When A Special Needs Mother Needs Help

This is a post in the weekly Autism Hopes series by Lisa Quinones-Fontanez, a mom who blogs  over at AutismWonderland.

Three years ago, after suffering a miscarriage, I fell into a deep depression. I didn’t want to do anything except lay on my sofa and cry. I didn’t want to eat and I couldn’t sleep. I was on bed rest and grateful that I had an excuse to not leave the safety of my apartment. I didn’t want to see anyone. I questioned whether life was worth living. My son Norrin was four-years-old and his summer school session was finished. I couldn’t take him out to the park and I let him run wild. Those last weeks in August, I was a bare minimum mother. I got off the sofa to give him food or pour him something to drink. His presence forced me to acknowledge life. In those weeks, he was my only reason to live.


Last week Kelli Stapleton was accused of attempting to kill her severely autistic 14-year-old daughter and herself. Sadly this isn’t the first time a special needs parent has gotten to the point where death seems the only answer.

I’m not condoning the crime she is accused of committing or making excuses. I am sickened over it. But in my own way, I understand the darkness she felt in that moment. Why she may have felt suicide was the only option.

In addition to being an autism mom, Stapleton is also a blogger and, from what I read, a fierce advocate. Her last blog post dated September 3rd, she shared “…I’m suffering from a severe case of battle fatigue.”  The post received 456 comments. Stapleton wasn’t an isolated mom going through the stress of raising a special needs alone. She had a network of support. She had a husband and family and friends who loved her.

It’s been said that mothers of adolescents and adults with autism experience chronic stress comparable to combat soldiers and struggle with frequent fatigue.

When these tragic stories hit the news, it makes me painfully aware of my own vulnerability.

It isn’t difficult to draw the similarities between myself and Kelli Stapleton. We are both mothers, advocates for our children and writers. I’ve written about the good days and the bad. There have been days when I’ve felt beaten down by bureaucracy. Days where I’ve struggled to find peace. And days when I’m filled with hope.

I love my son. And I need to believe that Kelli Stapleton loves her daughter. But raising a child with special needs can be hard. And at times it feels as if the entire system is against us. I have yet to meet a special needs parent who didn’t have to fight for their child’s basic civil rights. In a perfect world, parents shouldn’t have to fight.

Did Kelli Stapleton fail her daughter or did the system fail them both?

If a mom like Kelli Stapleton – a mom like me – can snap under the fatigue of raising an autistic child, can I? I don’t know. I can only hope.

Norrin isn’t 14-years old and I have no idea of the struggles ahead. I don’t know what his progress will look like in another seven years. All I can do is hope. Hope that my love for Norrin continues to be a reason to live and to fight. And I hope that if I ever get to such a dark place, I will have the strength to reach out and ask for help – not only for myself but for Norrin.

But where does a special needs parent go when they need help?

Sunday Stillwell of Adventures in Extreme Parenthood wrote a post in response and hopes to amend Maryland’s Safe Haven law:

We need a nation-wide law that permits a parent or caregiver to relinquish a child (regardless of that child’s abilities) at a hospital or with any first responder without fear of civil liability or criminal prosecution. We need a law such as this to save not just the life of the child but quite possibly the life of the one relinquishing them.

Sunday created an online to petition to amend Maryland’s current Safe Haven Law to include vulnerable individuals with special needs. You can sign it – HERE.

September is Suicide Prevention Month, if you or someone you love are at risk please seek help. To find out how you can help someone who is suicidal, please visit - http://www.helpguide.org/mental/suicide_prevention.htm

No parent should ever feel as if suicide or hurting their child is the only way out. If you find yourself contemplating any of these options reach out to someone.

http://www.nationalparenthelpline.org or call (855) 4APARENT / (855) 427-2736

http://www.childhelp.org or call (800) 4ACHILD / (800) 422-4453

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline or call (800) 273 TALK / (800) 273-8355

National Domestic Violence Hotline 0r call (800) 799 SAFE / (800) 799-7233

There is help. There is hope.


image via Freerangestock.com

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  1. by Reality Check | Moms Who Wine

    On September 11, 2013 at 12:56 pm

    [...] in this world.  Venting did help me release my frustrations.  And today in my news feed was the story of a special needs mom who has struggles far beyond mine.  Thank you for letting to me vent and helping me achieve this [...]