I read about a heartbreaking news story yesterday: A mother was in court in Ireland for smothering her toddler daughter to death after receiving her diagnosis of autism. The Mother was found to have a mental health issue so claimed diminished responsibility, as apparently she had believed that the diagnosis was worse than ‘mild autism’. So in her confused state, she must have thought that her daughter would be better off dead than autistic, which is a heart-breaking conclusion to reach. The spectrum is so broad, but perhaps that was not explained to her when she received the diagnosis, so perhaps all she could see were problems ahead for her daughter.
Even when Joshua had his diagnosis of ‘devastating brain damage’ at 4 days old, we never once thought that he would be better off dead than living with his disabilities. We have instead ,always fought for him to have the best opportunities in life by, for instance, sending him to a special school where they can meet his needs and even putting him through brain surgery, in the hope of getting rid of the demon epilepsy/ We were of course shocked to learn of Joshua’s brain damage, but we still wanted him to have the best quality of life that he can have. He is such a happy. smiling young man now that I am reassured that he does enjoy a good quality of life and he is starting to assert himself more, insisting on doing what he wants to do and refusing to do what does not appeal to him.
I wonder though if this mother was worried about the impact of the autism diagnosis on her own life too, not just her daughter’s. Perhaps she was afraid of the prospect of a lifetime of caring responsibility and could not face that life for herself. I can understand that fear, as it is a huge life-changing commitment and if she felt unsupported in that by family, friends and professionals, then perhaps that was simply too much to bear for her. I would like to think that health and social care professionals rallied around her to reassure her about the assistance that is available for her and her daughter, as it can feel a very isolating experience; you can feel as though you are the only one with a baby like this and that can be overwhelming.
I am simply trying to understand what horrors this mother felt to lead her to want to take her own daughter’s life and whether or not there was more that could have been done to help her to come to terms with the news and to equip her with the armour that she was going to need going forward. I am not saying that their life was going to be easy, but she could have been shown a more positive, hopeful future than she was imagining when she picked up that pillow.