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Kim Voynar

By Kim Voynar

Judge Not …

So, I started out today by reading this piece on the Hot Blog about Roger Ebert writing about this Jack Kervorkian movie on HBO, and how that pissed off this guy Steven Drake from Not Dead Yet, an activist group in the disabled community. For the record, I am generally in favor of assisted suicide, so I started to write a piece about that. But then I went down a couple rabbit holes that explored some other ideas that I found equally intriguing to think about and write about, so here you go.

One of the issues Not Dead Yet seeks to highlight is cases where disabled kids who are not terminally ill or in chronic pain have been murdered by a parent, as in the case of thee-year-old Katie McCarron, whose mother, Dr. Karen McCarron, was convicted in 2008 of smothering her to death with a plastic bag and then trying to conceal the homicide.

In this piece on Not Dead Yet, Drake expresses his dismay that much of the coverage of Katie McCarron’s death was “dominated by discussions of autism, poor support services, and an alarming parade of parents seemingly eager to tell the public they’ve felt like killing their own kids with disabilities.”

To which I would say, well, it seems reasonable to me that, especially in a case where a parent has killed their autistic child, there would be a good deal of discussion about the “why,” and that such a discussion would open the door for other autism parents to express their own feelings of frustration in being unsupported and overwhelmed. Perhaps if Karen McCarron had felt able to express her own emotions around all this, she would have gotten help rather than killing her daughter.

It’s not “blaming the victim” to acknowledge that caring for a child with autism is hard, that it’s different from caring for a “normal” child, that support services are underfunded and always under threat of funding cuts, and that when parents of an autistic child are not supported, tragedies like this can and will happen. That’s not validating the idea that it’s okay to murder your disabled child, it’s making it okay for parents of disabled kids to say, “This is really hard, some days I feel like I’m drowning, please help me.”

So all that, in turn, led me to a post from 2006 by a mom whose son has autism, in which she was critical of a video released by Autism Speaks called Autism Every Day. I thought the film sounded familiar, and sure enough, a search of my seldom-cleaned inbox revealed an email from just before Sundance 2007 about the doc playing there that year and a subsequent panel discussion on autism (the film, apparently, started out as a fundraising short and then was expanded to a 50-minute version later when it was invited to Sundance).

One of the things that caught my attention before I even watched the video was the comments online from many autism parents attacking the mothers who appear in the film, accusing them of being narcissistic (one went so far as to comment that she didn’t know she was going to see a video on mothers with NPD (narcissistic personality disorder).

In particular there were a lot of comments about one mom talking about a time when she pondered driving herself and her daughter off the George Washington Bridge. If you’ve read me very much, especially if you used to read my blog Catawampus!, where I wrote a lot more about parenting issues, you know that a real hot button for me is the way parents, and especially mothers, have this tendency to draw up sides and attack each other. So it’s probably not surprising that what led me further down this path was a lot of parents attacking this one woman.

So I went over to YouTube and found this 7-minute cut of the film, which I watched myself. You should watch it too, go ahead.

The mom in question is Alison Tepper Singer, and she’s a former Executive VP at Autism Speaks, and now founder and President of Autism Science Foundation, and the context of that bit of the video that’s been so over-discussed is that she was talking about the school services available to her daughter, and recalling the despair she felt when she saw how little support there was, and feeling in that moment that she would rather drive them both off the bridge than subject her daughter to those classrooms.

Context is important. She wasn’t threatening to kill her daughter, she was expressing her frustration and fear over the lack of support. That was an issue in 2006, and it’s still an issue now, when families are forced to borrow money or go into severe debt to support their autistic kids, when they’re struggling to pay $5,000 a month tuition for private schools that focus on autism because the public school system is completely unprepared for dealing with the flood of kids with autism that we’ve seen in the past couple decades.

How are these kids — and their families — supposed to succeed in a “normal” world that views them with fear and misunderstanding, without any kind of support? These parents are supposed to just be superhumans and deal with the physical and emotional challenges of raising a child with autism, to wrestle with the guilt that it’s their fault in some way that their child is like this, to control their child in public so they don’t make others feel uncomfortable (or, I guess, just to stay locked away in their homes so no one ever has to see or deal with them).

