When the strongest among us falls

Autism parents. As differing as autism children.

Some go so far as to separate them into labels such as ‘warrior’ or ‘victim’. Some call them ‘special people’ because God only gives ‘special children’ to those types. Others see them as bad parents that let their children ‘get away with stuff’ what they would never have let happen themselves.

We’re just people. Autism parents are people. Same strengths… same… weaknesses…

Earlier, my Facebook timeline began to repeat one name, over and over again. It was the name of a woman that I’ve met on Facebook. It was a woman that I’ve seen in the news. A woman that I’ve had the pleasure to talk to. She’s commented on this blog.

Before you read the news story that everyone was talking about, before you form any opinions on what you think may have happened or start to question what lead to this or anything else, I want you to consider this:

She was one of the strongest autism parents that I’ve met.


Another autism parent on Facebook shared a similar link with the caption “I just don’t understand it.” but I do understand it.

Still, I can’t help but to think how fragile, not just life is, but our own self worth, our inner well being and more so than that, our strength to keep it all up.

When the strongest among us falls, how do the rest of us carry on?

The answer came to me, not once, but twice this week as I watched autism parents share their private phone numbers on a not very private Facebook wall so that anyone, it doesn’t matter who, can call them if ever they need someone to talk to.

Now, I don’t condone nor do I think I could ever forgive attempting to take Issy’s life as well (if everything did happen as the reports are saying they did). No matter how hard anything ever got, I could never do anything to hurt my boys.

But I do understand how dark it can get. The first time autism parents shared their phone numbers this week, it was for me.

So how do we carry on? Well, I think all of those incredible autism parents already have the answer: by being stronger than our strongest. And the only way that can happen is with numbers. 2 people are stronger than 1. With enough people, you can balance any weight.

A group at it’s weakest is still stronger than an individual at their strongest.
For an individual will tire eventually, no matter how strong they are.

Which brings me to the last words from the last post on her blog:

There is so much more to say.  I’m just too tired to write more.
All my love,

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.

, , ,

29 Responses to When the strongest among us falls

  1. decipheringmorgan September 5, 2013 at 2:55 am #

    Thank you, Stuart, for putting into words what I am too numb and too heartbroken to say.

  2. Parenting By The Seat Of My Pants September 5, 2013 at 3:19 am #

    Thank you. And I think we all need to showcase just how much she did BEFORE this point. There is so so much more to this story. Let’s advocate for each other as we advocate for our children.

  3. Mutha Lovin' Autism September 5, 2013 at 3:27 am #

    Beautiful, Stuart.

  4. extremeparenthood September 5, 2013 at 6:03 am #

    I am speechless. I had no idea this had happened. I just woke up to the news all over Facebook.

    God, please, no.

  5. helen September 5, 2013 at 8:36 am #

    Her last line has me sitting here in tears. “I’m just too tired to write anymore”.

    I understand that feeling of exhaustion all too well. 🙁

  6. Tammy Vice September 5, 2013 at 8:51 am #

    This breaks my heart. What you said is so true. We’re just people. Thank you for reminding me of the strength of joining together. Prayers for their family.

  7. debi9kids September 5, 2013 at 9:06 am #

    I am just heartbroken.

  8. MommaDe September 5, 2013 at 9:11 am #

    As a parent of two ASD kids, I get it and understand it. I’m not saying I would, but you’re right….your mind does go into a dark place. If your “light” goes out…you need to find and borrow someone elses for a while. As much as it can suck to be an ASD parent, I will say that I am proud (and relieved) that I am part of a tight knit community that “gets it”. Prayers to family.

  9. Krystal September 5, 2013 at 9:22 am #

    I’m with Sunday – I woke up to this…I can’t judge anymore…heartbroken and numb…

  10. Cari Noga September 5, 2013 at 9:57 am #

    Beautifully said, Stuart. Praying for a miraculous outcome for the whole family, and that the autism community remains humanitarian and compassionate as this tragic story unfolds.

