Tuesday, October 21, 2014

I Respect My Children; I Am Not Kelli Stapleton

When I first found out that I was pregnant with a child, I was 20 years old. I was terrified. I did not know what to do. I hadn’t finished university, I didn’t have a house of my own. I didn’t have savings in the bank.  I got very sick, I vomited every day. I was a long term vegan but I decided to eat meat because I was worried my baby was not getting enough nutrients to grow. I felt very sad about eating meat, but I thought it was right. I respected my child.

When my baby was born, she needed me. All the time. She needed to be with me, and didn’t want to be with others. She wanted to stay with me, so she stayed in her sling. She didn’t want to sleep alone, so she slept in my room with me. She didn’t like crowded places, so we didn’t go to them. I respected my child.

When my son was born, he didn’t like loud places either. We still didn’t go to them. He didn’t want to go in the sling. He sweated and cried and overheated. So I kept him cool (which seemed cold to me) and I responded to his discomfort. I listened to, and honoured, his cues. I respected my child.

When my third child was very young, my family became homeless. My partner was dismissed from his job for having the audacity to aim for a university education instead of continuing to clean bins for a living. He was expelled for this dream with contempt. His ex-boss then told the national welfare department that he had quit. We were left without an income, and now without access to welfare assistance. My family offered to host us in their home. My mother was abusive, treated children disrespectfully, and made fun of disabilities. I declined the offer and we stayed instead at a caravan park temporarily. The children loved the playground there, and the ducks in the swamp. They dug in the sand and drew fog on the shower mirrors. I respected my children.

When my fourth child was born, I was a very busy mama. Whenever I felt angry or overwhelmed, I worked on my reactions. I learned ways to calm down. I kept my children safe and I loved them. I never raised a hand to any of them. I didn't tower over them, yelling, as I remembered so vividly my own mother doing to me. Because I respected my children.

As my children had been growing, I had compiled long mental lists of areas in which they struggled or needed assistance. I marvelled at their unusual ways of thinking and formulating games. I knew they were different to most. I learned about autism through intense library research, and I opened my heart and mind to this idea. Because I respected my children.

I began to speak to others about autism and my belief that my children were autistic. Many laughed at me. Most told me to “move away from Doctor Google”. Plenty asked me “Why do you want to label them?” Almost all grimaced and shushed me condescendingly. Doctors and Child Health Nurses told me, “Love, go to a parenting class instead of reaching for money”. I ignored them all. Because I respected my children.

When my children approached school age, I thought long and hard about this place that I had always assumed my children would attend. I thought of their specific skill sets, and I imagined them in a school setting. I  decided to home school and my children never set foot in class.  They enjoyed being at home. I respected my children.

My partner had been studying toward his university degree and working. I felt like the children needed more of me than I could give. We reconsidered his work so that we could help them. He quit and our income was hugely reduced. My partner and I stayed home with our children. My partner and I often went hungry. The children thrived. Because I respected my children.
We made a conscious choice to keep Behaviourist ideas out of our home. We decided our home would be free of punishments. We threw away the Parenting Rule Book that was so familiar and easy to us. We fumbled. We kept trying. We believed this was best for our children even though it was hard. Because we respected our children.

I cut contact with my family after years of abuse. They threatened and raged, slandered and lied, and cried crocodile tears. I stayed away, and my children did too. My children would not know the dysfunction that was so normal to me. They would not feel the constant shame that abuse brings. I respected my children.

By the time my baby (my fourth child) was about 1 year old, I had grown sick of the broken promises of the public system for autism help and information. So we moved to a 2 bedroom home, full of mice and cockroaches, with holes in the floors and cigarette butts in the yard. It was cheap and we'd have spare money each week. This would mean that my children could receive their diagnoses. That would provide them with services and therapies! Early Intervention! We cleaned up mouse shit and dead mice, caught cockroaches in jars and relocated them, threw out curtains filled with the stench of cigarette smoke, patched holes, picked up cigarette butts and glass bottles from the yard, and cleaned inside cupboards that made me gag. My children laughed and flapped when they saw our new house. Now we wouldn't be hungry, and we could pay for the childrens’ diagnoses. I respected my children.

When my children began to fight, I talked to them and kept the peace with kindness. I respected my children.

When my children finally received their autism diagnoses, we were given access to $12 000 each child each year, for 2 years. We were given access to respite, in-home therapy, equipment, behavioural training, and ABA service providers. We looked at the options and we thought “these services don’t seem right.” And we declined that funding. All of it. A total of $96 000 for my children, for whatever services I wished for. Because I respected my children.

My partner struggled, all this time. He had struggled all his life. He had been abused and mistreated, and had lived in an unstable, drug and alcohol-affected family. He got help. He spoke openly about his pain and started taking medication to be a better father. His PTSD, Bi Polar, Depression, and Anxiety, are still there. But he got help. Because he respected his children.

We borrowed books, we attended courses, we went to conferences, we listened in at seminars, we read blogs, we listened to autistic people. We raised our hands and stammered out questions. We asked self-advocates questions that revealed our ignorance, but that helped to reduce it. We filled our heads with autism information and opinions and science. Because we respected our children.

When professionals spoke to us with that tone of voice that says "I am teacher, you are student and you WILL do as I recommend", we took what they said away with us, and we thought about it. We did not take anything unquestioningly. Because we respected our children.

As my children age, they seem more and more noticeably autistic. I love them and I love their autism. I accept my children as they are. I am happy that I have them, just as they are. I respect my children.

I feel sick when I read about parents putting their autistic children into invasive therapies. I feel sick when I hear adults laughing about hitting children. I feel sick when I am attacked online, abuse hurled at me, because I want acceptance for my children and because I want disabled people to be afforded the right to speak for themselves. I feel sick when people talk of prenatal tests in order to abort autistic children before birth. But I keep talking. I don’t shut up, even though many wish I would. Because I respect my children and I want a safe future for them.

When I first read about Kelli Stapleton, when I heard how she constantly invaded her daughter Issy’s privacy with blog posts, tweets, and videos – I was angry. When I saw the “therapy” Issy was subjected to for years, I was angry. When I heard that Kelli had tried to kill Issy, I was angry. When I read about Kelli blaming the crime on “having a violent child”, I was angry.  I was angry for Issy. Issy is autistic and Kelli did not respect her. This is an unquestionable fact. You just don’t try to murder people you respect.

When I read a blog post stating that we are all Kelli Stapleton, all just one crisis away from murder and disrespect of our precious children – I didn’t agree. I have been mulling over that opinion ever since. I still don’t agree. Not at all. I will never murder my children. I will never even come close. I will never consider it. I will never plan it. I will never take that path. The thought makes me want to vomit. Because I respect my children.

I am NOT, and WILL NEVER BE, Kelli Stapleton. Because I respect my children.

And because you don’t try to murder people you respect.

Don’t anyone try to fucking tell me that we are all Kelli Stapleton. You don’t have the right. Anyone who respects their children or child, could NEVER be her.

I respect my children.
By Ally Grace
(This post can also be found on the Suburban Autistics blog here.)

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