I recently had the following link posted to my Facebook wall: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100722/ap_on_re_us/us_children_strangled. It's the horrifying story of a woman in Texas who murdered her two children with autism by strangling them with a wire.
What is there to say about a terrible story like this? It's sad. It's tragic. Beyond anything else, it's representative of a failure on so many fronts. It would be easy to blame the mother, to call her a whole host of names and condemn her to the lethal injection that is probably coming her way. But she is not the only one at fault here.
The articles mention that Texas is ranked #49 or #50 in terms of mental health services and supports. It's likely that there is also not much in the way of autism awareness, which leaves this woman--the parents of not one, but two autistic children--isolated, with no access to information or resources, and slipping deeper into the depression that the article said begun when she moved into that apartment.
Up here in the Northeast--especially the NYC area--there are autism organizations all over the place. Autism Speaks, Autism New Jersey, ASPEN, GRASP, the DJ Fiddle Foundation, AHA-NY, and more.
It is difficult enough raising a child with autism here, where awareness is high and resources are numerous. It is difficult, too, for we adults on the spectrum to find the services we need. Therefore, I can't imagine what it must've been like for this woman down in Texas, where there aren't many or even any of these groups, any support services of any kind; where "hope" is the longest long shot that there is.
It is circumstances like this that lead to desperation, to this woman thinking there was no other solution than the one she chose. Don't misunderstand me; I am not defending what she did in any way; she took the desperation she was feeling to its most extreme end, and two innocent children are now dead for it. But the whole atmosphere down there--the ignorance and the misunderstanding--is what helped to set the stage for this in the first place.
However...one thing that would move me to condemn her outright is how, in the article, she is quoted as saying, "They're autistic...not normal. Not normal. I want normal kids." That is an incredibly heartbreaking thing to say on top of everything, and unfortunately gives a sad insight into her mental process and perhaps that still of society at large--that having a "normal" child is better than having one with autism.
Had she even given the children up for adoption--which would have been better, because at least they'd still be alive--who knows how hard it would've been to find them an adoptive family because of their autism. But at least they would have had a chance. At least they would still have their lives.
So what do I think of this? I wish I could say I was shocked. I used to be, when I'd hear stories like this. Now I just add it to my growing mental list of horror stories that have come to represent such a system-wide failure. It is stories like this that make me ever-more determined to do what I do--to make this world a better place for individuals with autism, so that things like this never happen again.