In light of the murder/suicide of a mother and her autistic son in Vancouver this month I'd like to take a moment to address the topic. After all this isn't the first time that the frustration of raising an autistic child has led to the death of an autistic individual and their caregiver. Sadly, this is normally at the hands of the caregiver. This issue perplexes me. I can't fathom the amount of hopelessness it must take to carry out such a heinous act. I do, however, know what it is like to feel completely hopeless living with autism.
In case you haven't read the story; April 3rd Canadian mother Angie Robinson and her 16 year old son, Robert, were found dead in their home. It was ruled a murder/suicide. Robert had been diagnosed with autism at an early age and as of lately Angie had been desperately searching for help for her son. It is reported that Robert was twice the size of Angie and she had told family members how concerned she was becoming with how difficult it was to handle him. Early last month the Huffington Post reports that Robert had put his head through the window of his mother's truck during a meltdown. Angie received respite care but it wasn't really doing a whole lot to help so she had recently inquired about residential care for Robert. A decision NO parent takes lightly. However she was turned away with no help. They didn't have help for her, nothing was available. The day before she died Angie posted this on her Facebook page: "More, more, more needs to be done for our teens with special needs,
they are neglected... Canada needs more residential and respite care for
families hoping to keep their children at home."
As I said, this is NOT the first instance of this occurring. "I have to admit I am suffering from a severe case of battle fatigue" Kelli Stapleton wrote on her online blog in September 2013. Later her and her daughter, Isabella, were found dead of carbon monoxide poisoning. Kelli had sealed herself and her autistic daughter inside of a van and lit a charcoal grill. In December 2013 police in an Alabama town found the body of a lady in her home but couldn't find her autistic son. They later found him drown. She had drown him outside and set the house on fire with herself in it. A Mrs. Karen McCarron was sentenced to 36 years in prison in 2008 for the suffocation of her 3 year old autistic daughter, Katie. During the taped confession Karen told the police that she just "wanted a life without autism". One last example, A lady named Wendolyn Markcrow couldn't handle the stress of raising her 12 year old autistic son, Patrick. He had severe sleep issues that left Wendolyn without many opportunities to sleep. She tried everything she could to help her son, EVERYTHING, but nothing worked. One day she snapped and put a plastic bag over his head. She admitted to screaming for him to be quiet the whole time she was suffocating him.
As autistic mothers we live and breathe for our babies, sorry, but even more so than the typical mother. The things that we 'deal' with and 'cry for' are things that normally never cross the minds of the typical parent. We do it with a grace and dignity that most couldn't muster up if their life depended on it. We go DAYS without sleeping, we get beat by our children during meltdowns, we sit in fight in IEP meetings for our children to get the basic services they need to progress, to learn. We work continuously with our children just to teach them to talk, which in some cases can take 6 or 7 years, sometimes they never speak. Think about that- some of us NEVER hear "I LOVE YOU MOMMY". I didn't until my son was 6. Some weeks we have 5 or more appointments for our children, just to help them function. All while hearing family member give us issues about us not being able to have a job outside our homes, when are we suppose to have the time? We know more laws and medication interactions than a police officer or a pharmacist. We do all this with a smile, even if it is fake at times. We have few breaks, if any at all, and NO ONE understands what it is like to be us, to live our life, unless they too live it. The stress we feel is unmatched by most. BUT when faced with situations like described above, what is the first reaction of most of us? To become angry with the mother. How hypocritical of us. I too am to blame.
These women lived lives similar to ours, and if you don't have an autistic child than they lived lives you can NEVER imagine so how dare you judge. We, as autistic parents, know the hopelessness, the feeling that nothing is ever going to help. Or most of us do. While we may not ever understand the actual act these mothers committed, we certainly understand how they felt in the days, weeks, or months leading up to the tragedies, at least to a point. Why aren't we all talking about this stuff all the time? Why aren't more of us bringing attention to the need for more services, better programs, and funding.
I am so glad that there are a few joining me in saying that something HAS to change, there has to be definite measures put into place when it comes to these circumstances. NO PARENT SHOULD EVER FEEL SO DESPERATE FROM HEARING "NO" SO MANY TIMES THAT THEY FEEL DEATH IS THE ONLY OPTION! As Debroah Pugh, from ACT (Autism Community Training) said,“We need to develop proper systems and we need to have a situation where
a family who’s desperate actually knows where to go and they can’t be
told ‘we have nothing for you'. There should be a guarantee that a family who is in desperate circumstances can actually get support.” This is something that none of us can afford to become 'The Norm'. No doubt that a large number of people now know some one with an autistic child. Maybe it's time that, as a society, you become more aware of the dark side of this disorder.