Monkey Pliers

Asperger's / Autism Toolbox


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Unkind

A Post by Monkey Pliers
on September 11, 2013


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  My mother made mistakes. There were things she didn't know or understand about herself, her husband, and and her children. The same was true of my father. The family suffered as a result. Our situation was far from unusual in that regard. Human beings cannot be expected to know everything or always make all the right choices, even when it comes to parents and their own vulnerable children. People generally do the best they can, in the situations in which they find themselves, with what they know and the capabilities they have, aided by whatever resources and supports are available to them. Sometimes they do very well. Sometimes they don't. Sometimes they really, really don't.

  I've been reading a lot lately about caregivers who harm, and even kill, autistics who are in their care, including parents who attempt or succeed in murdering their own children. Even though it's a minority, it still happens often enough to cause great alarm amongst autistics and our families, friends, and service providers. This is not just because the acts of violence are so appalling but because the reaction of the media and the public at large is so frequently to sympathize with the parent and to consider the autism to be the cause of, the justification for, what has been done.

  Killing someone is such an active thing. Overcoming the human repulsion to killing another human being takes more than just desperation and rage, or else more people would be killers. Furthermore, planning a method for it makes it such an active decision. Thatís not in the heat of the moment. It takes forethought to gather the means to do something like suffocate yourself and someone else together in a vehicle, or to poison someone. It takes determination to overcome the repulsion to killing and carry out the act when the moment for deciding whether or not to actually do so arrives, and it takes further determination, as well as active communication and coordinated effort to work together with another individual to find and implement an alternate means when the first method fails (such as following up the attempted poisoning with multiple stabbings). Thatís why the law acknowledges a difference between premeditated crimes and crimes of passion.

  Most parents of autistics would never intentionally harm their children, any more than most other parents would intentionally harm theirs. This, in spite of the fact that any parent can experience times of stress, fear, panic, rage, or just plain being at a total loss as to what to do, as a common part of the parenting experience. People who think they might be at risk of harming others need help of their own, regardless of whether or not they're also seeking services to help the ones they might try to harm. Their ability to seek help is severely hampered not only when society stigmatizes their feelings but also when their potential (or, sadly, in too many cases, actual) victims are stigmatized. Domestic abusers, for example, cannot get help if people keep blaming their partners for either provoking the abuse or failing to flee from it.

  I know I'm not making a new point by mentioning all this. But there's something else I also want to say. I've been reading the blog posts (and comments that follow) of parents who would never deliberately injure their children. They know firsthand, as my parents did (though I grew up undiagnosed), how painful, distressing, confusing, and frustrating it can be to watch their children go through extreme emotions and sometimes do destructive things as a result. They also love their children and understand that their kids are in a state of pain, distress, confusion, frustration, and often outright rage, when these things occur. I'm sure they've had times when they've felt flooded with anger and despair themselves, wondering how they would ever get through this. But they are not potential killers of their own offspring, always on the verge, just waiting for that one more thing to push them over the edge - not even when they're frustrated by a lack of services or understanding for their kids. They realize their children aren't adults yet and that the struggle for emotional regulation their kids are going through makes being a child all the more difficult. They deal with it as best they can and then make the most of the good times, of which they find there to be many. But they also know other kids like theirs are being made to suffer and put to death. Their parenting job is not made easier when others sympathize with parents who commit murder under conditions similar to their own. That very sympathy puts these good parents in more pain.

  Our parents' journey in raising us is their own, as is the journey of any other parents, dealing with whatever issues arise during the raising of their kids. To backhandedly malign them, in the name of sympathy, as teetering on the edge of killing us, because they've brought into the world people who are so awful to deal with, is an unkind act, not a display of the supportive attitude some people might think they're presenting. We love our parents. Please don't hurt them this way. They have enough to deal with, as all parents do. When you disparage their children, they know about it, and it makes them suffer on behalf of their kids. I know because they've said so themselves. I don't have to guess or imagine this.

  My mother worked hard not only to raise three children but also to develop and improve herself. She faced her inner battles with courage, fortitude, and honesty. She inspired me to do the same. In spite of everything that went wrong while I was growing up, so much went right that we were eventually able to consider ourselves good friends. We talked a lot and worked things out. She met me more than halfway in resolving the issues I had with her. I was also concerned about how difficult I'd been and whether or not she was disappointed in me as an adult, but she reassured me. And when she needed me, because of the dissolution of her marriage and her declining health, I was glad and proud to be able to be there for her. Since her passing, I've missed her terribly, especially as I've dealt with an Asperger's diagnosis that would've made so much about me - and several other members of our family, including her father, her husband, and herself - make sense, but that I'll never be able to tell her about. I can't even imagine the agony she'd feel if she were around to hear what's been going on with these murders of autistic kids. My only consolation is in the relief that she'll never have to know.

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