Autism shows its deadly side once more
I was hoping Saiqa Akhter’s murders of her two autistic children would be the last time we heard of such a thing in the autism community, but I came across an article from the New York Daily News via Autisable’s Twitter page (this blog is syndicated by Autisable, a community site for autism bloggers) that reported an update in the investigation of a murder-suicide where Micaela Jackson killed her 12-year-old autistic son and then herself with a 9-mm pistol. Jackson left a suicide note on the door and her last blog entry stated that her life was now in God’s hands.
While signs of potential harm against oneself or others usually appear before such an act occurs, sources interviewed in the article said they had no idea Jackson was about to snap, as she had recently earned a promotion at her job. The only theory investigators had to offer was Jackson potentially being strained by caring for her only child.
Unfortunately, answers will likely never be discovered. I explained in the Akhter murder post how autism can wreak havoc for parents if not approached carefully and optimistically. In theory, Jackson may not have done either. Combine that with being located in the Bronx borough of New York City, where the cost of living is high throughout the city and space is limited (although I have to believe there’s a nearby resource for people affected by autism), and perhaps Jackson experienced the perfect storm of emotions to carry out her act. However, I can only speculate.
This story is fascinating because people interviewed for the article did not notice any premonitions of the murder-suicide occurring. Jackson either made a choice without warning, or was possibly aware of the general red flags of suicide and did what she could to avoid detection.
The unique nature of the incident likely led to its publishing in one of New York’s news outlets. The photo that was found on Jackson’s blog and republished by the Daily News represents an element of autism I haven’t seen in any previous article I’ve blogged about on this site and only once on video (from Twin Cities station WCCO): that the disability can affect anyone from any ethnic background. I was fortunate enough to profile an autistic child of an interracial couple when I was producing documentaries on the subject, although I chose to report on his condition more than his or his parents’ ethnic background. In most mainstream articles and videos, the faces of autism movements and up-close examinations of the condition often have white people in the forefront. While there are plenty of cases in that group, whites as a whole are slowly becoming a minority in the United States, which means there’s a lot of non-white people around. It’s only natural that autism would affect those folks as well, but I rarely see reporters making an effort to point that out.
Would showing autism as everyone’s problem versus just a white person’s problem saved Jackson and her son? Impossible to verify because the question itself has too many variables. However, highlighting autism’s lack of racial discrimination could help everyone come to terms with the condition and not feel ashamed or scared about it. Committing suicide and taking your son with you certainly won’t achieve progress. When journalists are at their best, they can wield immense power in influence and information. Perhaps it’s time for journalists to re-evaluate the resources available and/or investigate the culture of autism outside the Caucasian realm. Anything to prevent another senseless end to an autistic person’s life.