Kelli Stapleton, Part 2 – #JusticeForIssy

Now, I watched those Dr. Phil episodes-both of them. My previous posts did not seem to make one thing absolutely clear – that murder is wrong, no matter what Issy Stapleton did to her mother. No, I did not muse upon Issy’s autism because autism was not the issue here. The mental illness of the mother was the issue. You see, autism was just a red herring-a distraction from the real story of a mother’s failure to get treatment for herself. I thought I made that completely clear.

But why was autism such an easy red herring? Why is it so easy to blame autism for murder? My theory is fear. People fear autism so much that they want to get rid of it by any means necessary-even murder. It’s like the entire X-Men comic series-only in real life. Is it just me, or can every autistic remember being asked “Have you tried not being autistic?” by somebody? (“Have you tried not being a mutant?”)

I also noticed in the programs that Kelli Stapleton could not say “I tried to murder my child.” She KNEW what she did was wrong. She kept trying to “spin” it as “going to heaven.” Yeah, but did Issy have a say in this “going to heaven” bit? It was murder. And she could not say it because she would have to admit she did something wrong.

But one thing which Dr. Phil accidentally got right was this: the trigger was something the mother did. She was not “getting it,” to cite Dr. Phil’s own language, as to what was causing the meltdowns. Issy seems to be doing very well, indeed, without her mother. My instinct and guessing seemed that Mrs. Stapleton was not listening to find her daughter’s meltdown source. I mean, meltdowns always have a trigger. That is a rule of meltdowns. Anyway, I am mostly disgusted by the fact that the hatred and fear-mongering against autistics was nationalized to a television audience, but what do you expect? This is the world that ignored Hitler for a time, and also allowed Ray Rice to keep playing football until his abuse was leaked to the public. We must combat hate with love. That is not a contradiction. That love comes with understanding and with certain inalienable rights, such as the right to live. That is the reason we have the hashtag #JusticeForIssy.

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Autism Acceptance and Social Training

One time, my mother was teaching me about proper table manners, and I got frustrated. I had known about my diagnosis for quite some time by then, so I blurted out, “But I’m autistic!” She then came back with this: “Does that mean you get away with bad table manners?” At the time, I knew the answer: of course not. Most people think when it comes to acceptance, we let the kid get away with whatever behavior they want. Nobody should do that. What we do instead, is teach them the ways of communicating to and acting around neurotypical people. Teaching a person a way of communicating, like teaching a language, does not change a person’s basic core. What it does in reality is give the person a map around the jungle we call society.

Society really is a jungle; a jungle that thinks people with autism cannot get around inside it. (Thank you, narrowing and stereotyping media.) When I reveal my autism, society says to me, “You don’t (look/act/sound) autistic!” I simply tell them it was good social training, or that I’m a good actress. They don’t believe I can function quite well in a conversation. I would like to pose them this question: What does autism look/act/sound like anyway? Plus, are they confusing it with another condition?

My point is, my mother never really saw any reason to “fix” me or change me, just teach me how to act in American society. Have you considered societal training and autism acceptance can coexist peacefully, hand in hand? They are not conflicting concepts. A person with autism can and will, with proper training, function quite well in society. That is something people outside of autism families must be taught.

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.

Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies

Autism Cooks

Yesterday, I got bored and craving sweets, so I made some cranberry oatmeal cookies. I’ve made cookies many times before, but these turned out great!

 

Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies

Ingredients

1 1/4 C      (2 1/2 sticks) Margarine or Butter, softened

3/4 C         firmly packed Brown Sugar

1/2 C         Granulated Sugar 

1                Egg

1 t              Vanilla

1 1/2 C      All Purpose Flour

1 t             Baking Soda

1 t             Ground Cinnamon

1/2 t          Salt (Optional)

1/4 t          Ground Nutmeg

3 C           Oats, uncooked

Directions

  1. Heat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. In large bowl, beat butter and sugars until creamy.
  3. Add egg and vanilla; beat well.
  4. In another bowl, combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon, salt and nutmeg; add to butter mixture; mix well.
  5. Add oats; mix well.
  6. Drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls onto cookie sheets.
  7. Bake 8-9 minutes for a chewy cookie; 10-11 minutes for a crisp cookie.
  8. Cool 1 minute on sheets; transfer to wire rack…

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Making Lasagna

In my process of learning to cook, sometimes I still need help. I can make a chili just fine…but it might be a little spicy. Sometimes, though, a recipe of food comes along that I need some help or a reminder or two on, like lasagna. It was actually much easier to make than I thought – just forgot all the assembly steps. I have decided to post the recipe:

Mom’s Lasagna

Makes 12 Servings

Ingredients

Lasagna Sauce

2 lb.     Ground Beef

2 Tb.    Garlic Salt

2          24 oz. jars or cans favorite Italian Red Sauce

1 Tb.    Italian Seasoning

Ricotta Mixture

1         15-oz. tub Ricotta Fresca

1          Egg

            Salt, to taste

Cheeses

2          Cups Mozzarella, shredded

5 oz.    Parmesan and Romano, shredded

Lasagna

16 oz.   Lasagna

Step 1: Preparing Meat Sauce

1) Brown ground beef with garlic salt

2) Add Italian Red Sauce.