And if someone like Singer shares honestly that they’ve had moments of weakness or bleakness, they’re demonized even by other parents dealing with the same issues. I applaud her bravery. She didn’t speak for every autism parent when she said that, but no doubt there are others who’ve felt that desperation who felt a little less alone hearing someone else give it voice.

I can empathize with the sense the parents in the video express of feeling alone and frustrated and overwhelmed. No one goes into a pregnancy expecting or hoping that their child will be autistic. You get pregnant, you expect to deal with the normal hardships that go along with parenting: colicky babies, sleepless nights, diapers, temper tantrums at the store or the park or church. But you expect to be dealing with things like that for a few years, tops, not for a lifetime.

When Luka, my almost-8-year-old, was a five weeks old, he started having seizures. As he got a little older and started to develop, he wasn’t using his left side — he crawled by using his right arm and leg to propel himself forward, dragging the left. Because he was so young when the seizures started, his doctors feared that he might have something seriously wrong with him; they told us to prepare ourselves mentally for the reality that we might be in for a very challenging future with a seriously disabled child. Fortunately, they were wrong on that count, and with time and physical therapy Luka got stronger on the left side, and by the time he was ready to walk, he just took off running and hasn’t stopped since.

Intellectually, physically, in every way except for the part where he has seizure activity in his brain, and occasionally debilitating headaches, he is a perfectly normal boy. If he hadn’t been, if the doctors had been wrong, I would have coped, and loved and cared for him just as much as I do now. But certainly, when the docs told us to “be prepared,” I was overwhelmed at the idea of a lifetime spent caring for the daily physical needs of a disabled child. Yes, I would have done it, yes, I probably would have done it very well, and channeled all my energy into being tirelessly patient and coping and advocating for him. Yes, I absolutely would have loved my son as much as I do now, but yes, I am also thankful that he ended up being more “normal” than “not.” And no, I don’t think I would have ever considered driving off a bridge with him, but how can I say for sure what I’d think or feel in that situation? I didn’t have to cope with Luka being in a wheelchair, or not developing intellectually, or being autistic. I could imagine what that would be like, but only those who have been there know, and even for those who are in those situations, they can only know what it’s like for them.

If you go into teaching in the special ed field (as I once thought I might, after spending some time volunteering with and babysitting for kids with autism and cerebral palsy), presumably you do so because you have an affinity for that kind of work, and the patience needed to work with kids others might find challenging. But autism doesn’t discriminate and choose only kids whose parents are blessed with unusual coping skills. Autism parents are thrown in the deep end and have to sink, or swim. If they sink, they can take their kid down with them, and that’s not good for anyone.

So I applaud those parents who have the courage to say, “You know what? This is really hard, and some days I feel like I’m drowning in it.” Stigmatizing parents who are having a hard time, whether it’s a parent coping with having a child with autism, or a single mom struggling to raise kids alone, or a stay-at-home mom who’s having an identity crisis over giving up a career to stay home with a baby, isn’t helping anyone. Why can’t those of us who have chosen to embark on this journey of parenthood in all its stripes and shades just support each other through it without feeling the need to divide into camps and judge?

17 Responses to “Judge Not …”

  1. Landon Bryce says:

    Wow. You really hurt a nerve, since Yvonne Freaney was sent home today after killing her autistic son Glen.

    I wonder why you think the people objecting to what Alison Singer said are parents– autistic adults like myself are actually the ones who are still mad. I hope someday you understand what it feels like to read something like what you have written, which argues that it would have been perfectly understandable if my parents had decided to kill me. I am very hurt and very angry.

  2. Kim Voynar says:

    Landon, that’s not what I argued at all, so please don’t attempt to twist my words into a meaning that is not there.

    I said it would be perfectly understandable for a stressed out parent to THINK that, not to do it. And further, I would argue that Singer is far from the only autism parent — heck, far from the only parent PERIOD — who’s every had a moment of complete despair and thought about doing something terrible. The only difference is that Singer had the balls to say it on video, and to not take it back when the shit hit the fan.

    But see, this is exactly what I’m talking about. Lots of people THINK about tossing that screaming, colicky baby into the crib when they’re sleep-deprived and anxious and exhausted. Thankfully, most people don’t do it. You know why parents don’t talk about that? Because they know that if they admitted they’d ever thought that, even for just a second, they wouldn’t get help; what they’d get would be being judged as terrible people and terrible parents, and maybe even having their kids taken away, which people were actually calling for with Singer. And I don’t believe she’s a bad person, a bad parent, or that she’d really hurt her daughter.

