Disability Day of Mourning

candlelight candles
Photo by Irina Anastasiu on

Every year on the first day of March, the disability community remembers those with disabilities who were murdered by family members or caregivers. In many cases, the murder is a filicide – a parent murdering their child. The reason to separate out the murder of those with disabilities is because of how the murders are reported, discussed, and excused.

When I shared information about a vigil last year, one response stuck out: Do we really need this? How often does it happen that we need to actually have this day?

In 2001, Andrea, a mother, murdered her five children. She drowned them, one after the other, because she thought they would go to hell when they got older. By drowning them, she was saving them, guaranteeing that they would go to heaven. She was convicted of murder, even after having expert witnesses testify that she was suffering from mental illness, including postnatal depression and apparent psychosis. Yates was sentenced to life in prison.

In this case, the sympathy goes to the children. They were innocent. They were babies. They were murdered by their own mother. She thought she was saving them, keeping them safe, making sure they had a good future. The public was outraged. How dare she think that she could decide what their futures would be like? Who cared if she was mentally ill? This crime was unthinkable – unforgivable!

Fast forward.

In 2016, a mother, Bonnie, murdered her daughter, Courtney. The mother drugged and killed her daughter. The mother said that she was worried, and that her daughter would only be safe and happy in heaven. The mother was sentenced to four years in prison.

Four years.

The outrage was for the mother.

The state’s attorney said “this case was a tragedy for everyone involved and given the tragic extenuating circumstances, we felt that a term of probation rather than imprisonment was the appropriate sentence.”

The state’s attorney.

The state didn’t want her to go to prison.

The state felt all she  deserved for murdering her daughter – for drugging and killing her daughter – was probation.

What were these “tragic extenuating circumstances”?

Courtney, the daughter murdered by her mother, had cerebral palsy and severe cognitive defects. She was 28 years old and required nearly constant medical care. She had been adopted by Bonnie when she was five years old. Bonnie adopted Courtney with the full knowledge of her medical needs.

Bonnie, instead of being thought of as a murderer who needed to go to jail for life, was instead praised. Her mother, father, sister, and friends discussed her great, boundless love for her daughter. They viewed her action as justified – as a mother trying to do right by her daughter, helping her daughter go to heaven.

In both cases, mothers were trying to save children they loved. In both cases, mothers committed murder.

In one case, the mother was viewed as evil. She had to be punished. It didn’t matter that she thought that she was savings her children and sending them to heaven. What she did was horrific and wrong.

In one case, the mother was viewed as a good woman. She needed sympathy. It was important that she thought that she was saving her child and sending her to heaven. What she did was kind and compassionate.

That is only one example out of many. The disability day of mourning website has lists of people with disabilities who were murdered by family members. They list them by age, by geographical location, and by year. The list they have is not complete, of course. They can only list cases that made it into the news, cases where the murderer is known, cases where the face that the victim was disabled appears in the news.

The disability day of mourning is meant to be a time to think about how we respond to these events. We are outraged when someone kills their child, unless we think that, somehow, the child caused undue stress on the parent. We find it a kindness that the parent was concerned about the child’s life, the child’s future. We praise the mother who murdered her disabled daughter because she wanted her to go to heaven; we condemn the mother who murdered her non-disabled children because she wanted them to go to heaven.

This is what I say when someone says to me: Do we really need this? How often does it happen that we need to actually have this day?

Yes, we need it. It happens more often than you think.

Mom sentenced to jail for killing disabled adopted daughter

Yates: I’m Saving My Kids From Hell


Political Rants

But I’m safe

Middle-finger-jesusOne of my old friends posted on Facebook about the new insurance law of the land – his child has a “pre-existing condition.”

A response from one of his FB acquaintances said:
“Why will your situation change? You have insurance and your procedures are covered.”

And this, American public, is what’s wrong with this country.

We cannot just care about the people we personal know.

