Dick Sosey is an American professor who teaches at the University of Alberta, Canada, and is an expert on issue of discrimination against people with disabilities. In response to a story published in the Denver Post about the murder of a boy with autism by his father, which Sobsey perceived to be unduly sympathetic to the killer, he has posted two blog posts that are well worth reading in full. In Part One, he writes:
Murder is wrong and there is no good excuse for it. Murdering any child is a despicable act.Murdering one’s own child is as bad as murdering someone else’s.Murdering a child with autism is just as bad as murdering any other child.Sobsey continues his analysis in Part 2, which I will permit you all to read on your own. He concludes:
Most people who murder other people are experiencing stress and significant challenges in their lives of one kind or another. Being stressed is not an excuse for murder.
I am particularly incensed at people who commit murder and then tell us how much they love the victim that they murder. Suggesting that parenting a child with a disability is so challenging or stressful that killing these children is somehow understandable or excusable is no better than endorsing any other kind of murder.
Suggesting that parenting a child with a disability is so challenging or stressful that killing these children is somehow understandable or excusable adds to the probability that other parents will kill their children, because sick minds struggling with the impulse to kill can be assisted to go over the edge by social endorsements, which help them to rationalize murder...Let's save our respect and empathy for the parents who go on facing challenges day after day, and recognize the child murderers who fail to face these challenges for who they are. Parents who kill children with autism are no better or worse than parents who kill any other child.
Lastly, I want to comment on why I believe the ideas in this article are dangerous. To understand child murder, it is less helpful to focus on what motivates some parents to kill their children but rather on what stops most parents from killing their children. This is not being glib. The reality is that raising any child is a lot of work, stressful at sometimes, and heartbreaking at others. At times even the sweetest child is an intrusion on our lives. However, most parents do not kill their children for some combination of four reasons: (1) Love and attachment, (2) Guilt, (3) Shame, and (4) Fear of Punishment. In most cases, this is the order of importance. Parents who claim to love their children but hate their autism are at best conflicted. Autism is a pervasive disorder, saying you love the child but hate his or her autism is a bit like saying I love you but hate everything about you or saying I love the child I wish you could be, not the child you are.Sobsey probably knows more about this particular issue--the murder of children with disabilities and society's reaction to it--than anybody I know. His wisdom is very worth pondering.