Friday, June 09, 2006

A Sad Story from Peoria

I just read this horrific article about a woman who killed her 3-year-old autistic daughter. This story really gets to me because of our own stuggle with Russell's autism. Even worse, the mother in this case is a physician with access to resources far beyond most affected families.

For several weeks, Karen McCarron had been making teary phone calls, despairing over her 3-year-old autistic daughter's future. Unable to get Katie to settle down for a nap on a Saturday afternoon, McCarron took her for a drive. Police say the respected Peoria-area physician and advocate for autistic children parked, put a plastic bag over the little girl's head and smothered her to death in about two minutes.

McCarron, 37, is alleged to have confessed to the crime a day later--Mother's Day--telling police she "just wanted to end her pain and Katie's pain." On Thursday afternoon in a Pekin courtroom, McCarron bowed her head and remained silent as her lawyer entered a plea of not guilty on first-degree murder charges.

Katie's grandfather, Michael, said Karen McCarron had a lot of resources and help with Katie, whom he described as a happy, endearing child who loved to swing and play in the grass and would line up her Teletubbie dolls so they could "kiss" each other.
The words used to describe this little girl Katie--"happy, endearing", "loves to play in the grass" and "would line up her Teletubbie dolls so they could 'kiss' each other"--also very accurately describe Russell. Even with the sleepless nights and many tantrums we have had to endure, I cannot imagine life without him. We are slowly making progress with Russell and are optimistic that he will be able to live a productive and fulfilling life. How could this woman make the ultimate life-or-death decision, and rob the father and grandfather of this little girl? The murdered girl's grandfather then hits the nail right on the head.

"This was not a question of there's no place to turn, there's no support," Michael McCarron said. "This was not a murder about autism."

He said his granddaughter's death should not be used to educate people on the stresses of autism.

"This, as in any tragedy, will bring the uninvited spokespersons out from under their rocks. Each will attempt to twist the facts in support of their own purpose," he said. "We have had a precious little child abruptly ripped from our arms, from arms that were full of love, that had no fatigue."
As a parent of a child with autism, I can tell you that there is a good deal of support for affected parents--much of it publically funded by taxpayers. So it's not an issue of funding, You just have to go and find it. On the topic of treatment and therapies for autistic children, Jenny herself just advised her sister's friends whose two-year old daughter was diagnosed with autism. Parents (and especially mothers) of autistic children also seem to band together naturally in improvised support networks.

While I believe this woman had some genuine concern for her daughter’s condition, her despair seems to be based in her own fears, expectations and disappointments. I think that highly capable parents sometimes have the hardest time accepting disabilities in their children. This person seems to have confused self pity with compassion, and shall get no sympathy from me.


At 11:04 AM, Anonymous John S said...

Tragic story and great commentary, James. I agree with you 100%.


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