    I’d be willing to bet you that most people whose children die of shaken baby syndrome, for instance, never thought in a million years they’d hurt their kids, or even think about hurting their kids, and they’d give anything to take those moments back. People do things they would never do in their right mind, when they are clinically depressed, or suffering from PPD (or worse, like Andrea Yates, a full-blown psychosis brought on by stress), or even when they’re just sleep-deprived and stressed out and anxious and exhausted, as some parents raising autistic kids most certainly are.

    I referenced autism parents objecting to what Singer said because that’s mostly what I read in discussion forums; I wasn’t intending to invalidate the opinions of autistic adults, I just didn’t happen to come across any (probably because I was in forums intended for parents raising autistic kids). But thank you for pointing out that I was missing that point of view. I’d be interested in reading the views of other autistic adults such as yourself on this issue.

    Nonetheless, the actual point of this piece — which is that this is another example of parents judging other parents when they should be uniting to support each other, stands. This is a pervasive issue in parenting communities, and it’s not just in the autism parent community, it’s everywhere. For all that we’ve gained ground in learning to be more compassionate parents over the past couple decades, we still have a long ways to go learning to be compassionate and less judgmental of each other.

  3. Hallick says:

    Some people who live in glass houses throw the stones before they can even get out their own door. People who believe having thoughts like this is an evil anomaly are either idiots or their pants are so on fire you could run solar power off their bottoms.

    My best friend is a caretaker for an autistic child and I know exactly what Kim and Alison Singer are talking about. I’ve heard all of the horror stories from the first misdiagnoses to draconian budget cuts on top of severe budget cuts in support services. In-home support service workers have some of the toughest jobs around. And the good ones don’t get paid anything near what they deserve to get paid, so getting somebody on a regular basis who understands the child is damn near impossible; and then they’re usually the first to get the heave ho when the economy takes a downturn.

    I’m not saying that some parents don’t kill their autistic children just because they’re assholes who happened to have an autistic child, but fuck me if a cry for help in the form of a confession that sometimes it’s so hard you feel like doing something drastic getting shouted down is a HEALTHY thing on this topic.

    And Landon, the perfectly understandable thing is if there were times that your parents had wanted to kill you, not if they decided to actually kill you. You know why? Because that’s what most parents of kids OF ANY KIND think sometimes, no matter how much they love them the rest of the time. If you don’t like that fact of reality, then go brush your high horse.

  4. Kim Voynar says:

    Hallick, exactly. Thank you.

  5. Landon Bryce says:

    The amount of respect you have for the lives of people with autism is clear from the fact that I told you I was responding to the fact that you wrote this the same day Yvonne Freaney was sent free after killing her son Glen, and you don’t even find that worthy of response. You show that you could not care less about him.

    Real kids with autism get murdered every year. Real people like you get put on juries and let them off because you cannot conceive of our lives having value.

  6. Ms C says:

    At last someone who actually listened to what she said in the video. She didn’t say ‘I want to kill my daughter’ she said she thought about driving off a bridge rather than send her daughter to ‘that school’. It was a comment in the educational system and choices. I have been pointing this out for years – at last someone else who noticed the context.

  7. You omitted a few details about the murder of Katie McCarron.

    1. Katie was diagnosed as autistic at the age of 2. Shortly after, Paul McCarron transferred to North Carolina – where he and his mom looked after Katie on a daily basis. Both McCarrons agreed on this, as they thought the programs available for a child her age were superior in that particular area of North Carolina.

    2. Karen saw Katie infrequently for the next 20 months, but cared for the younger daughter at home.

    3. Katie’s father, grandmother and others were delighted with her progress. Karen – who saw her the least – told friends she thought Katie was losing ground.

    4. After the 20 months, Katie and Paul McCarron moved back. Katie had been home for *only 4 days* when she was killed by Karen McCarron.

    5. Members of her “support” group told the papers that Karen was a “wonderful” mother but didn’t tell them that she’d only had Katie back full-time for four days.

    6. Turns out that Karen and the rest of the group were “mercury moms” who believed that mercury-tainted vaccines stole their kids from them. Karen moreso than the rest. Apparently this was more important to the definition of “good mother” to the ANSWERS support group than – you know – actually *caring* for kid on a day-to-day basis.

    7. The members of the McCarron family were mourning Katie’s death – the murder of a child they saw as loving and blossoming. The granddfather – as family spokesperson – *begged* the papers and the advocacy groups to stop insinuating Katie’s murder had anything to do with stress or lack of support.

    8. The support and advocacy groups ignored those pleas, proving that whoever they claimed to support, it sure wasn’t the part of the McCarron family that didn’t murder Katie.

    9. After a month of this kind of coverage, another mother in the same county attempted to kill her daughter. What had suddenly changed in that county? Support services suddenly go in the dumper? Nope. Maybe a bunch of news articles and “advocates” talking about how “normal” it was to feel like killing your disabled kid might have had an impact.

  8. Good article. Important article.

    I relate to many of the issues here. The struggle. The isolation. The loss of dreams. Parenting struggles can be crushing and isolating.

    Is there a total answer to the magnitude of children’s issues that we’re facing? Families help where they can. Friends help where they can. Same for churches and specific associations for specific illnesses.

    Schools are doing what they can, as best as they can. I sit through IEP meetings for my children with cross-functional teams of caring school professionals who are doing what they can within their limitations.

    I spend time with pediatricians and specialists, who are doing the best they can – even when there have been huge mistakes with my children’s care.

    Is it enough? There are days when it seems not nearly enough. But, who is failing or what support is not being offered that could be? Who is “they” that should provide support?

    Enormously difficult issues. Worthy of civil discussion.

  9. Kim Voynar says:

    Landon, I appreciate your point of view, but respectfully, I think you are so close to the issue — and so utterly certain your point of view is right — that you are completely closed off to being able to empathize with any other viewpoint.

    You are making numerous false assumptions here, the most offensive of which is assuming that I don’t value the lives of those with autism, because I am advocating for people (like you) to see that there’s more than one side to just about every story. Are you a parent, Landon? Have you ever been solely responsible for the care and upbringing and day-to-day safety of another person?

    I have five kids and two stepsons, and so perhaps the perspective I bring to the table, as a mother who has been through PPD and had four kids under the age of 6 at once is one of more compassion for parents — not just parents of autistic children, but ALL parents — who have little to no support in America for the job they are doing raising the next generation (particularly compared to, say, Denmark) and then are demonized by the media (and by people like yourself) when the pressure is too much and they snap.

    For the record, I’ve read about Yvonne Freaney’s case, and I believe the judge made the right decision. I believe the facts of the case on which the judge based the decision — that she was clinically suicidally depressed (in part, again, due to lack of support and services) and despondent, and that she truly believed that no one would care for her son and that it was better for him to die with her than to be left alone — are probably pretty spot on.

    Does it make it less tragic that she killed her son when she was in this state of mind? Of course not. It’s a terrible tragedy, but you are insistent upon pointing the finger solely at the mother and painting her as some evil person who murdered her son in cold blood, rather than as a very depressed and suicidal woman who was in a state of complete mental breakdown.

    Now I ask you, Landon: Do you value the mothers and fathers who care for their autistic children as much as you do the kids? Or are you so engrained in your perspective as an autistic adult that you are unable to see that there’s more than one side to these stories?

    Have you ever been suicidally depressed? I have, and I can tell you from experience, when you are in that place of complete breakdown, you are NOT thinking rationally. I’m grateful that when I was in that dark place myself I never harmed myself or my kids, but having been there, I can absolutely relate to how it feels to fall down that rabbit hole.

    You seem to have a very big chip on your shoulder and to go around assuming that everyone who doesn’t agree with you must not “value” the lives of autistic children. That couldn’t be further from the truth. But I also subscribe strongly to the oxygen mask theory — that parents HAVE to put on their own oxygen mask first so they are able to care for the children dependent upon them. Unfortunately, for many parents, that oxygen mask simply does not exist, and then when they collapse under the weight of the stress and strain people like yourself point fingers of blame at the parents, rather than where it belongs.

    We have a massive increase in children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders over the past couple decades, and our social services and educational systems are completely unprepared and overwhelmed to provide the support that’s desperately needed by these families.

