(Photo used with permission from www.e-portage.us. They are covering the Sky Walker case.)
By Kim Stagliano
Sky Walker is being arraigned today for his mother's death earlier this year (HERE). There's a chance he'll spend the rest of his life in an institution for mental illness. Does that make you as sick as it makes me?
Wake up, parents of kids with autism.
You have got to find a way to ameliorate your child's behavior. And chances are, that means looking past traditional, pharmaceutical solutions and ABA. It doesn't mean you don't use drugs at all. It doesn't mean ABA isn't useful - but for God's sake, here is a boy whose mother taught at a college with a post-graduate program in autism. And she couldn't get relief, respite, real help for him? I lved in NE Ohio for many years. It's not progressive, but it's not a backwater either.
From MSNBC.com today, Family friend Molly Merryman said she never saw aggressive behavior from Walker during visits he and his mother made to her farm. The adults would make dinner, and Walker would pace a 120-foot circle for hours outdoors, she said.
But as Walker grew older, his behavior appeared to change. Steuernagel hinted at this in a campus newspaper article she wrote a year ago belittling complaints by colleagues on how busy they are.
"Busy? Try spending an evening sitting in a closet with your back to the door trying to hold it shut while your child kicks it in," she wrote.
I can not imagine how Dr. Steuernagel must have felt as her son beat her. Or if she was conscious enough to worry about his future as she lay dying in a hospital bed. I feel great compassion for her and what she went through trying her best to care for her son.
I have a thousand questions about what was done for a boy who would "pace a 120 foot circle for hours outdoors" as a child. This isn't the time or place. No matter how I try to write it, I sound like I'm blaming the mother. I've no intention of doing that. I do tend to think the professionals around her failed her.
This story is fraught with caveats and is a glimpse into the future. Wake up, America. The Sky is falling.
Keep this boy in your prayers, won't you?
Kim Stagliano is Managing Editor of Age of Autism.