9.16.2013

On Autism Murder Apologists

This is my Leo. He's 12 years old. He's autistic. Could you look him in the eye and tell him you understand why parents kill autistic kids like him, or indeed any disabled kid who needs full-time support?

You couldn't?

Is it because you assume he wouldn't understand you? (Ahem. Presume competence. How do you know he wouldn't understand?)

Is it because you've learned enough about autism to know that autistic people often find eye contact uncomfortable? (Then why didn't you take the time to find out that Leo isn't much for stereotypes and actually craves eye contact?)

Is it because you're a coward and can only say such things on the Internet? Because you mistakenly assume autistic kids and adults don't read what you write -- or if they do, then that proves they're not like your child and so don't get to join your conversations about their lives being devalued?

Or is it because you are a decent person and could never imagine doing such a thing, and understand that telling another person (or group of people) why their life isn't valuable is totally, beyond the pale, nastily, horribly, prejudicially, morally wrong?

I am so tired of people excusing the latest batch of parents who murdered or tried to murder their autistic children. First CBS News released a video justifying the murder of autistic teen Alex Spourdalakis by his mother and godmother. Then Issy Stapleton's mom tried to kill her, though thankfully did not succeed. And now Jaelen Edge and his sister Faith were both killed by their mother. In each case, almost all media outlets pounced on autism as a justification -- even People Magazine asserted that autism drives parents to despair, in the case of Issy. 

What kind of society, media, or community sympathizes with murderers instead of murder victims? Especially when the victims are children? Ask yourself this. Keep asking until you can't imagine autism ever being used an excuse for murder.

We've been fielding murder apologists at TPGA Facebook during these horrible few weeks. And I am just about done with such harmful and misplaced empathy. So I'm going to tell you what I've been telling the people who don't get it, what I wrote at BlogHer last week:
Just because you understand how difficult parenting can be does not mean you understand why someone would kill their autistic child. Those two subjects need to be separated by a brick wall.
That's another one you should feel free to repeat to yourself indefinitely. Keep the above picture of Leo in front of you while you chant, if you need to. Does Leo deserve to be stabbed? Does Leo deserve to be poisoned? Does Leo deserve to be trapped in a car with a couple of charcoal grills while carbon monoxide builds to toxic levels? NO. Neither did Alex, Issy, or Jaelen.

Most autism parents would never even think of harming their kids. Even when times are tough, they know their kids need their love and support, and are their responsibility. But some parents -- due to their own wiring -- may be at increased risk for despicable acts towards their children. When and if that risk is present, you need to ask yourself one final question: Do you want those parents to be constantly exposed to the message that society will forgive them for murdering their autistic children? Or do you want them to absorb that murder is wrong, murder is unacceptable, and that they have other options if they feel they can't continue?

I want Leo to grow up. I want Leo to feel valued. I don't want him to ever hear harmful messages about autistic kids' murders being justified.

I'd be grateful if you'd spread the message that it's not "understandable" to kill my son.

32 comments:

  1. Anonymous2:57 AM

    I read some of her blog. It's obviously that she was a loving, highly dedicated mother. All people are due equal protection under the law. In this case, it is obvious that she reached the end of her rope and snapped. This woman will be exonerated by temporary insanity, and rightfully so.

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    Replies
    1. There is and cannot be ANY justification for such a horrible act. The simple fact that you feel you have to post anonymously shows that even you lack conviction in the position that you are taking.
      There is a word for people like you.... its "Troll"
      This one has had its 15 seconds of attention. Don't give it any more...

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    2. Thirded. With a side-order of you gutless wonder, Anonymous. I actively go out and dare people in person to tell me how wonderful Kelli Stapleton is to my face. Even with my rasping breath and increasingly unsteady body, they cannot. Because confronted with an actual autistic individual as opposed to a dehumanised stereotype, they cannot. The first step for people like you is to admit to yourself that you are not seeing Issi as a person.

      Maybe if you can take that step, I might bother taking the step of seeing you as something other than something to stamp on the head of. But given that I have to read every day of autistic children being murdered or people attempting to murder autistic children, and suckiest sucks that ever sucked like you trying to excuse them in the suckiest manner possible, I doubt it.

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    3. "Snapped?" This is not a woman who shook a screaming baby (though that is reprehensible to the extreme, as well). This is a woman who took the time to purchase grills and charcoal...to drive her daughter to a secluded location...to light the grills and wait, all the while watching as her daughter was perishing in the car. At any moment, this woman could have changed course. This is not woman at the "end of her rope" and did something crazy in a moment of desperation. This was premeditated - planned and executed. Not that it would matter. Not that it would make it any less heinous if she did "snap." But nonetheless, I think there is a psychological distinction, if not a moral one.

