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.. I’m not sure if you read the news? A mother who was denied services for her autistic daughter attempted a murder/suicide recently. The news of it is all over the place. Here is the story: Teen With Autism Hospitalized

But this is the story I think you should read. It’s by an autistic disability rights advocate and it’s called Issy Stapleton Attempted Murder. Autism Community Responds.

Please read it.

She speaks for me: we don’t need to walk a mile in anyone’s shoes to know that murder in any form is unacceptable. That killing your child because your child didn’t receive services is horrific.

She also speaks of the other things you can do. Less dramatic, for sure, but things that will alleviate the pressure and bring you relief.

This should never happen.

And it’s not about how sorry we should feel for the poor mother who had it so hard. She may have. But that is no excuse to try and murder her daughter.

Here is the post again: Issy Stapleton Attempted Murder. Autism Community Responds.



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  1. I would guess that it is way more complicated for the mother involved than, ” killing your child because your child didn’t receive services.” I really want to write about this issue, but I don;t know if I can deal with the backlash… so we’ll see. Suffice to say I think the whole thing is a damn tragedy.

    1. Oh, absolutely. A tragedy. And clearly there was a build up before it escalated to the point that it did; but what I become deeply saddened by is that the mother’s actions seem to be excusable by mainstream media; that somehow what led up to it is justification for her actions.
      Which is why I love that blog post from the autistic community – because it shows the double standards that are pervasive in our society

  2. Hi — I feel deep compassion for the woman involved. Saying she tried to kill herself and her daughter “because she didn’t receive services” is simplistic. She was no doubt experiencing depression and post-traumatic stress disorder from being beaten up by her daughter on a regular basis — two times landing her in hospital according to reports. I don’t blame the daughter for her disability-related aggression, but I have a friend who has been black and blue with bruises from being beaten by her autistic son, and unable to get help. I’ve heard of people who are regularly calling the police or taking their kids to emergency but no one offers any meaningful help when their kid is a physical threat to them. So I think it would be hard to convince a parent who is feeling this extreme that calling children’s aid is going to be a good decision (really? to be honest, I’ve called children’s aid related to the potential violence of one of my children and because we, the parents, were no threat to the child, they didn’t perceive it as a crisis. the threshhold here for the children’s aid to actually remove a child is massive. we’ve had parents who have taken a child to an agency or hospital and dropped them there before the children’s aid would be involved). This parent obviously loved her daughter. In her distorted way of thinking after being told her kid couldn’t attend the program that had been planned for her, she thought her only solution was to take HERSELF AND her kid out of this life. To compare that to someone who robs a convenience store and kills a cashier they’ve never met doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me.

    1. Louise, I think events can lead up to a place in which something horrific erupts – like this. But what makes me deeply nervous is that people will put words in that mother’s mouth – saying she was no doubt experiencing PTSD, for example – but you know, that is not a FACT. Furthermore, I have been diagnosed with PTSD and have been in active treatment for well over a year – but I had no medication or treatment for a long, long time – and that didn’t mean I went out and tried to kill the person/people responsible for it. Sure, I’ve had issues with MYSELF (- enter lithium), but to go and try and kill someone over it? Even if she did have PTSD, it’s not an excuse.
      That’s kind of neither here nor there though. The fact is, we don’t know what was going on with Kelli. I feel that because we might have been through relate-able situations of violence/disability doesn’t mean that we can say we know what happened.

      Compassion, I agree: we need it. It’s clear that that was a tragedy.

      But I think it’s inexcusable to try and kill your child. Not that I think you are saying it is; I know you don’t. I just don’t think as much in shades of grey perhaps, as you do.

      You’ve given me a lot to think about so I’m grateful for your comment.

      1. Hi Meriah — In this instance no one is putting words in the mom’s mouth.

        There are numerous media stories the family did with a local newspaper when they were advocating to get her residential treatment (including one that has a photo of mom when she was hospitalized after her daughter injured her) and there are all of her blog pieces. In this newspaper piece, she says some pretty ominous things about how she started the blog in case she didn’t “survive:”

        And in her last post she says this: “I have to admit that I’m suffering from a severe case of battle fatigue. I’m so happy that Issy has successfully completed treatment. It was a miracle making that happen. But I never once had any peace or rest. There was a constant (and very real threat) that funding would be pulled. It was not as exhausting as getting my ass kicked (literally) every day, but there was no time to lick my wounds while she was in treatment either.”

