Strange that Oscar used to fight for the right of the disabled to be treated on absolutely equal terms to the able-bodied. This must have been some kind of sham, because now his lawyer is insisting that this was never so, that Oscar has been deeply and permanently scarred by his handicap, and absolutely must not be treated as an equal, but as a profoundly and eternally impaired person.
support ppl with developmental disabilities even when they aren’t all happiness all the time. support autistic people who lie and ppl with downs who don’t keep an angelic smile plastered on their face and ppl who do not act grateful for every little act of respect and decency you do. support ppl with developmental disabilities who don’t fit the positive stereotypes or the negative ones.
give them autonomy. take them seriously. support them, whether they fit your bullshit expectations or not.
but this doesn’t mean that you have to let people mistreat you in the name of anti-ableism
both parts matter
(TW: Ableism, murder, attempted murder of an autistic person, abuse) IT IS STILL WRONG TO MURDER YOUR AUTISTIC CHILDREN
It has been one year since the murder attempt on Issy Stapleton by her mother, Kelli. During that year there has been an outpouring of sympathy for this mother only because Issy is disabled with a severe autism diagnosis. In our society we not only excuse murderers who’s victims are disabled…
Why are we still having this conversation? I am so emotionally overwhelmed that I don’t even know how I’m going to deal with the world today because of the fact that I’ve spent the last 24 hours reading articles about Kelli Stapleton (not Issy, of course, because it’s Kelli we’re focused on, which is a whole other kettle of fish in itself). The worst thing is that the comments on these articles are horrific and bile inducing. I wonder about people, I really do, when there are “autism parents” defending the attempted murder of an autistic child.
If you cannot handle your autistic child, you need to call a crisis line. If you cannot handle having a potentially disabled child, you need to not have a child at all.
Autistic lives are not worthless. We matter, and stop defending parents who try and kill (most successfully) their autistic kids.
Content warning: This post is about sentiments leading to murder of people with disabilities. Proceed with caution.
At an autism conference recently, I heard the father of a 20 year old autistic man say in his speech to the whole conference, “I hope to live one heartbeat longer than he does. I’m sure many of you feel the same way about your children.”
That sentiment gets people killed. If you are the parent of a disabled child and you say things like this, it is a matter of life-and-death importance that you stop talking this way. The father who said this is probably entirely correct that many of the other parents in the audience felt the same way. I have heard this sentiment expressed by many other parents of children with disabilities (not just autism.)
Parents who hope to outlive their autistic children are talking about people who, barring tragedy, will almost certainly outlive their parents. Autism does not limit lifespan; most autistic people should live to be old. If you hope to outlive your autistic child, it means that you are hoping that their life will be tragically cut short. It means you think they’re better off dead than they would be living without you. That’s dangerous.
It’s not true. Nobody is better off dead. It is not a blessing to die young. Expressing a desire for someone to die young is not love. (People who say this may well love their children in other ways, but this sentiment is not love.)
Please stop implying that your child will be unable to live and be happy after you die. People just like your child live on in adulthood after their parents die, and your child can too. And they will have a much easier time of it if you accept that they will outlive you, and help them to prepare for their life without you.
The only way it’s likely to live a heartbeat longer than your autistic child is if you kill them and then yourself. Many parents who feel this way do exactly that. And, even if you would never kill your child, people who are considering committing murder can hear what you say. If you say that you hope to live a heartbeat longer than your child, it makes the murder that is the only way this can plausibly happen seem like a much more legitimate choice. Don’t give potential murders that kind of encouragement.
In the disability community, we observe a day of mourning and read a list of people with disabilities murdered by caregivers.
The list is long. And it’s only a list of the names we know. There are many others who died without making the news.
I hope and pray that your child never ends up on this list. I hope and pray that they outlive you and have a happy and meaningful adulthood. I hope and pray that this list never gets any longer.
One murder is too many. Not ever again.
Under the cut is the (as of this post) current list of the names we know. In loving memory; may these murders be the last:
If you wish the child you loved, raised, nurtured, and parented as best you could an early death, something is seriously wrong. Seek support. Get help. Do something. If you find yourself considering something drastic, or you are a disabled person in danger, click here for resources. If you are a parent wondering what will happen to your disabled child after you die, remember that there are people besides you who love your child and all the others like them very much. While you are alive and after you are gone, we will befriend, help, and protect your child as much as we can.
I started tweeting yesterday and I’d like everyone to start tweeting with me at the Washington Post (@WashingtonPost) over their article (tw at link: ableism, violence, seclusion, abuse) “Coping with adult children’s autism, parents may face ‘least bad’ decisions.”
In addition to @WashingtonPost, we will be tweeting at:
Executive Editor Martin Baron: @PostBaron
the Health Section of the Post: @PostHealthSci
the Local section, where the article was published: @postlocal
the journalist who wrote the article’s professional account, Dan Morse: @morsedan
I wrote a post (tw at link, ableism, violence, seclusion, abuse), “Complicit Narratives,” concerning the extremely troublesome aspects of the article, which sympathizes more with abusers than the victims, if you need more information.
