Some people say the most ignorant things… this past summer I recall reading a story about a Michigan mother, Kelli Stapleton, attempting to kill both herself and her severely autistic daughter. If I remember correctly, the story was in People magazine, or some other sort of periodical. It was a total puff piece I thought, because the story didn’t do justice to the pain and suffering I know this woman had been through.
Many people were quick to condemn this poor woman, comparing her to Hitler, that she should be tried on hate crime charges, that life is about rising, not coasting (paraphrased from an NBC News story regarding this same incident). Seriously? Obviously such people have not a clue what it’s like to be in that situation, 24/7, day after day, 365 days a year, for YEARS. Many people would crack under such stress, and have. I believe the stress of being in such situations have been a significant factor in illnesses seen in people we know, including my wife. It’s true, stress is a killer.
From what I’ve gathered Kelli Stapleton is facing life in prison. This is so wrong. She’s already been confined to her own personal hell for the last FIFTEEN years. Prison will be vacation for her. This is why there are extenuating circumstances, and why judges have the discretion to mete out punishment as is appropriate to the situation. I could go on much more about this, but in the interest of keeping my posts brief, I’ll get off of my soapbox for now.
***UPDATE*** Learned that Kelli Stapleton was sentenced to 10-22 years in prison for first degree child abuse. Too bad nobody intervened when Kelli’s behavior was displaying signs of someone about to go off the rails. And I am struck with disbelief by the comments people have made about her. Most of them obviously have never walked a mile in her shoes.
Because of our situation, I’m keenly aware of such stories when they come to light. In our circle I know of a father who killed himself, unable to face another day in his situation. When we lived in Ohio a woman in a town close to where we lived shot her autistic daughter, set her house to flames, and then shot herself. And several times I have wondered about these stories of elopement, i.e., did the child really escape on their own, or did the parents purposely let them escape, with the hope of their child never being found? I remember a story of two autistic boys wandering from the homes in the middle of a cold winter night, only to be found frozen to death. Then there was a incident in Ohio where the step-parents of an autistic boy bound him with tape and left him in a closet for the weekend, for a much needed vacation apparently. Yeah, he died.
I remember being at a pub in Florida one evening (‘Happy Hour’ with my coworkers), seeing a story on TV about an autistic girl being lost in the swamps of Florida. Everyone around me paid no notice, except me. I was riveted to the TV, thinking of all the horrible things that could happen to this girl. Beyond the confines of suburban America, Florida is a very inhospitable place. She was found covered in mosquito bites, but alive. A miracle.