    The money needed to research WHY this is happening and HOW to help autistic kids reach a place of being able to interact in the world is not there. We are spending billions on wars we don’t belong in while here at home our social services are absolutely wretched, and meanwhile the Republicans don’t want to tax their rich friends so they keep digging deeper into services that are needed by families.

    In other words, Landon, your cause of supporting and advocating for kids with autism is not being helped by your insistence on attacking over-stressed parents who snap, or by pointing fingers at judges and juries with more complete access to the facts — and, in all honesty, a more objective perspective than you have — with regard to cases of autism parents who hurt or kill their kids. Those tragic cases are the symptom of the greater problem, not the cause of the problem. Knock that giant chip off your shoulder, try to have a little empathy for the parents, and spend your formidable energy attacking the actual problem, and you might actually make a positive change.

  10. Kim Voynar says:


    I don’t honestly know what services are needed where you are, and as I am not a parent of an autistic child, I’m not really in a position to say. I expect there are lots of parents out there with autistic kids who have opinions on that subject, though.

    There are enough alternative private schools for autistic kids that have sprung up over the past couple decades that by now, if they’ve been keeping accurate track of their progress, there should be some theories out there over more effective alternative education plans that might be more effective in helping autistic kids. It seems reasonable to assume that a private school with a 1:1 student teacher ratio and the ability to be very flexible in assessing and adjusting IEPs around what works or doesn’t would be a good place to start.

    OTOH, philosophically there’s a part of me that wonders just what IS the best way to handle autism. What if autistic kids are that way for a reason, if the way they see and experience the world is important for some reason we don’t yet know or understand, and if trying to mold and shape them to fit in with what we think of as normal/neurotypical isn’t even the right approach at all?

    I’m equally on the fence about medicating ADHD kids to better control them in school classrooms and at home; what if ADHD kids had a school environment that was molded and shaped to accommodate the way they are wired, rather than changing the way they’re wired to accommodate schools and the adults who run them? What might that look like? What might a school designed from the perspective of an autistic person look like? I don’t know, and I’m not sure anyone really does, but maybe these are questions worth examining. Is the money that is being spent to support autistic kids doing the right things for THEM?

    I don’t have the answers, and I don’t have a horse in this race. I really wrote this piece to highlight the issue of parents needing support, and the way in which parents tend to attack each other rather than support each other, which I really see as a deeply pervasive issue in our society. And frankly, as someone who’s written mostly online for nearly a decade now — particularly about parenting issues — I see the internet as both a help and a hindrance when it comes to that. Yes, it’s positive in that it allows access to so much more information than we used to have, and online support groups for people who maybe don’t have real life support groups where they live.

    But OTOH, the impersonality and anonymity of the internet opens the doors for people to attack each other without fear of retribution, and really does allow the ugly side of human nature to rear its head in a way that I don’t think we’ve ever experienced before.

  11. Kim,

    Here’s something on point by another parent with a very different take than yours. In addition to being a parent of a significantly disabled child (adult now), he’s done extensive research on violence against people with disabilities. (Reprinted/shared with permission)

    Why we shouldn’t blame the murders of disabled kids on lousy services
    by Dick Sobsey

    Dick Sobsey is the Director of the JP Das Developmental Centre at the University of Alberta in Edmonton.

    March, 2001 — The murders of a young girl in Montreal and a man in Philadelphia [recently] compel me to write this. It came in the same week that I wrote a letter to a London newspaper on the subject of depressed and underserved parents who kill their children with disabilities — and the same week that, in Vancouver, the report on the Katie Lynn Baker Homicide had focused on how services let a family down and didn’t ask why no one has been charged with that homicide.

    There are several points that I feel are essential to make:

    1. Clinical depression is an illness that as far as we know is mostly biologically determined and in many cases can be treated successfully. You do not “catch this” illness from having a disabled child or from getting lousy services.

    2. The primary service needed by parents who have this problem is not respite care or free diapers or a more inclusive program for their child. They may need these things and deserve all those things and more, but genuine clinical depression has a lot less to do with the circumstances people are in than with internal factors. The primary service these people need is mental health care.

    3. Reinforcing the notion that parents are driven to killing their children (and sometimes themselves) by the lack of services is almost certain to do more harm than good. For people who are getting close to the edge of doing violence to themselves and others, certifying their thinking as rational and their behavior as justifiable increases the probability that they will go over the edge.

    4. Constructing suicide or homicide as justifiable by the circumstances also stops people in those circumstances, their families, and the people who provide services for them from getting the help they need.

    5. I am not saying that these people are necessarily bad people, most are not. I am saying that in many cases they are sick and need treatment not pity that feeds their sickness.

    6. After studying hundreds of these killings, I am convinced that like people who are suicidal, displaced anger is often a factor in these cases. Parents who feel that they have been ignored by the system, their friends, their spouses, or whoever and cannot direct their anger at the real target displace that anger on to their children and sometimes themselves. The feeling of being “hard done by” may well be justified in many cases, but it would not justify the parent for shooting the school principal who bars a child from school, or the social worker who cuts their services. Neither can it provide any sense of justification for turning that anger against a vulnerable person.

    7. When we as parents exploit these cases by saying it shows what crappy services can drive parents to do, we encourage this displaced anger. I am not recommending that we parents kill anyone but I am recommending that we direct our anger into action to change the system.

    8. When we say, “look what this poor parent was driven to do by the system and if things don’t get better more of us parents may just do the same thing,” we are holding our children hostages. We are collectively threatening to harm them if society doesn’t take a little better care of us. The biggest problem with this is that hostage-taking always assumes that the person or people we are trying to influence care more about the hostage than we do. In this case, society does not care more about our kids than we do. Threatening that more parents will hurt kids without better services will not improve services, but it may arouse enough guilt for society to tell us that they understand after parents start killing kids.

    9. We need positive image for parents not negative ones. When we rationalize violence as understandable considering the rough situations families face, we are not helping anyone build hope for the future. For every parent who faces “impossible’ circumstances and goes to pieces, there are ten who face rougher situations with faith and hope.

    10. I love my kid. I realize that I am a lot luckier than a lot of people who have a lot on their plate but I have good days and bad ones. Last week was a bad one. My back went out and I just couldn’t move. Maybe this has something to do with carrying a 75-pound kid up seven flights of stairs to the water slide or trying to lift him into the van when some jerk has parked 8 inches away and there is no room to lift properly. Maybe it has to do with averaging 4 hours sleep a night for the last 10 years. I don’t really know. May be things will get tougher one day. May be we will lose the little supports we depend on. No matter how bad things get, I don’t think that I will ever want to hurt my kid. If I ever did, it would mean that there was something dreadfully wrong with me and I couldn’t blame that on a lack of supports. I don’t think I’m unusual in this. I think it’s pretty typical for parents of kids with or without disabilities.

    11. Murdered children with or without disabilities are typically killed by their parents. May be some parents are just plain monsters. Most of them are stressed, depressed, confused, and generally have mental health issues. A lot of them need help and some of the killings could have been prevented if we got help to people sooner. If we are going to be compassionate to people who kill their children, let’s be compassionate to all of them. If we are going to be punitive, let’s be consistent with that, but let’s stop pretending that killing children with disabilities is any different than killing any other child.

  12. Kim Voynar says:


    I didn’t omit those details, as this wasn’t an article about Katie McCarron’s death, but thank you for providing more detail in your comment. I was aware that Katie and her father had lived in North Carolina for 20 months, and that for whatever reason they had decided to move back, in spite of the progress Katie had been making at her school there.

    I wasn’t in Paul and Karen McCarron’s marriage, and neither, presumably, were you. So I’m not sure it’s appropriate to speculate on what their motivations were for dividing their family. They are not the only family to live apart due to the medical needs of a child, though, and it seems to me that there’s been a lot of attempt to position Karen McCarron as a “bad mother” because she stayed behind with the younger daughter, while her husband moved to North Carolina (where he also had family support from his parents). I get that sense from what you write as well. And I have to wonder: if the situation had been such that the mother had moved with Katie rather than the father, would anyone criticize him and use that to label him a bad, uncaring, uninvolved father, or would they assume that Karen and Paul had decided together to do what they felt was best for their family?

