When autism parents kill–it has to do with hope

autism-1As a parent of twins with autism, I know what it’s like to feel desperate and alone. I know how it feels to have doors close and be left with no one to help carry the load. Professionals go home to their families, most don’t have any idea what it’s like to live with the turmoil. They get to sleep through the night without worrying if their child will harm themselves or wander off.

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Maybe you’re reading this and you have a child with autism. Like me, you probably think you’d never entertain the thought of murdering your child, no matter how desperate your feel. But we have to remember that our experience with autism isn’t another parent’s experience.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not condoning murder in any way shape or form. I think I’m trying to understand the emotions that drive someone to do such a thing.

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And I do get it. I do. When you are screaming for help and no one comes, you feel backed into a dark corner of no hope. I believe it’s loss of hope that causes parents to kill their disabled children. At least, I think that’s what happened in the case of Dorothy Spourdalakis who murdered her severely autistic son, Alex Spourdalakis, age 14, last year. (You can read the story here.  It’s compelling. Sad. And too often a common story regarding severely autistic children.)

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But in the case of Gigi Jordan, I’m not so sure. In that case it appears it was a selfish act. Or was it? Could it be true that she killed her son in order to protect him from an abusive father? It certainly can’t be true that she couldn’t obtain services for the child. She’s a millionaire. If she couldn’t obtain services, then who can?

Cases like this are just one reason I was prompted to write a book about autism (My book, Autism: Practical Help and Spiritual Hope for Parents, will be available in April 2015). Parents need to know there is definitely hope in this journey. Hope doesn’t make the road easier, but it makes it bearable.

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Autism isn’t who my children are. It’s a name of a disability that causes significant challenges in socialization, speech and behavior. All people with disabilities are precious. planned for and valuable to God. As much as I love my children, I know that God loves them even more, and He has a plan and purpose for their life. I sincerely believe that if we pray and ask God to send us help to cope, and what services to access, He open the doors. At least, that’s what He’s always done for me.

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As I wrote in my book:

“With God all things are possible” Matthew 19:26. I clung to that scripture and believed it the entire time
my twins were growing up and I continue to hold on to it today.  Things I thought they may never do, they’ve done. More than I ever imagined.

God’s Word tells us that we can’t begin to imagine what He  has in store for us (1 Corinthians 2:9). I can testify to this.

I will admit, when I see children suffering, I have a lot of questions for God. This is when I lean on the faith that God knows what He’s doing and He is up to something good, whether we see it right now or not.

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As a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA), I see children suffer more than I want to. Life is hard and I certainly don’t want to minimize anyone’s pain. I know what it’s like to feel alone and hopeless. This is why it’s important that Christians reach out to hurting families. If they reject our offers of help, then at least we’ve tried. Without the hope of Christ, what hope is there, really?

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All human life is sacred because we are created in the Image of God. Murder is never the answer to the frustrations of parenting a child on the autism spectrum or a child with any kind of disability. Yes, it’s difficult. But it’s do-able. More than that, it’s the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done. The struggle has been worth the benefits. My sons love me with the purest form of unconditional love I’ve ever known besides Jesus’ love. They are truly God’s gifts to me.

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The following video was prepared for Sanctity of Life Sunday which is in January each year. If you’d like to be a voice for those who can’t speak for themselves, you can find information here: BeAVoice.net.

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Strong girls aren’t mean girls II

Stronggirlslogo2Yesterday I wrote an article for my column about a group of teens who poured bodily fluids on an autistic classmate by tricking him into thinking they were doing the ALS ice bucket challenge. They poured the vile fluid on him from the roof of his garage while recording and posting it to Instagram.

autism-1I can’t watch the video without crying. As a Mom with teen boys with autism, I can’t imagine someone doing that to my sons. I have to wonder — where was the voice of reason in this group of kids? Did no one stop to think about how it would make their autistic peer feel?

 

If just one of them had stopped or refused to participate–would it have given the others a chance to slow down and think about the consequences of their actions?

