I wrote this post on Thursday, before the Blogger meltdown. Apologies if you’re seeing this twice now, but since it seems to have vanished into the elusive cyberspace, I wanted to repeat it for those who might have missed it. (Normally I wouldn’t be quite so narcissistic to think that any of my posts are worthy of foisting on you twice, dear readers. However, I thought this was important and I kind of liked it – although not as much as I disliked the reason it needed to be written in the first place.)
Heads up … I just emailed to The Husband. That case with the 9 year old girl who was killed? Suspect had Asperger’s. Here we go ….
I wanted to add something along the lines of let the stoning begin … because we know how this will play out, don’t we?
Let me back up here for those not local to the Philadelphia area, where our local media has been hyper-focused on the case of an adorable 9 year girl killed on Monday by a neighbor in her apartment complex. She was, like countless other children, playing outside after school on a spectacularly gorgeous springtime Monday afternoon. (I’d include her name, but I’m not going to. For whatever whacked out reason, more hits than I care to admit come to this blog from people searching on the names of criminals and their victims.)
I have not been able to bring myself to read much about what is truly a horrific situation. A blog/Facebook friend has a connection to this little girl. And my own little girl is the same age, with the same dark hair and dark eyes, with a similarly toothy grin.
Originally, my thoughts about this case were going to take the form of a blog post in which I would have expressed how much I want to be the type of free-range mother who allows her kids to play outside in the manner which I occasionally remember doing (when I wasn’t holed up in my room reading or writing). About how I know this is good for them, this notion of playing outside and whatnot.
And about how, on Monday afternoon at the same time of the crime happening two hours north of here, Boo and his best friend were playing in our basement and I contemplated sending them outside … and how I couldn’t supervise them at the moment, and how I didn’t know how I’d live with myself if something happened to one of them, and how I thought I was being ridiculous because kids should be able to play outside and we all know the stats that children are not likely to be snatched/killed off the streets in broad daylight by the boogeyman.
I was going to write about how yesterday, a friend of Betty’s came to the door while Betty was playing the Wii. “Can Betty come outside?” she asked. Boo was heading toward meltdown mode, dinner needed to be prepared. I looked at my girl and saw the picture of another 9 year old girl who was innocently playing outside, saw a devastated family in my mind and thought there for but the grace of God go I and then I said no, you can’t go outside, decided the tantrum was easier to manage than the guilt, shut the door as my daughter’s friend (who I, admittedly, don’t really know and don’t know her family at all) walked, head down, down our front walkway.
That’s what I was going to write about, in regards to this case. How I’m probably too protective, too sheltering of my kids. How my kids won’t be the last child in the woods and how I felt guilty about that and how that’s not winning out in the face of this horrific crime that is every parent’s nightmare.
But with the disclosure by the suspect’s fiancee in today’s paper that the suspect in this case had Asperger’s … well, it takes a different turn. For me, at least.
To me, it perpetuates the stereotype that so many people think about people who are on the autism spectrum.
That they are people to be afraid of.
That they are monsters.
We who have children and loved ones on the autism spectrum, those who take the time to care for and teach our kids, those who reach out a hand to embrace friends whose children have disabilities and who have the compassionate sense to understand what it is like to walk in our shoes … you understand this. You know the capabilities that our kids have, how loving they can be, how to look beyond the quirks and the weirdness to see the goodness that lies within.
Who don’t assume that because someone acts a bit inappropriately at times or misses social cues that they are irrevocably damaged.
Who know that, like all of us, they are far from perfect.
You see, you’re the exception. Because for every one of you? There’s someone on a public forum hiding behind an ISP, casting cyber-stones at people they don’t and won’t ever understand. Calling for them to be put away, calling for an eye for an eye, calling for their death.
Make no mistake and let me be perfectly, crystal clear here:
I’m not making any excuses for what happened to this precious girl, for the anguish and suffering that she went through and what her family will have to live with for the rest of their lives. Nor am I suggesting that the Asperger’s diagnosis is a justifiable defense for one’s criminal actions or should be.
What I am saying is this:
This tragedy illustrates what we who are advocates for people with disabilities, particularly our kids caught in the web of autism, know. That they are going to grow up. That there is an absolute and complete utter lack of services, programs, and supports for adults with autism. That Pennsylvania’s governor (like many other legislators) is on a slash-and-burn mission to cut funding for many such supports, leaving such programs and the people and families who depend on them in a freefall.
All you need to do is look at some of the facts of this case: the suspect was unemployed. (What if he had been in some type of employment/job training program?) His housing situation: how different would his situation have been if he was perhaps eligible to live in a setting, surrounded by like peers, supported by caseworkers capable of providing him and others with the resources they needed?
I only have questions today, not answers.
And two more:
What happened to make him fall through the cracks?
And what has to happen to make sure the cracks don’t become wider, trapping more people within them?
copyright 2011, Melissa, The Betty and Boo Chronicles If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.