I've been following a story about a wealthy New Yorker named Gigi Jordan who allegedly murdered her eight-year-old son, Jude. Apparently, Ms. Jordan fed her child Ambien and Xanax causing the youngster to die of an overdose. When police found Ms. Jordan in a posh Manhattan hotel, she was said to be babbling incoherently, and, according to paramedics, near death herself.
Later on it was revealed that Jude was severely autistic.
Public opinion was swift and predictable, people were calling her a murderer and a monster. Comments on websites were ablaze with finger pointing and cheap shots. And while I understand the outrage (how can one not?) - it is clear that those screaming the loudest, have no idea what it's like to deal with a severly autistic child, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
If you know me, you know that I work in human services, and as such, I see, first hand, the toll that raising a child with special needs takes on a family. Of course, not every case is horror-story; but many of them are.
I've met mother's of autistic children who are physically and mentally bruised due to the daily challenges they face. I've sat with grown men who have openly wept in frustration over the realization that no matter what they do, their child will never reach a functional level. I've dealt with parent's well into their 60's who have to figure out who will care for their child once they are no longer able to do this. I've seen single mothers get screwed over by insurance companies who will not pay for even the most basic needs for their child. I've listened to parents tell me that they've exhausted their personal savings to pay for therapies and treatment's for their child. I've met siblings of disabled children who feel cheated over the fact that their parent's must expend most of their time and energies on the sibling who is disabled, leaving the non disabled child as an after thought...
One time, a mother of a twenty-two year old, severely autistic adult said to me, "I sometimes wonder if he would be better off dead". I shuddered when she said this, and then looked around her living room where I was sitting, at the holes punched in the wall by her son, at the sofa cushions that were torn apart by her son, at the pile of unpaid bills stacked on the coffee table in front of me as she had to quit her job and stay home with her son. I did not say anything back to her, she needed to vent, and I hoped that by getting this off her chest, she'd never act upon it - of course she wouldn't. Eventually, we got her son placed in a group home, but it took a very long time; and before he was placed, the woman suffered a heart attack. Sadly, it took that turn events to get things rolling beyond a snail's pace.
Getting back to Gigi Jordan's situation; I've always chalked up the cases I deal with to the fact that the families on my case load are mostly, blue collar. I think that if they had the resources, they could cope. But looking at Jordan - she was a woman of means, she had money and connections - and still she could not find the help that her son needed. What's wrong with this picture? When a mother who can afford everything her child needs, still feels so hopeless that the only way out is to kill her child - what lesson are we to take away from this tragedy?
I have no answers on this one, none at all.