      I think it is worth mentioning, too, that this mother was - by her own accounting - repeatedly advised to place her daughter in foster care. It is clear that there were indications of problems long before this single transgression, and that this child suffered for a long time prior to these most recent events. As horrific as I find the actions of this "mother," I find it equally troubling that none of the social workers who first expressed concerns for the welfare of the child saw fit to pursue action, and to keep the child safe. It is commentary both on the social value of persons with autism, as well as comment on a system that so often fails the most vulnerable among us.

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    4. Coward, this post has nothing to do with the law or whether or not she'll be convicted. It has everything to do with public and private perceptions of autistics and the people who decide to kill them. We all have a voice, and I'd like to see more autistic people survive long enough to find and share theirs.

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    5. She should have stopped at the first sign that HE WANTED TO LIVE and called someone. And the "godmother" should have done that, too. Defense of premeditated murder is sickening. She may have loved him at one point earlier in his life. That point was gone by the time she spent HOURS murdering him. It'd about as relevant as what color socks she was wearing at the time of the murder.

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    6. She can be a loving mother all she wants, but there is NO EXCUSE for attempting (or succeeding) in killing your child. Snapped or no, it doesn't matter. I understand it can be difficult to get help a lot of the time - god knows we struggle plenty with my autistic niece and nephew - but dammit, you make it work, not fucking murder your child(ren).

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    7. I've read her blog also, and listened to the radio interview where the professionals quickly figured out the problem was her, not her daughter, and I watched the video where her three children were instructed to place her kittens in the clothes dryer and the microwave and where Issy was instructed to place a kitten in the oven. She had help, she got donations, and she vacationed solo just fine. She attempted to murder her daughter just 3 days after her daughter completed 8 months of care away from home. The entire idea that she was overwhelmed or suddenly snapped is ludicrous. Shame on you for falling for her narcissistic attempts to gain attention for herself while using her daughter to gain notoriety and donations. Her daughter was healing in her absence. the 'mother' appeared to have expected to be able to browbeat the teacher. the teacher, while being yelled at by the 'mother' said, "you are not my boss". oops. someone dared stand up to her tantrums. So it appears she staged an even bigger tantrum to get her own way. Do you really believe she was going to kill herself too? I don't. Why was her daughter so much worse with carbon monoxide poisoning than she was? why was she able to speak to the officers at the scene while her daughter took many days to recover? Oh, that's right, she left a message for her husband who evidently knew exactly where they would be for the emergency personnel to 'rescue' her. People who are standing up for her now are hurting all parents of autistic children each time they say her actions were anything close to being 'understandable'. Attempting to murder one's own child is a serious crime and I hope the prosecutors are successful in getting her convicted and her sentence reflects the seriousness of her actions. Shame on you for hurting parents of autistic children for making excuses for her.

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  2. Just love the Anonymous internet cowards. A loving, highly dedicated mother who kills her child is .... a murderer. And I'm guessing you're talking about Issy's mother -- so no, she coldly planned her daughter's murder. That's not snapping. But thanks for playing, and proving my points on so many levels.

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  3. If you are in Ireland and have been affected by any of the issues in this post, please contact http://www.samaritans.org/how-we-can-help-you to discuss options for crisis support.

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  4. Gee, I thought Issy's mother's blog showed that she was the type of mother who subjected her daughter to abusive therapy methods that would cause Issy to "snap", 'Anonymous'. Are we talking about the same woman?

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  5. also read the blog. didn't see "a loving, highly dedicated mother". saw a woman with serious issues exposing her own child to ridicule, humiliation and judgement by total strangers. with GIFs!
    I am pleased to see so many parents that are speaking up against this 'justification' of murder in the media and by other parents of autistic children. this has to stop. i am not part of that "community".

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  6. Anonymous6:38 AM

    Please DON'T MIX one thing with another diffferent. Regardless if the kid was autistic or extraterrestrial, she will kill her own child. She is a criminal and must pay for that. I have momments that I feel how is going to be the rest of my child's life if I am not there to protect him and take car of him, but killing and living to tell it... Burn in hell, criminal one, no excuses...

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  7. Thank you! I have been appalled at the people I have seen excusing these acts because of how hard it is to raise a child with autism. Yes autism is hard but trust me losing my child would be harder. There is no way I would ever consider taking his innocent life.