    As for your comment about Karen McCarron and her support group being “mercury moms,” while I don’t think there’s scientific evidence at this point to support the thesis that mercury in vaccines causes autism, with the sharp increase in diagnoses of autism spectrum disorders it seems a not unreasonable thing to assume that there has to be SOME reason why this is happening. These moms believe they have anecdotal evidence to support that there was a change in their children around the time they received a vaccine. Is there? I don’t know, can you say with 100% certainty that they are wrong?

    While my oldest daughter (25 now) was not diagnosed as autistic, she did have a severe reaction to a vaccine as a toddler, and after that reaction she did have some extreme personality changes that today would probably have classified her on the autism spectrum. When her younger sister had a similar severe shot reaction at around the same age (thankfully with no lasting problems), we delved into research and made a plan with our pediatrician to adjust the immunization schedules for the rest of our kids such that their shots were more spread out, and they didn’t get more than one shot at at time until they were past age 3. None of my youngers had any shot reactions or issues. Did that make a difference? Who knows? But I’m certainly not about to mock any mom who is concerned about vaccinations as being off her rocker, particularly given the documented rise in autism rates here in the US.

    And lastly: I hear where you are coming from with regard to Katie McCarron’s case being different from other cases, and being less about support services. I don’t know what was in Karen McCarron’s mind when she did what she did, what desperation she felt about her daughter that caused her to think the best course of action to take was to kill her. Of course it’s tragic, for Katie’s family but mostly for Katie herself. And I feel for the pain of Katie’s family. But Karen McCarron was not let off for killing her daughter, she was found guilty and sentenced. As I understand it, there was no validation in her case that it was okay to kill her daughter just because Katie had autism. Do you feel otherwise?

    Your point #9 about the other mother, I think, goes very off mark. There’s no evidence that I’m aware of to support a thesis that parents talking openly and honestly about the difficulties of raising an autistic child in any way increases the number of cases of autistic children being hurt and killed.

    But I don’t think it’s ever healthy for parents who are feeling depressed or distraught or stressed out to feel alone and isolated in those feelings. That is when tragedies happen. Sure, there are superparents who handle autism in stride and would never go off the deep end. Good for them. But for those parents who are struggling, isn’t it in the best interest of the KIDS to get the parents the help and support they need?

  13. Kim Voynar says:

    Stephen, thank you for providing that piece by Dick Sobsey.

    I would take issue with Dobsey’s argument re clinical depression, mainly because he neglects to factor in post-partum depression, which I believe is vastly underdiagnosed in large part due to the stigma society places on mental health issues. New moms fear having their child taken away if it’s discovered that they are really depressed, and that’s not entirely an irrational fear. And untreated, post-partum depression can last for years and greatly impact normal mother-child bonding.

    Further, I think you misunderstand the point of my piece, which is best amplified by #11 in Sobsey’s piece. It’s not just about parents with disabled kids, it’s about the way in which parents lack support generally. Back in the day, people got that it really does “take a village” to raise a child. Now, parents are just expected to sink or swim, and then villainized if they sink.

    When I talk about “support” I am not just talking abotu schools and “support services,” I am talking about support and recognition that parenting generally — not just parenting of disabled kids — is HARD WORK. Much, much harder than cutesy tv shows and movies make it out to be. And the need for people to stop finger-pointing and judging others, but to look with compassion and empathy to what the underlying cause(s) of abuse and neglect are, rather than just slapping bandaids on symptoms.

    I don’t spank or hit my kids, never have. But when I see a stressed out mom about to whack her tantrum-throwing toddler in a store, I don’t yell at her that she’s a bad person or a bad mom. I go up and try to talk her down gently, making eye contact, empathizing with her that parenting can be hard, offering to help. Sometimes, just having someone come up and say, “Hey, it’s hard, I understand. How can I help you?” makes all the difference between a mom losing her shit and a mom being able to pull it together and regroup. Empathy. Compassion. Parents supporting each other. We need more of that.

  14. Kim,

    I’m with you on your central point of parents supporting other parents. Absolutely. None of us are exactly in each other’s shoes. But we can empathize with struggle.

    As for “in your area”, ironically I live in the same area Dr. Karen McCarron did. If that means anything.

  15. Landon Bryce says:


    Where do you think you have shown any more interest or respect for my point of view than I have shown for yours? Where have you indicated– in one word– that you have any compassion for or interest in Glen Freaney or for the other children who with autism who are killed every year? You seem to have one idea– it’s good for parents to vent– and nothing else matters to you whatsoever.

