Playing the Blame Game

I’ve been chewing on this for a day now.  How to say this.  How to make a statement that rings clear enough without being overly emotional or sentimental.  Hell, I don’t even know how to START talking about this, let alone do so with any sense of logic.

A few days ago a mother killed her child.  A 4 year-old child.  She was a stay-at-home mom.  That child had been diagnosed with Autism.

Articles about this abound–but it is one statement from News Channel 10 in San Diego that felt like a knife to my heart:

“San Diego police sources told 10News Corby was a stay-at-home mother pushed to the edge handling a difficult child with autism.”

With that simple little sentence, blame was placed squarely on the child.   You know–the one who DIED. As if he weren’t even human.

Suddenly the outpouring of “concern” for the mother and the “hardships” she had to bear begin.

and I’m not exaggerating: (comments gleaned from articles here and here)

  • ” I hope the media and health professionals team up to advise parents there are resources to help you deal with an autistic child.”
  • “…people just don’t get it…the daily drain of dealing with a difficult child.”
  • “It is financially, mentally, emotionally, and socially devastating to have a child with autism. As the child matures into an adult there are very few services. The future at this moment in time is bleak for people with autism. 
  • I have stories where the most sane people in our community have snapped and done weird things with their autistic child because of the extreme behaviors that can be present. It is sad and tragic. We need more supports for families and people with autism. Autism is now an epidemic that no one is addressing adequately.”

(emphasis added by ME)

I read comments like this and think–am I wrong to vent my frustrations?  Do people REALLY think an Autism diagnosis is the end of the world?  Look at the choice in words I highlighted: bleak, deal with, devastating.  I read this and it makes me want to stop blogging.  Because statements like this take this woman–this alleged murderer–from the realm of Susan Smith and Casey Anthony–women HATED by society when they snapped and (allegedly) murdered their own neurotypical children–to someone who needs “compassion” and “understanding” for the “hardships”with which she had to deal.

Does no one else see they hypocrisy here?  And the very dangerous slippery slope created by this argument?  By “justifying” this killing because she was “pushed to the edge” this news agency is perpetuating the argument that the lives of children and people with Autism, or any disability are not as valuable as those who are neurotypical.

Autism has many forms–it is a spectrum disorder after all.  My son’s Autism is not the same as my friends, such as Marj or Sunday or Jill–but no matter the “hardships” we face, no matter how rock bottom we get, we all agree on one thing:  hurting our child(ren) is NOT an option.  Hell, I can’t even imagine hurting myself or my husband only because of the damage it would do to my child.  IT. IS. NOT. AN. OPTION.

But moreover–why can we not address the fact that mothering–ON ANY LEVEL–can be difficult for some?  Why is it assumed that this woman was mentally unstable, but that other women who murder their children are cold blooded killers?  Again–this creates the argument that the diagnosis of a disability in your child is a free pass for crazy.

I know plenty of mothers of special needs and neurotypical children. I’ve seen some with picture-perfect catalog editions of children teetering on the edge of sanity and in need of a good therapist.  I’ve seen some with kids on the far end of the spectrum, with violent, non-verbal children handle life with amazing aplomb and peace.  Most of us–you know, every day folk with every sort of kid–manage, day to day, some good some bad, like people do.  Parenting any child can be a challenge for some, and  NONE of that has to do with our kids’ abilities or challenges.  It has everything to do with a person’s readiness to parent, to grow, to deal with society, and the media portrayal of parenting, and how much they plan to use or ignore it. It has everything to do with a person’s readiness to lose a bit of themselves, and sacrifice, and be selfless–SELFLESS–no matter the cost.  It has everything to do with that person.  PERIOD.  We don’t blame children for divorce do we?  Or for financial ruin?  or for any of the other adult choices we make?  Because if you do, then frankly, you are still a child yourself.

Our job here as parents to to raise these lil larvae so that they can become butterflies.

Do there need to be more outlets for parents?  YES.  Does access to services need to be more transparent?  YES.  Do we need to erase the stigma of mental illness and the fear of seeking help?  YES, YES and YES.


We also need to recognize that Autism is NOT a death sentence.  We need to stop scaring folks that is is so horrific, so “bleak” that it is an excuse for idiocy.  We need people to be honest about Autism–the bad AND the good. Alongside the frustrations of parents, who need to vent and to find their own community, we need the success stories, the triumphs and the stories of beauty that come out of Autism.  If the numbers continue to rise (and i have no doubt that they will) then we need to know the WHOLE story–and not just the fear mongering anecdotal tales of playboy bunnies with no talent.

We also need to realize that a 4-year-old boy died here. DIED.   Allegedly at the hands of his mother.  Whom he trusted implicitly.  A 4-year-old who had value.  A 4-year-old who deserved better.

I do not want to hear excuses.  I do not want to be told I should have compassion–told to me by the same people who told me I am part of the problem when I didn’t think Casey Anthony  should be sentenced to death.

If we are to have compassion–then we have to be more liberal in its application. Compassion, I’m afraid, is not conditional.  If you doubt that–ask this guy.

I, for one, will admit I am a little unforgiving on this one.  My heart right now is for that little boy’s father, and family.  And for that little life.  Just a year younger than my own son.  My son with Autism.  Who deserves every chance he can get, and whose life–no matter what the media tries to say for sake of ratings–has value.  Beyond measure.


