You have probably heard that London McCabe, a six-year-old autistic boy, has been murdered by his mother. I want you to stop and remember that sweet boy, think about his utter terror as he was killed by the person he should have been able to trust the most in this world. I want you to mourn his loss. London deserved a long and happy life, and that was stolen from him.
And then I want you to get busy about what YOU can do to spread the word that disability does not justify abuse and murder. I want you to take The Autistic Self-Advocacy Network's statement on the Murder of London McCabe absolutely seriously, and share it as much as you can:
"Children and adults with disabilities murdered by their caregivers have a right to equal protection under the law; our murder deserve equal condemnation. Failing to do so not only insults the memory of the victims, but puts others in the future at risk."I also want you to think about the actions you can take to help prevent more such tragedies. London's mother feared autism, and said it was a "thief" that stole her son from her. She also made threats about harming herself and her son, threats that were not taken seriously enough by the people in her life. She also obviously wrongly convinced herself that her son would be better off dead than in an option like an emergency placement.
These are all things that contributed to London's death, and they are all things we can work towards changing. Here's how:
1) Spread the word about better understanding our kids, and understanding autistic people in general. Too many parents, like Gigi Jordan and Jillian McCabe, considered autism something that had "stolen" their child. Parents specifically should be trying to understand their autistic kids better, especially when it comes to communication. As neurospsychologist Dr. Jonine Biesman said in her recent TPGA interview:
"...instead of compliance, why don’t we think about how we can work cooperatively, together, and absolutely listen to not only your child’s cues, and what your child is saying. It’s really important, because sometimes your child is not only giving very strong messages, but is trying very hard to tell their parents what’s going to work for them and what’s not going to work for them -- and ignoring those cues can have some very dire consequences."2) Take parents' statements about harming or even being hostile towards their child seriously. When I interviewed ASAN's Samantha Crane about her work the Issy Stapleton case, she had specific thoughts on signs of potential violence:
"[Issy's mother] had been making statements about her frustration and clearly terrible relationship with her daughter, for a long time. We don’t take the position that there wasn’t anything that couldn’t have been done. But the intervention that needed to be done was someone noticing that this person was expressing persistent hostility towards her daughter, and noting that maybe that might be a dangerous situation, and intervening."3) Speak out about non-murder options. As I wrote at BlogHer, we need to spread the word that an emergency placement, or an out-of-home placement, is a always a more forgivable choice than murder:
"...we need to work past fear and misinformation, and get educated about what our support options are, both during emergencies, and in general. Misinformation can lead to tragedies, as when parents absorb media-propelled myths that it more understandable for a mother to try to kill her child than to call Child Protective Services (CPS) on herself if she's thinking about harming that child."And finally, keep pushing back against that pernicious, dangerous myth that parents won't kill their kids if they get enough services. That's not true. Issy Stapleton's mother had more services for her child than just about any person in the state of Michigan, and it didn't stop her from trying to murder her daughter. I'll leave you with another Samantha Crane quote:
"It is never acceptable to hold a child’s life hostage in the demand for more services. There are many things that we as a society can do to prevent these kinds of acts of violence. But those things need to be focused on preventing abuse, communicating that every person’s life is valuable, and detecting the warning signs of possible violence ahead of time, and really providing targeted anti-violence services rather than simply giving the parents more support in whatever therapy they want for their child and hoping that that will somehow improve the parent-child relationship. If the parent is so antagonistic toward their child that they’re contemplating violence, then something needs to change and it’s not the child — it’s the parent."