3) Add Italian seasoning; simmer while doing next stage.

Step 2: Preparing Ricotta

1) Mix ricotta, egg and salt to taste. Set aside.

Step 3: Preparing Lasagna

1) Follow package instructions (you may use Oven Ready Lasagna instead).

Step 4: Assembly and Baking

1) Gather Sauce, Ricotta mixture, Cheeses, and Lasagna together to assemble.

2) In a 9″X13″ glass baking dish, spray with cooking spray.

3) Spread a thin coat of sauce on bottom of pan, careful to avoid spreading meat.

4) Layer three pieces of lasagna across sauce.

5) Layer one third of sauce on lasagna.

6) Place small dollops of one half the ricotta mixture; gently spread in area with a fork.

7) Sprinkle one third Parmesan over ricotta.

8) Layer one third Mozzarella over Parmesan.

9) Repeat from 5 to 8.

10) Layer three pieces lasagna over Mozzarella.

11) Layer sauce over lasagna.

12) Layer Parmesan and Mozzarella over sauce.

13) Bake at 350 degrees F for 45-55 minutes.

14) Let stand for 10 minutes before serving. Serve into cut squares.

NAMIWalks Kickoff, 2014

Last night, I attended the NAMIWalks kickoff event at Boyd Orchards to begin fundraising for NAMI. Basically, NAMI stands for National Alliance on Mental Illness. We are a national organization dedicated to wiping out the stigma associated with mental illness. We had barbecued chicken, heard bluegrass music, played around on their various equipment, then had a hayride to a bonfire where we roasted marshmallows for s’mores. We had to come in early due to lightning, but it was so much fun.

Here is a personal history as to how I came to be known with this organization:

When I was younger, I suffered a psychotic break. All the signs were there: lethargy, slipping grades, no interest in theater (I was a theater bug, one who spelled it “theatre”), and I wrote once about committing suicide. I was placed in a juvenile mental ward on suicide watch, diagnosed with clinical depression, and eventually I was prescribed Paxil. I now go to therapy and take my meds. I like to say “Take the meds, go to therapy, move along,” as how regular the routine has become for me. However, my experience with mental illness does not stop there. My own mother suffers from bipolar disorder. She takes her meds, goes to therapy, moves along as well. She, though, lost her friends, was isolated in her church, and even lost her job as a result of revealing bipolar disorder to those around her. I noticed how increasingly isolated she became. She reached out on the internet, and found a man who scammed her out of $100,000 dollars…when it was all added up. She is currently isolated from her family from talking about it, and only a few people in the family are halfway decent toward her. Most of her friends are on the internet, as are mine. There are, however, bright spots in all of this, and those are the Lord, and NAMI. NAMI has given us friends and acquaintances who are nice, faithful and just good human beings. We all suffer from the same thing, and we all have had people run when they learned of our illnesses. I mean, how many people have heard “I am getting tired of this cancer of yours” like cancer is some moral flaw? Of course, this all stems back from an ancient belief that all illnesses, even physical ones, were signs of something morally wrong, even punishments from God. Of course, there are refutes to that in every religion. The point is, we have suffered terribly from our illnesses, and NAMI has brought us the community we have hoped for and long been denied.

Now, not to say that others have not brought us community, but  NAMI has worked among the hardest to bring us out. They are among the kindest, most interesting people I have ever known.

Can We Really Call Them “Disabilities”?

I remember watching an episode of the Oprah show, and I learned of this young man of sixteen with blindness…who developed a system of “clicks” to figure out his surroundings. This intrigued me greatly, because I never heard of such a thing in the human world. It also made me remember a time when I did a blindness exercise in theater arts. We would blindfold ourselves and people outside the blindfold would lead us around to experience the world. My personal partner in the exercise led me into a parked Volkswagen Beetle with a broken light, but I did not get hurt. (No sharp edges, you see.) We even tested to see if we could identify objects we brought from home through our other senses. Guess what? Even if we were not pop cultured, we guessed right every time. The strange thing was, our other senses took over as much as they could to give us a picture of the world. The hard metal feel and smell of keys, the yard that made a doll’s hair, the slightly nubby surface of a basketball – it led us to a good picture of the world, even without sight. Thinking about these things just now reminded me of something: I have been able to get around in the dark somewhat better than other members of my family, due to autism’s inability to filter out unimportant sensations. I have knocked over my share of trays, but I have yet to find a coffee table with my shin. I can also The autistic experience of their environs is usually cluttered with sound, cluttered with sights, cluttered with feelings. Here is an example: Jimmy Fallon on the television talking with his guest, the feel of the keys, the sounds of the tapping on the keyboard-I could go on about this environ if I did not shut out most of it by only typing by laptop light. I digress a bit, but some disability can be turned into an extra ability with practice and coordination. Sign language is very fast for my eyes; I do not know how someone who speaks it can fly their hands around like that. Watching sign language scenes from “Switched at Birth” leaves me depending on the subtitles-a LOT. So, who is up for a comment or two? How do those with “disabilities” in your life surprise you? So many people surprise me every day. Maybe that’s why they try to call it different ability.

 

Living with “disability” is more like Daredevil than a sad sack story. Sure, they cannot do this, but they have really sharp that in order to make up for it.