        I don’t think anyone is “validating” what she did. What would our reaction have been if she’d only tried to kill herself (or had been successful at it)?

        She took her daughter with her — and I don’t think it’s stretching things to assume she “thought” she was protecting her — and she chose a method that would have been painless if successful.

        We had an incident in Ontario a few months ago where the mother of an adult son with autism and 24/7 needs took her son to a government agency and left him there.

        The twist was that the mother was a social worker! She knew the system.

        If someone within the system, who knows how to work the system, resorts to dropping their kid at a government office, it says something about how responsive that system is when you go through regular channels (e.g. calling children’s aid).

        What kind of care do you think a child who is extremely violent would get in a foster or group home? They’d be sedated.

        There was another case here of a single dad who was caring for his 3 kids — one of whom had autism (a younger girl).

        The daughter went missing one day and dad called the police to help in the search. She was quickly found in a neighbour’s yard. But the police called the children’s aid and they “determined” this dad couldn’t possibly manage on his own with 3 kids and removed the daughter, against the dad’s consent. It took him a year to fight to get her back and while in “care” she was constantly medicated. That’s how the system “manages” kids.

        I’m not surprised that this mom felt she was up against a wall with no options.

        It would be great to hear some practical ways in which the autism “advocates” are helping families who are on the edge like this one — creating innovative supports that help keep kids who physically “hurt” their families at home — without the family going under.

        Telling them to call the police or the children’s aid — when they know full well that they won’t get what they need — is not an answer.

  3. In my opinion, she broke. She simply could not take anymore and she broke. We all have that point, which is why this situation is so terrifying. Thankfully, most of us will never reach ir. Unfortunately, she did. There is no excuse. There is no validation. But there should be understanding.

    1. I agree…there is no excuse and should be no validation… and also with the piece about understanding. Or maybe rather, compassion – to be compassionate?

      1. Kathy Deller says:

        I’m a bit disappointed in this post Meriah. I’ve followed you for a while and expected more compassion. It scares the hell out of me to think of my daughter ending up in state care where there is a greater risk of physical and sexual abuse. I’ve been in dark places too but never this dark.

        1. I hate that you are disappointed in me…. but I just can’t validate this in any way, shape or form. I do feel more compassion for the mother after reading everything that Louise wrote here in the comments, but there are two things going on here that deeply disturb me: 1. this trend of taking the “side” of the parent/caregiver – “you don’t know what they’ve gone through”, “walk a mile in their shoes”, etc 2. putting thoughts/words into place based on one’s own or one’s friend’s/whomever’s experience – which is NOT theirs. So despite what Kelli’s blog says, we do NOT know what is REALLY going on there. Trust me, I blog; I know very well that what I write here in my blog is only a tiny sliver of what happens in real life. How anyone chooses to write about their story or talk about their story is their choice, but their telling of the story does not make that story a complete one.

          I’m not trying to vilify the mother, nor do I think she is evil or anything like that. I *DO* think she cracked. I do think she needed more support than she received, obviously. I just simply do not think that trying to kill your daughter is EVER an answer. Foster care or state care may be bad (- and it is not always bad; it’s only the bad cases that get a lot of attention) but it’s not as bad as being killed, or suffering further injury as the result of almost being killed.

          1. Here I am. Someone who almost hit a point in life which I had previously criticized and scorned others for reaching. I NEVER considered taking the life of my child, but I did consider taking my own after the loss of my child. Is taking it one small step further really that hard to understand? It isn’t an excuse, but I can understand how someone could break to the point where they make decisions completely contradictory to what they would do in their unbroken state.

          2. It’s hard to tell… I’m on lithium and have been for some time (- which is an anti-suicidal medication). I completely understand that urge – but even with the lithium, even with my own PTSD, it’s very hard for me to extend that understanding to taking the life of my child.
            But part of what I’m trying to say is that none of us really know what was going on there. We know what the mother was saying on her blog, we know what others have said, but no one *really* knows, and that’s myself included. I liked your post on this very much – your collection of links and the video were thought-provoking and I appreciated them

  4. Hi Meriah — do you think it’s helpful to tell a person who is in a suicidal depression that suicide is never the answer? The person’s thought patterns are completely distorted to the point that in their mind, they are doing what is best not just for themselves, but for all of their loved ones.

