We ask to not be judged and yet…

When I started the project ‘Autism Understanding and Acceptance’, I did it with the intentions of helping those without Autistic children to better understand and accept people with Autism as well as the parents that do have children with Autism.

I knew though, that it also meant doing the same for parents that do have Autistic children. Far too often I’ve seen parents disagree, quite vocally and with much anger, where one has a child with Aspergers or “high functioning” Autism and the other has a child that is far lower on the spectrum, much more severe (nonverbal, not toilet trained, etc.).

A recent news story

This morning, I saw this news story where a woman abandoned her 10 year old, severely Autistic son to a hospital. He was just left there to wander the halls. When they found him and talked to her, it turned out that she was bi-polar, unemployed, has 2 other children, going through a divorce and being evicted.

Along with the story were a lot of comments, including extra comments from those who posted it on Facebook and so forth. Some were with some level of understanding while most were very judging…. some were even full of a lot of hate.

So I copied the link and shared it in a couple of places, asking what people thought… and one such place was my Autism Understanding and Acceptance fan page. I picked this place in particular for a reason.

The authorities press no charges, her peers do

In the article, it states that the authorities are not pressing charges. They are instead, focusing on the child and making sure that he gets the help and care he needs.

Parents on the other hand, not all, were pretty quick to pass judgment. Many stating “you just dont leave your kids” and “our kids aren’t throw-aways”.

Many parents, feeling for the child, imagine his loss, his confusion… he no longer has any semblance of his past routine, he no longer knows anyone at all and he no longer knows where he is. He must feel terrible and afraid.

How quick we are to judge

less judgingThe truth is though, that not one of us has walked a mile in her shoes. The truth is, not one of us knows her story, his story or what preceded that day.

The article tries to paint the picture with a quick list, as I did above (eviction, divorce, unemployed, etc) but that only gives us an idea.

The fact is that we don’t know how hard it really was for her, we don’t know for how long she struggled with this decision, who she talked to about it, what advice she was given, what her other choices were (or weren’t).

For that matter we don’t know what other assistance she tried to receive. Did she exhaust all of her financial options (there’s not always a lot of support from the government if you’re unemployed), did she exhaust all the options her local charities/groups could afford her? Did she get turned away from medical facilities for having no insurance or even for having her own disorder (bi-polar) to contend with?

We all know how hard it can be to get proper services and yet we’re quick to suggest that it would have been so simple for her to have the resources handed to her to avoid her having to resort to abandonment.

When you’ve met one child with Autism….

Another truth is, we don’t know just how hard it really was. I know it’s hard raising my 2 boys, one with Autism (not severe) and one without. This woman had 3 children… and one had severe Autism.

And in our minds, we can picture that… but some small part must also be saying “I don’t really know because I’ve never met him.” The reason for this is that it’s exactly what we tell teachers, doctors, professionals, other parents and everyone else when they tell you “I know what it’s like”…  no, they don’t, because each child is different.

Furthermore, each parent is different. Some people simply aren’t good parents. Some people are really NOT good with special needs children. Not everyone has the same patience, tolerance, understanding, stress, anxiety and coping levels that we might have.

Would I have been able to do better than her? Would I still be caring for that little boy? I’d like to think I could but you know what, I can’t say that. I can’t possibly know.

My children aren’t like hers. My situation isn’t like hers. My life isn’t like hers.

Understanding and Acceptance

It’s not exactly hypocritical but it’s pretty close, to judge this woman harshly and then ask others not to judge us.

When my son hits the floor at the grocery store, kicking and screaming, I deal as best I can but most likely I’m just paying the cashier to get us out of there. Other parents judge me. I can see it, I can hear it, I can feel it. And I hate it.

I make a very conscious and concerted effort to not judge others in the same way. When I see a screaming child, I look at the parent and smile. They know I’m thinking “It’s ok.. don’t worry about it.”

This situation is far more extreme but it’s no less different. We can not ask for others not to judge us all the while quickly, and vocally, judging another parent at the first media story we read of her.

