A Lack of "Understanding"

Last week, a tragedy occurred.  Alex Spourdalakis was killed by his mother and caretaker.  Alex was autistic.  He was 14 years old.

I wasn’t going to write about it. Others have written about it here and here with much more eloquence and cooler heads than I currently have.  I was going to skirt this one,  having written before about the media and social response to a mother killing her Autistic son. Because it has unfortunately happened more than once. This has happened enough that there are those who advocate for Autistics who really believe we want to harm our children.

But that maelstrom aside, I’ve been reading the comments (I KNOW, I know) on some articles here and there, and with a queasy stomach, I keep seeing the same statements and arguments I saw the last time this happened. 

  • “that poor woman”
  • “end of her rope”
  • “mercy killing”

You see, Alex was on the severe end of the spectrum.  And for some people, it seems, that somehow makes this OK. Or, my favorite way of saying that:  “understandable”


People with children say this.  Let me say that differently.  people with Neurotypical children say this.  People with children that have no differences say this.  People who do not face the judgement and isolation and downright bigotry of others toward your different child say this.

And they question those of us who speak up, who remind them that this was a BOY with a LIFE that was taken from him by being brutally stabbed.  Repeatedly.  They tell us we are too judgmental toward this woman, when they fail to even mention the son. 

They put themselves in the situation, and only see the hardships.  They think they could never care for a child with differences.

But you see, we live in that situation, and we don’t understand the choices. We face those hardships daily, and murder is never, EVER, one of our choices.

I’ll tell you why I struggle with situations like this–other than the absolute horror in a child being murdered.  I was raised to forgive those who do horrid acts like this.  In fact, I don’t even believe in the death penalty.  Had I even felt I had some sort of nunnish calling, I’d prolly be counseling those on death row like Sister Helen.  I was taught to treat with love anyone and everyone–for love begets love.  That’s not just a Christian value–it’s a human one. And I do whatever I can to try to cultivate it. 

And yet, I struggle with showing any understanding or kindness toward a woman who would do this to her own child.  And when I see people saying they don’t want to judge her, I want to scream at their hypocrisy, for I feel those same people would be swift to place the epithet “monster” on the Casey Anthonys and George Zimmermans of the world.

I struggle with forgiveness in this instance.  And instances like it.

For to forgive this woman and treat her with love would be like forgiving

  • Someone who kicks a dog on the street
  • someone who rapes a child
  • someone who places bombs in public places
  • someone who bullies kids into a gang and forces them to kill
  • someone who beats their spouse.  and children
  • someone who takes advantage of non-verbal children
  • someone who kills the homeless without regret
  • someone who kills. anyone. regardless of age, sex, ability

To forgive these women is to forgive ANYONE who feels they have the right to value and take a life based on their own fucked up reasoning.

I am all for forgiveness.  I carry within me an intrinsic belief that all people must be treated with respect and love–even those who have failed and fallen.  But when acts like this occur, and the arm-chair opinionists come rolling out, it is inevitable that words are said that devalue my own son’s life.  And it frightens me.  It frightens me more than any words I can spew onto this blog.  I recognize my fear is based on the fallacy of a slippery slope argument, but maternal fear is rarely based in logic.

So, if you want to tell me that it was “understandable” why she committed these horrid acts, then I need you to help me understand any of the acts I’ve listed above.  Because if you can “understand” away the horror of this act in any fashion other than devaluing the life of that sweet boy, then you are a better man than I, Gunga Din.

Categories: Autism, parenting | 12 Comments

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12 thoughts on “A Lack of "Understanding"

  1. While I agree with you, I have to disagree that it is only parents of neurotypical children who say these things. Most of the murder-justifying comments I have heard have been from parents of autistic children… which is even more disturbing.

    • Then we are reading different articles, because i have not seen that. But i don’t deny that asshats exist in all spheres.

      • yea from what I hear, if you go to age of autism page on fb, you’ll see plenty of nutjobs almost praising this woman for what she did. absolutely sickening. oh and on my blog i got a response telling me “i don’t know what it’s like to have a severely autistic child” …i’m sorry but yet another way of justifying…just sick. I don’t need to know what it’s like. I just know, he deserved to live his life!! no excuses..NONE.

  2. It is human to look for reasons, for understanding, whenever there is tragedy. When something terrible happens, we blame bullying or mental illness or depression or lack of resources because we want to believe this isn’t us. This could never be us.

    But making excuses, like “this is understandable” devalues the life that was lost and lets us off the hook for trying to figure out how we can keep this from ever happening again.

  3. Gotta tell you, I am overwhelmed with gratitude that the parents of neurotypical kids who are making those comments justifying this devastating and disgusting murder haven’t been given the opportunity to raise kids like ours.

  4. Very few people kill with no reason at all. There’s almost always a reason. What there is not is an excuse.

    I think it’s fine to say she was at the end of her rope. I think it’s fine to say that she needed services for her child and assistance that wasn’t there. I even think its fine to say that raising an autistic child is tough – it is for me from time to time. What isn’t okay is to say that any of that is an excuse for her actions.

    I’ll admit that the system is broken, that raising my son can be tough, and that there are times when I get to the end of my rope, but I – and the overwhelmingly vast majority of us – end our association with Alex’s mother there because the thoughts of harming our children never enter our heads.

    Yes, Alex – and the other children and adults whose lives were cut too short – do need to be remembered, but we also have to do something to prevent this from occurring ever again, and I think that’s where increased services like counseling, mental health support, and respite need to increase. While the victims need to be remembered, the only way to stop further violence is by working where the problem lies – parents and caregivers in crisis.

  5. I’m so sick of these murders! I don’t kno what to say. Other than, the law is not enforced these days. If the killers were Autistic, they would be executed. when will it stop!!???

  6. I had someone tell me I didn’t have any rights…because I got beat up.

  7. I linked to this on my blog. What a beautiful child you have here in the photo, by the way. Also, here is a link to the Autistic Community vigil: https://www.facebook.com/events/387982241320567/
    Ongoing Autistic Community Vigil in Memory of Alex Spourdalakis can be
    accessed here. This event is designed to be a pro-neurodiversity,
    Autistic-safe space, moderated, where thoughtful conversations are
    taking place. No “cure” or “sympathy for murder” comments allowed. Please read posting rules before deciding to join. Do join if you feel this is an appropriate place for you. Many people, particularly Autistic people and supporters who are not pro-cure are finding this a good place to connect at this time

  8. miumiu 靴
    Actually when someone doesn’t be aware of afterward its up to other users that they will help, so here it takes place.

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