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Strong girls aren’t mean girls. Strong girls stand up for those who can’t stand up for themselves. They are strong enough and have the courage enough to go against the flow, to be different, to say no when their heart is telling them something is wrong.

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God’s Word reminds us of the Lord’s call to care for the defenseless. In Leviticus chapter 19, God instructs those with fields and vineyards to leave a portion of the harvest for the poor. There are many scriptures in the Bible that instruct us to help those in need: Leviticus 25:35, Deuteronomy 14:28-29, Deuteronomy 15:7-11, Isaiah 58:6-7, Psalms 41:1-3, Proverbs 11:25, 19:17, 22:9, Matthew 5:42, 6:1-4, 19:21, 25:31-46, Luke 6:38, 11:41, 12:33-34, Acts 20:35, 1 Corinthians 12:4-11, 12:27-31, 13:1-13, 2 Corinthians 9:6-7, Galatians 2:10, Ephesians 4:7-12, 1 Timothy 5:16, 6:17-19, Hebrews 13:3, 13:16, James 1:27, 2:2-9, 2:15-16, 1 John 3:17-18.

Psalm 82:3 reminds us to: “Deliver the poor and needy: rid them out of the hand of the wicked.

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A Strong Girl who is attentive to God’s voice won’t go along with the crowd. She’ll listen for that still small voice above the boisterous noise and giggles of a group of bullies. This power and strength isn’t because the girl is exceptionally strong, but because she has tapped into THE STRENGTH that the Holy Spirit provides.

The Apostle Paul, who wrote about a third of the New Testament, reminded his friends in Corinth of this supernatural strength when he wrote in his letter to them:

“And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God.For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power” 1 Corinthians 2:1-4.

Paul was a bold guy, but even he was afraid at times. He knew that his preaching was only powerful because of God’s power. If you’re scared to stand up, be yourself, go against the flow–ask God for boldness. I guarantee He will give it to you.

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When I am in a conversation that I feel isn’t right, I pray quietly to myself and listen for God’s voice. “Give me the right words, Lord. I don’t know what to say.” I pray this if I’m being bullied, too. (Yes, grown ups are bullied, too!) God has never failed to help me in those uncomfortable situations.

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Then there are times when I’m with friends and I get that icky feeling inside that what we’re talking about isn’t pleasing to God. If you’re in a situation and you feel that ickiness? It could be the Holy Spirit pricking your heart, warning you to stop before it goes too far.

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Sometimes when people, young and old, are in a crowd, they get caught up in the excitement and rowdiness of those around them. This is called mob mentality. But God has called us to go against the mob. He’s given us the power through His Holy Spirit to do so. All we have to do is listen for His voice and obey.

In summary:

  • Strong Girls aren’t mean girls.
  • Strong Girls go against the flow.
  • Strong Girls defend the defenseless.
  • Strong Girls listen for the Holy Spirit’s voice and obey it.

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The Butterfly and the Violin by Kristy Cambron: 4.5/5 stars

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If you enjoy WWII fiction, you’ll want to read Cambron’s book, The Butterfly and the Violin. This love story is about an art gallery owner’s search for a haunting painting found at Auschwitz-Birkenau.

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I normally don’t like to read about the Holocaust because it’s too painful for me. I internalize much of the pain and it takes me days to shake loose from the horrors I read about. But this was about a violinist, and as a violinist myself, I wanted to see what it was about. The beautiful cover of this book, I admit, also influenced me to choose it as a book to review for BookLook.

I review for BookLook Bloggers

The author seamlessly ties the story of the violinist’s experiences of Auschwitz with the modern telling of the art gallery owner, Sera. In each story line there is a compelling romance. Adele and Vladimir are in love in the 1940s and both end up in concentration camps after they’re caught helping a Jewish family escape Austria. In modern times, Sera falls in love with Michael who is searching for the same haunting painting of Adele that she is.

