For full disclosure, I have higher-functioning Autism, so I am going to sound quite biased. I’ve experienced devaluation in a variety of ways, but I am privileged in the sense that I’m high-functioning, I’ve had access to resources that most people do not have, and I “pass” as a neurotypical person, unless you spend an extended period of time around me, or I disclose it to you. Now that I’ve finished this disclaimer, let me begin.
First of all. I want to let people know that it is possible to have sympathy for the sturggles a parent of a child with disabilities experiences, while condemning the murder of child or person in their care. However, I do not want people to excuse dehumanization, and also justify the killing. This is most illustrated in this series of comments that follows:
Can we cut the sympathy “poor mom of a disabled kid” bullshit? I’m already seeing it in the comments. Killing your child is not okay. This mother is no more sympathetic than a mother (or father!) who kills her able bodied child because of stress or whatever other reason.
Exactly. You can feel for the stresses and depression, and the lack of resources, but don’t forget, this person murdered their child. In fact, they weren’t saying that it was any easier to raise a child with disabilities. It’s pretty well-known that in many cases where able-bodied children are killed, people immediately condemn the perpetrator. Unfortunately, when children with disabilities are killed, there is a hesitance to condemn the perpetrators. Again, just because someone struggles with something, doesn’t make everything they do right. We really need to step the fuck back away from the inspiration porn.
Believe it or not, we routinely, (even I have been guilty of this) of saying things that degrades a person with disability, as Harriet McBryde Johnson says:
I admire you for being out; most people would give up.
God bless you! I’ll pray for you.
You don’t let the pain hold you back, do you?
If I had to live like you, I think I’d kill myself.
I used to try to explain that in fact I enjoy my life, that it’s a great sensual pleasure to zoom by power chair on these delicious muggy streets, that I have no more reason to kill myself than most people. But it gets tedious. God didn’t put me on this street to provide disability awareness training to the likes of them. In fact, no god put anyone anywhere for any reason, if you want to know.
We also have stories like this, an uncomfortable truth, but it’s important for context (from XOJane):
Markea Blakely-Berry was born prematurely, and experienced lifelong cognitive disabilities as a result. Her life, however, was short: her mother starved her to death, and she passed away at age 16. She weighed 43 pounds at the time of her death.
George Hodgkins was murdered last year by his mother, who shot him and then herself in Sunnyvale, California. He was 22, and autistic.
Kyla Puhle, age 27, was starved to death by both her parents, weighing just short of 27 pounds at the time of her death from dehydration and starvation. She had quadriplegia, scoliosis, and cerebral palsy among other medical complications.
Tom Inglis was given a lethal overdose of heroin by his mother. He sustained significant head injuries that caused cognitive impairments at age 21.
4-year-old Daniel Kirby, an autistic child, was drowned in the bathtub by his mother. She drove the body to the local police department and turned herself in.
Karandeep Arora was strangled to death by his parents at age 18. He was blind, with other unspecified impairments. After they finished, his parents killed themselves.
Leosha Barnett, age 18, weighed 80 pounds by the time her mother finished starving her to death. She had epilepsy and other unspecified medical conditions.
Ajit Singh-Mahal’s mother forced him to drink bleach at age 12. After she was sure her autistic son was dead, she called the police to turn herself in.
Rohit Singh was beaten to death by his father for defecating on his bed. He was seven, and had unspecified physical disabilities.
Gerren Isgrigg was abandoned in the woods by his grandmother at age six. He was there for three days before being discovered, at which point he was dead. Gerren had epilepsy and used a feeding tube for nutrition.
Alex Spourdalakalis was 14 when his mother and grandmother drugged him with sleeping pills, stabbed him multiple times after the sleeping pills didn’t kill him, and then slit hit wrists. He was also autistic.
“More often than not, parents get away with their crimes, or receive comparatively light punishments considering the fact that these murders are often premeditated and involve extreme violence....”
“Instead, people who murder their disabled family members are lauded as heroes. They’re written up as saints for performing euthanasia, or compassionate homicide, or whatever phrase the media want to use. They position themselves as such as well; Tracy Latimer’s father, for example, routinely appears in the media to support parents who have murdered their disabled children.”
And that is just for people who are deemed “People with the most ‘severe’ disabilities.” Even in the United States, we have routinely sterilized those who are also deemed “unworthy.” Most of the time being poor people, or those who had disabilities, no matter how severe. And even again, people think that those who have disabilities have no worth, and that their quality of life is completely diminished. But unfortunately, society tries to paint all disabilities with the same brush.
Even those like me who are higher functioning, or have a high rate of care, or have been through years of therapy to see improvement have been dehumanized. A good example is when I go out for dates. I have to work extremely hard to control my twitches, stuttering, and my fidgeting. If it does show up by accident, they’ll question it, then when they find out what it is, they’ll usually say:
“You’re nice, but I don’t think I can deal with that.”
“I think you need to get a refund for the therapy.”
“Oh, I’m sorry, I thought you were just being weird. That’s okay if you’re a little special.”
What I am more concerned with is also the fact that she felt she had no other way. We don’t have enough funding for many disability programs, we don’t even have enough money for PTSD and other mental healthcare programs? For many parents, giving them up to the state seems a most viable option. And that is if they even have that limited amount of resource in the first place. I have sympathy for those who are caretakers. But I do not have sympathy for a murderer.
It’s even more disturbing to me, that the only time the sympathy for the caregiver, is usually brought up only if they kill their child. Which is shameful, because horrifying cases like the ones above could’ve easily have been prevented, if we as a larger society gave our support.
There’s my rant for the day.