Below is a powerful post by Dan Burns father of an adult son with autism about Adam Wilson, who stabbed his father to death - and how his family tried to help him before the tragedy occured.
By Dan Burns
Adam Wilson's favorite food is lobster, but he's not likely to get that in the Tyler county jail. He's accused of killing his father. "Why can't I go home?" he asked his Grammy. "Is my family mad at me?" Adam has autism.
I'm about to share a story. It's a story of a family's love for their disabled child, and his love for them. It's also a disturbing story, having themes familiar to parents of children with autism, like my adult son Ben: sleeplessness, mood swings, obsessive-compulsive behavior, the need for routine (and the child's frustration when plans go awry), and the unpredictable effect of sedative drugs. The possibility of a brain injury. Misplaced faith in a medical establishment still largely clueless in the face of this disease. A family's anguish as their child disintegrates before their eyes.
A few weeks ago week I presented Adam Wilson's story as told by the media. This week I go behind the headlines and present the untold story as shared with me by a family member. This story moves me because it could be my story. My son, Ben, is about the same age as Adam, and has many of the same issues. In subsequent blogs, I'll invite you to explore many questions the story raises: What did Adam's family do right? How, where, and why did the system fail? And how can we prevent such tragedies in the future and help surviving victims?
Act 1 -Adam's 21st birthday
In the piney woods of East Texas, about 25 miles east of Tyler, a beautiful stretch of road runs over the hills between the villages of Arp and Overton, the home towns of Adam Wilson, a young adult with autism; his father David; and Barbara, Adam's beloved "Grammy." It was the weekend of Adam Wilson's 21st birthday, Friday, July 30th. Ashton, his sister, had called and invited him over for a birthday visit on Saturday. David, his father, and Barbara, his grandmother, agreed to let him go. (Adam's biological mother had been killed in an automobile accident, with Adam in the car, when he was eight). All went well, and Ashton called that evening to ask if Adam could spend the night. Barbara hesitated -- that request rang a few bells for her -- but Adam got on the phone and begged to stay.
"Are you OK?"
"Sure," said Adam. "I'm having fun."
She and David agreed.
When Ashton brought Adam home on Sunday after church, Barbara noticed a change. Adam seemed frustrated. He wouldn't talk. He made himself cup after cup of hot tea, slamming the microwave door each time. He paced, circling Barbara's house, then tramped through the woods to calm himself, pausing to circle David's house about a mile away, as was his wont. But Sunday afternoon was different. Adam walked back and forth between the houses for hours and wouldn't stop. David sensed serious trouble. Monday morning, he called Adam's physician but didn't get a return call.
Act 2 - Laid off
By the middle of the week, Adam's agitation had increased.
His father made more calls to the doctor, and still got no response.
Adam's mood continued to darken. With no job, no school, and nowhere to go, his agitation increased. He stopped sleeping and took up pacing even during the night, the only way he knew to calm himself, seeking comfort in constant motion. But it wasn't working.
Midnight, Friday, August 13, barely a sliver of a new moon, Barbara heard the back door open and the microwave slam shut. She got up and found a taxi parked in the driveway. Adam felt himself slipping out of control and had called a cab to take him to the hospital.
Barbara and her husband drove him instead.
At the ER, they asked the doctor to admit him for observation; but with only one bed available, and that in a charity ward, the hospital would not accept Adam because he has Medicaid. The ER doctor prescribed Ambien, a fast-acting hypnotic whose side effects include blackouts, amnesia, and hallucinations, and released him at 8 o'clock on Saturday morning.
Barbara got one Ambien down him. It was supposed to relax him, but it seemed only to increase his agitation. He roamed all day Saturday and all Saturday night, with Barbara, exhausted, watching out for him. Adam had not slept for days.
Act 3 - Murder
By Sunday morning, Adam had dark circles under his eyes and had become like a different person, a stranger to those who loved him. On the back porch, as the family was ready to leave for church, Adam punched Barbara in the shoulder....
Read the full post at the Dallas Morning News Blog HERE.
Dan E. Burns, Ph.D., is Adult Issues Liaison for AutismOne and the author of Saving Ben: A Father's Story of Autism. Get the full story HERE . Burns is developing the Autism Trust USA, modeled on The Autism Trust (U.K.) and focused on the creation of new campus communities where adults with autism can work, live and improve their skills and talents in a creative and supportive environment.