Reflections On Kelli Stapleton, A Mother Accused Of Attempted Murderer
10/03/2013 - 13:09
Frances Victory
Frances Victory
Frances Victory

Research has shown that mothers of children with autism have the highest rate of stress compared to parents of children with any other special needs. Recently, Kelli Stapleton, a mother of a 14-year-old daughter with autism, allegedly tried to kill herself and her child by using carbon monoxide poisoning. The police rescued them and Mrs. Stapleton is expected to be charged with attempted murder. The first question that comes to mind is: What exactly drove this woman to try and kill herself and her child? 

Of course we sympathize with the girl, a victim. But do we also feel sorry for the mother who may not have been able to deal with the stress of raising a child with autism? 

I believe clinicians, educators, government officials, journalists and religious leaders should ask what we can learn from this case. How can we prevent such a tragedy from ever happening again?

Jewish parents of children with autism who participated in my dissertation research gave me some insight into the stressors they face: financial challenges, feeling embarrassed by their son or daughter’s behaviors and not being accepted or by other individuals in their community.

Parents experiencing these challenges need to develop friends, connect and share experiences with other men and women who have faced or are facing similar experiences. They need an environment to share advice with other parents of children with special needs. These connections can be a significant resource as men and women realize they are not alone.

Ultimately professionals and parents need to come together to help build supportive programs that will help prevent a parent from feeling the need to take their own life or the life of their child with autism. A religious environment that offers such a program and opportunity would allow parents to connect with other mother and fathers within the comfort of their shared religious community, while completing religious practices together or discussing similar religious beliefs. Meanwhile, parents will be able to bond by sharing experiences related to their raising their child with special needs. We must develop intervention programs that bring families together and allow them to draw on their religious beliefs, ritual practices and community as a way to support and guide each other.

Frances Victory is a Developmental Psychology PhD candidate at CUNY Graduate Center in New York City. You can reach her at victory.frances@gmail.com

Comments

Why is nothing said about the kids? Why is everything always about the parents and their difficulty raising the kids? And plus, whoever said raising a kid would be a piece of cake?

"Of course we sympathize with the girl, a victim. But do we also feel sorry for the mother who may not have been able to deal with the stress of raising a child with autism?" Well, if Issy [the daughter who Kelli attempted to murder] was "normal," would you feel sorry for the mother or would you demand that she rot in prison and that the authorities throw away the key? So in other words, my answer to your question is no because I will never sympathize with parents who try to murder their kids, regardless of whether their kids were disabled or not.

Murder is not the answer. It's a crime against God and society. "Jewish parents of children with autism who participated in my dissertation research gave me some insight into the stressors they face: financial challenges, feeling embarrassed by their son or daughter’s behaviors and not being accepted or by other individuals in their community." ... What they don't do is kill their children. She should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law - and it is horrifying to imagine the potential murder of this child is in any way excusable because the mother felt embarrassed. I am the parent of a disabled child who was denied services for years. It was heartbreaking, destructive, financially overwhelming, and we missed participation in many community and family activities for many years. What I never considered, for even a moment, was playing God and killing my child. I can't believe any religious group would imagine supporting the adult over the child in this situation.

This is very insightful and your suggestion in creating these religious groups to discuss and share the difficulties of raising special needs children is very valid.

Thank you for your wonderful feedback. I would appreciate the opportunity to further discuss my posting with you via email. Please feel free to get in touch with me at victory.frances@gmail.com

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