When socialite and millionaire Gigi Jordan feed her eight-year-old son with autism a lethal dose Ambien and Xanax, the autism community once again failed. Last night sitting on my bed, phone to my ear chatting with a New York reporter about the latest mother-homicide related to autism and the reporter's words sent a chill down my spine, "...this is such an unusually, sad case."
Not really. Days after police were barging into Jordan's $2,000 a night hotel room, a grandmother in Coney Island locked her 11 year-old grandson with autism, alone in their house that caught on fire and killed the boy.
The unusually situation is not that a millionaire, mother thinks autism is causing her son pain and she decides to end his life and suffering, it is that we don't read about it or talk about it. All to often parents end parental rights or murder because autism can drain hope and reality right out of parents (of course, with the right dose of sleep deprivation). The one-time, quick-fix autism cures don't work and lead parents and grandparents down a path of despair when their child doesn't get 'better'.
Add the lack of federal funding for respite care and proven, effective interventions and parents can find themselves spiriting down the road of giving-up their child to the state or even murder. I am not condoning what these two women did or others who act similarly, but we are not giving parents practical resources to help develop a everyday that the whole family can live with.
Foremost parents need to value their own physical and mental health and know the warning signs that life is getting desperate and help is needed. Then where to go and how-to get help. Friends and family members also need to evaluate the health of primary care providers (mom and dad) to ensure everyone is getting the respite they need.
Growing a child with autism into a happy, productive adult takes many layers of family members, professionals, educators, and care providers over the lifespan of the individual.