Monday, September 15, 2014


Illustration of stacked newspapers
Shannon Des Roc, BlogHer - September 11, 2014

Disability Visibility Project - September 15, 2014

Some more thoughts on sympathy for parents who murder disabled children:

- In general, I support discussing how systemic failures and economic injustice can partially explain some individual violent crimes, including murders and suicides. But it seems like the only widely accepted context for such discussions is with the murder of disabled children. Similar discussions involving other kinds of people and situations … such as gang violence and school shootings … are generally despised as excusing and coddling criminals. Somehow, though, killing disabled people is in some way "understandable". How can that be anything but galling and scary for people who have disabilities?

- We absolutely should talk more about the unacceptable delays and gaps in support services to parents of kids with disabilities ... but never in connection with the murder of disabled children. We cannot afford to undermine the idea that disabled children … even the most difficult and baffling … are sentient human beings.

- We shouldn't assume that parents who go off the deep end are always ill-served. Some fumble or even reject opportunities for support, out of confusion, exhaustion, or failure to recognize promising pathways when they appear. Some parents also find it hard to engage support because they feel it's a weakness to ask for help, or because they are terrified of being judged or losing parental authority. All of these can be legitimate concerns, but are never enough to justify, or even properly explain, murder.

- When we do discuss systemic failures, we also need to discuss the influence of well-funded, popular, but unhelpful, wrong, and destructive ideas about disability and child rearing that are regularly fed to parents who often don't even know there are other points of view. With autism, especially, parents urgently need to be told that no matter how mystifying their behavior and communication might be, autistic children are first and foremost people, not wild animals or tortured, miserable monsters.

- One reason why a note of sympathy keeps coming up in cases where parents murder their disabled children is that by and large, people find it easier to identify with frustrated parents at the end of their rope, than with children who have what seem like mysterious, frightening disabilities.

- To repeat … discussing the lack of support for parents is fine and necessary, but NOT IN CONNECTION WITH ACTUAL MURDER OR ATTEMPTED MURDER OF DISABLED CHILDREN OR ADULTS. It should be a taboo, indecent, simply not done.

Historical Reminder

“Each refused to surrender to physical limitations that might have destroyed them.”
— Narration about Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt, in Ken Burns’ documentary, “The Roosevelts: An Intimate History”
When we question the idea of “overcoming” disabilities today, we should occasionally remember that not so long ago, many if not most disabilities really did threaten to “destroy” people, either directly or indirectly. Many disabilities still do, today, but the line between illness and disability then was far more blurry then as it is now.