Media stories seldom tell the whole story, media stories rarely are as accurate as they should be. But even still, from this media I can take a few points:

  • The child was 10 years old. That means that for 10 long years, she did her very best. She tried for everything she was worth and probably made huge sacrifices. Who knows how much the other 2 children missed out on while that boy needed so much attention. She didn’t just throw her hands up and give up on her first day.
  • We don’t know how hard it was. The article doesn’t say she was crying, but it doesn’t say she wasn’t sad about it either. It was very likely, one could assume, that it was a very very hard decision for her. After 10 long years, giving everything she had, she had to give him up and hope for the best.
  • She could have done far better than leaving him to just wander a random hospital but she could have also done much worse, take Casey Anthony’s story for example.

I would never give up my children but it doesn’t take a lot of television watching to realize that not everyone is parenthood material. Not everyone that has children should have children. And many of those people recognize that. It might not be right, but I can respect that. If they’re willing to do their best, and fail, and admit that they can’t do it.. I’d rather they gave up that child.

Adoption agencies are there for a reason. You can judge a person for giving up their child but for some people, they just have to. They aren’t you. The child may very well be better off with someone else than with a parent that only pretends to be a good parent… someone that may end up hating that child enough to do harm.

A person that snaps is a dangerous person. People can be pushed over the edge and that edge isn’t the same distance for everyone.

As part of understanding and acceptance, I recognize that not everyone can raise a special needs child. Not everyone can live through the same stresses that I can. Not everyone has it as easy or as hard as I do. And no one… not one person, is the same as me or my child.

Maybe I don’t always understand and maybe I can’t always accept… but that doesn’t give me the right to judge.

Understanding and Acceptance isn’t reserved for those without special needs children. I think we all could do with a little more of it.


Update 10:26am: This news piece shows the mother in court, explaining why she did it: http://www.wsvn.com/news/articles/local/21004795218839/

About Stuart Duncan

My name is Stuart Duncan, creator of http://www.stuartduncan.name. My oldest son (Cameron) has Autism while my younger son (Tyler) does not. I am a work from home web developer with a background in radio. I do my very best to stay educated and do what ever is necessary to ensure my children have the tools they need to thrive. I share my stories and experiences in an effort to further grow and strengthen the online Autism community and to promote Autism Understanding and Acceptance.

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16 Responses to We ask to not be judged and yet…

  1. The Domestic Goddess July 11, 2011 at 9:43 am #

    Stuart, I totally respect what you are saying. I guess the thing that is glaring me in the face right now with this story is the fact that it seems folks can “throw away” an autistic child. No, I am not her and I’ve never walked in her shoes. I know how hard this can be. People have begged and pleaded with me to “give him up” or send him to a facility because it would be easier. I cannot even imagine how painful it was for her, given her circumstances. But I just feel like (and if this sounds judgmental, it is not my intent) that she never would have thought FOR A SECOND to drop her other two children off. Just the “tough one”.

    What this case proves is there is not nearly enough support for someone in her position. She clearly was at her breaking point and I hope everyone involved does something to help her get back on her feet. But this whole situation was so disruptive for her child. Totally turned that kid’s world upside down. He is now living with complete strangers, has a new schedule..cannot even imagine how scared and confused he must be. And the media…don’t get me started. Another “autism is so hard” story. Yup, it’s hard. This mother is having a very, very difficult time. But I feel like the media is blaming it on the kid’s autism. I can’t get past that. I keep thinking of that poor child.