We will tweet today and tomorrow using the hashtag #WPComplicit
Here are example tweets I have done so far, without the hashtag:
Tip: add a period “.” before the @ so your followers can see the tweets!
If you have the spare time for even one tweet, please turn out. There are a horrifying number of instances of autistic people locked in basements and cages lately. The Washington Post story is the second instance this month. When a major news outlet sympathizes with people who would be considered evil and criminal if they did the same thing to a non-disabled person, silence sends a message. This needs to be plainly unacceptable. The safe assumption is that hardly anyone will stand up for us us but us.
There was an abuse situation around Washington D.C. involving autistic adult brothers locked in a basement. An article about it sympathizes with the parents more than the victims. Send a letter to the editor with this link. Visit their twitter account here.
For decades, dozens of men with intellectual disabilities lived in an old schoolhouse and worked in a turkey plant. No one knew just what they endured.
Uhhhh … they turn into a pumpkin at midnight?
What does this even mean?
This is actually a good question. If it was asked with goodwill, it deserves an answer. Mine only covers the U.S. Things are different in other places.
It depends. In the U.S., there are basically three groups. The middle one seems biggest. All are represented on Tumblr and in autistic spaces around the Internet. The boundaries between them are fuzzy.
Some autistics can navigate society without supports or accommodations besides what all people need.* Some who might have been able to make it without extra help are too damaged by ableism to do so in practice.** People who dodge all these obstacles sometimes do well for themselves. It depends on all the usual sociological and personal factors.
Then, there are people who are visibly disabled, cannot speak, are unquestionably unable to hold down most traditional jobs, and, in some but not all cases, score as intellectually disabled on IQ tests. These people qualify for SSI. Many live in group homes. Some languish in nursing homes and other institutions. A few are lucky enough to have real homes in the community and lives that let them use all the potential they have, connect with others to the extent that they like, and generally live well. Far more have their abilities ignored, their potential wasted, and their agency squashed. These, at least, can usually count on support from the social safety net. Most of them at least have what they need to survive.***
The middle group has it worst. They look normal, but serious sensory or organizational issues make it hard to work, or a flat or strange affect makes it hard to get hired in the first place. Executive functioning issues can also complicate things like remembering to pay bills on time and doing household chores. In America, one must look extremely disabled to trigger the social safety net. These people are rarely disabled enough, so they scrape by on the margins of society. They are poor even if they have marketable degrees. Unless they have families or communities willing and able to simultaneously protect and support them and encourage them to live up to the potential they have, their lives are hard. Sometimes, they end up homeless or stuck with romantic, platonic, or familial abusers. This is an especially big problem for women. These people look normal enough that charities are not interested in helping. They are a predator’s dream. They can expect little sympathy from a society that writes them off as lazy, especially when they come from poor or minority backgrounds. If they can get on SSI, any additional income or satisfaction they could have gotten from having careers is cut off.****
*Abled people need some supports. Consider how loud sirens have to be to get neurotypicals’ attention.
**The consequences of prejudice include PTSD from abuse, neglect, harassment, and violence of all kinds, which we suffer from at higher rates than the general population. Another issue arising from brushes with ableism is learned helplessness. Some people are so coddled as children that they are too weak to do well in the adult world. Some are able to overcome this with a lot of hard work. Others never really do. It is hard to solve problems that reduce one’s capacity to solve problems. Another issue is that people who have had too much social skills training stop acting a little awkward, which at least looks natural, and seem robotic. Many have a vibe that is often described in terms of serial killers and white vans with ‘free candy’ scratched down the side. One can imagine how these individuals do in job interviews.
***A few are killed by abusive caregivers, though. Young men in this category, especially if they are POCs, are at unusually high risk of dying in altercations with police. Some meet early, preventable ends because they are neglected or become ill. Medical care available to poor people in America is often substandard. The medical profession can be very ableist. Doctors do not always try hard.
****The line about altercations with police applies to these people, too.
The last couple of weeks dragged me across over 1,000 miles and seven towns with no end in slight. There have been gigs, heretofore unknown cousins, research misadventures, and the miseries of breaking in new work books. Last night, I was lounging in a comfortable chair, trying not to move. I wanted to sleep but had fidgety thoughts.
They killed another one. They nearly severed his hand, called it mercy. The headlines say they were desperate. Less sensational articles note that their state offered help. They refused it. Their suicide attempts were pitifully insincere. As thorough as they were with Alex, it is odd that they failed to spare the good people of Illinois the expense of their trial. They seem to be getting more sympathy than their victim. People assume that autistics, the disabled in general, are so different from everyone else that killing us is humane. What is beneficial and desirable to others is not so to us.
Here in Georgia, we have an Autism Speaks-sponsored bill that would incentivze ABA. That is never good. This is particularly infuriating because they are parading a child around as their mascot. She seems like a great kid. I like her just from the Facebook photos. If her parents care what is best for her, they think it is being an activist.
