HomeautismWhy do some weather the storm, while others don’t?

We had our first real thunderstorm of the season last night, so I’ve had Bohemian Rhapsody stuck in my head since waking up this morning. Sheesh.

As I lay in bed, listening to rain pounding our roof and thunder rip at the air as lightening tore through the darkness with its electric strobe, I thought back to the few tornadoes I’ve lived through.

The last storm of that ferocity happened a couple of years ago. Two twisters had actually dropped; one about a mile north of our home and the other a bit further south. That second tornado had ripped roofs off of buildings, downed trees and caused some lengthy power outages to many people. It could have been worse, but there was a lot of suffering involved. Thankfully, we were spared.

It was hard getting pictures to really demonstrate the
full damage of the storm. This shot shows a little, and
how the buildings across the street were relatively
untouched. (Taken 2011)

A couple of days afterwards, I took a walk to the Mississippi River. Or tried to, anyway. The park I had to go through was completely wrecked. All of the trees were flattened, pathways were ripped up and apparently one of the local heron nesting grounds was completely demolished.

Since I couldn’t get to the river, I wandered around the park. When I reached the street, I stared at the row of houses across the way.

They were perfect. Untouched. Landscaping intact and everything.

Tornadoes are weird like that. Complete wreckage in one place, nothing right next door.

As usually happens when ruminating those types of memories, my mind took off in multiple directions at the same time. One corner went into storytelling mode, another went into paranoid planning mode and another rounded the corner to how different families’ stories play out in the world of neurodiversity.

The most dramatic examples I can think of is of the murder-suicides of autistic children and their parents, like this one from April. These stories are always extremely sad, and there are way too many of them.

Personally, I feel many of these outcomes can be avoided if these families were given easier access to accommodation and therapy for their kids, as well as some way to treat the obvious helplessness they felt. Depression can be a deadly disorder, and when death is the only way out of a bad situation, it leaves far reaching ripples.

On the other hand, there are countless more families that face the same types of struggles, but don’t choose that route. Assuming their kids are on similar levels on the spectrum, how are they able to carry on, when others can’t?

I think most of that probably has to do with individual backgrounds, personality types and support systems. It’s vital to remember that every situation is different, and as sad as murder-suicide is, as uniquely revolting as it is when it’s a parent-child, they’re never carried out without reason.

Bear in mind, I am not condoning the act. I’m pointing out the fact there are reasons behind it. Reasons that may have a solution, be it early access to supports and therapy, mental health support for everyone in the family or a range of different things.

On a more personal level, I also think of depression and its relationship to learning disabilities.

According to this article, people with some form of learning disability are three times as likely to have suicidal thoughts or attempt suicide. They’re six times more likely to drop out of school, which also has a strong link to suicide. Of course, suicides related to dyslexia or learning disabilities never make the news. It’s just not sensational enough, therefore, not enough people know or care to make a difference.

But there are others who survive the rough years, and many who have never struggled with depression, self harm or the urge to kill themselves. Again, why are some people completely destroyed, while others aren’t?

I think the problem boils down to the same types of solutions families with autistic children have. In many states, the word “dyslexia” isn’t allowed to be uttered in IEP meetings, there are still teachers out there who don’t believe in learning disabilities, and as for getting adequate help for mental health issues resulting from struggling with all of this and more? Unless you’re lucky, forget it.

From a knee jerk point of view, suicide and murder/suicide in the world of disability may seem like a random, tragic sequence of events. When you look more deeply into the pervasive systematic flaws, personal levels of hopelessness and various coping strategies, though, it’s not random at all.

It’s like tornadoes. To the uneducated eye, there’s no rhyme or reason to their strikes. When you learn a little more about meteorology, and have the tools to detect things like wind speed and direction at the proper levels, you can sometimes predict far enough in advance for people to get out of the way. The damage is still done, but at least the death toll may be kept at a minimum.

In both cases, rebuilding often results in stronger people, lessons learned and a new outlook on life.

In the end, while I highly doubt stories and statistics like the ones in this entry will ever fully go away, if we as a society can change enough to offer better support to those who are suffering, the frequency would no doubt lessen.

For now, I’d suggest looking for your local Decoding Dyslexia group, ASAN (Autistic Self Advocacy Network) and local support groups if you feel you need help. Please don’t be afraid to look for it, and if you’d like to discuss different ways to get or give help, feel free to leave a comment below!


Why do some weather the storm, while others don’t? — 4 Comments

  1. The tornado analogy/comparison was spot-on for your segue into resources and support needed for families affected by learning disabilities. That story is absolutely heartbreaking. I can't even imagine how alone, hopeless, and helpless that woman felt that she thought killing her son and herself was the only solution. 🙁 Maybe someday other parents in her position will have those resources that were so sorely lacking for her and her son.

    This post was beautifully written, Emilie. Kudos for an elegant analogy on such a sensitive subject.

  2. My heart always breaks when I read a similar story to what that mom and child must have gone through to get to that point. It's a tragic symptom to a huge cultural problem. I share your hope that resources become better available in the future. That's why there are advocacy groups working hard to get the world into a better shape.

    Thank you so much for taking the time to comment, and your kind words!

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