You may reprint this piece “Playing the Blame Game” (and only this piece) as long as credit is given to the Author, Dawn Hentrich.  This post may not be edited, but you can use excerpts.  Please include a link to This Side of Typical.

Originally published on This Side of Typical ( on April 5, 2012 by Author Dawn Hentrich.  All rights reserved.

Categories: Autism | 18 Comments

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18 thoughts on “Playing the Blame Game

  1. It’s usually uneducated people who make these stupid comments. I wonder how many of the people who commented actually have children with autism? I think that if they did have a child with autism, they’d never have pity on a parent who killed their child. And the media is a double edged sword, because it can put both a positive or negative spin on anything. And anyone who feels pity for this woman is a fool. If “dealing” with her child was too much, she could have sent him to a hospital or somewhere. Not that I condone institutionalising a child just because it’s too hard to raise them, but anything is better than killing a child because they have autism.

    • Unfortunately, Jim, many of the people who make these comments are in fact parents of autistic children. Whenever there’s a murder like this, reporters call local parent organizations looking for quotes about how “understandable” a murder like this is, and how “every autism parent has been there.” Often, the parents seem all too eager to oblige.

      Here’ s a good example of what I’m talking about: . That article was written in the aftermath of Geroge Hodgins’ murder – I’m sure another one will be written following Daniel Corby’s murder, and unfortunately I don’t think the supply of parents offering excuses is goin to run dry any time soon.

      We need more parents of autistic kids to take a stand against this victim blaming, and speak up about how it’s not true that “every autism parent has been there.” I commend Dawn for taking this stand – but her empathy for autistic murder victims is not as common as you seem to think.

      • And frankly–we are fighting a social norm here. Its not only Autistic kids who are seen as a “burden” and therefore justification for horrible things. We have to fight the fear-mongering, and the idea that being differently-abled is something horrible to bear. Life is life–and we need to value all the differences around us.

  2. Nicely written! And I agree wholeheartedly, there is no good excuse for murder.

  3. I totally agree and am glad you wrote this! Such a terrible tragedy that so many people with autism are being killed yet the parents are being empathized with, rather than the kids. Just makes me sick.

  4. Dawn–very well said.

  5. Thanks for writing this. You’ve stated everything that’s been churning in my head for days.

  6. Beautifully said, my precious.

  7. Four years old. Fucking FOUR YEARS OLD. He was FOUR.

    • yes–my first thought when i read the story was –How Difficult can it be? i mean, Benji was difficult. DIFFICULT (damn near broke my nose once). but still. FOUR YEARS OLD.

  8. Hell, read a damn bible. It would be better to have a stone tied around you neck and to be thrown into a lake , than to get what is coming to you if you harm one of these little ones.

    Then again, maybe he meant the ones that weren’t autistic…I dunno…

    “But they loved their children, it was just –difficult–”

    Again, love is patient, love is kind, it is not jealous or haughty or rude.

    It remains unsaid, that love doesn’t kill the beloved.

  9. mommasuz3

    Amen, amen & amen! Eloquently said & God bless you!

  10. Okay, so you said things that made me cock my head to the side and rethink things. I saw the first statement about this case showing that parents need better resources and completely agreed…but then your post made me think things through. Because you are ABSOLUTELY right. People are right in saying that there need to be better rescources for parents of kids with special needs, especially respite, but I’m not sure that would have solved ANYTHING here. That parent was crazy. That parent was WRONG. That parent should rot in jail and then rot in hell. Having a difficult kid doesn’t give you a free pass to killing him. She could have walked away.

    Casey at four was TOUGH! He used to rage for hours upon hours. He’d throw chairs. He’d hit me with whatever he could find. He was big for his age, but he was still FOUR! I had the upper hand. If I didn’t want to be attacked or if I had to much, I’d put him in his carseat where he couldn’t hurt me or his brothers and drive around until he had calmed down. And sometimes that would take hours.

    Guh. This post was fantastic. Perfect. Thank you for writing it. Sometimes I’m WAY too sypmathetic because I know how hard it can be…

    • It is tough Lexi–because we understand. Better than most. And I am in no way saying we shouldn’t have compassion for this woman–although I will admit that is a bit of a spiritual challenge for me. But its this attitude of justification by the typical community that makes me sick to my stomach. WE know the value our children have. What scares me is that sometimes I feel we are the only ones who do.

  11. Does what I have to say lose some sort of credit because I have a catshark for a profile picture?

    • Here? NEVER! Is catshark like a landshark? (Dating myself here–that’s a classic SNL reference, thank you very much)

  12. sam stein

    San DIego News Channel 10 September 13th, 2012, 5pm news, just aired a PATHETIC story about a mom who killed her 5 yr old autistic son and the news casters seem sympathetic! And the news reporter even interviews another mom of autistic teen who is in Autism Society Groups, and who ALSO seems sympathetic! As if not disgusting enough, the friend of the mom who killed her autistic kid, is then interviewed, and you guessed it…she’s sympathetic. Stop and think. The kid was 5 years old. There are thousands of parents living with severely-autistic children and adults who are in there 30’s and 40’s and you don’t see these parents kill their kids. SHAME on San Diego news channel 10 for MINIMIZING the seriousness of killing or abusing autistic people. What a disgrace. What is this teaching public? That the autistic person isn’t worthy of living? Way to go San Diego Channel News 10. Way to advocate for autistic population.

  13. Pingback: A Lack of "Understanding" | This Side of Typical

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