    • Teresa September 24, 2014 at 10:41 pm #

      I can see the point you make,Domestic Goddess. I would’ve thought the exact same thing until I had my two sons. I have four kids. Two of my boys have Autism. I used to be a behavioral coach and worked with Autistic children who were lower functioning. I’d like to think my training would have been a great advantage in dealing with this situation. I’ve done the best I can, I try to be optimistic that every single day won’t bad, but it is. I feel every day is an uphill battle.Not only with my two boys who have meltdowns simultaneously, but the school who doesn’t want to really work with them.
      I get judged every time my kids have a melt down at the store. Parents give me the stink eye and look at me and my kids in disgust.
      I’ve lost two jobs, and am not working at the moment because between getting the kids situated at school (hoping I’ve found a school that doesn’t send them home), I have an autoimmune disease. When I get stressed out,I am in bed with horrible fatigue.
      I cry myself to sleep at night torn at the thought of what a horrible parent I am to feel so angry when my boys have a bad day. Part of me resents them, although I know it’s not their fault. I blame myself asking myself what I could do to be a better parent.I have charts, reward systems, and visual cue cards..It’s so exhausting.
      I feel sometimes that the more stress I get over time, the earlier I will end up in a grave.My illness can lead to that, and I am already showing signs of heart problems.I’m only 38 years old. Yet, I feel like my life is over.
      Before you ask.. I am a regular person. No drug or alcohol problems. Everyone would like to think that these resources out there are really helpful to our children. They’re not. First off,there’s a waiting list of two years for services in my state..I have my kids seeing a psychiatrist as well as counselor. They are on a wait list for behavioral therapy.. six months and counting. The schools don’t have enough funding to help my child as the state law supposedly requires,and I don’t have family in the area to help me out. I don’t even have money to get the kids to a babysitter for some “me” time.
      Considering all those factors that are working against me, I’m surprised I haven’t snapped. I work hard not to. Every day. But I also ask my self at what point do I have to get to before someone will help.Nobody wants to help anyone in my situation. It’s a hard job.I love my kids dearly, but I wonder if I had them adopted to a family with better health and more money and a real support system that they would have a chance at a better life.
      In my eyes, that’s not throwing away your kid. That’s giving away your heart.. which for most of us is the most gut wrenching decision a mother could make. To actually make that move takes a really brave person. Sure, you may not be able to relate, but at least realize that parenting is the hardest job one can have. Add an chronic illness to the mix, along with other factors, and it can have moments where you feel trapped in a nightmare.
      Please try not to judge us parents who feel this way or make this decision.

  2. Stuart Duncan July 11, 2011 at 10:13 am #

    I do feel terrible for that child. I feel bad for all children that are abandoned (most abandoned children are not Autistic by the way).
    However, I’d feel a whole lot worse for that child if the mother went postal and instead hurt him, or worse, killed him.
    I’ve read far to many news stories that end in death where I would have really LOVED to see that they just gave their child up instead.
    It’s harsh, it’s not something I’ll ever fully understand… but in the end, giving up a child is far better than many of the alternatives. At least, in my opinion.
    Who knows, the child might find amazing parents, tons of support and care and go on to do great things! Maybe not.
    We just don’t know.

  3. Derek Edens July 11, 2011 at 10:43 am #

    Stuart, well said in your analysis of this situation. Society as a whole is so quick to criticize and become self-righteous. I am sure that this particular mom (along with her own personal disability) did what she felt was best for her son. There are days when I look at our 16 year old Aspie and just want to ship him out. Puberty and Autism is a horrible combination and the stress of raising a child on the spectrum places a tremendous burden on both my wife and myself as well as his siblings. The critics do not even have a clue what life is like withg a child on the spectrum, but they all pontificate that they would be perfect parents. Come spend a few weeks in my household critics. Try to explain to your employer that you need to leave work (again) to keep your child out from being arrested or to go handle another meltdown. If people would spend as much energy helping as they do criticizing and pointing fingers, it would be a much better world.

  4. Sarah July 11, 2011 at 10:47 am #

    I have to agree with Domestic Goddess here…While I do not condone what this woman has done, her case is simply not enough support out there to help her in this time of need. As with the media, they always portray things in the worst possible light or they put the blame where it doesn’t need to be.

    I cannot imagine what this child is going through right now. Then again, I ask myself why didn’t she give up her typical kids along with her autistic child. Although I can understand her situation first hand, I would never think about giving any of my children up typical or autistic. They just give me reason to fight harder for the things that they all need, not an excuse to make my life easier by giving up on them.