    I’m really astonished that the advocates with autism are not talking about the reality of children with autism who are violent, and the impact this has on a family, and practical ways that these families can be supported. Like if you’re not going to address that, why bother saying anything?

    I know you don’t feel that anyone else’s experience is relevant here (and that we can’t know what the mom was going through), but I have a friend whose son was violent (due to mental illness, not autism) and she told me that it was like being in a physically abusive relationship, but she never had the option of leaving and there was a lot of stigma around talking about her situation.

    No one is taking the parent’s “side.” It is just a tragedy for everyone involved.

    1. Hi Louise, I just wanted to clarify the piece about not applying other experiences to this case – it’s because I get the feeling that in our struggle to understand and make sense of what happened, we might be putting actions, words or thoughts where they might not actually fit. We might be putting together a different puzzle than what actually IS. You know? We’ll all talk about these different situations that are comparable or have something in common but we don’t KNOW for sure that they do. ANd I think because this is all so charged and tense-feeling (- autism, the life of a child, murder/suicide attempt..), I think it’s best to err on the side of being very, very cautious with comparisons.
      I don’t think the mother had options that she wanted. I don’t think she had options that she liked. But I highly – HIGHLY – doubt that she truly had *no* options. True, she may very well have just cracked and when you are cracked, you don’t think straight (- and how can you?).
      Thank you so much for your input – like I said, it’s given me much to think about. and pray about. Because yes, as you said, it is unquestionably a tragedy for everyone involved.

  5. mostlytruestuff says:

    Kelli Stapleton was my friend. I knew her personally. We’ve spent a lot of time talking on the phone and over the internet. She wasn’t some horrible person that killed her daughter because she didn’t receive services. In fact, that statement is completely untrue. She was receiving services at the time. More than most get. What you said here is offensive, and completely devoid of any understanding of her, her daughter or this issue. While I totally agree that there is nothing that justifies what she did here, this constant need for people to vilify her helps NO ONE.

    It doesn’t stop the next mom from going that far. From breaking. Or even from thinking there is no other hope. Being able to be open about the struggles of being a parent or caretaker of a child with autism is crucial. But we can’t. I see you’re siding with the advocates in this and other posts. You’re getting one side of the story. You’re not a parent of a child with autism. You speak about it, and the community, on here like you have any idea what it is like on the inside. You have no idea.

    1. Okay, what I’m hearing from you here is this:
      1. Because you have a connection through blogging and talking on the phone with Kelli, you feel that you know her intimately and you understand her thoughts and motives
      2. That there is a line in the sand (- if you will), demarcating parents of autistic kids and the rest of the world. That noone can truly understand the great pain and suffering that a parent of an autistic experiences unless one is personally experiencing it
      3. Your understanding of my post was that I’m vilifying Kelli Stapleton because she decided to try and take the life of her autistic child
      4. You think that I’m siding with the autistic community because I think it was wrong for Kelli Stapleton to try and take the life of her autistic child

      – correct me if I’m wrong in any of this.

      I’m not out to fight – this is not my intention at all. But I will stand up for what I think is true and just. I don’t think any parent has the right to take the life of their child. I think the day we start making excuses for actions like that is the day we are in serious trouble as a society. I don’t think there are excuses. Her own life, she is free to take. But the life of her child? No. As the article that I was linking to spoke of, there were many, many other options for Kelli Stapleton, but she was choosing death for her child. And I don’t agree with that.

      It’s true what you say, that I don’t know what it’s like to be a parent of an autistic child. I don’t. Like I’ve said in a more recent post, I honestly don’t understand why the parental community has so much tension with the autistic community. It looks a lot to me like the tension that existed historically between the Deaf and Hearing communities – and the way Hearing parents used to try and force their Deaf kids to hear, be, do, and act the way they wanted them to. Rather than really accepting their kids, they’d try and cram them into a mold they simply could not fit into. Literally: could. not. fit.

      I don’t know what truly went on with Kelli Stapleton. I don’t know the way her mind works, the way her heart runs, the motives, intent, desires or flow of her soul. I think only God knows those pieces. But I don’t think anything excuses her actions against her child.

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