    Where have you indicated that you have thought for one second about what it is like to read your words as a person with autism?

    You haven’t. You don’t know what it’s like to be part of a class of people who are murdered with impunity. Daily.

    But you think I am lacking in compassion. You think I have a huge chip on my shoulder because I don’t think it’s okay for you to reserve all of your compassion for the parents, and write about this subject without any interest in what Alison Singer’s words feel like to a person with autism. They feel good to you. They grind an axe you like. That they are dangerous, that many people with autism think they contributed directly to murder– not your problem. No interest.

    I do not think you would be okay with Yvonne Freany’s sentence if she had killed someone like you rather than someone like me. I think you think I have less of a right to life than you have, or you would not write about this topic without considering at all the perspective of people who have autism.

    And, yes, of course I have been suicidal. You will find very few adults with autism who have not, because we live in a world created entirely by people who think we are worthless. And, yes, as a teacher who works with people more autistic than myself, I understand exactly how bleak and frustrating that can be. My best friend is an aspie with a nonverbal autistic child. He vents his frustration to me, and his other friends, and through his art. Not right in front of the child he is talking about killing, as Alison did, making a case for parents that the desperate act they are considering might be justified, or for juries (“Autism Every Day” is the first hit when you search autism on “YouTube”.)

  16. Mia says:

    The attacks on the film were not attacking those mothers because they vented about the difficulties and fears of raising a child with autism. The criticism was that it portrayed having a child with autism as one long, never-ending nightmare.

    They did it for shock value and to use it as a piece to raise money.

    And while I want money to be raised to help my son, I NEVER want him to see that. One day, the kids in it will be able to go online and see how hopeless their existence made their parents. I’m not saying every situation is uplifting, but the victories I make with my son- they are so very sweet. I am so proud of him and that’s what I want him to see.

    As a parent with a newly diagnosed child, I watched that and was beyond depressed.

    As for Katie McCarron, I believe the point that was being made about the biomedical was that the mother was part of a biomedical support group and when the things they’d been trying hadn’t worked ( they don’t more than they do) she became convinced that her daughter would never get any better.

  17. Genesis says:

    I don’t think the OP is seeing the clear picture. In order to see the world as it is, you have to see the sides of it in a different light, just because we are “labeled” as Autistic doesn’t mean we don’t know whats going on and causing the destruction on life in general, sometimes we don’t know what causes us to get our labels. Sometimes we don’t, Autism isn’t a normal thing to understand over night. It takes time to know how our minds work, only if the OP and others stop viewing the critics as the problem, can’t you just do what those “who see both sides” by listening to what can be done, to improve it, instead of “a demanding” neuro-cleansing.

Quote Unquotesee all »

“We don’t have any idea what the universe is. Wise people have always told us that this is proof you shouldn’t think, because thinking leads you nowhere. You just build over this huge construction of misunderstanding, which is culture. The history of culture is the history of the misunderstandings of great thinkers. So we always have to go back to zero and begin differently. And maybe in that way you have a chance not to understand but at least not to have further misunderstandings. Because this is the other side of this question—Am I really so brave to cancel all human culture? To stop admiring the beauty in human production? It’s very difficult to say no.”
~ László Krasznahorkai

“I have a license to carry in New York. Can you believe that? Nobody knows that, [Applause] somebody attacks, somebody attacks me, oh, they’re gonna be shot. Can you imagine? Somebody says, oh, it is Trump, he’s easy pickings what do you say? Right? Oh, boy. What was the famous movie? No. Remember, no remember where he went around and he sort of after his wife was hurt so badly and kill. What?  I — Honestly, Yeah, right, it’s true, but you have many of them. Famous movie. Somebody. You have many of them. Charles Bronson right the late great Charles Bronson name of the movie come on.  , remember that? Ah, we’re gonna cut you up, sir, we’re gonna cut you up, uh-huh.


One of the great movies. Charles Bronson, great, Charles Bronson. Great movies. Today you can’t make that movie because it’s not politically correct, right? It’s not politically correct. But could you imagine with Trump? Somebody says, oh, all these big monsters aren’t around he’s easy pickings and then shoot.”
~ Donald Trump