Monday, March 12, 2012

No Justifications

On her blog, the ever-thoughtful and always-inspiring Jennifer Byde Meyers writes about the horrible news making its way around the special-needs community at the moment: the murder of a young autistic man by his mother, who then took her own life.

I hadn't realized how close to home this was for Jennifer until I read her post today. That's what makes her ability to assess and summarize the key issues in such a clear-headed way even more remarkable, if you ask me:
If we let this story focus on the hardships of this woman, we are lost. The young man was killed, and it undermines that significance when we read in another article that one could understand what "would drive a parent of an autistic child to commit such a senseless act." Anyone who says they "understand" is reinforcing the idea that my son, and other people like him, are less valuable. It may be unintentional, but that sympathy starts to sound a lot like taking his life is somehow "understandable," because things were hard and the young man required a lot of help. 
Yes, we need better services, but we have always needed better services. Yes, we need support for parents who are life-long caretakers, and better adult programs for that magic age when children become adults overnight. We need infrastructure and life-skills support for adults with autism. There was a program available for this family, but there really are not a lot of options when kids "age-out" of the education system. But these are all separate issues. These are the things we are working for. That's what we advocate for. And as for worry, there is not a single parent I know in this community that is not concerned about their child's future. Exhaustion, frustration, fear...
It is not a list of reasons why taking your child's life is justified.
It is not a list of reasons why taking your child's life is justified. It absolutely is not.

For all the ways in which N struggles, for all his delays, the issues around this story--in particular, the issue of services for adults with autism who age out of the school system--are not the ones that keep me up at night. N will make his way in this world; he will graduate from high school in and around when his peers do, and I have hope that he will go on to college if that's where his passions take him.

But the more wide-ranging issue--the one that shows our society perceiving people with autism as tragic figures, worthy of pity but not quite equal to the rest of us; the one that shows our society expressing understanding of why a parent would or could kill his or her own child--is just as much ours to own as anyone else's. Not just because N is autistic. But because we are human beings, and what happened here was wrong, and terrible, and I will not, cannot, stand back and listen to anyone talk about why it may have been justified.

It absolutely was not. Thank you, Jennifer, for making that so obviously and abundantly clear.

No comments: