Written by Beth Ryan
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. (Kelli Stapleton–full interview here)
There is no doubt that the tragedy involving Kelli Stapleton and the attempted murder of her child belongs in every single conversation around Autism “treatments”, bullying, and the way that some parents of Autistic children habitually devalue and dehumanize their children.
The fact that so many parents are still willing to make the claim that Kelli’s attempt to murder her own child is “an act of love” means that her name and the road she traveled to get to the place where she was able to harm her child needs to be brought up again and again.
We need to examine. To scrutinize the ill fated journey that she took to get to that place. It is uncomfortable. It is painful. And it is entirely necessary to talk about that heartbreaking topic.
The how and why are so very important.
The easiest answer is that there aren’t enough services. That there aren’t enough supports for Autistic people and their families. And while it is true that Autistic people are in desperate need of more direct services and supports, we cannot say that lack of services are to blame for Kelli’s attempt on her child’s life. Issy had just come home from an extended stay in a residential facility and Issy had around the clock care.
So we must look elsewhere for our answers. I believe that the answers are in the way, even as parents, we have come to see Autistic people. Not fully human. Not worthy of the rights and respect that most of us take for granted.
If you read Kelli’s blog, you will not think it unlike many blogs written by parents of Autistic children. For instance, you probably would not dream of posting a video of a typical teenager at his most vulnerable moment. But parents of Autistic children do so habitually. When either of my children are having a challenging moment, the furthest think from my mind is snapping a picture of myself comforting her. Or capturing a video of a meltdown. These are sacred moments where my child needs me. Where I am thinking, only, of making sure my child knows that I am present and loving her with my entire being.
Capturing media as fodder for one’s blog should be about the furthest thing from one’s mind. And I don’t believe that it is with this type of parent. The martyr mommy/daddy. Sure they can claim that they are trying to help other parents not feel so alone…or whatever the party line is. But even if that is true, if my belief that they are attention seeking is wrong, they are doing so at the expense of the privacy of their children. “Helping” other parents should not override the sacred trust of a parent/child relationship.
Parents prone towards these acts of betrayal of their children are not merely poor parents. Because the ones that I’ve seen and am speaking of are also prone towards despicable acts of emotional and verbal abuse towards Autistic adults that are brave enough to face their wrath.
This tells me that these parents have devalued, not only their children, but Autistic people in general. This should not be exactly surprising given the culture of hate and systemic dehumanization of Autistic people that we are entrenched in. Nonetheless, I continue to be shocked by the lengths that these parents are willing to go to viciously bully Autistic people. They wield their advantages of the power differential in shocking and despicable ways and maintain the nerve to cry out that they are the victims of discrimination.
Discrimination is a combination of power and prejudice. Autistic people lack power. They are a minority group and victims of all sorts of things like media bias, systemic oppression, marginalization, etc. Autistic people are capable of bigotry. But they are not capable of the type of discrimination that parents of screaming about. The continued insistence that parents are the victims is offensive and only serves to underscore the fact that these loud parents are ignorant about what it means to be part of a minority.
I wouldn’t worry so much about what these foolish parents say. Except that they are so damn loud and aggressive. I cannot stand the thought of their voices–the voices of murder apologists– dominating the conversation around my daughter’s neurology. The thought that they are perpetuating the Autism Speaks’ fear and tragedy stereotypes make it impossible for me to ignore them.
And so I stand with the brave Autistic adults, who are regularly targeted and viciously attacked by this insidious tribe. I stand with them because they are awesome and courageous and kind. Yes. Because they are my friends. Yes. But also because every single time they hang their necks out,knowing full well that they will be targeted and abused as a result, they are hanging them out for my daughter.
So I’m selfish. And I’m grateful with every fiber of my being. As such, it is my moral obligation–the moral obligation of every single parent of an Autistic child out there, to use our advantages to support the creation of a world where our children are seen as whole and valuable human beings. That starts with the recognition of the fact that the assault against the humanity of any Autistic person is as good as an assault against our very children.