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  8. There is nothing "understandable" or "excusable" about murder. The mothers of Alex Spourdalakis, Issy Stapleton, Jaelen and Faith Edge, are all guilty of one of the most grievous evils mankind can commit: the betrayal of kin. Dante wrote about it when he described Caïna, the first ring of the ninth circle of Hell, but he was inaccurate in his writings. Caïna does not exist as he wrote it. Not so long as murderers are pardoned and cheered.

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  9. Lesley Noble2:49 PM

    It breaks my heart. Those poor children.

    I do not understand the murder apologists, either. There is major cognitive dissonance there.

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  10. *Autistic Person Commenting*

    Why even acknowledge the hurtful opinions of some who want nothing more than to purge the entire autistic community?

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    Replies
    1. I'm also autistic, and my opinion would be that we must confront and acknowledge these scum because if not, they are basically free to spread virulence and lies unchecked. If we ignore them, we are painted as having nothing with which to counter.

      I hate to Godwin, but I really can't think of a better example: all these apologists are no better than the "good Germans" who stood by and watched their countrymen be slaughtered under Hitler.

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  11. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!! I love you for speaking the truth so clearly.

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  12. We get away with killing the disabled because they are not human. People are exonerated because the presumption of the other's pain equals merciful acts. We all lose because two (or more) human lives are lost, the murderer's and the victim's.

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  13. Aunty Jack8:28 AM

    I am autistic and I think if we respond to violence with abuse and hate we reinforce the idea that we are violent and hateful to be with. Cries of pain are right but we need a private venue for grief and should not be polluting our own opportunities to remember those children by doing, actively doing, positive things to change the fact that there is no guaranteed safe place. Do not ever think that fostering or group homes is a reliable option. They are frequently nothing more than farms for the unwanted. What is required is that we use an autistic ability - the ability to separate and use the anger and pain to educate, negotiate and show who we really are. Capable, responsible and generally good people who are worth the investment of time, energy and appropriate supports.

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  14. Resources from the Autistic community for those who might be having a crisis. http://tool-kit-autistic-alternative.blogspot.com/

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  15. What is this, Ancient Greece? Killing your children because they are not perfect went out more than two millennia ago. My stepson has Asperger's Syndrome and I would never even think of harming him.

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  16. Anonymous 1, it seems by your comment that you're messed in the head.

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  17. I am doing this subject as part of my dissertation and, as the mother of an 11 year old boy with autism, I am absolutely stunned by the feigned empathy. What selfishness! Yes, these mothers may have a tough time with their kids, but I know typically developing kids that give their mothers a worse time! (I live in the same neighborhood as Tyler Witt...my daughter had her in class!) Those budding sociopaths make any child with autism appear benign.

    However, I would suggest that what is not seen here is exactly what the author of this blog proposes: The mothers have their own wiring issues going on. In each case, you see some behavior that contradicts typical bonding that most mothers feel for their children. Even with the violent autism, most parents fight tooth and nail to find a solution. I know several personally. The frustration for the child becomes amplified in the teen years due to the hormone shift and the lack of a functioning prefrontal cortex. In addition, if anyone read the blog, the mothers are heavily invested in either making their children NOT be autistic (which is impossible) or heavily invested in the blame game. Neither will work, and both will lead them to a sense of failure, which could explain the suicidal actions. I would suggest, simply because each mother attempted suicide along with ending their child's life, it was aggravated suicide attempts (similar to what we see in the story, "Beloved.") Either way, they have crossed a line of insanity, not because their children drove them to it, but because they refused to accept the possible gifts their children can offer this world AS THEY ARE. It is NOT autism that is causing this behavior, but the same despair that leads anyone to commit suicide. They need mental health support, but there is NO WAY anyone can justify killing a child. NO WAY!

    BTW, my son makes videos on Youtube and loves doing it. He communicates this way, and would be lost without his iPad or computer. Issy was being denied her iPad unless she had "quiet hands and feet." How many neuro typical types bounce their feet or tap a pencil or click a pen over and over? How many of the readers spew trucker talk when frustrated using the F bomb liberally? That is a form of self-stim behavior and echolalia. We all do it. It is NORMAL. What isn't normal is the way kids with autism don't give a shit what another person thinks about them doing it.

    Someday, I want to be like my kid!

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  18. When someone is comatose family members and staff are told to be careful what they say in their presence. So, New Rule: If you can't say it in the presence of someone who is comatose then you can't say in front of someone who is not. Always presume competence.

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  19. Murder is a selfish act, end of story. It deserves no pity whatsoever. None.

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  20. Bravo for this column. (Disclosure: I hate eye contact but I do it anyway because I have been socialized to do so).

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Respectful disagreement encouraged.

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