Where was I when Kelli needed help?

So, as an administrator of Parenting Autistic Children with Love and Acceptance, I’ve seen a lot of questions from parents asking, “Where were you when Kelli Stapleton needed help with her daughter, Issy?”  And, “Did you donate to Issy’s treatment?”  These questions are asked of Autistic activists and parents of Autistic children who are outraged at the attempted murder of Issy by her own mother, Kelli.  Those that have zero empathy for Kelli.  Those that believe that parents that would murder their own disabled children are as accountable as parents that murder their own non-disabled children–and that the prosecution of these criminals should reflect that without exception.

Oh no, you do not get to lay the blame of this massive tragedy at my feet or at those of Autistic activists.

Let me start by telling you where was.

I was first, and foremost, taking care of my own children.  Taking care of myself.  My children will always come before everything else.  If that makes me a bad person,  so be it.

I had never heard of Kelli until Kelli tried to kill Issy.  But had I heard of her, I can tell you that I would not have “liked” the Facebook page which was designed, as best as I can tell, to raise funds for ABA treatment for Issy.  I would have especially not liked the page if I had seen this video of Issi having reacting to being told to have “quiet hands and feet” after her own mother told her that she was going to be her “worker” for the day.  No, no I would not like that.  I don’t like that.

Had I known of Kelli and Issi, I might have tried to reach out with suggestions that, perhaps, the intervention style employed, ABA, was one of the causes of Issy’s physical reactions.  But honestly?  Probably not, because I have made suggestions of a similar nature to parents in Kelli’s clique and have been attacked.

Had I known of Kelli and Issi, and seen Kelli’s blog, I might have suggested that Kelli not use language which degraded and humiliated Issy.  I might have indicated that I thought it was extremely disrespectful to Issy, for Kelli to regularly characterize her as “violent” on her blog.  I might have said that the language she used to describe her own daughter was hateful.  But I suspect that I could not have worded this in a way that would have incited unrest from that same clique.  So I probably would have decided against that because I haven’t been able to do that effectively in the past.

Had I known that Kelli was on the brink of trying to kill Issi?  I would have reported it to authorities.  I would have done anything in my power to stop that.  But as I did not know Kelli, I will have to leave that question at the feet of her friends who had a more intimate understanding of what Kelli was thinking.

As far as Autistic activists go…I cannot account for their time and do not feel that this is the question that we should be asking.  I know that many adult Activists spend countless hours warning against the dangers of abusive therapies and interventions.  I know that they spend countless hours responding to blog posts similar to Kelli’s and are met with angry hostility.  And I know that adult activists, many who live on disability, do not have funds to spare for treatments for a child.  Especially the same treatments that they received as children which caused them PTSD–from which they continue to suffer.

So I am reading these questions.  And deleting them on my facebook page.  And I am reading blogs written by Kelli’s friends and the comments that folks are making on these blogs.

And I am disturbed.  Disturbed to see so many parents of Autistic children saying, “this could be me.”

So what am I doing about that now?  Well I am posting a list of ways for parents who are thinking about harming/killing their children to seek crisis intervention on my parent page.  Because, yes, if you can actually see yourself in this situation–one where you can imagine yourself actually harming your own child, you are already knee deep in crisis.

And when I come across these comments, I will report them and hope for the best.  I’m not a crisis interventionist.  That’s all I am qualified to do.

I wish that I could do more.  But unless I know the person, that is the best I can do.  And I probably will never know a person that would even conceive of killer her child.  Why? Because I tend to choose my friends carefully and would be murderers probably won’t make the shortlist.

So to those asking where I’ve been, I hope that answers your question.  And I hope that the fact that I have taken the liberty of answering where I will be when I encounter comments of those that are already on the road to killing a child will render future questions, from friends of attempted murderers attempting to lay the blame on anyone but the murderers and those that had intimate knowledge of the plight of endangered children, unnecessary.

I hope that friends of Kelli will stop asking why people are trying to “vilify” Kelli and come to understand that Kelli is already a villain.  No vilification necessary.  And maybe, just maybe, they will be in a better position to spot other potential villains among their ranks.

