I heard about the following story after it appeared on the news and I know that there are a lot of thoughts on both sides of this story.  A mother is charged with the attempted murder of her daughter who is autistic after a failed murder-suicide attempt.  “I have to admit that I’m suffering from a severe case of battle fatigue,” Kelli Stapleton wrote Tuesday in a lengthy post on her blog, where she chronicled life with her autistic daughter.

That evening, Stapleton and Isabelle, the 14-year-old daughter she calls Issy in blog posts, were found unconscious from carbon monoxide poisoning in a van.  Authorities have accused Stapleton, 45, of trying to kill them both in a murder-suicide, charging the mother with attempted murder on Thursday.

As Isabelle remained hospitalized and unconscious Thursday, investigators were still trying to determine a motive and say it’s not yet clear whether Stapleton’s challenges with her daughter — written in heartbreaking detail in regular posts on her blog, the Status Woe — were a factor.  But mental health experts agree that caring for a relative with special needs can be difficult, leading people to feel overwhelmed and stressed.

Stapleton is jailed without bond in northern Michigan.  She was arraigned Thursday in a Benzie County Court on one count of attempted murder after being released from the hospital.

Isabelle’s condition had improved slightly, but medical personnel are concerned about the possibility of brain damage.  “She hasn’t opened her eyes yet or talked or anything, but there’s some physical movement to indicate responsiveness.”

Stapleton’s husband called authorities around 1:30 p.m. Tuesday after receiving a disturbing phone message from his wife and noticing the family van was missing. Sheriff’s deputies found the van about 6:30 p.m. in a wooded area not far from their home.  Two portable charcoal grills were positioned between the front seats and the first row of bench seats and the windows were rolled up.

There is speculation that coping with a family member with special needs may have promoted an extreme degree of stress created by caregiver fatigue, which may cause severe depressive symptoms and cause a depressive syndrome, with an overwhelming sense of hopelessness.

Stapleton’s successes and challenges raising Isabelle are chronicled on the Status Woe, where she posted both a hopeful message Tuesday when her daughter came home from treatment and another later in the day expressing her devastation upon learning her daughter wouldn’t be able to attend school as planned.

“So much love…” she wrote of picking Issy up from treatment and the joy of her being home.

Later that day, she wrote of a meeting earlier in the week with the special education teacher at the school Issy was to attend, where her father is principal.

Stapleton had a heated argument with the teacher about Issy’s school plan, she wrote. A little later, district officials told the family Issy could no longer attend, and she should be homeschooled, according to the post.

“So less than a week before school is to start, she is uninvited,” Stapleton wrote. “I am devastated. My husband is gutted. I have ruined everything.

I know that there are people who have judged and already convicted this poor women and feel that she had other options.  But, what this story leaves out is the very violent actions of this poor child who was extremely dangerous to everyone around her.  She had in the past; attacked and assaulted her parents, her siblings, caregivers, teachers, and classmates.  The mother was even hospitalized for injuries caused by these violent outbursts.  The girl is 14 and 160 pounds and extremely dangerous to people and when she wasn’t attacking people, she would destroy personal property.

Even placement in a residential facility was unable to stop this child from continued acting out behavior and when the money ran out the family had no choice, but to take her back home.  Before you condemn her…realize that there are degrees of severity in all forms of autism and just because you may be able to control your autistic child does not mean that you or anyone can control this child.

As a therapeutic foster parent of 20 years, there are all kinds of children who behave extremely violent at times and there are not a lot of options.  Many residential state run facilities for the mentally ill were forced to close due to mental health advocates wanting these people in the community, so some went in to group home sittings and the rest ended up in the corrections side.

So, that leaves a family with the option of giving up their parental rights and having the child placed outside the home.  I have no doubt that this mother loves her children, but I feel that she felt that she had failed as a mother and saw no way out.  I also feel that she was not going to burden her family with the task of raising Issy after she had committed suicide, so she decided that the best course of action was to take Issy with her.

People in the act of suicide are not rational and during this attempt she is mentally ill, even to the point of not seeing any other option.  This family needs answers and the public is not served by convicting and imprisoning this poor woman.

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