  11. Leo Zanchettin September 5, 2013 at 10:05 am #

    Thanks for sharing this very sad story and your reflections on it. I have to say, I thought the story you linked to was written in a very compassionate tone. The reporter was restrained and, I think, deeply respectful throughout the story, highlighting the struggles of the family as well as the support of the community and not going for the sensational or the condemnatory. It may be somewhat of a cold comfort right now, but this article shows how some communities seem to be “getting it.” That’s a glimmer of light we all need to hold onto.

  12. skiwho September 5, 2013 at 11:12 am #

    This is heart-wrenching and truly tragic… My own sweet Joe was hospitalized for 4 months in an NBU (Neurobehavioral Unit) for dangerous behaviors; its such a long hard road… all we can do is hold onto the sweet moments during the storms, praying for that rainbow on the other side. My heart goes out to the family… sincerely… I don’t know what else to say :(…

  13. imalulu September 5, 2013 at 12:52 pm #

    I read Kelli’s last blog post and she felt like she failed her entire family just because of a few words she spoke to a person in power. She was held up so high as a “strong” person. How does a “strong” person feel when their power backfires (in her eyes)? He or she feels responsible for EVERYTHING. She was a pillar that collapsed and crushed the lives of people (in her view during her sudden extreme depression state). It’s such a double edged sword. We are all powerless, we are all weak, and only together we can find true strength whether we face the challenges of autism or cancer or depression or anxiety or life’s shocks whatever they may be. Peace to this family, one minute at a time. If in need of parent support, 1 412.781.4116 Autism Connection of PA, call and be understood.

  14. loveexplosions September 5, 2013 at 2:28 pm #

    First, she paraded her child around the internet and media. Stigmatizing her own minor child for life as, “violent” and completely disregarding her child’s right to privacy. Then she tried to kill her own disabled child. Strongest among us? Hardly. Not even close.

    • Genenut September 5, 2013 at 6:59 pm #

      “love”explosions… you are WAY off base. Judge not lest you be judged.

      • loveexplosions September 5, 2013 at 8:13 pm #

        I can see that I am not off base. I’ve read her blog. And unless all of the media have made a mistake and she did not, in fact, attempt to murder her child, I am spot on about that as well. While you’re judging me as “way off base” I will be over here judging any mother who tries to kill her child after making a public spectacle of her life. And judging any person who would actually come to her defense. I good with that.

        • Genenut September 5, 2013 at 10:16 pm #

          Well apparently you have NEVER raised a violent special needs child. Its obvious you have never had to weigh the help calling the police to help when you child is violent against the possible arrest record for having a meltdown or the police totally blowing things out of proportion and hurting your child. (have you seen the stories of kids on the spectrum being shot to death by police who dont understand and shoot first and ask questions later). Its obvious you have never had to weight the possibility your violent child will get hurt by the restraints you have to apply or that the screaming during the process will make the neighbors calls the police to report suspected child abuse against the possibility that if you dont restrain them another of your children or you will be hurt.

          The lack of supports is an ever widening chasm that far too many of us fall into. If you haven’t been there you lack the RIGHT to judge any of us who have and failed to live up to YOUR standards. Do any of us condone her choice or advocate making that choice? No. But we understand where she was mentally and that if society spent more time HELPING instead of JUDGING maybe she wouldnt have been in that place. She didn’t make a spectacle of her life. she TRIED to shed some light on that above mentioned ever widening chasm that is the lack of supports (including respite care) for those of us raising children with autism especially if they are violent at times. we DO NOT have to hide in the shadows. If going to the press is what it takes to get what your child needs then that is what you do as a parent.

          Have you spared no thought as to the PAIN she must have been in to reach that point???? Have you thought of nothing more than how nice your glass house looks? Put down the rocks you are throwing and help your neighbor. And the only one who should be judging her is what ever deity she believed in, certaining NOT you.

        • tdspringer September 6, 2013 at 4:57 pm #

          Book of Matthew, Chapter 7. Verses 1-3

  15. stuffwiththing September 5, 2013 at 5:44 pm #

    It really is just devastating, community is so important.

  16. becomingcliche September 5, 2013 at 7:26 pm #

    What a tragedy. A family member did the same thing a few years ago and was successful. Three lives were lost. It tears my heart to know they did not feel that they had any other choice.

