Once upon a time, I wrote an article about a man knocking his 19 year old autistic son down to the ground and kicking him after the son lost control at a restaurant. I was all kinds of outraged. This was in December of 2011 and my son Jordan had been officially diagnosed with autism a little over a year earlier.
I look at it now and think: Who the fuck did I think I was and what the fuck did I know?
Jordan is only mildly autistic. He has very few behavioral issues (so far) and he’s about as violent as a light breeze. Back then, I didn’t really understand a goddamn thing about autism or what it’s like for the parents. To be honest, I STILL don’t fully understand what parents of autistic children with behavioral issues go through. Some of the parents I’ve spoken to have their teenage children on anti-psychotic medication. No, not because they’re over-medicating their children but because their children cannot self-regulate their emotions; sometimes to the point of violence.
This, presumably, is why the father of the 19 year old felt he had to knock his son down. When I was 19, I was a 6’2″ and 220 pounds. Some of it fat, a lot of it not. Can you imagine someone like me flying into a violent and uncontrollable rage? I would be a threat to everyone around me. What choice would my father have had but to drop me and hope that I stayed down? The parents of adults and teens with autism, particularly those with behavioral disorders, deal with stress that parents of neurotypical children cannot begin to comprehend.
Some, like my friend the Irish Wench, have the rapturous joy of dealing with a high functioning autistic teen with violent mood swings. So not only does she have normal hormonal teenage bullshit to contend with, but also the reality that her now-bigger-than-she-is son might physically assault her.
Which brings us to Kelli Stapleton and her 14 year old daughter, Issy.
On Tuesday, Kelli tried to kill her daughter and commit suicide by way of carbon monoxide poisoning in the family van. They both survived but, as of this writing, Issy is still unconcious and doctors are concerned she suffered brain damage.
The reaction to this story has been quite polarized. One side is preaching compassion and understanding for Kelli while the other is baying for blood. The baying for blood side has gone so far as to accuse those who preach understanding of defending her actions:
Those people are defending, and because defending, condoning murder of Autistics and other people with disabilities.
Ah. I see. Well, my answer to that is to go fuck yourself.
No really, anyone who thinks that empathizing with a woman driven to such extremes is tantamount to condoning murder is a fucking moron. Quit the demagoging and contribute something useful to the conversation.
First, let me address the people with NT kids or no kids at all: Shut. Up. You cannot possibly understand what this woman has gone through. Period. End of line. Unless your child is (knock on wood) irrevocably damaged in an accident, you cannot even begin to glimpse the neverending horror of a parent with a severely autistic child. Try to imagine everything you hoped and dreamed of for your child disappearing in a puff of smoke with two words: Severely Autistic. Your child may never be able to tie their own shoe. Or pull on their own pants. Hell, they may never even be able to stop wearing diapers. They may never be able to speak a full sentence. My son is five and when he struggles to say “I love you” it sounds like “Eye uv ou” and what’s worse? I don’t know if he understands what those words mean or if he’s simply repeating them because we prompt him to. I choose to believe that he does because what other choice do I have?
That fleeting impression of the pain I suffer is a mere pebble compared to the mountain of agony a woman like Kelli Stapleton has lived with for over a decade.
Next, let me address the parents of disabled children who are still demanding Kelli Stapleton should die: What the hell is wrong with you? You know. You know. You know. You know the life we oh-so-lucky parents live. You, better than most, know that this is no easy road we walk down. How can you judge someone for falling to the wayside? That stupid little platitude “Life gives us what we can handle” is pure bullshit and you know it. Not everyone has the strength to soldier on. There are millions upon millions of people who can’t manage non-disabled kids and it surprises you that some can’t handle it when the roll of the genetic dice comes up snake eyes?
Now, feel free to accuse me of condoning Stapleton’s actions but, I repeat, go fuck yourself. We live in the richest country that has ever existed in the history of the human race and yet we parents of disabled kids have to fight and scratch for every service our children need and deserve. I have heard enough horror stories of autistic kids (and others) falling (or worse, being pushed) through the cracks to fill an ocean with tears. Instead of railing at this woman who could no longer shoulder the burden (and, yes, even though we love our children it IS a burden), why don’t you reserve your bile for the system that failed her? Who is to blame? She who struggled and failed or they who turned their backs and walked away?