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The intertwining of art and music was what I enjoyed most about this book (besides the romance). I did find a couple of glitches in the story (which is why I gave it a 4.5 instead of a 5). However, they are extremely minor and those who aren’t violinists won’t even know they are there.

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Me and my school violin, age 10 or 11

This book is definitely worth the read and would be a safe first book for someone who doesn’t know much about the holocaust. It’s not terribly graphic yet paints a clear picture of what women in concentration camps suffered. But it’s still a lovely escape into the past and into the world of art and music. I highly recommend this compelling book.

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The case of the disappearing fingerprints

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There’s nowhere to hide.

Unless, maybe, you don’t have fingerprints.

Years back I wrote a novel during NaNoWriMo where one of the characters had to scan her hand to access her office. I was rather proud of my cutting-edge technological knowledge back then. In those days, such a premise was nothing more than science fiction.

It ain’t no more.

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As I work toward my degree in Special Education, I have to go through an extensive background check to student teach. Part of this background check (required by my college, not the school–I already substitute teach with a basic background check), is to be fingerprinted.

image-2I was already feeling a little bit disappointed I was going to do this because I prided myself in living off the grid as far as my fingerprint identity goes. (Not that I could truly live off the grid. Google my name and there I am in all my glory.) I expected to go to the police station and do the ink fingerprint routine. I was worried about it ruining my manicure.

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I needn’t have worried. They no longer do ink fingerprinting for background checks in the United States. Now they use biometric scanning technology. The future is now.

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I was greeted by a very kind, older gentleman who looked a bit like a character from a sci-fi spaceship movie. He gently placed my hand on the scanner and manipulated it to get the right position and scan. We soon learned that I’m one of the difficult ones.

I’m missing fingerprints on my little finger and ring finger.

!!!

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Not my hand but this person has no fingerprints.

Turns out, not having fingerprints is actually a genetic condition called Adermatoglyphia.

But that’s not what I have because my other three fingers and my thumb have prints. Apparently, through years of playing the piano and typing, I’ve worn my fingerprints off on those two fingers! I thought it was piano playing but my husband reminded me that on my computer keyboard I wear the letters off where those two fingers on each hand land: q,w,a,s and o,p,l, and ;.

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If my fingerprints are rejected, I’ll have to go in and scan them again to prove that my fingerprints don’t scan. Then, I’ll have to submit paperwork to prove I exist as my name. (I don’t know why they don’t do this in the first place.)

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There are other reasons and occupations that causes our fingerprints to disappear. Aging causes us to lose fingerprints. Apparently it’s difficult for older people to use biometric identification technology because their skin is thinner and the ridges on the fingers not as pronounced.

Guess that means it’s official. I’m old.

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The elderly have a difficult time passing biometric screenings for visas and passports. India is having a difficult time identifying its residents with the now-required biometric scanning technology.

I was glad to learn I wasn’t alone. However, it’s now a major headache to get approved for much without your fingerprints. I’m sure they’ll eventually just scan our eyes or faces but it may take awhile to develop a database. Although, with facebook tagging, it may be closer than we think. (Each time I post a pic of my granddaughter, facebook thinks it’s her mother.) In regard to scanning our eyes, if someone has had cataracts removed, iris scanning doesn’t work, either.

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Bricklayers and massage therapists often wear off their fingerprints. It’s not a unique thing. Another problem I had with the scanner is that I have exceptionally small hands. It’s something I inherited from my grandmother and I’m rather proud of it. I should have much larger hands for someone my size. I wear a size 4.5 ring. It makes it difficult to buy costume rings, but it’s worth it.

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So when the guy did my fingerprints and had to roll my fingers for the second part of the scan, they weren’t read very well. I’m still waiting to hear if my fingerprints were rejected. The finger printer said they most likely would be.

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I have to drive 45 minutes to get to where they scan my fingerprints. It’s going to be a hassle to re-do them only to have them rejected again. Finger(prints) crossed the good prints will be enough to identify whether or not I’m a crook. In the meantime, I’m working on getting an original birth certificate sent to the powers-that-be to prove I’m a good egg.