    Thank you for you for the empathy you demonstrate here and your lack of judgment. I hurt for this family.

  17. Rebecca September 5, 2013 at 9:36 pm #

    I am physically sick about this. I’ve been thinking about it all day. I didn’t know Kelli or read her blog but my heart is breaking for her.
    It should not be this damn hard to get the services that your child needs and deserves. The system we have in place is failing us. A change needs to be made so that we are not driven to the point of giving up. There are too many of us who are just barely hanging on to our sanity.
    Much love to Kelli and her family.

  18. aebell September 6, 2013 at 1:07 am #

    My nephew is on the Autism spectrum – fortunately a relatively mild manifestation, but even so it has presented many challenges and tears for my brother and his wife. I cannot possibly imagine what life must be like for The Stapletons, or any family whose child has a more severe case. The idea of killing one’s child is so repellent and seems inconceivable. And yet…Mrs Stapleton must have felt truly broken and desperate and heartsick and completely hopeless to have taken the actions that she did. I feel nothing but sadness and empathy for her and her family.

  19. MommaDe September 6, 2013 at 9:38 am #

    There is always one person that’s going to be judgemental. They either haven’t been fighting that long or have their willpower depleted. Must be nice to have that much inner strength that you can judge someone who’s had theirs falter. I am not so lucky.

    This woman, and her family, needs all the love and prayers they can get…not have someone parade their faults around in their face. Put the ego down and extend a hand to help. Are you that hardened to show compassion for someone in our community? Really?

  20. Liz September 10, 2013 at 3:58 am #

    This is so incredibly sad – this mother spoke out, she explained in detail how difficult life had been, was and was going to be. She outlined the impact of her 24/7 caring role on herself, husband and other children. She didn’t get the help / support she needed and asked for. After all the years of caring and being is a state of anxiety / stress / hyper-vigilance with chronic sleep deprivation I have no doubt that Kelli Stapleton would have been in a very very dark place. The answer is NOT to put this woman in prison and take her away from her other children – surely Kelli and her family have been through enough. I have a child with autism who is non-verbal and high needs. I adore him and his neurotypical identical twin and older brother.

    I could never condemn Kelli – I believe that mums like Kelli (who have demonstrated over 14 years that she wants nothing but the best care and help for her daughter) are motivated by love and the pain for her daughter, self and family was so great that she believed what she was doing was the right thing / only choice. You can never know what it is like for someone unless you crawl into their skin and live in their shoes.

    Sometimes I have felt like I am living in a never-ending nightmare and I just want to somehow step off the crazy treadmill. I can’t do that because who would love and care for my son with autism and his brothers? Kelli must have felt she couldn’t go on but nor could she leave her daughter so had to take her with her. Not rational thinking – but when you are severely depressed your thinking isn’t rational. This woman’s motivation would have been a love beyond measure for her daughter. I know if someone gave me the choice to give my life so that my son would not have autism I would take that deal.


  1. Strong like Saints. Right? - September 5, 2013

    […] When the strongest among us falls by Stuart Duncan of Autism from a Father’s point of view […]

  2. Affliction, Scars and Autism: No fluff permitted - September 5, 2013

    […] came across a blog today http://www.stuartduncan.name/autism/when-the-strongest-among-us-falls/ and my heart sank and crashed. There were no words to fully describe the pain in my heart as I […]

  3. Attempted murder/suicide accusations against Kelli Stapleton spark national response from autism community | Ann-Arbor NewsAnn-Arbor News - September 6, 2013

    […] When the strongest among us falls by Stuart Duncan of Autism from a Father’s point of view […]

  4. Attempted murder/suicide accusations against Kelli Stapleton spark national response from autism community | Michigan News - September 6, 2013

    […] When the strongest among us falls by Stuart Duncan of Autism from a Father’s point of view […]

  5. Attempted murder/suicide accusations against Kelli Stapleton spark national … | Today Health Channel - September 7, 2013

    […] When the strongest among us falls by Stuart Duncan of Autism from a Father’s point of view […]

Leave a Reply