living that life and to know you’re not stable.” Last year, she made a successful bid for affordable housing in the Bronx. But in her haste to move, she signed the rental agreement without proper due diligence. The apartment flooded every time it rained. Mold grew on the walls. The heat did not work. Insulation was shoddy. Bugs wiggled up through broken floorboards, traumatizing Justin, who has an insect phobia. “I’ve never seen anything like that in my life, and I lived in shelters,” MRS. Ferrer said. “Animals were...

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