38 thoughts on “Where was I when Kelli needed help?

  1. This is what I responded to a parent about where we, autistic activists, were and what we will do for Issy now. And she told us to “go back to our holes”.

    “We have been writing blogs that explain why certain practices are not helpful and harms us; we have been talking to parents that listen to our experiences, accept their children as they are and do not try to fix them by making them have quiet hands; we were protesting the bad treatment in schools, pushing for inclusion, asking that more money be spent in services instead of causation or cure research. We have not been hiding, we have been very open and we still are. But some parents like to make fun of how we are and then say that we are not like my child. We explained that too. If you read anything I wrote, you know. If you don’t you cannot say I was hiding because my stuff is all over. And I don’t live in a hole. And we will do for Issy what Issy wants us to do for her. She is a person, not a prop. And she will grow up to be an adult. The autistic community also embraced me as soon as I said: I am here. Issy will be embrace too if she wants that”

  2. I feel compassion and empathy for the mom and Issy. The mom was repeatedly physically hurt by a loved one – her daughter. That has to make you crazy. I might feel differently if she tried to kill Issy without trying to kill herself.

    I’m not excusing the mom in any way. There is no excuse for murder or suicide. I just feel for her situation. She was desperate and led her to act in an evil way. Unless your child is giving you black eyes and concussions, how can we really know what we’d do.

    • Non disabled kids hurt their parents too.
      Yes, Issy maybe hurt her mother. Her mother tried to kill her. Not the same thing.
      And since when the response to aggression by a child is attempted murder?
      I know what many mothers did not do. They did not try to murder their children.

    • It makes no difference to me that she attempted to kill herself as well as her child. I am not, totally, convinced that Kelli intended to kill herself. As in, why were there such differences in the results of suicide attempt–Kelli making a full recovery so quickly vs. what Issy faced and continues to face. And why the hell, if Kelli was in the car the entire time, wasn’t there a sign of struggle from her violent and overpowering daughter? Maybe she got in the car later. Maybe her daughter wasn’t as violent as she lead the world to believe.

      • “Maybe” is the key word here; We don’t know what went on that day. All I know is that something horrible happened. Maybe if mental health was treated as the illness that it is, it would have never gotten this far.

        I feel empathy for the mom as I do for anyone that is abused. That goes for the child too because obviously she was abused.

        All the hate and vile comments thrown at the mother is not helping Issy or the rest of the family. It’s making me sick that there is no empathy in this country. It’s really disgusting.

    • I am an autistic woman whose neurotypical niece has a history of being violent towards. My niece is now 18, living with me, and continues to be emotionally and mentally abusive towards me, and I’m the person who remembered all her birthdays and chose to raise her with love. She is mean to me because she thinks herself better than me, because she knows she can take frustration out on me, not because of mental conditions. I would never, never hurt her. To hurt her and to hate her would only teach her more violence and more hate.

      Please don’t say autistic people can’t understand. We put up with and hide abuse so much more than do people who are not disabled.

      • i think it’s important to understand that abuse can take many forms. a parent who fights ‘claws and teeth’ for their autistic child can still be abusive if the measures they put in place are completely inadequate for the condition/behaviour or just that one individual child. without even mentioning the quax methods like cheling (sp?) or packing (practised still in France by some health professionals) we need to truly observe what triggers the always reactive fight or flee mechanisms of our children, verbal or not.
        it’s is obvious Isabelle’s “aggressions” were communicating extreme distress and she was not heard. too many people suffer abuse and hide it or find it hard to communicate it.
        listening to just one side of the story can not give us any answer to what has happen or help us find ways to prevent it from happening again elsewhere.

  3. I’m over on your Parenting Autistic Children w/ Love & Acceptance page right now deciding how to answer a parent’s question about why I don’t like ABA. I’m curious about how you’re able to tolerate moderating this group? I’ve only just joined, but have seen so many parents posting advice that makes me shudder and cringe. Anyhow, I think your blog is all kinds of amazing. Thanks for writing it!

