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.