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Here’s a good website to learn more about losing your fingerprints: Can You Lose Your Fingerprints? – Scientific American.

And here’s a video from Fox News:

Have you ever been fingerprinted for a passport or visa? For any other reason? How did it go?

What do you think is the next thing in biometric technology?

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Strong Girl: Malala Yousafzai

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Imagine riding the bus home from school and being ambushed by the taliban because you blog about girls getting an education.

This is what happened to Malala Yousafzai on a Tuesday, October 9, 2012.

The young militants opened fire on the bus, shot Malala in the head and neck, wounded two others, and left them for dead.

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They thought they’d silenced Malala forever but they were wrong. She survived and has continued to spread her message that a girls’ education benefits everyone. It reduces mortality rates, increases lifetime wage earnings, and strengthens democracy.

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Malala’s miraculous recovery has taken her from a remote valley in northern Pakistan to the halls of the United Nations in New York. She is the youngest person to have ever been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

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Malala’s father sounds a lot like my dad. My dad never limited me because I was a girl. He always told me I could accomplish whatever I set my mind to. Malala’s dad owned a school and encouraged his daughter to write and go to school even though he lived in a society that prized sons more than daughters.

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In July 2013, on her 16th birthday, Malala addressed the United Nations General Assembly:

“We must not forget that millions of people are suffering from poverty, injustice and ignorance.  We must not forget that millions of children are out of schools.  We must not forget that our sisters and brothers are waiting for a bright peaceful future.  So let us wage a global struggle against illiteracy, poverty and terrorism and let us pick up our books and pens.  They are our most powerful weapons.”

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Malala reminds us that some girls face death for going to school. Terrorist groups in Afghanistan and other oppressed areas of the world continue to threaten and attack female students and teachers. Things were improving in some places but with limited presence of the United States in these oppressed areas, girls lives are in danger if they read books and go to school.

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Clearly, Malala is a strong girl with big dreams. The next time you’re tempted to skip school, think of the price other girls in the world pay for the right to learn. Strong girls are readers. Strong girls are educated. Strong girls, like Malala, have the courage to stand up and not sit down for what is right.

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How much better [is it] to get wisdom than gold! and to get understanding rather to be chosen than silver! Proverbs 16:16

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When parents of disabled children kill

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I hear it all the time.

A parent gets overwhelmed and they kill their child with a disability because one more day is just too much.

Kelli Stapleton, age 45 of Michigan, wrote on her blog, The Status Woe, in September:  “I have to admit that I’m suffering from a severe case of battle fatigue.”

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It was on this blog that she vented about the challenges of raising her 14-year-old daughter, Isabelle, who has a diagnosis of autism and a history of violent outbursts. Something went wrong with her school program and it made things worse.

Why did something go wrong with the school program?

One of the reasons I want my degree in special education is because I have insight as a parent of special needs children.

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When will the schools realize that SAMENESS is one of the most important factors in educating students with autism? Especially severe autism? And especially severe autism in the teen years?

Later that day, this Mom and her daughter were found unconscious from carbon monoxide poisoning  in a van in which charcoal was burned with the windows all closed. The child survived and Mom is now in jail awaiting trial.

muchpainI’m not condoning her actions. But I understand what it’s like to lose hope. It’s the worst feeling in the world. You can’t think straight after being pummeled by your child day in and day out with no end in sight. There just isn’t enough support for parents in this country. We love our children. We love having them with us in our home. But where is the support?

School is not enough.

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Kelli’s friends are blogging for her now on her blog, and raising money for her legal fees.

Kelli’s Blog: The Status Woe

Fund Raiser: Friends of Kelli Stapleton

And a beautiful blog post about this situation is here: A Line in the Sand. It says so well all that I wanted to say here but couldn’t find the words as my heart breaks for this child and her mother.

Please read it. Even if you have no interest in special needs families. Read it and learn. There are hurting people out there and you just might be an answer to their prayer.

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