    • Thank you! Moderating can be um trying sometimes. Thankfully, I have help from other like-minded parents and Autistic adults. We *try* to delete all of the really really really horrible stuff, firmly correct the really really horrible stuff, gently correct the really horrible stuff, and post counter-information for the horrible stuff. That said, we miss stuff all the time. Our ban list is almost as long as the member list. And I have had a few meltdowns of my own (ON PARENT COMMENTS), which have been deleted–so I wouldn’t say I tolerate it well 🙂

      • Love your blog, too, Alyssa! I admire you both for your moderating and ban hammering and writing and advocating. It must be exhausting and frustrating to keep having to deal with the same crap over and over and over again.

  4. Liza, do you know that the mother actually planned in details this crime? This is not desperation, it is cold blood. The days she prepared what she had to buy, set up. She woke up the next day, and the next, and the next and never thought about talking to a friend? And went on with the plan? And your use of mental illness is ableist. And another excuse. Was she ill or desperate?
    Where is your empathy for Issy? You are not so quick in imagining how Issy might have felt. Or to speculate if she was abused.

    • Agree 100% how can we be expected to empathize with someone who had premeditated a murder/suicide? People want to put more focus on what issy did to her mother and not on what Kelli tried to do as if she gets a pass because of what she was going through it doesn’t make any sense nothing is issys fault she’s an innocent child who needs guidance love and understanding…women who experience postpartum and attempt to murder or successfully murder their child/children are not considered victims so why does she get sympathy? With all the crimes against autistic children over the last couple of years and most of the parents that didn’t die with them don’t see any jail time because their “hardships” raising an autistic child somehow justify the crime…its time to stop letting them get away and making people see autism as a negative like the black sheep and its really quite the opposite…

    • I agree 100% — it was straight up pre-meditated murder to buy charcoal grills, drive to a remote location, try to murder her daughter. Killing herself? It’s Kelli’s life; she’s entitled to take it if she no longer wishes to be on this plant. Taking her DAUGHTER’s life? No. Taking her daughter’s life simply because she’s disabled? MNo. May kelli rot in hell.

      There’s also the little matter of kelli saying she hates autism — autism and her kid are one and the same. what she’s basically saying is she doesn’t love issy, she wants a totally different non autistic kid instead. barf!

  5. Thank you for writing this. I’ve been feeling guilty about not doing more…

    I didn’t know them but I have friends that were online friends and blog followers of hers, and so I’ve seen reposts about her situation before… and I knew something was wrong. I had a feeling that something bad was going to happen and I’m pretty sure I tried to say something and was attacked for it. If not, I had said something to someone else around the same time, who had a similar attitude towards their own kid and was attacked. I’m not entirely sure which place the ‘discussion’ happened, and I’m a little disturbed that these things have to happen at all, let alone so often that you can’t remember which person you were talking to.

    Anyway, I don’t see how I could have done anything more, but I’ve been feeling guilty anyway. Especially after hearing all the “where were you?” nonsense. I needed to read this.

  6. I’m new to your blog but I find it extremely well written and logical. My almost 21 year old son is on the spectrum. We’ve chosen to never define him by his diagnosis, nor cater to it in our family. Thank you for being a voice of reason in the world of chaos.

  7. Doesn’t look like my last comment did go through, so I’m gonna repost. Anyway, I just wanted to say thank you for posting this. I’ve been feeling guilty…

    I didn’t know Kelli, but I have online friends/acquaintances that did, and so I had seen posts about her situation before, and after seeing one a few months back I knew something was off. I had a sinking feeling that something like this was going to happen (that was before Alex Spourdalakis was murdered). I’m not entirely sure if I said anything to anyone then about her or not, but she was not the only child I was concerned about at that time and I know I did try to have a discussion with at least one parent of one of the two children, and was attacked. Not just a knee-jerk reaction from the parent (which I fully expected), but a smack down by the parent’s friends for daring to question them when I hadn’t walked in their shoes.

