In January, I wrote a post about the cost of compliance training. The unforgivable price that our children pay when forced to be compliant.
It turns out, that the cost of non-compliance is also unreasonable– unconscionable. Well, it was for Issy Stapleton. Her mother, Kelli, attempted to kill her last week.
I’ve been reading Kelli’s blog. Listening to an interview. And reading comments left by those who allegedly worked in the Stapleton home as service providers to Issy.
If you’re reading this. You’ve seen the videos. The first one was little more than Kelli running around hysterically crying–I’m not going to comment on that. But about this video, I have much to say. Especially after watching it in context on her blog. Particularly this part…
Carly, Issy’s behaviorist, was there to make sure I said and did the right things. Basically, I just had to give her tokens for having ‘quite hands and feet’ and redirect her when she started perseverating(you know, getting stuck) on certain topics.
We walked into the classroom. Issy was so happy to see me (and I her!). I told her I was there to be her worker. I sat down next to her and started to work on a coloring page. Issy started perseverating, I redirected. She got physical…
I found it very striking that the video started with Issy’s physical reaction. We see from Kelli’s words that a few things happened. Mainly Issy was non-compliant. Was she reacting to being told that her own mother was her “worker”? Being coerced into having “quiet hands and feet”? What does it look like when Kelli says, “I redirected.”
Autistic adults routinely rail against the inhumanity of being told to have quiet hands and feet. Being forced to be still when their bodies need to move. Many suffer PTSD–partially from “quiet hands and feet.”
I’m morbidly curious about the perseverating and subsequent redirection. It is suspicious that this part of the video was edited out. I suspect that it was a physical violation of Issy’s bodily autonomy or the threat of such violation.
The video, itself, does not lead me to believe that this is an inherently violent child. I see a child who is outnumbered by adults and has no escape route. I see her cornered and lashing out. After I see adults overpowering her and restraining her, I see her physical reactions escalate.
I believe, at the very core of my being, that Issy had been subjected to abusive and aversive interventions for years. Therapies which violated her person and punished her for non-compliance. By Kelli’s own admission in this interview, she suspected that Issy’s physical reactions were related to ABA therapy. This is in response to the interviewers question about who the violence was directed towards.
It was always directed toward me. Her um anger and aggression. Always toward me. I wondered if that was a consequence of doing a Lovaas replication program. Because I’ve been in her face since before she was two years old. It was always touch your nose. Touch the apple. Do this. Do that. And you know, um, maybe this is sort of a natural consequence to that. I’m not really sure. But I’m sure at this point it is some sort of shaped behavior. Because sometimes even making eye contact with her will trigger a response.
Anyone who is familiar with the Lovaas ABA model, knows that Lovaas relied heavily upon aversives and punitive corrections to undesired behaviors–including failure to make eye contact and stimming. A mere mention of Lovaas will trigger many of my Autistic friends. We are talking strict, by the book, old school ABA. I have many problems with ABA as it is commonly practiced, but the Lovaas model is truly reprehensible. It is unquestionably abusive.
Issy was subjected to this for ten–ish(?) years at the time of this video according to her mother. I have no doubt, that Kelli was right. That this was one of the things at the root of Issi’s physical reactions. Especially since the reactions were mainly directed at her mother until about a year prior to this interview (according to Kelli). Since Kelli, was Issi’s “worker”, this makes sense.
Further, there have been multiple allegations of Kelli’s abuse towards her children, levied by individuals who apparently worked in the Stapleton home. Normally, I wouldn’t put a lot of store in internet comments. But these feel markedly credible when those commenting are providing contact info for coming forward with information.
To those care givers who would help be Issy’s voice and get justice for what was done to her please contact D/SGT House with the State police post (231) 775-6040. Several past caregivers have stepped forward and already given statements on Issy’s behalf. We need everyone to step up and help Issy.
On an earlier post I posted a number for ex-caregivers who wanted to help issy. I typed the number wrong it D/SGT Travis House (231)779-6040 he would like to speak to any caregivers. Some of us care givers have already given statements on Issy’s behalf.
Kelli regularly used hateful and abusive language on her blog to describe her daughter to the world. If this is what she puts out to the world, I can only imagine what she kept hidden. And according to many of the comments on this news piece, she attempted to keep much hidden.
I’m sure that we will never know exactly what went down in the Stapleton household. But nothing that I’ve read, heard, or seen leads me to the conclusion that Issy is inherently violent. Nothing. I believe that Issy has always been the only victim.
We’ve seen the writing. We know she was subjected to Lovaas style ABA which is widely criticized for being punitive and for employing aversives. This is abusive. We’ve seen some heavy allegations of abuse which are, apparently, being investigated.
We’ve hear the story of a child, who easily overpowered her mother. Yet, somehow, Kelli was able to contain Issy in their family van while she attempted to exterminate her daughter with carbon monoxide poisoning. Am I the only person with whom this does not jive?
I don’t believe that Issy was violent. I believe that she had physical reactions to the abuse she suffered for being non-compliant. I believe that Issy almost paid the ultimate price for her non-compliance when her mother tried to kill her.
The cost of compliance is unreasonable. The cost of non-compliance can be even more unreasonable.
