My daughter just had a 40-minute tantrum. She is 10 years old. We have dubbed her tantrums, “overloads” (thanks to a Twitter friend’s recommendation). She didn’t want us to call the outbursts tantrums, as “that is what babies have.” Today’s overload was because she did not want to do her homework.
Her overloads can be intense and she has great difficulty with them. She screams, cries, kicks, hits, throws things. Some days, she and I can use techniques we’ve learned and help ease the situation. Other times, like today, there is no soothing until she wears herself out. Today, that meant choking and gagging from screaming and crying and hyperventilating, and being absolutely exhausted when she was able to calm down again.
During these overloads, it is common that I feel overwhelmed. They are emotional. They are loud. They make her older sister anxious. I would love to be on a beach relaxing in the sun or doing countless other things at those moments. I can only imagine what my daughter would rather be doing than experiencing an overload herself.
She has insomnia too–many nights neither of us get regular sleep. There are times I am so stressed with being a single mom and feeling like I don’t have all the tools to help my child. It’s difficult, running to and from appointments, remembering what exercises her therapists have assigned us, dealing with the school, the list goes on. It all can get consuming. As someone who has a history of depression and anxiety, I have to be that much more aware of how I am doing and stay healthy so I can best care for both my children.
I’m tired. I get frazzled. I feel worn out..
Here’s the thing though, I love my daughter and that love guides me through every day, every moment, every overload. Always has, always will. As her mom, it is my responsibility to care for myself so I can care for her. It is my duty to seek out services or get help to make life better for my daughter (and the rest of us). There is nothing I will ever do except lift my daughter up and make sure she knows how amazing she is.
What Kelli Stapleton did to her daughter will never make sense. It will never be okay. I will never understand her actions. I will never find sympathy for Kelli Stapleton.
I am not Kelli Stapleton.
There is an overwhelming need for services across the board, for autistic individuals and their families. Explaining away murder because of this deficit erases any humanity we should all feel. We have other moms coming to Kelli Stapleton’s defense. This is disgusting. Stop defending her (or any other parent who harms their autistic child).
We have been fed propaganda by Autism Speaks and others who salute the bravery of those “autism moms” who come forward with their horror stories and how terrible their life is. We are a society that places little value on people with disabilities. Tantrums, violent outbursts, self-injurious behaviors, stimming, none of this makes an autistic person less-than. And none of that is reason to harm your child. Never. Murdering your autistic child, or attempting to, is a selfish, violent, and unforgivable act.
If Kelli Stapleton felt she could not handle raising her daughter anymore, she had options. She could have spoken to family (or all of these many friends rushing to her side…) and gotten help. She could have called her pediatrician’s office, social services, the police, any number of other agencies. She could have gone to the emergency room. She could have done anything else than the unthinkable act she committed against her child. I have no compassion for a person like Kelli Stapleton.
As I said earlier, I don’t pretend to know how Kelli Stapleton felt or what her life was like on a daily basis. I do know that Issy’s life, and every other autistic person’s life, has value and worth. Every autistic person has the human right to live and be free from harm and abuse, NO MATTER WHAT. Whatever struggles and however difficult a situation may seem, abusing or killing your child is never excusable or acceptable, and it blows me away that we even need to have this conversation.
There are issues we can discuss, with regards to services–and it is okay to reach out and say you are tired or don’t know what to do. I will continue to bring up these topics, and demand better resources. I will continue to hold people and organizations accountable when they dehumanize autistic people and promote questionable therapies or tell us autism kidnaps children and rely on fundraising that is all too keen on showing mothers who contemplate killing their child. I will continue to fight so that every autistic child has the right to live and flourish. I will speak out about acts of abuse against autistic people.
I, along with many others, will make sure that Issy knows there is a huge community out here that supports her and will encourage her. We think of her often, we want to make sure she is able to heal from this. Issy is surrounded by love–from her family who values her life and by so many around the world who respect her right to live without fear or abuse. I am so grateful that Issy is still here, and that I can send a message to her. I was never able to send a message of support to Alex Spourdalakis or Scarlet Chen or Katie McCarron or so many others who are no longer with us, who have torn at my heart over the years.
Issy, you are the one who matters most in all of this. You are an important person in this world. You deserve to be loved and cared for. From all I’ve read and seen, you are a creative, smart, and beautiful young lady. I see your smile in so many pictures, it must light up the room!
Issy, there are so many of us who are eager to see what the future has in store for you. You are worthy of love. You are worthy of the time to continue to grow and blossom. You are worthy of acceptance. Issy, I hope you feel the love and support we all are sending your way.