    I tried to write a blog entry months ago that spoke to these types of issues but I couldn’t find the words, so I started turning it into a story, which I didn’t have the heart or maybe the guts to finish back then. I have finished it now, and it’s up on my blog if anyone cares to read it. I thought perhaps by presenting it as a story people might be able to understand the point without feeling quite so so defensive. I felt like I had to finish it yesterday, I’m reticent to share it much right now, though, as I know the community is raw right now, and it’s hard to read.

    In any case, I’ve been feeling guilty about not having done more, since I knew this would not end well even then, but I don’t think there’s anything I could have done. Others tried. Not only are we met with resistance by the parents who are in this awful place, but we are attacked by the very friends that should be the ones helping them find help. It’s an untenable situation, and you’ve responded more eloquently than I could.

  8. Thank you for taking the time to write this. I know this seems like a hindsight is 20-20 thing, but I clicked on Kelli’s page a few months ago and I was disturbed by the words chosen to describe what was happening. It seemed off – too almost-celebratory of the child’s behavior. The first video I saw was one she posted if her screaming that prefaced by saying this is what her child is capable of. Anyway, I’m so sorry for Issy, her brother, her sister and her father. It’s outrageous that I’m reading so many comments by people who “sympathize” and “understand” Kelli’s “frustration.” One person even said – I’m not kidding- that maybe Kelli “knew” that Issy was “suffering in her autism. ” I’m heartened to know that people like you are responding. I’ve posted a few columns about the issue (the violence against disabled people, particularly autistics) and some if my FB friends had never even heard of the issue.

  9. Like you I condemned the attempted murder and the ‘justifying’ of some of the ‘autism parents’ (in a blogpost and on twitter) and like you, I felt unrightfully accused by a “where were you?” in the following. It led to a conversation where the person (who was closer to the mother, I had only read some blogposts and not felt comfortable with it AT ALL) heard my thoughts and actually read my post and I was glad she understood my thinking in the end. Because we all have different perspectives on things and we must not forget this. Autism in our lives is in the end NOT a great uniting factor. I have posted about it again, as a reminder for myself and the few possible readers (my blog doesn’t exactly pull crowds, that’s ok, i am more using it to structure my thoughts) that we are NOT one big ‘autism family’, we are ALL different. From different countries, with different levels of support, with very different kids and different personal backgrounds. I am condemning the act by the mother but any real ‘premeditation’ has to be investigated by the authorities and those who were close to her, IRL, and who are, more than “the system” those that have failed the daughter and the mother a long time before it happened. The mother obviously failed to see how CRAZY her ‘fight against autism’ had become, it has made her crazy. Because planned or not, trying to kill your child is obviously expression of a mental state that is NOT NORMAL. Be it acute psychosis or whatever other condition. But as it happens, worldwide, we have to remember to look out for those that are near us, for ourselves and for any child or vulnerable person who could be the next victim.
    “And I probably will never know a person that would even conceive of killer her child. Why? Because I tend to choose my friends carefully and would be murderers probably won’t make the shortlist.” I agree to most what you say, but here, I have to say, don’t be so sure. Mental illness is not always easy to spot, and for having come close to people in psychosis with outbursts of extreme violence, it’s not something anyone really sees coming before it happens.
    I will check out some of the links / fb groups or pages you talk about, as I say, I don’t believe in the ‘autism community’ thing, but I am interested in connecting to people who are like-minded.

  10. Ok. My very long post did not go through. So, to the woman below who feels guilty because she had a bad feeling after reading Kelli’s blog: I too when I first read her blog and saw the video posted of her screaming as she said Issy attacked her. The words she used to describe the violence were almost celebratory. She just seemed “off.” I will gladly read your story. I’m outraged at the comments supporting and justifying Kelli’s attempted murder of her child. I’ve posted on FB a few columns/blog posts about the violence against the disabled, particularly autistics, and it seems the general population is unaware of these issues. Thank you for writing and to all the people who are loudly declaring that this violence is never justified or understandable.

  11. This is to Liza, as wordpress won’t let me “reply” a 4th thread deep in that thread…

    Y’all have GOT to stop scapegoating mental illness and the mentally ill for this.
    We do not know that Kelli was mentally ill. Maybe she was. Maybe she wasn’t chronically mentally ill, but was in some kind of acute crisis.
    But people do horrible, immoral things to other people every damn day, who are not mentally ill.
    People DO NOT only do horrible things when they’re mentally ill.
    I was bullied and emotionally abused for YEARS by family members, peers, and teachers who were not mentally ill.