When allistic children have public lives, we worry. Sunlight, not limelight, helps growing bodies and minds. We sigh over child stars. They are cute now, but life will be difficult for them unless they make the transition to adult acting. Many now-grown kid celebrities’ lives are train wrecks. They are anything but healthy, happy, well-adjusted, productive adults. We admire President Obama and the First Lady, whether we like their politics or not, for keeping their girls’ lives quiet, normal. Sasha and Malia turn up in the occasional Facebook photo, but their parents seem to keep them mostly out of politics and public life.
One would think that public portrayals of the first family would be a reflection of society’s wishes for all its children. Autistic kids are apparently so weird, so special, as to be an exception to the rules. Autistic youth do not necessarily need real childhoods, where they learn advocacy without being expected to man the barricades. Autistic children, autistics in general, are not thought to need and want the preservation of life, the awe-inspiring drive and common feature of nearly all beings. This is ableism at its finest: those people are such freaks that murdering them, committing one of the most viscerally disturbing crimes that others fear and dread, killing them without their consent, can be an act of mercy.
Even if you share my belief that Alex went home to a god who received him like a favorite son, that boy lost everything his life could have been. He had many more years. Nothing can compensate him for a lost future that might have been wonderful. He will never feel the sun of our world on his face again. He suffered agony and terror at the hands of those he loved, trusted most. He was robbed of the chance to realize whatever dreams he might have had. If you feel one iota of sympathy for Alex Spourdalakis’ killers, you are part of the problem. Rethink those feelings. Start working on changing society’s sense that the disabled are so different that the general rules of basic human needs, wants, and welfare do not apply.
Warren Hill is not a nice person. I would not want him living in my neighborhood. He is not in prison for one of the drug convictions that take too many, especially men of color living in poverty, from their communities. He is there because he has shown a callous willingness to kill other human beings. He murdered two brutally, his girlfriend with eleven gunshots, his cellmate with a nail-studded board. No one wants his presence in society. However, he does not deserve to die.
I read about his life. He grew up poor. He was abused. At least one parent’s ability to raise him was limited by substance abuse and dependence. His family failed him. It was obvious to his teachers that he could not understand the material for his grade level. He learned slower, more laboriously, than his schoolmates. However, I saw no indication that he got so much as tutoring to maximize his academic potential and options in life. He was born too early for special education. The schools failed him.
As an adult, Hill was in the military. They took a man with less cognitive ability than average who was raised with few examples of nonviolent interpersonal relationships and taught him violence. Military training does not a murderer make. Even combat veterans generally do not generally hurt civilians. However, it does make one better at any violence one chooses to perform by definition. The recruiter who likely came to know Hill’s limitations and something of his history but did not turn him away failed him. So did his commanding officers. He seems to have served in the Navy during peacetime. It would have been no great loss to the armed forces to let one man out when it became apparent he should not have been there.
In prison, he was not protected. According to a Guardian article, he lived in a dormitory. While the authorities did not recognize his vulnerability, other inmates did. Physically and sexually, he was mistreated as too many prisoners are. He may well have been lashing out at an abuser when he got his death sentence.
People with intellectual disabilities have moral culpability. They must be given the dignity of responsibility for their actions. Hill’s wrongdoing is ultimately on his own conscience, but society should recognize that its every institution failed him. Murder is wrong, but Hill was set up for a bad end. Then, his disability put him at a disadvantage in the courts. From birth, the people partly or wholly responsible to him and for his well-being did not help him. The arc of his life might have been diverted from this wretched course. No one stepped up.
Warren Hill is a murderer. He should be punished. Life imprisonment without the possibility of parole is punishment enough. That would protect society from him, penalize him for monstrous acts, recognize that some small share of fault falls on innumerable others, and preserve his chance to reform. That would be justice. Given safe space within a prison, a useful task to perform, a bit of compassion, and perhaps whatever educational materials he can understand, he could become better than he is. It is a long shot, but society also has a debt to pay him. We should take into account that he never received his birthright. Every unwritten promise of the social contract went unfulfilled in his life.
I am especially leery of executing Warren Hill because I see intentionality in this. I suspect someone might have recognized his disability sooner if not for certain racial stereotypes of intelligence. I know poverty destroyed what little chance he had of getting help as a child in the 1960s. His socioeconomic status worked against him in the courts. I wonder if he would have received the death penalty if, all else equal, he had been white. It is possible, but, if we could make a bet and peer into a parallel universe for the answer, my money would be on ‘no.’ My gut says he would be serving a life sentence if he did not call up a specter, a caricature of black, male violence that has long haunted the South.
These are not the only reasons his life should be spared. Apart from the injustice of the situation, Georgia should not flout the law. The U.S. Supreme Court has not take the case, but they have already ruled the execution of people with intellectual disabilities unconstitutional. Whatever one’s opinion of the death penalty, there is nothing acceptable about this. It is immoral, illegal, and embarrassing. At favorite haunts in Boone, North Carolina this weekend, I may hide the car off the main drag. I would rather pretend to be from somewhere else than be seen with Georgia plates. If the Supreme Court does not intervene, if Governor Deal is silent, my adopted home will sink to a level of barbarism that will appall decent people the world over this coming Monday. It has already cropped up in foreign media. Georgia’s idea of justice is depriving a man who has hardly had anything of all he has left: his future, the opportunity to improve. Now, everyone knows.