Kelli Stapleton

Almost everybody has had their say in the case of Kelli Stapleton and her daughter, Isabelle “Issy” Stapleton, and Mrs. Stapleton’s attempted murder of herself and her daughter. Everybody has found one point or another to cling to. Some have said autistic murder is wrong. Absolutely true to that; it is plain old murder. Some have clung to the notion that autism is this family-sized Godzilla rampaging through. That the jury is out on. But one perspective, and I find much more evidence for this one, is that a woman suffered from cruel, extreme depression. Kelli Stapleton did not get help for herself. She blamed and scapegoated the hardest child to wok with. That was what led to her attempt.

Don’t mistake me: murder is absolutely wrong. The murder of anybody with any particular trait or set of traits being justified is not the thing to do. What I am digging toward is, what brings a person to the point of doing something so wrong in the first place? My mother puts it this way: “The nuts don’t fall far from the tree.” Children with autism often have parents with some sort of challenge themselves. My own parents had struggles with social awkwardness and sensory distress. Somehow, I ended up with autism and my siblings did not. It was hard to live with it, and still is, but it never warranted a crime.  Of course, my mother and I got help for ourselves.

What I am getting at is, when a person does not take care of themselves mentally, tragedy can strike. In NAMI, we say “Treatment Before Tragedy” as a rallying cry. This is a case for mental illness treatment and reducing stigma for it. Mrs. Stapleton needed help for herself, as well as for her daughter. There is a reason the airplane oxygen masks say put yours on first! Why did it take tragedy to get this help?

So, where does autism fit in all of this? Simply put, autism was and still is a scapegoat. It is a red herring. Autism had very little to do with the mother’s depression. It was extreme stress, that led to depression. Depression led to attempted suicide, scapegoating led to attempted homicide.

All I am trying to say is: get some help if you’re feeling stressed and overwhelmed. Check yourself into a mental health place. You’re not weak if you’re getting help. You’re actually very strong.


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Autistic woman in her 40s, bringing attention to issues that affect her and her kind.

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