I don't know if you saw yesterday's horrible, tragic news about the Sunnnyvale mother who killed her 22 year old autistic son and then herself. It's awful. It should never have happened. It is never OK to kill a child, there are no excuses for doing so, not even the caregiver fatigue and desperation that every news story I've read is citing.
However, as the media insists on covering this solely as an issue of autism and caregiver fatigue, I will address that issue as well -- and say that there was a lot more than autism and caregiver isolation going on. They were a family that needed more support than they were getting.
I'm sure the details will come out in the media eventually. What you need to know now -- whether you're part of the autism communities or not -- is that the family did not have enough options when their son transitioned out of school -- Leo's school, as it happens, where every last member of the community is devastated and reeling. Where the son was a cherished student for many years.
The son was welcome to transition to Leo's school's adult program, but, as reported in the news, his mother didn't feel it was the right option for him. However she was also not able to find other options. And that, the media is insisting, was likely a catalyst in an already unstable situation.
We need to find better options for young adults with autism and developmental disabilities as they transition out of school and into .... where? We need structure, options, policy ... and to ensure that all our kids have options when their yellow school buses stop showing up.
Ironically, yesterday was a banner day on the internet for discussing school to adulthood transition options. I recommend reading the following articles (three from yesterday, one from a couple of weeks ago) and then let's talk about what the hell we can DO to support all our kids in the transition to their own version of successful adulthood:
- Charlotte Moore at Thinking Person's Guide to Autism: Sam, at Nineteen: On Transitions and Autistic School-Leavers:
- Laura Shumaker at SF Gate: Community Building 101 for Adults with Disabilities: FRED Conference provides actionable information
- Jenee Woodward at HuffPo: Parenting Adults With Autism:
- Kate Winslet's Golden Hat Foundtion, at Thinking Person's Guide to Autism: thinkingautismguide.blogspot.com/2012/02/kate-winslets-autism-awareness-project.html
Charlotte Moore talking about school to adulthood transition, on the YouTube channel for Ambitious about Autism: