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18 Year Old With Autism Faces Murder Charges

Skywalker By Kim Stagliano

This story from Portage County, Ohio has gained national attention. 18 year old Sky Walker, who has autism, has been charged with murdering his mother, Kent State professor Gertrude "Trudy" Steuernagel.  At his arraignment, he was spitting. And so he was put into a restraint chair and given a helmet with what appears to be netting on it. (Read about the arraignment at E-Portage.US.) 

(Image Copyright, E-Portage.US.  Used With Permission.)


What does the future hold for our young adults and adults with autism? How long can we protect our babies? And will we need to protect ourselves from them? For those who say, "No treatment is necessary." I invite you to look at Sky Walker in his restraints. And his mother's gravestone.

A local Mom describes the story:

When Kent State Professor Gertrude “Trudy’ Steuernagel did not show up for one of her morning classes her students and colleagues became concerned. They contacted the Portage County police department to check on her. Trudy was found badly beaten on the kitchen floor of her home and her 18 year old son was found in the basement.  Ms. Steuernagel sadly died of her injuries this past Friday.

Sky Walker, Trudy’s only son, has been charged in connection with her beating. Sky was diagnosed with autism when he was three years old. Many colleagues and friends of Prof. Steuernagel have spoken to the media about Trudy’s love and devotion to her son, and the special bond they possessed. When Sky was 16 Trudy wrote a beautiful essay about her son Sky found on a Kent State website. (HERE)

Sky was the only child of Ms. Steuernagel and her husband Scott Walker. A close friend of Trudy’s Molly Merryman revealed in a recent interview (http://www.recordpub.com/news/article/4522015 ) that Sky and his father have had no contact in recent years.

Sky is now facing another battle in what seems to just add to a life filled with unfair and extremely difficult battles. Sky now is caught up in the court system with the possibility of facing murder charges and without his biggest, possibly only advocate, his mother by his side.

Sky was arraigned yesterday in Portage County Court, click for details of the arraignment (HERE).   Judge Joseph Kainrad ordered a competency hearing and IQ testing to be completed on Sky. Those results could take up to 30 days. The case is now being referred back to the Grand jury upgrading the charge from attempted murder to murder since Ms. Steuernagel died from her injuries. Sky’s attorneys argued that Sky was not able to enter a plea because of his “current mental state now and in the future”.

Currently, Sky is being held in the Portage County jail in lieu of a 2 million dollar bond.

This story was also picked up by ABC NEWS HERE. The comment trail is bitterly cruel.

Kim Stagliano is Managing Editor of Age of Autism.

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I am the mother of an 18 yr old Autistic male, and I only want to say, that NOT ONE of us can judge, mother or child, none of us were there!!! I am sure that Sky loved his mother and even more sure that his mother, would have died for her son, faster than you can count to three!!!! Every case of Autism is unique therefore each relationship, of an autistic boy and his parents are also unique!! God Bless and be with them both, mother and child!!!!!!!

This is such a tragedy both mother and son are victims.

A health care provider experienced in diagnosing and treating autism is usually needed to make the actual diagnosis. Because there is no biological test for autism, the diagnosis will often be based on very specific criteria from a book called the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual IV, maybe it may help to base if your have a autism in your family.

Hello,
I am sorry for both mom and her son.
However I am a father of 3, yes Three! autistic boys, under 14 years and all they need to keep calm, have a great life and do not become violent is to love them.
And i mean it.
You mother and father, will need to forget your personal life, and everything about it, and just care the kids, 100% of the time, for the rest of their lives.
So simply, so demanding. so devastating, so important, so serious.
And for me was and is not a problem, never was, and never shall be.
My solution was:
Quit my nice, well paid, 9x5 job, and start work from home, when they sleep at night, as I got used to sleep just few hours a day or I just have few hours of rest when my wife take her shift, and I am so tired I can´t afford to continue waked.
In fact we both work from home, now, we DO NOT have any private health care, however we are using the city support health care when needed, and we invest 100% of our non-working at home time just with them, in short shifts.

We had learnt tby the hard way how to deal with tantrums and how to diffuse it easily, by just perceiving when a tantrum is about to come and stop whatever we are doing to focus on them and divert thier attention to other interesting issues, situations and so on.
Of course, I need a lot of muscles to take my 14 yo kids into my arms, hold him carefully and help him to move from the point which sparks the tantrum, or eventual violent reaction, he is now with 1,80meters high and is a very strong boy, however he learnt that when I am near him to hold him in my arms carefully, he just remember it is a good thing that will come after, as for instance a new toy, a new conversation, a new view of the landscape, or a new dialog, and sometimes a carefull and gentile kiss on his forefront, or eventuallu a gift of attention, then after several tims doing it, he alone notice that he was about to explode and try to control himself, it took more than 3 years to learn how to hold him gently to avoid him to hurt himself, or others, and to educate lovely educate him to recognize the situation and try to control himself.

Now he is able to also, surprisingly, to help us to support the other two brothers and he is teaching them how to control themselves.

It was a very, extreme and hard change in our own lifes, way of living and also incomes, however we did it and it is working fine for us. Of course, we still need tons of love, and self-confidence, and above all, to keep us and the kids far from “easy” solutions and easy cures, that never had worked for them and just consume all our savings up to the point we bring ourselves a “stop order” and decided to take the care of the kids by ourselves at the cost of our past and now we recognized, selfish personal dreams. No religions, no doctors, no treatment, no nothing, just us and our kids and we are solving it in the best way we can. Our health care local systems just support us in the case of typical infant sicknesses or dentist care and normal care for youths and ourselves, just that, nothing special, no medications, no remedies no nothing to treat autism, just time, patience and tons of love.

Besides the 3 boys I have 3 daughters, all older and neurotypical, the girls are already married and building very happy families. Well, that’s it.

I have 53 yo, my second wife and mom of my kids is 37 yo, and before we got married and have our two babies – the older one is her´s - I was in the president position of local telecom company.

For us was a choice of life, we moved on and changed ourselves, to a more simple life, full of love and we noticed that all things changed and are still changing for the better and for the good of the all of us.

Life is done of challenges isn´t it? So we proudly have our.

I wish you a great week.

Jethro.
PS:
I am Brazilian and sorry by my English mistakes.

These aggressive, autistic teens attack people who they can dominate. Regardless of their "condition" they are sarcastic and violent! Nasty, dangerous people need to be institutionalized. Never mind thinking of them as poor darlings. They have horrible rages. Viscous animals are put to sleep; because, no one wants to be attacked or killed. Viscous children need to live in a controlled environment for the rest of their miserable lives.

I am sorry to appear so callous; but, I am self protective and I've experienced some of the horrors.

MM

I am doing a documentary on what happens when children with autism grow up....and the difficulty in finding services for them. I have a 14 year old son with autism and the aggression is very difficult to handle....especially when there is no relief from it. I would love to hear from families like the person who mentioned being the target of aggression. My child doesn't mean to hurt anyone, but he just gets frustrated and strikes out....it still hurts, even though he doesn't mean it. Anyway, my blog is www.autismfilm.blogspot.com. My email is georgiaautismdocumentary@gmail.com. Please post on my blog and please contact me...especially if you are in Georgia. I would love to include your stories in my documentary. Thanks, Donna

Hi, Anon. I'm sorry for what you're going through - and no one should be allowed to bully or abuse another person - regardless of disability. I hope you find health and peace. Merry Christmas. KIM, Managing Editor

I'm sorry for anyone who has autism...but I am bi-polar, have mild DCD besides, with diabetes, high blood pressure, a large painful tumor, and numerous other physical disabilites, including a painful lame foot.

I have been harassed, hounded and stalked relentlessly, for over a year, by a sociopathic teen with autismim....so I'm finding it really, really really hard, to swallow all this "oh, the poor autisitic child," excuses. I've NEVER used my mental disability to inflict prolonged pain and suffering on others. I NEVER did ANYTHING to this kid. He imagined that I slighted his mother, for merely (very politely) asking her to stop visiting my blog, in late 2007, because I was gravely ill, and she was making some very upsetting insensative remarks. At no time did I ever treat her badly or with disresepect...and for my pains, I have been cyber-stalked by this obsessed autistic teen, whose attacks have been vicious, cruel and mean...making fun of my dead mother--sending "letters" from her and signing up blogs under her name. He's made fun of me feeling deeply depressed, making a joke about causing me to commit suicide. He's made fun of my health--saying he hopes he gives me a heart attack.

So take your "Oh the poor autistic poor" and shove it. I was abused as a child..now I'm being abused as an adult..by some autistic brat whom no one can seem to control! For TWO YEARS.

I've got more disabilites than he is, and I'm entirely alone in this life...I can't even afford a therapist to help me deal with this abuse. So, right now, I am sorry anyone is autistic, but that does NOT give them the right to hurt innocent people...no more than someone like me.

I think about Sky often. I hope others do as well. I hope he is doing well- as well as he can be. I don't want any of us to ever forget Sky. His mother wouldn't want us to.

Why is everyone saying "Poor Sky"? I say "Poor Gertrude Stuernegal" She was beaten to death by her son and, as Unlucky and tragic the circumstance may be, Sky Walker is a killer! Yes he may see things completely differently because he has autism, but he still killed someone!

Diana, I'm so sorry to read your comment. We need to keep working to solve the dramatic and yes dangerous outbursts related to autism's associated maladies. For so many people autism is life threatening. Few understand that.

I'm so darn sorry...

Kim

My daughter in America called to tell me about Sky and his mum.You see, it was what my family has expected to happen to me. My son has,for the last 16 years, been violent.The attacks are so fast and over such trivial things that there is barely time to brace yourself. A sudden noise can cause such an explosion of temper with twisted face,spitting and hitting out -a visceral almost animal fury.I've been frightened for so long .

Jail? It beggers belief. Poor Sky.

Scared BUT informed, I disagree with your statement regarding the spectrum. Just because you feel insecure from the words of an anti-cure minority it doesn't mean you can knock all of us 'high functioning autistics' down by implying that we haven't a problem, merely a difference- that is a very selfish thing to do. Autism has ruined my life- do not punish my kind because our problems are fewer, for they are still significant enough for many of us to need treatment and do give us a poor quality of life in many cases. High Functioning Autism and even Asperger Syndrome is a broad label and not all of us are as mildly affected for us to claim that it is merely a difference- not a disability. Aspergers and High Functioning Autism may have less of an impact than Low Functioning Autism but it is an insult to disregard our disability as merely 'a difference'. Those who feel that way about themselves obviously have a mild version of the phenotype and I wonder why they were given a diagnosis in the first place- if they are merely different. A diagnosis of a disability should be reserved for those who are disabled- and that includes the majority of us who are considered high functioning.

Good day.

My heart goes out to this poor boy.And to his whole family.
Firstly,given the description of the severity of his autism there is no way that Sky is able to defend himself, or probably even understands what is happening , or what happened to his mother.
The charges need to be dropped.
And people in general need to be more aware of what severe autism looks like,and the importance of helping these children and their parents.When so many basic therapies are not even covered by insurance, and where people persist in pretending autism is not a disability, despite the fact that some people with severe autism are not even able to communicate basic needs such as what they want to eat: its time to realize that these adult children with severe autism need continuing services: and their parents need respite care and support.

Stagmom, my last comment was actually directed at David who commented that there is no need for a "cure" for autism. I mistakenly said that they were directed at you. Sorry!

And I appreciate your comments.

This is in response to Stagmom.

You say you have autism, so you have a completely different perspective. However, the "autism spectrum" encompasses a wide range of neurological disorders. Clearly, Sky's problems go beyond processing problems. He cannot verbally communicate in an effective way, he handles frustration through aggression and appears to have some self-care issues.

Did you know that there 25% higher incidence of seizure disorder in autism? Also, while mental retardation isn't a mandatory feature of autism, probably about 50% of autistic children score in the mentally retarded (IQ 70 or lower) range on IQ tests. People with autism are also more likely to have stomach and bowel problems.

Basically, what I am saying is that while the so-called "higher functioning" people with autism, commonly diagnosed as Asperger's Syndrome, are essentially just regular people who process sensory input differently, there are other people with autism who's quality of life is severely effected. People with autism DO need help, and the parents of people with autism should seek a cure. If it were just a processing issue, you would never see autistic people biting off parts of their own tongues, or punching themselves in the head repeatedly until they cause brain damage (which I have seen.)

Scared, thanks for commenting. Parents whose children's behaivor is out of control are sending them away, no longer able manage them at home. Situations like Sky Walker will not be isolated. We're sounding the panic alarm here while others shove the horror under the rug as a society that just doesn't accept differences.

We believe that the violent outbursts are related to medications that backfire - biological responses to foods, heavy metal poisoning (which causes explosive rage) combined with what must be an intolerable frustration of being unable to communicate.

I don't disagree with you that large (even not so large) people with autism can be frightening - as can anyone who is out of control - it's not the autism per se - it's the behavior.

You paint a terror inducing picture - and our aim here at Age of Autism is to tell people that there are treatments to help prevent exactly what you're describing. If we don't, we'll have jails and insane asylums filled to capacity with autistic adults within 20 years. We'll have more schools that use disgusting shock punishment and parents who say, "What else can I do?"

Thank you so much for your comment.

KIM

I used to work with young adults (18-22) with autism. Once, I witnessed a 18-year-old severely autistic person tackle an adult staff, push her to the ground and bite her on the neck very hard, stopping only when pulled off by another staff. Other people who saw said it looked like a rabid pit-bull attack. The same autistic individual also violently tackled another staff, grabbing her head and repeatedly slamming her head on the floor, causing neurological damage to that staff (before other staff were able to stop the attack.) There were several other violent incidents as well, and none of them had clear signs of an impending outburst. As much as autism advocates will scream and shout against it, the FACT is that some people with severe autism are unpredictable and dangerously violent (through no fault of their own.) What is the solution? I can't say- obviously, people like this are not competent to stand trial. But steps should be considered to keep other people (including parents) safe! BTW, I don't work in that field any more- I quit.

Andrea, I'm so sorry for what everyone is going through - and for the loss of your friend.

I did say that, but I think you're misunderstanding the context. It was a person associated with the case (Sheriff or DA?) who said family had not offered to get Sky out of jail. I was saying how sad I found that. But I'm not blaming family members - it would be daunting to bring Sky into a home even for a trained professional, and perhaps they think it's best to leave him where he has access to care, even if it's jail. I've been told the Sheriff has tried very hard to make his time in the local jail (holding area I believe) as calm as possible for the young man. Again, I'm not casting blame - just expressing sadness as Mom who would be heartbroken if I knew my child was in jail alone.

I know his arraignment is tomorrow. I wish him luck and will continue to follow the story.

I came across your website from a link in another article: http://www.e-portage.us/newsgen/news_details.php?id=326

In the article you were quoted as saying this:
"Kim Stagliano, an activist for autism commended Mr. Vigluicci for understanding that Walker requires special consideration given his autism. “Although it’s disheartening that there are no family members ‘willing or able’ to help Mr. Walker in his time of need.” Went on to say."

Ms. Stagliano, I sincerely hope that you were misquoted. I had the pleasure of being in Dr. Steurnagel's very last complete class, and she was a wonderful woman. In her class, she often spoke about her two beloved nieces along with her brother. When I attended Dr. Steurnagel's memorial service, her niece and her brother both were there and spoke about Sky's condition along with the work they're trying to do to gain custody of him. They even moved into Ohio from out of state to be able to go through the courts with this case for Sky.

I will continue to keep an eye on Sky's case as I'm sure many are, and I can only hope that Dr. Steurnagel's wonderful family gets the custody of Sky that both parties deserve. If you were not misquoted, I really hope that you do more research on the accusations that you make. Families are trying their best.

Thank you.

Sal - Thanks for your reporting. I think it was great that you posted the full interview with Major Missimi in part 3, and it was good to hear about some of the positive efforts that have been made to improve the situation. There could be a Laramie Project type opportunity here to respectfully crystallize a large number of important issues in autism and help move the discussions forward.

Carol, thanks for commenting. Do you have autism? I think Sky was arrested based on "proximity" and his mother called 911. I see you're a writer - how about a plot where an person with autism is framed? It would be easy to imagine, wouldn't it?

Some people with autism need more help than others. Thanks for appreciating that.

KIM

What proof they have that he actually did this murder?

I disagree with folks who say that autism is just a different way of processing things. Maybe some autism is, but most isn't. It's a wide spectrum that often includes many physical illnesses. So, yeah, for most autistics, we do need a cure. -C

Dsierra,

You ask a very good question and I think Sky's predicament is bringing a lot of issues like your question to the surface.

I think talking to an attorney who specializes in Trusts and Wills might be a good place to start.

I think I might bring this all to the attention of ED Arranga at Autism One. He might want to look for some speakers who can address these new issues we will be facing as the Autism Generation is growing up.

Autism and Law enforcement have been meeting quite frequently lately.

Normally, I don’t post on other web sites, but I have been following and reporting on this story daily. In fact, I am probably the one person in the media who has been given unprecedented access to everyone involved in this tragic case.

My name is Sal Pitera and I am the Editor of http://www.e-portage.us , an on-line newspaper that covers Portage County, Ohio, where this story is unfolding daily.

I’ll be honest when I say that until last month, I was ignorant to autism. I had no idea what to expect when I took that photo at Sky’s arraignment. Yes, I am the one that took the photo of Sky in the spit mask that has traveled the glove, many times over.

Taking that photo was a double-edged sword for me. On one side, I knew the public backlash that I would receive from many people in the autistic community… But I had to weigh that with the public’s right to know. Without accurate reporting by the press, our officials would be allowed to do whatever they want behind the closed doors of the legal system.

Since I got involves with this story, I have learned a lot about the daily struggle with autism as well as the struggle that the legal system is having in dealing with someone that may have murdered anther human being, regardless of his mental state at the time.

After many interviews with prominent people in the Autism Community as well as local officials directly involved with Sky’s case, I truly believe that everyone involved wants this resolved in the best manner that reflects Ohio Law and Sky’s best interest.

Last week, we posted an in-depth article regarding Sky’s arrest, prosecution and incarceration. You can find it at http://www.e-portage.us/newsgen/news_details.php?id=325 .

If anyone wishes to contact me, you can contact me directly at 330-281-3641.

Regards,

Sal Pitera

I myself have a child with Autism, he's about to be 9 years old. He is my everything... I live in Ohio and used to work at Kent State University but I never had the honor of meeting Trudy or Sky.

At this time I'm just wondering in the event that something like that happens again to one of us, can we make some kind of legal preparations?

I had a legal problem because I'm responsible for my pets and the harm that they cause; I'm responsible of the harm that my kids cause to another individual, because they are my responsibility. In any case if I choose to keep my son with me in the unfortunate event that something happens to me, how can I protect him and make the others see it as my responsibility as well?

David, I think this boy would beg to differ with you. As do I. Imagine if treatment could have ameliorated the behaviors that made him spit and lash out - he would not have needed the spit mask. He might not be in that courtroom at all. He, unlike you, can not type out cogent thoughts on a blog. You are wrong. Autism is far more than a neurological difference. Autism is far more than different ways of thinking and processing. For many with autism and for their families, it is a life altering, life threatening disability. To deny that is disrespectful to men like Sky Walker and his dead mother.

Kim Stagliano
Managing Editor

This is a disgrace, I myself have Autism and the way they handle this young man is just disgusting. That picture just makes me sick to my stomach. There is no cure needed for Autism, it's just a Neurological difference in the way we process things.

I wonder,2009 Every April 2, Autism month comes and goes.Not like Black History month were reports are done.The students do not even know what Autism or Autism on the spectrum even is and its happening NOW.1 out of every 150 children.My child is called a freak ect.She is 11 and is very high funtioning.It is like being verbally abused every day of your life.Our public school is stepping up to the plate this year !!!Every student will learn some thing about Autism.What do you think about a smart kind child in every class budding up.We know that kids want to be cool,what if it was cool again to be kind? Lets go people,anyone can only take so much,i am not saying what happened is ok but i dont know what made him snap only the hell my child has gone through with 2 parents with 100 percent suport.Another thing,the father he will have to answer some day too.

http://media.www.kentnewsnet.com/media/storage/paper867/news/2009/02/11/Opinion/All-That.Glitters.The.Great.American.Story-3623068.shtml
All that glitters: the great American story
Darren D'Altorio

Issue date: 2/11/09 Section: Opinion

I walked into this conversation Monday morning in the newsroom of Franklin Hall.

"I can't believe there is a $2 million bail for an autistic kid accused of committing attempted murder," a guy wearing a brown hat said, shaking his head.

"Yeah," boomed another person nearby as he removed the earbud headphone from his left ear. "Does he even know what he did?"

A third person entered, informing the other two he went to high school with Sky Walker.

"He was pretty messed up," he said. "I don't think he has a clue."

In case you're unaware, what Sky Walker did a little over one week ago, according to police reports, was assault his mother, Gertrude Steuernagel, a political science professor at Kent State.

Now, "Trudy" is dead. The injuries she suffered were too severe to come back from.

In the wake, we as a community are left with conversations like the one I walked in on. We are left with the simple "how" and "why" questions but no answers to satisfy the curiosity.

We are left with a desire, stemming from pure human compassion and intellect, to learn everything we can about the rare cases like this when love's thin line between harmony and rage is distorted.

I didn't know Trudy or Sky. I never had her class. I never even saw her face until I saw the headshot in Monday's paper.

But the more I learn about Trudy's relationship with her son Sky, from eavesdropping on random conversations, the more I know love was the anchor in their relationship.

"There was a note on her syllabus," a girl who had professor Steuernagel's class this semester said. "If she had to leave class to attend to her son, she was sorry, but she had to go."

She had to go because they needed each other.

Ch. 2-Informing

According to the Daily Kent Stater column "My son's trail of sparkles," written by Trudy and published in October 2007, Sky was diagnosed with severe classical autism just before his 3rd birthday.

Autism is an incurable mental disorder that appears during early childhood and affects the ability to communicate and interact with others, according to CNN.com.

The spectrum ranges from mild to severe, but common symptoms are present in every case. On the contrary, there is no predicting what symptoms will be present, or if those symptoms will dissipate or worsen with time.

The symptoms of autism, according to CNN.com, are manifested in a concoction of behaviors, including obsessive-compulsive rituals, hyperactivity, attention deficit, inability to communicate verbally, sensitivity to light and desensitization to pain. But, in rare cases, autistic children can be classified as savant, possessing accelerated intelligence in areas of art, math or music.

And that's just a sampling of the Molotov cocktail this condition presents to researchers attempting to understand it and parents fighting to raise a child with it.

Ch.3-Understanding

"Their brains are a mystery and fascinating," said Ashley Smith, a six-year private tutor of autistic children.

Every day, efforts are made to understand what is going on inside the minds and souls of autistic children. But the battle raging within them to have a voice, express feelings and fit in creates an uncontrollable onslaught of emotions, Smith said.

She has experienced those emotions physically over the years in furies of screams, kicks, pinches and bites unknowingly directed at her and the other people trying to help, teach and love these kids.

As autistic children grow, so do their physical strengths. But, in some cases, the mind is left behind - stuck in the rhythms and routines of childhood.

In Trudy's column, she reflected on teaching Sky how to use scissors as a child, watching him fumble and fail. But, in time, he learned how to use them.

At age 16, he loved to cut the cellophane wrappers from strawberry fruit bars into "confetti-sized pieces" and throw them all over the house, just like a child.

Now, at age 18, that child is under public scrutiny, being held in jail for the attempted murder of his mother, "dance partner" and best friend.

Opinions differ - rehab, mental institution, prison - on how to deal with this fragile case. But one thing is for certain, and Trudy unknowingly and accidentally foreshadowed it.

"Neither of us will write the great American novel," Trudy wrote. Well, she was wrong. Their lives have become the makings of a great American novel, up there with "To Kill a Mockingbird," "The Catcher in the Rye," and "One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest."

Just as great novels teach us to understand other's experiences and probe deeper into societies' facades, creating a sense of enlightenment and understanding of truth, Trudy and Sky's story provides us with the perfect platform to challenge our perceptions about a very misunderstood condition in modern American culture.

Their story has left a glittery trail, leading into the dark, unexplored corners of the human mind. And the glitter will illuminate the path to a greater understanding, so long as we let it.

Darren D'Altorio is a senior magazine journalism major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at ddaltor@kent.edu.

I work with and have a child of my own on the Autism Spectrum. I don't know alot about this case so my comments will be limited to what I have experienced. I learned early with my own child how frustrated they can become. I worked to decrease physical confrontations that involved hitting pushing spitting and kicking. Even with all that work there is never a 100% you can rely on because there are too many varibles. A child I currently work with strikes out when frustrated and has been allowed to do so because the parents didn't know what to do when the child became frustrated. So my work is two-fold, help with communication to decrease frustration and eventually help the parents learn how to help their child. I feel the perfect model would be to help the parents at the same time but its not possible right now. Also there some Language and Cultural constraints that have an affect. Lucky for this child though the parents are very dedicated to their care. Could what happened in this case be a pure accident that was unforseen even while knowing there is a potential danger as children grow older and stronger?

This message is posted for two reasons. I have read all the comments and I must address the one ignorant comment posted by doberholtzer21. How extremely inhumane you are and uninformed. I hope that you are NEVER on a jury. Do you not have any compassion? Until you know the all facts don't be so quick to judge.

To all the mothers of autistic and other mentally disabled children, do not let this incident lessen the hope of a bright and successful future for your children. I have a mentally handicapped son and thanks to God and good therapy he now lives independently with supports and has a job. The battle for parents never ends though. We must keep on fighting for our children's rights.

Things happen for a reason. Perhaps this unfortunate sad incident will shed light on the fact that we need more services and supports for the mentally handicapped and for the parents who care for them. We need more respite care. We need more research. Motherhood brings many joys and sorrows at times not just for mothers of handicapped children but of all children.

If your child is mentally handicapped, before or by the age of 18 either become their legal guardian or have someone else be their legal guardian. They cannot make competent decisions in their own best interest. I know it is a difficult decision to have them declared incompetent, but it is in their best interest, especially from a medical standpoint, but now even more from a legal standpoint.

My heart and prayers go out to Sky and to his family and I will keep them in my prayers.

After reading through several of the postings I have many comments to say. I am a behavioral consultant and autism specialist for children and adults with autism and have been working with persons with autism for nine years now. I do truely believe that people should take responsibility for their actions and be punished accordinly, however I am not sure this is the case here. People with autism typically have some kind of behvaioral problems many of which can be so extreme or severe that they will hurn themselves or someone else. For the one comment about he should be killed or put in prision verson us paying for his lifelong treatment, well that is just a fault of our government system. Our government will not pay for the extensive treatment that these children need when they are young to help them learn right from wrong and decrease problem behavior, while teaching appropriate skills. Research supports that with early intensive behvioral interventions 50% of these children will go on to need no support in life. Currently, our government would rather pay for life long treatment verses short term early therapy which is what has happened here. The brains of children with autism can be changed but the longer we wait in age it is drastically harded and Sky probably was not in the right opportunity to receive the early intervention support that he needed. Early intensive intervention can cost any where from $50 to $150 a hour and with limited funding most families can not affort it. Your right this is a national epidemic and emergency that our president and government needs to address immediately because the numbers or autism are only going to increase. Unfortuneatly, this is probably not that last time we will hear about a tradegy like this as many families of someone with autism are dealing with severe behavior like this every single day with no behavioral supports. Is this a crime of the individual or of our government nation?

Friend of Sky, how is he? Where is he? My heart breaks for him.

Kim

I am not sure how good it will be, but CBS will be doing a story on Trudy and Sky tomorrow morning (Saturday, Feb 14th) on The Early Show. Today they had a wonderful celebration for Trudy at Kent State University. Hundreds of people were there--it was clear that Trudy was dear to many people.

'doberholtzer', you're a sick man. You really need psychological help. How can you, for even one second, think that justice and fairness would be served, if you put to death a mentally challenged, autistic man, who was not mentally fit in the first place? Have you, and a large part of our society, become so simplistic and savage in our thinking, that some of us would even entertain capital punishment for another sick fellow human being this mentally incapacitated, through no fault of his own? Only subhuman simpletons think like this. Please get a clue, and a heart!

FriendofSky,

My friend (you don't mind if I call you that, I hope), we are all saddened by this tragedy. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us. Know that we are all watching this case closely. My heart goes out to Sky and his mother, and my heart goes out you and the friendship you shared with them.

Take care, my friend. Please give us any updates.

Dear Friend of Sky and Trudy,

I'm so sorry for what Sky is going through. If we can help you (off this site, of course) please email me at Kim Stagliano at gmail .com.

Many people will theorize - I'm watching carefully to make sure our readers don't bring you and yours additional pain.

Thank you for posting.

Yours in friendship,

Kim Stagliano
Managing Editor

Sky is a friend of mine. As was Trudy. I can tell you this--Sky did not have lyme. He did have other issues which I will not say here out of respect for him and his family. These issues made it very difficult for sky to deal with his frustrations. His OCD caused him to be frustrated a lot. His actions are the cause of his mothers death. He is a warm, funny, smart kid. Trudy loved him dearly, and would be heartbroken at what is going on right now. To honor her, keep up the good work on advocating for families affected by autism. If she had someplace safe to turn for help (where she knew they wouldn't take Sky away) she would be alive now.

Was this young man on anti-depressant drugs like many men with autism?

Where is Dr. Geier & testing this young man's testosterone? This seems to be a walking testimony to having hormones checked & controlled, should anomalies be found.

Kathy,

We are all here to try and prevent any new moms from ever having a child develop autism -- of course -- my point is how you delivered your message.

What if the kid didn't do it and can't speak up to defend himself??

Ever thought of that?

What if someone came in the home and did it and the kid was hiding in the basement scared over it?

Teresa, truth of it is, many a mom will find themselves in this position, it's the truth

Kim,

Thanks again for giving Sky some much needed support.

Kathy Blanco- please refrain from comments like this as I personally find them offensive and feel that they do nothing for the autism community.

We are all emotional about our children's health , future, and of course today's bogus decision, and this type of comment is completely callous and unnecessary.

"Welcome to the future, young moms...it ain't pretty."

I don't believe I have ever seen a disabled person treated with such callousness. What a disgrace.

I'd like to know how they are going cross-examine a non-verbal individual. Are they effing kidding us with this?

Let's hope this man never ends up on a jury somewhere.

http://www.recordpub.com/news/article/4525084?page=1


13. Posted by doberholtzer21 about 2 hours ago
yes i would. i feel anyone who takes a life deserves to pay for it with there own. no exceptions. if you murder you die. did he know what he was doing? i do not care he did it, now he must pay. i love how you people on here sxcream ignorance and call names to people who disagree with your opinion. shows the true ignorant people. you think he should get a hug and put into a home, well ill tell you what lets put him in your house, you pay for his treatment, his drugs and his therapy. this guy murdered his mother, lets not forget she was the victim here not sky. he has a disibility ill give you that but its not an excuse for murder. so should we put him down like a dog, yes we should exactly like a dog. this has nothing to do with autism or anything else. he is a danger to anyone who he is near. murderers,rapist,child abusers, these people should die for there crimes. its ok to disagree, but to blindly back someone just becouse they have the same issues as someone your related to is a joke. Autismmommie you my dear are the jerk. i have compassion for people, i have helped more people than you will ever know, but my compassion stops at murder. so you take on the financial burden of this murderer, legal responsibility for his actions, and then im all for letting him live, until then i say let him die.

How awful that this happens the same day we hear that there is so much resistance to investigating the cause of autism.

Clearly we have a national emergency.

As if having autism in the family didn't suck enough every day, we have a day like today (vaccine decisions, Sky Walker's situation).

I feel so bonded with every caregiver - I cry when they cry. Today is my day for crying and tomorrow, I stand up and keep moving forward.

Once again, a sad living testament of the years mothers have to endure with violence and aggression with SOME kids with autism. IMHO, this young man probably was psychotic as well (this is also happening in older autistics, because their brains are on neurodegenration mode-and yes, AUTISM IS NEURODEGERNATIVE, HELLOOOOOO). I also believe this young man probalby has lyme, I guarantee he has it. Lyme can cause additional damage in the autistic brain. Some go psychotic, want to kill themselves and others...it is very sad. Mostly comes about by increasing intracranial inflammation and pressure in the brain.

Luckily, my 27 year old is a sweetie pie, kisses my cheeck every day, and says I love you. There were times when he went psychotic on AED's for a a few months. I thought I was going to lose it. I took him off of them, and put them on things that addressed the real reasons for Epilepsy/Autism, detoxed, got him on a good diet. Some moms have no information like this, especially the pioneer moms who still believe it was all their faults/don't generally use computers, I lived through that era and it sucked big time. (and was totally wrong). However, I must say, for the most part, those same moms probably do have major depression or autoimmune problems, which may have contributed to their children's autism in utero, by virtue of cytokine responses in utero. What they did outside of that resultant depression, is to be researched further. Who knows, maybe autism makes you depressed, chicken egg question for sure?

Bill Walsh of Pfieffer once told me, a certain age, kicks in, puberty is the start, where the brain degenerates if the body is not given proper nutiriton and antioxidants...and said and I quote "if you don't pour down antioxidants everyday, your child will, and everyone elses child, will develop into major psychotic illneses, and the like by the age of thirty", I think he was totally right. So yes, biomed is SOOO important...for an ILLNESS that is DEGENERATIVE unless addressed.

Welcome to the future, young moms...it ain't pretty.

Thank you jruch!...

"Precious few people, and nobody in the media, has given this kid one shred of the benefit of the doubt. Lets not let "being autistic at the scene of the crime" be the new profile of a criminal."

Based on media reports of this story, it would seem that anyone could walk into the home of an adult living with an autistic child, murder the adult, and the system as well as the court of public opinion will hold the child guilty as charged.

ABC ran the headline:
"Police: Professor Beaten to Death by Autistic Son" before medical records and tests on tissue samples arrived. Clearly, the evidence is not yet in.

Three other points:

If the accusations of murder do prove to be true, then this will not change Chew and company's absurd positions on autism. Accidental drownings and other autism-related deaths and injuries have not deterred them, nor will this.

Where is the dad in all this? He is a doctor (mainstream doctor, no doubt). If he cut off his relationship with his son as reported, then I'd like to see the media spotlight turned on him.

And finally, if Sky is found guilty, we need to know the role meds played. Associations have been drawn between meds and school murders around the country; questions need to be answered in this case as well. Sky is rumored to have been taking Risperdal and possibly another med.

Precious few people, and nobody in the media, has given this kid one shred of the benefit of the doubt. Lets not let "being autistic at the scene of the crime" be the new profile of a criminal. Here were my thought over there on ABC.

tlonsdale43 - I agree. I have not heard any evidence yet that this young man was responsible, yet have I have not read anything before your post to offer benefit of the doubt. Nobody, apparently including the police, knows what happened in that house. Their relationship has been described as loving. I'm just saying that lets not ingrain a prejudice against individuals with autism.

The scuffle with the officer is just another example of how police forces, whose 1st reaction is to demand immediate compliance, have not learned how to cope with a non violent disorder that does not respond to demands for compliance in expected ways. At the same time, I do not fault the officer for doing his best under the circumstances.

The difficulties of grown men with autism being cared for by single women over 60 are going to grow exponentially in the coming years, unless of course, you do not believe in an autism epidemic. The ongoing and future crisis resulting from denying an epidemic will not arrive without more warnings like this. I do not know what services this young man received growing up, but all across America, kids with autism are going without proper educational services that could help them live more independent lives in adulthood. Waiting lists for housing seem to shrink only when the primary caregiver becomes sick and the boundary of crisis has been crossed.

President Obama, please convene a national effort to address establishing uniform national minimum standards for addressing lifespan autism issues addressing education, healthcare, employment, housing, and research. We need to build the infrastructure for handling this through training those who will provide enabling services. The autism crisis began years ago, but a recovery plan has not yet been established at the federal level. This is too big of a problem for states, communities, and families to deal with on their own.

My thoughts and prayers to the family, the community, and our leaders.

"http://autism.change.org/blog/view/its_just_too_close

She's been blogging about Sky and his poor dead mother."

Nobody knows what the future will hold for these kids. The sweet tempered, occasionally aggressive kid might decide to break off all human contact at a certain point in his existence. Nobody can really tell what that trigger might be. What particular event might throw an ASD child off the edge and cause him to murder the only person in the world who really loves him - his mom (ok, some dads too!).

Ultimately, there are limits to what parents can do, what therapies can do, and what treatment can do. As in all healthcare situations, the only thing we can do with a certain element of certainty, is to prevent the horror of autism from occurring in the first place.

This is why with every breath I have...
I push, pray and lead my son to function to his maximum potential.
When will the nightmare end.

Kim,

You note that the comment trail at the ABC News story is bitterly cruel.

I've only stopped long enough to read maybe 20 comments (of several hundred). But I also found comments that were enlightening, bewildered, sad, grieving, and containing other thoughts and emotions.

I just want to note that, too.

Terri

http://autism.change.org/blog/view/its_just_too_close

She's been blogging about Sky and his poor dead mother. She admits she doesn't know much about the case. Muses where Sky's fahter might be. And wonders if Sky's mom got the help she needed for Sky.

Well, "Professor Chew" if people are listening to the likes of you...probably not. Although, I know she did all she could. She did what she thought was right. I am disgusted by people trying to second guess her choices.

Thankfully many of us know including Sky's mom autism is a truly horrible disability and have not bought into your "autism is a different way of thinking" drivel.

I'm reading all over the web parents stating "this could be me".

This is not a unique situation. I vividly recall Dan Burton reading an impassioned letter from Ray Gallop apologizing for not being able to attend the Hearings Rep. Burton was holding in DC more then a few years back, because as he put it- He and his family were "under siege". His son Eric was going through fits of rage and agression and I believe broke Ray's finger. That family went through hell with Eric's aggression. And Ray had the upfrontness to talk about it publically.

I know this is so uncomfortable for some to think about let alone talk about, but it's happening. All over, everywhere.

Sometimes the damage to our children's brains is so severe there isn't a way to fix it- try as we may. I know she tried, and still the situation unfolded as it did.

So, do us all a favor "Professor Chew" stop lying to people about this benign "different way of thinking" syndrome that has always been here. Your lies are helping no one.

Enjoy getting little Charlie off of the yellow school bus today. And, then think about poor Sky sitting in jail for unintentionally killing his mother in the morgue.

This is such a sad story.

I am not sure he was on a special diet, according http://abcnews.go.com/US/AutismNews/Story?id=6848289&page=2 he ate pasta & vanilla ice cream.

My heart hurts for this mom and this young man. Hope someone has a clue in his jail and is helping & protecting him.

I live in Portage County Ohio. I will be finding out when his trials will be and if I have to speak on his behave. I will help this young man in any way possible even if it's sitting in the court room, speaking to whom ever I can about autism.
I pray for his family and pray his father may have a kind heart and be involved in a good way for Sky.

I read this article and my heart sank because I know that the general public will once again have a skewed understanding of autistic people. Now they are going to assume that every autistic child is a threat to them or their children. In some cases, yes, they are a threat. The kids who cannot control their outbursts should be helped more and the families should be supported more by the community services and therapies that unfortunately do not exist (unless you can afford to private pay $30,000 - $60,000 per year). It is appalling that we don't recognize the real crisis here. It's that these kids and future adults need supports in the community and treatment options (like perhaps inpatient/outpatient behavioral services, supported employment, adaptive physical exercise, social skills training, supported group activities, etc.) that allow families with autistic children to function in society. To get to that point, it will require LOTS of money. Our society has yet to realize that the more we spend on the kids when they are young and the more we spend on INCLUSION strategies and community supports the more we all win and we keep our families safe (not to mention the improvement in the lives of the people with autism). The cost savings will be in fewer incarcerationss, fewer criminal justice cases at taxpayer expense, fewer emergency room visits, fewer public welfare recipients and fewer tragic deaths. Wake up America!! The tidal wave is coming.

We can't possibly judge the poor mother. No way. We can try to help as many kids on the spectrum as possible though through education. Therapy, inside and out - love. And despite our best efforts, herculean efforts, that doesn't guarantee we can keep our kids safe.

It's a day to pray for Sky. Period.

Diane: I can't find the email with the articles in it, but as I recall she did a lot of various therapies, and some of the dietary/biomed stuff too.

Kinda scary to think that even with treatment, tragedies can happen.

A fried of mine sent me links to a couple articles this mother wrote when her child was younger (the type of stuff all us mommy autism bloggers seem to write, about how we love our kids, our struggles with treatments... Could have been any of us.) and then the two about her being beaten and then passing away finally. It chilled me to the core, and the thought hangs over me like a dark cloud- we don't know where Jaymes will be in 10 years, but if it's where he is now, I'm in trouble.

It's so scary.

I'm shocked that they are putting Sky through court and murder charges. What part of "not competent" is unclear? He can't assist in his own defense, it's doubtful that he even knows what a courtroom is.

It's horrible all around, for both mother and child.

I saw this story online yesterday and was, well...sad. I wonder if this young man even realizes what he did. And now you've made me wonder if he ever was afforded treatments to mitigate his autism.

Good morning, Harold. Thank you. You made my point. You can't have the American public (Canadian too) being told "do nothing. this is natural." all while the geneticists are working toward prenatal tests while young men like Sky Walker are going through hell. Parents will hear "autism." See Sky. And choose abortion. It's gross negligence. If a parent's goal is to manage the child until group home age, so be it. But don't tell the rest of us that's the best or the moral path. And certainly don't tell the world. The women you mention will be the driving force behind the "down syndrome cure" for autism. We at Age of Autism choose teach parents, "You CAN make your child's life better, healthier and safer."

I want young parents to hear "Autism" and think "Treatable" not "Abort." I want "Autism" to sound like "Prostate Cancer", not "Pancreatic Cancer." Both are cancers, but one implies survival and the other certain death.

KIM

KIM

"For those who say, "No treatment is necessary." I invite you to look at Sky Walker in his restraints. And his mother's gravestone. "

Indeed, if only the theories of people like Kristina Chew and Estee Klar, at "Autism" Change.org, with their social model of autism could actually explain some of the harsher realities presented by autism.

http://autism.change.org/blog/view/10_autism_controversies

http://autism.change.org/blog/view/the_canadian_autism_climate_too_cold_for_comfort_introduction

Of course the social model of autism doesn't actually address severe autism challenges, it just ignores them.

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