A teenager recently dismissed from an intensive autism treatment program in Kalamazoo County remains unconscious in a Grand Rapids hospital Thursday morning, suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning authorities say was part of a failed murder/suicide attempt by her mother.
The 45-year-old Benzie County mother is hospitalized, too, and has been arrested and a warrant authorized charging her with attempted murder; she is under protective custody, according to a news release by the Michigan State Police in Cadillac.
Friends have identified the mother as Kelli Stapleton, who has written of her experiences with her 14-year-old daughter, Issy, in a blog, "The Status Woe."
The family was featured in a Traverse City Record-Eagle story in March that told of Issy's acute autism, episodes of violence, and the family's struggle to fund a full eight-month treatment program in Kalamazoo County.
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.
Managing her transition back into “normal” life has been complicated. The behavior plan is reducing her target behaviors. The behavior plan is our miracle. So how do we best ensure the integrity of the behavior plan as we transition home?
I shared Issy’s story above rather than her mother’s story. The news media shares Issy’s mother’s story as if the story is about Issy’s mother and not about Issy. That is because Issy is autistic. For some reason, in our warped culture, being autistic somehow means you don’t count – you are not considered human being enough to count even after someone tries to murder you! In fact, you will likely not even be part of the story after the first few sentences.
The story becomes one of excuses for the mother or care giver who attempts to or actually succeeds in murdering the autistic. At our core, as a society, we hold the belief that a disabled person is better off dead.
We don’t actually talk about this belief, but it is what is underneath when so many can read the story and agree with and sympathize with the murderer. In no other murder scenario do we do this – sympathize with the murder and blame lack of services. Disabled people are construed as a burden to their families and are even thought to be the fault of their own murders! Sympathy starts pouring in for the poor murderer who had no choice and who, in fact, did what any one else would be driven to do under the same circumstances is what we are told by reporters.
We are told we are strong.
That God chose us.
That special kids go to special parents.
We are commended, complimented, compared to saints.
When society isn’t judging us in Target stores, it’s perching us upon dangerously high pedestals against our will, pedestals that prove wobbly on even the best of days.
And we do our best to live up to the unfair expectations: The plastered smiles, the upbeat status updates, the continuous photo streams showing home-cooked meals, impromptu playdates, victorious trips to the dentist from carefully constructed angles so as not to breathe life into the disorganization and chaos that often plagues our lives. We really do give it the ‘ol college try.
The insurance denials, the school district dramas, the medical maladies that infuse and define the majority of our days; they are a burden we often silently bear because to admit to the exhaustion, the hopelessness, the rage and resentment would be to admit that we are failing our children and there is no greater tragedy for a parent than that.
Oh, how we strive to appear intact, even when the threads that hold us together slowly unravel while we do our best to disguise the fraying ends.