    Values play a role.
    Worldviews play a role.
    Attitudes about children and the disabled play a role.
    Attitudes about what kind of lives are worth living and who has a right to life, play a role.
    What people believe and want to believe about themselves play a role.
    Beliefs about where your rights end and others’ begin, play a role.
    Beliefs about other people’s right to and ownership of their own lives and bodies play a role.
    Learned assumptions about what society does and does not accept play a role.
    Convictions and prior choices about how you will and will not live your life play a role

    Saying “oh she was mentally ill, we need mental illness treated better or taken more seriously” serves to other people who do horrible things from the mainstream of humanity, to deny that normal, stable, unimpaired people *could ever* think to do something so awful…

    …BUT THEY DO. They especially do those things to children, the vulnerable, the marginalized, and people who widespread societal attitudes teach that it’s okay to think of as slightly less than truly human.

    I don’t claim to know what was going through Kelli’s head that made this an option to her…other than that I’d say chances were low that she believed in the depth of her being that Issy had an absolute and *unilateral* RIGHT to her own life.

    Even if it wasn’t the life Kelli wanted for her.
    Even if Kelli thought she’s screwed it up irreparably.
    Even if Issy really was as difficult as she’s been portrayed (and that’s become somewhat doubtful in my mind).
    Even if her problems were truly so serious that Kelli felt she couldn’t be her parent anymore.

    And that’s not a viewpoint that requires a mental illness or emotional crisis to instill–that’s a viewpoint towards autistic, disabled, and challenging children that is very, very common.

    • Not scapegoating mental illness. I’m scapegoating this country for not providing help to this family. Both Kelli and her daughter didn’t get what they needed.

      • But we do not know that Kelli was mentally ill. It is not a fair or obvious thing to assume.

        We don’t like to believe it, but people in their right mind commit bullying, child abuse, and murder all the time. Sometimes they even truly think they’re doing an okay thing while they’re doing it.

        And not having what you need is not a reason to take out your frustration on your kid. That’s child abuse by definition–holding your child responsible for an adult problem that is not their fault. Lots of people in this country don’t have what they need, and don’t kill their kids, and lots of people commit child abuse who are not mentally ill.

        So yeah, it COULD be true that mental illness is involved. Judges and psychiatrists will try to determine that now. But it is scapegoating the mentally ill to just presume that it is.

      • When someone is physically abused, I don’t think it’s a far stretch to say they are mentally affected. If someone’s husband is beating their wife, do we malign the wife? Why is it different when a child is doing the beating? Not blaming Issy either. She can’t help her behavior. It’s an awful situation.

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  13. Liza,
    I don’t think you are getting this. What people are trying to say is that Issy wasn’t just violent because she couldn’t help herself. Her needs were not being met and you even said yourself that she was obviously being abused. Kelli was an adult, who was abusing her child. I don’t know if she was or was not mentally ill. I don’t particularly care. She attempted to MURDER her child. I don’t think she’s entitled to empathy. If she couldn’t handle being a mother to her child, there were other options that to attempt to KILL her. Have you ever considered that maybe Issy was “violent” because she was being harmed? If someone is hurting you, you have the right to defend yourself. This is the attitude that so many of us are angry at. This attitude of “Poor (autism parents) that has to be so (hard, thankless, painful, difficult, exhausting, etc.), I can see how they felt that way.” I cannot abide by people saying this. Murdering your child is never an appropriate solution. In addition, I don’t care if she also tried to kill herself. I literally could care less.

  14. “When someone is physically abused, I don’t think it’s a far stretch to say they are mentally affected. If someone’s husband is beating their wife, do we malign the wife? Why is it different when a child is doing the beating? Not blaming Issy either. She can’t help her behavior. It’s an awful situation.”

    It sounds like you’re applying ‘physically abused/probably mentally affected,’ which I don’t disagree with…but you’re applying it to Kelli only and not Issy.

    It seems like people can readily ask what a parent must’ve been going through in order to behave a certain way….but not so much what a child must’ve been going through to behave a certain way.

    And close readings of Kelli’s blog are turning up that things were being done to Issy that were not okay. That were likely, avoidably, provoking her into aggressive reaction.

    Kelli had the option to walk away. She was the adult. Issy did not.

    (Oh, and OFTEN when a wife is being abused, she’s the one who gets maligned. OFTEN, when a child is being abused, they’re the one who gets maligned.)

  15. I’m a regular over at musingsofanadultaspie and this page was recommended since she was too upset to blog do to the Issy topic. I hadn’t heard of it. I read the blog and some of the responses with discussion of banning and lists of banned people as long as that of members and decided to be brief. This is a hatchet job. I don’t know the lady, and for you to speak as if you were her is folly of the first order. My children are grown, and I can’t imagine ever wanting to hurt them… but my kids were relatively problem free. People, from all walks of life, snap every day and hurt or kill people… even family members. Welcome to the human experience. The woman will be going to jail, or a state hospital, for attempted murder… as well she should. In the meantime, though I identify as being on the Autism Spectrum, an adult aspie, the part of this community that I don’t like is what it has in common with other special interest groups… it becomes a religion to some, and there is no reasoning with a person that is zealous about their cause.

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  17. What it comes down to is (at least to me)…HOW do you look at your child one day and start to think, “You’re just too much work. You’ve got to go.”
    I do not understand it.
    I have been through distressing times with my own children. Yet, regardless what they may have done to me, I would willingly launch myself in front of an oncoming train if the situation arose, if that’s what it took to save their lives. And I wouldn’t stop to blink, or question it. I know that to the core of my being, as well as I know the freckles on my own face.
    That’s called parenting, folks. Sometimes it’s hard. Yes.
    Sometimes life is hard. Yes.
    But that is never an excuse to murder our children.

  18. Where was I? Busy NOT killing/abusing MY kids, that’s where I was. I had seen her blog/fb page, but was instantly turned off. From trying to get on Ellen, to posting videos of her daughter in distress (and her making the situation worse by screaming at Issy, and playing victim). I was disgusted at the get go. Now I’ll know to report a person like that to authorities. My question is WHERE WERE ALL THESE BLOGGERS SAYING THEY WERE HER FRIEND?!!!? Please, don’t try passing the buck. And, yeah, if you can relate, or say that it could “be anyone of us”, you need to stop being a parent, NOW.

  19. After going to Kelli’s blog, my first impression was that she somehow thrived off of playing the victim. Maybe that’s harsh, but I don’t know, it was just my first impression. Her reactions to her daughter seem to worsen situation. I don’t want to judge, but deciding to murder your child is reprehensible. My heart aches for Issy….

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  22. I do not know if Kelli is a villain or not. I do know that I tried to help, back in February. I gave money. I wanted to help. Kelli seemed nice. She seemed like a good mom. I WAS THERE. Was I there after that? Not very much. I checked in. I felt like they were on an okay path. I felt they were safe.
    I was HERE with my own son who IS getting ABA (which is so not the same everywhere, or with every teacher/therapist and so I do NOT think it’s okay to say that ABA is good or bad – it’s VERY different each way that it’s administered and my son has made huge progress from his teacher’s version of it which is also nothing like Issy’s version but they’re also different kids). He’s not mostly violent. He is mostly probably autistic. He’s just barely four. I don’t think that it’s okay for any of us to know what others are going through. I don’t think it’s okay to want to kill our child. It’s NOT. It’s not okay. THIS COULD NEVER BE ME.
    I don’t know your page but I commend you for having it. I’m going to go check it out but also? I don’t know that it’s okay for you to “know” what is okay and not. I mean different kids, different therapies, right? And we all try what we know to try. We become experts though trial and error. And maybe some of us aren’t as knowledgable as you when it comes to this (that is not sarcastic, that is that I have a barely 4yo kid and DD don’t give us a diagnosis and I’m very much still learning).

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