It was the first thing I wondered when I heard the news of the murder/suicide attempt, was, if Issy were so uncontrollably violent and able to overpower her mother like we’ve been hearing, how did she get her to stay in the van?
Nope, does not add up at all.
I’ve wondered also if possibly, given how quickly Kelli recovered and how long it took Issy to recover, if her mother hadn’t possibly engaged the child safety locks on her vehicle (all new models have those on every door now) left Izzy alone inside until she fell unconscious and then entered the van herself leaving Izzy to struggle alone, trapped in the van filling rapidly with smoke. How else could Kelli’s rapid recovery and it taking four days for Issy to regain consciousness be explained? Was that Kelli inflicting what she believed to be one last cruelty upon her daughter while she watched safely outside the car? Of course, I’m no expert at all and this is simply wondering. But much doesn’t add up here, just as with Alex murderers taking sleeping pills to allegedly kill themselves having already seen that it didn’t work with Alex…
The smaller the person the more rapidly the CO builds up in the boodstream.
Then that definitely doesn’t add up because Kelli indicated that Issy was larger than she is.
I’ve read a lot on her blog and read the articles so far given to date and I agree it doesn’t add up. If former caretakers or workers are coming forward with suspected abuse allegations, why was this not reported well before the recent events? That is another question I have.
I’ve wondered the same thing. It does seem slightly odd how quickly Kelli recovered yet it took Issy four days to regain consciousness. How does that makes sense? I wonder if anyone checked this. Most newer models of vans have child safety locks that can be engaged to render the doors unable to be opened from the inside, but they can be opened from the outside. Is it possible that Kelli trapped Issy inside using child safety locks to struggle and panic while the vehicle rapidly filled with smoke while Kelli watched from outside? And then once Issy had fell unconscious then Kelli entered the van herself? Could this have been what Kelli believed anyway, to be one last cruelty she subjected Issy to before what she thought would kills her? Of course I’m not expert, this is just wondering. The circumstances of Kelli’s rapid recovery don’t jive with what has been speculated (since Kelli isn’t speaking to police), just as with Alex’s murderers taking sleeping pills to try and kill themselves when they had already observed that didn’t work. Very suspicious to me.
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“Quiet Hands” is a HUGE pet peeve of mine. It’s frustrating to get the right educational environment for a child with Autism. I moved from Ky to New Jersey to get it. We have since had to move back to Ky..where the only therapy people use is ABA. Having the pleasure of watching my son, just bloom, using Floortime/DIR in the classroom…to now being back in an “ABA” learning basis…it kills me!!
Great piece! When these stories first come out, people are quick to identify with the “poor” Mother without ever really getting into the meat of what actually happened, not the media spin or meme. I was troubled by the aggression being towards the Mother mostly and wondered why. And I definitely thought the fact that the video was spliced like that was dishonest and a HUGE red flag. Thank you for succinctly pointing all these pretty obvious oversights out. Thank you…thank you…THANK YOU!!!
I never understand when people don’t do all they can to deescalate a stressful situation, then seem to scratch their heads, wondering why a child lashes out… Get a clue people, if the same kind of thing was done to you, you’d lash out too.
While my almost 15 year old son with autism is generally a happy, easygoing guy, he has an occasional bad day… And on those bad days I don’t go around pushing his buttons, or being overly demanding, and I certainly wouldn’t stop him from stimming. Instead I do all I can to help relieve the stress he’s feeling. I’d rather walk around on eggshells, and be accommodating, than have to deal with a meltdown, and its aftermath. Some people may feel this is coddling my child, but they’re obviously ignorant of the reality of having a child with autism.
As for certain “therapies” out there: If something seems cruel to you, it probably is. There are other ways to help your child that are kinder, and gentler, but still get the same results.
Here in Australia, I have heard about ABA only last year, for intervention of early detected, more severe autism (than my son’s Asperger’s, diagnosed at 6). I actually applied for a job at one point to be part of the ABA team for a little girl. On the phone, the lady told me what it was all about, a whole training weekend was scheduled (this is where I backed out, impossible for me anyway). At the time I had just started reading about people saying “we need this!” and “fully funded” and I was a bit puzzled. 20+ hours of behaviour training for toddlers ?? so apparently, there are results, yes. but are these deep and meaningful for the child’s future life or only surface programming of behaviours.. I am very curious about your series on ABA. I could not bring myself to go deeper (and back) into the very public ‘fight against autism’ of Isabelle’s mother. but like you point out here, there are so many points that, even with very little knowledge of what exactly the different programs were that the girl was enrolled on (including at home, as it seems), I could not help but have my ‘abuse radar’ on dark amber at least. I also don’t understand how people close to them (IRL) could not have been more alerted to this. If the system failed (as so many say, but they mean it differently) it is certainly here.
Love your blog.
I completely agree with 99% of that. I would count Issy as violent, but I’d also count my neighbor’s cute, sweet cat as violent (he bit me). I, like you, definitely wondered what happened before the video started. “Perseverating” can mean “talking about stuff the person likes or is interested in”, so maybe she was really excited to see her mom, and started talking about what she liked, and her mom wouldn’t listen… but we won’t know. Mostly what we know is that what Kelli did is awful, unless you subscribe the solipsism; then we don’t even know if she exists
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