Friday, June 09, 2006

Sad story out of Chicago

The Chicago Tribune has this sad story about a 3-year old autistic girl murdered by her mother. Not the expected tale of a poverty-stricken mother who's fallen through the cracks and unable to cope; the mother is a respected doctor and advocate for autistic children. The girl's father is an engineer, and they have another daughter and extended family around them. The father had gone with the little girl, Katie, to North Carolina, to take advantage of the superior facilities and early intervention techniques available down there. They had just returned home in May, after 20 months away.

First alarm bell goes off there - the mother was perhaps able to advocate for autistic children in the abstract, but actually living with one was harder than anticipated. She seemed dissatisfied with the progress Katie had made, which makes me think that she might be a perfectionist, and unable to tolerate the imperfections in her daughter, which were clearly not going to go away, no matter how much help the family got. Some people do have unrealistic expectations of what intervention can do; behaviour modification DOES work, it's helped our children enormously, but it will never make them NORMAL. They will always be autistic, but with proper training, they are able to do more and more for themselves.

Time will tell in this case. I have an awful feeling that we might find that in that 20-month separation Mom started to forget that she has an imperfect family, and maybe even found some diversion with her husband away for so long. The return of father and daughter would have been a shocking disappointment, and it wouldn't be the first time that a woman thought that life would be wonderful "if only..."

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