We read the news and its one awful story after another. A mother attempts to kill her severely autistic teenager daughter in a murder suicide attempt and fails. The daughter, Issy Stapleton, is by the doctor's description making a miraculous recovery. Her mother is in jail charged with attempted murder.
Then there's Alex Spourdalakis. His mother allegedly murdered him by stabbing him four times in the chest with a knife after she failed at overdosing him with sleeping pills. She was to take her own life that night with same fatal dose of sleeping pills but somehow survives.
Every one of these stories is gut wrenching and difficult to hear and every single one gets my blood boiling.
I have an autistic teenage son and while he is definitely not a violent child, I have had and still have tremendous amount of challenges and stressors that I deal with on a daily basis, as I am sure many parents with special needs children do. I know the struggles first hand. We run on empty every day all day. We are on call 24/7. We are their parent, caregiver and therapist and most often it is simultaneously.
So what gets me so upset, aside from the obvious (heinously treating and murdering autistic children)? The dehumanization of an autistic child when they are thrown into a padded room or put in isolation because of their behaviour; the dehumanization of an autistic child by putting them in a cage or dungeon-like living quarters and treating them worse than you would treat a dog. The dehumanization of an autistic child by seeing only violent behaviour and justifying somehow that murdering them is the only option.
Where is the human factor in all of this? They are human beings just like you and I. Autistic people have feelings and thoughts of their own. Some may be non-verbal but that doesn't mean they can't express what they feel in another form. Some autistic people communicate with gestures while others use computers. To assume that they have no emotions or thoughts of their own is a huge injustice to them.
Putting an autistic child in a padded room for hours because of their behavior is first and foremost dehumanizing and secondly will serve no positive outcome. I'm not sure why these rooms even exist. Would you put a "neurotypical" child in one of these rooms for discipline?
In the case of Alex Spourdalakis, some people have sympathized with the mother saying she had no support from a system that ignored her pleas for help and because of society's failure to support her she was therefore left with no other choice but to brutally murder her son.
Alex was a human being. Nobody had the right to take away his life. His mother felt that she did. How? I don't understand. How do parents lock their autistic child in a cage for years? I don't know.
While I do sympathize with parents who have to handle a child with violent behaviour, I will never understand how a parent can murder their own child. I don't think I ever will. That is just my opinion.
My son can't tell me everything that happens in his day. He often doesn't understand what he has to do and needs things to be repeated a few times. Does this make him less of a human being?
In reading some of these articles I have come across some news outlets that have tried to show autism as a monster, an awful malady that causes great harm and distress. A disease that not only changes the course of one's life but literally takes away the existence of the one you have. I completely disagree with this. Nobody can predict what the future holds. It is in the most difficult times that you cannot give up. We are our children's best advocate. They need us to help them thrive. If they can't depend on us, who can they depend on?
It truly breaks my heart when I hear stories such as these. The innocent victims who have done nothing wrong but, in the eyes of their caretakers and in some cases their parents, their only mistake was being born with autism.
According to the most recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates, 1 in 68 children in the United States has an autism spectrum disorder, based on health and education records. That figure represents a significant increase from previous prevalence estimates, released in 2012, which estimated that 1 in 88 have an ASD.
Autism is roughly five times more common in boys than girls, according to CDC estimates. One in 42 boys have been identified with autism, compared to 1 in 189 girls. Children born to older parents are also more likely to have an ASD.
According to the NIH, early indicators include: No babbling or pointing by age 1, no single words by 16 months, poor eye contact, little to no smiling or other social responses and more. (Click here for more information from NIH.) The CDC says, "Health care providers will often use a questionnaire or other screening instrument to gather information about a child’s development and behavior. Some screening instruments rely solely on parent observations, while others rely on a combination of parent and doctor observations. If screening instruments indicate the possibility of an ASD, a more comprehensive evaluation is usually indicated.”
According to the Child Mind Institute both genetic and environmental factors could contribute.
Autism is treated with therapy, education plans and medication. Doctors and scientists say that early identification and intervention for children with an ASD can help them thrive in academically and socially in the future. There are still studies being done to find better treatments and perhaps one day, even a cure. A paper in Cell, a scientific journal, discussed a study with more insight into what could cure autism. The study found that feeding rats with similar symptoms to autism a gut bacteria called B. fragilis lead to an improvement in their behavior. "They became less anxious, communicated more with other mice, and showed less repetitive behavior,” according to the Atlantic.
Even when multiple vaccines are given to a child on the same day, they are still not at risk of developing autism.
Studies have also shown that if a child with an ASD has an identical twin, the other will be affected anywhere from 36-95 percent of the time.
There is an 83% chance of co-occurrence for developmental disorders and a 10% chance for psychiatric disorders. These disorders include Bipolar Disorder, Fragile X syndrome and Down syndrome according to the CDC.
Children whose language skills regress before they turn 3 have been found to have a higher risk of developing epilepsy.
The CDC recommends children be screened when the are 9, 18 and 24-30 months.
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