Just because you don’t know someone doesn’t mean they don’t exist.
Just because you don’t know someone doesn’t mean they don’t need your help.
Just because you don’t know someone doesn’t mean they don’t deserve compassion and basic human dignity.

I am horrified that the Republicans and the conservatives have absolutely no empathy, sympathy, or compassion for anyone other than themselves.

They want to make basic health care unaffordable for the disabled, the elderly, and the victims of domestic violence.

They want women who have babies punished by cutting off their insurance or making it unaffordable. (And to anyone who wants to respond by saying that women who can’t afford children shouldn’t have them needs to go down to an abortion clinic and pay for the abortion or pay for the prenatal, labor and delivery, and post-natal care, as well as paying up for the next 20 years for the kid’s life…)

They want to take care of themselves and their cronies, giving money to people who already have it while taking it away from those who do not have it.

Let me tell you this – you are not “safe.” No one can predict what will happen in their lives, where they will be in one year, five years, ten years.

But the thing is, even saying that, that is not the point.

**The point is that it shouldn’t have to happen to you for you to care about it.**

It’s that simple.

Care about your fellow human beings.


Special Olympics, but only for those who aren’t too “special”…

Simon can’t believe that he got his medal in the 2011 Special Olympics Bowling Tournament!

So I have another rant to go on…

I received a copy of an email that was sent to a school employee (and thus is public under the information act, which is why I’m sharing it here…):

It is a requirement that athletes are able to remain in the pit and bowl when directed to bowl. We will have volunteers there to assist them in scorekeeping and staying in bowling order but they will not be expected to hold athletes are keep them under control. We will need to utilize our volunteers and coaches & staff will not be permitted to sit and hold athletes in the pit area either. This will be your decision if those particular athletes are capable of competing or not. You should be working on this concept with them prior to the event at all your practices and you will know if they are ready by December 1st. It’s not fair to the athletes that are competing if they are consistently disrupted by athletes that shouldn’t be there if they are having problems on that particular day. You can always inform the athletes and parents that they are welcome to come and participate but when their behavior becomes intolerable that they will be asked to leave. If they know this coming in, it won’t come as a surprise.

The person who sent this email is the current head of the Gulf Coast Special Olympics (Area 22).

Personally, I’m horrified at the concept of being told that my son’s behavior is intolerable at an event known for including all. Furthermore, research I’ve done for the Special Olympics bowling rules don’t seem to imply that a coach cannot be in the pit and cannot hold my son; the rules do not allow them to help him bowl, but there is no mention of not being allowed to sit on someone’s lap in between bowling or not being allowed to get a hug from one of the coaches.

I have been trying to reach someone, and so far, no one has been able to help. I left messages before Thanksgiving, but got no response. Today I was able to reach someone at the state level, and she suggested I try to reach the person here in the Gulf Coast again and send an email…

So I did…

And here’s that email:
I am very concerned about the information I received from our coach, Mr. Greg Mitchell.

My son, Simon, has been participating in Special Olympics Bowling for 2 years; he has received both a bronze and a silver. However, I am now afraid he will be “asked to leave” if his “behavior becomes intolerable.” Can you please define for me what “intolerable behavior” is and why the rules seem to have changed from past years? When he was 8 and when he was 9, he was allowed to have a coach in the pit to help keep him on task and hold him, when needed. The coach did not help him bowl in any way; she was merely there to help alleviate his anxiety and help with his focus. Both of these issues are typical for children with autism, and I am worried that the rule to keep coaches away will mean that less children with these issues will be able to reach their potential, as per the Special Olympics statement:
“Emanating from the mission, the ultimate goal of Special Olympics is to help persons with intellectual disabilities participate as productive and respected members of society at large, by offering them a fair opportunity to develop and demonstrate their skills and talents through sports training and competition, and by increasing the public’s awareness of their capabilities and needs. The Founding Principles support this goal by emphasizing that people with intellectual disabilities can enjoy, learn and benefit from participation in individual and team sports, underpinned by consistent training and by competition opportunities for all levels of ability. According to the Principles, Special Olympics must transcend all boundaries of race, gender, religion, national origin, geography, and political philosophy. They also state that every person with an intellectual disability should have the opportunity to participate and be challenged to achieve their full potential, with the focus at community level to reach the greatest number of athletes, strengthen their families and create an environment of equality, respect and acceptance.”