  5. The Domestic Goddess July 11, 2011 at 10:57 am #

    I am getting far too emotional about this situation, methinks. I am glad he is not harmed (well, who knows what the lasting psych effects will be). I just hope that some good comes of this, the family gets the support it needs and this child gets everything he deserves and needs and more

  6. Lisa Quinones-Fontanez July 11, 2011 at 11:00 am #

    Thank you for writing this post Start. I agree with a lot of what you said, we ask not to be judged but still we judge. And I agree with the Domestic Goddess also. I am grateful, that this mother decided to give up her kid rather than kill him. Is that something we should be grateful for? Is abandonment better than murder? What does that say about our society? This is a story that can be debated. I just hope the sensation of this story doesn’t overshadow the child. This boy needs a home and someone who has the ability to care for him and love him.

  7. Angel G July 11, 2011 at 11:04 am #

    I’ve read that statement quite often – “why didn’t she give up her typical kids? why just her autistic one?” But we all know the answer to that one. I see it in blogs and posts every day – raising a severely autistic child is HARD.

    We don’t know what was going through her mind at the time. She has bi-polar so maybe she was going through a ‘down time’ and the only way she could see to help the child was to give him up. We just don’t know.

    I’m not condoning what she did. Although I do agree with Stuart that giving the child up is much much better than death.

    I saw a news report that said she had asked a friend to drop off the child and give his name at the desk, but the friend just dropped off the child without giving the name.

    I don’t feel sorry for the mother. But I don’t want to judge her either.

    We don’t know the full situation, we don’t know all the facts. I’m just glad that the child is in protective custody and not in a morgue.

  8. Yvonne July 11, 2011 at 11:10 am #

    I agree with this a hard one, and it is very very easy to pass judgement, ESPECIALLY when our emotions are involved. Being a person who believes strongly in destiny, I can’t help but believe that there is a positive lesson to be learned here both for this mother AND her child. Who knows if years from now the boy will find a new home and healing for the pain and suffering that he might be going through. Same for mother. That is the goal, folks. Healing and balance as we walk the hard path of life, learning and making tough choices. But can we absolutely say that her decision was the WRONG one?

  9. Texano78704 July 11, 2011 at 12:41 pm #

    “There, but for the grace of God, go I.” And truthfully, I cannot say it will not be me in the next news article.

    I can empathize with a parent in this situation. If that’s outrageous, so be it.

    To me, this story points out a glaring hole in our society, how we as a society fail to help people who find themselves in an insupportable situation. What I see so often used as the solution is the application of criminal law and I’m happy that isn’t the case here.

  10. marla July 11, 2011 at 12:58 pm #

    I’d like to know where the supports for this Mom? Sounds like another family that has fallen through the cracks in the system.Our society is so much more concerned about how things look to the outsider than how they really are on the inside.How is it possible that someone with a mental illness can be expected to raise a child with neurological and possibly intellectual disability with out a support system ? I commend you Stuart for getting this out there. People need to change their attitudes and fast before there are more and more . cases like this

  11. james hensley July 12, 2011 at 6:28 am #

    at least she didnt leave him in a dumpster or drive him into a lake like other moms have done,in my opinion judge not least ye be judged…

  12. Kia July 12, 2011 at 2:31 pm #

    What bothered me the most about the many judgement comments i saw was all was directed to her. Her soon to be ex husband nothing. Why is that? how do we know that he didn’t even want his son so her option was drop him off or something worse? why was it all her fault. I saw professionals in states not hers listing services she would have available to her? we all know what I can get here you stuart cant get there and vice versa but no it was all her fault for giving him up. While we can see how this might happen between parents fighting for services or being denied others ont eh outside point fingers and lay blame. we don’t know if she tried her hardest or didn’t want to be bothered, but the finger waggers all assume the latter. ugh.

    The story is not a tragedy as some may think. Her son is alive and people are going to try to get him help

  13. Jess July 12, 2011 at 3:27 pm #

    Wonderfully written, Stuart. My heart goes out to this woman. Now off to get my son off the kitchen counter…again. :p


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