I have tried to reach you by phone, but your voice mail box is full, and I have not been able to hear back from anyone else at the office. I would greatly appreciate knowing more before Saturday morning as my son will not understand it if he is asked to leave for behavior that someone else finds intolerable.

Now, I’m going to see if I hear back…in the meantime, just for some light reading, here are some links to the statements made by the Special Olympics that seems to imply that my son should be welcomed instead of found “intolerable.”

Special Olympics: Mission, Goal, and Founding Principles

Special Olympics: Official General Rules

So let’s see how this plays out. You’ll see a happy or sad posting after the tournament. Good luck to us, and to all who feel the need to fight for fairness and equality against closed minds.


When is teasing a jailing offense?

Students in a mock jail cell at Frontier Fiesta, Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries, via Wikimedia Commons

Okay, don’t get me wrong – I am completely against bullying and teasing.  Pretty obvious to anyone who knows me or has read my blog.  But…when is it time to send someone to jail over it?

In Ohio, a 10-year-old girl with cerebral palsy was “mocked” by a 43-year-old man, William Bailey, who was recorded with a cellphone camera imitating the limp the girl had.  He denied that it was directed at the girl, but did apologize to the girl in a statement after pleading no contest and being sentenced to one month in jail on charges of disorderly conduct and aggravated menacing. 

Was he wrong in what he did?

Well, yeah, duh.  We all know that.

But why go to jail over it?  Can’t we all just agree he’s a douche bag?  Can’t we just use him as an example of what’s wrong with the world?  Can’t we just shake our heads and point to him and tell our children that he’s obviously the one with the handicap?

Why do we have to legislate common manners and decency?

And why do it when the guy is already in his forties?  We ignore the problem in schools, we ignore the problems in life, but once someone has kids of his own, we suddenly realize that it’s a problem?

Maybe we need to do something about it sooner.  Maybe we should have handled this guy’s urge to make fun of other people back when he was in school himself, instead of waiting and tossing him in jail.  Although, I have to admit, there’s something to be said for the thought of a guy serving a sentence for bullying…what will he have to claim to avoid getting beaten up?


Eugenics part two…

NASA StarChild image of Stephen Hawking By NASA [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
NASA StarChild image of Stephen Hawking By NASA [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
So I already got all up in arms against calling my son “creepy” and “weird” because of his autism.  And then I got mad at the doctors rejecting a boy who needed a heart because of his autism.  But now a politician from Alaska wants to stop some children (does he mean those with autism, perhaps?) from getting a public education.

Mark Ewing, running for a new state House seat (thanks to some redistricting) was asked about the budget at a debate.  As was reported by the Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman, “Ewing answered first, pointing out that the largest piece of that budget goes to the Department of Health and Social Services.”  Ewing pointed out, “We need to look at these big pieces of pie that we’re funding and try a way to reduce spending.”  Which is a good point, right?  But then he went on…he explained where cuts should be made:

“I got to be honest with you, I am not in favor of the No Child Left Behind Act.  We are spending millions and millions of dollars educating children that have a hard time making their wheelchair move and, I’m sorry, but you’ve got to say, ‘no’ somewhere. We need to educate our children, but there are certain individuals that are just not going to benefit from an education.”

Yeah.  That’s what he said.  (He did try to deny it, but the Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman was kind enough to put up an audio clip of him saying it…)

So how is this any different from anything that’s come before?  It’s not.  It’s just another attempt by someone to control someone else that they don’t feel is “worthy.”  I’d love to see Hawking respond to Ewing.  Maybe we can compare their IQs and see which one “benefited” most from their education.