image credit: Wendy K. Baskin
June 13, 2013

It Takes A Village To Kill A Child

We’ve had another death in the autism community. Another lost child. Another story ended.

This time, however, it could have been avoided. The child did not wander, nor was he a victim of a horrible accident.

Alex Spourdalakis was killed by his own mother and godmother. They murdered him.

I will admit that when I initially heard the story, my heart went out to the family. Alex was on the severe end of the spectrum, and they couldn’t afford additional therapies. They had no respite and couldn’t take the daily ins-and-outs of it all anymore. Living the life of a special needs family (indeed, autism affects the entire family), is not easy, no matter where the child falls on the spectrum. Not everyone is made of the same mettle, not everyone can cope, especially if support runs out.

I was empathetic, I understood how things can break down beyond rationality.

I was wrong.

As I started reading posts on friends’ blogs today, I realized I only knew part of the story. The part Alex’s mother wanted me to believe: that she was at the end of her rope and had no other choice. Everyone has a choice, and she chose to follow the snake oil salesman down the yellow brick road.

Alex’s mother and godmother made a very public plea on his behalf in a YouTube video. Alex is shown naked, strapped to a hospital bed, while none other than the not-so-good “doctor” Andrew Wakefield* begs for help. The “help” they’re seeking is ostensibly from mistreatment by the doctors at Loyola, but really, they want money. Money for Mr. Wakefield to “cure” Alex.

Illinois DFCS allegedly offered all of their support and services, which the family (again, allegedly) declined. Alex’s cause was trumpeted far and wide by Age of Autism, Generation Rescue, and all manners of organizations and individuals interested in “curing” him. Rather than occupational therapy (OT), ABA therapy, or other proven autism interventions, they tout chelation therapy and bleach enemas.

Snake oil.

Mr. Wakefield, et al, don’t want to help families with autism. I would argue he doesn’t even want to “cure” them. What he wants, what the Defeat Autism Now (DAN) “doctors” want, what the biomed community wants, what Jenny McCarthy** and a lot of nefarious folks want, is to make money off of autism. To profit from the fear of parents. To walk away rich while families suffer.

Alex Spourdalakis did not need to die. He didn’t even need to live with his mother anymore, if she couldn’t handle the reality of autism. We can only wonder if ABA or OT or who-knows-what interventions may have made his, and by extension her, life better. We only know that the “therapies” they were seeking drained them financially. Add Alex’s comorbid medical issues, and you have a toxic situation.

Alex’s mother and godmother didn’t have to kill him. There is nothing to suggest that murder was their only avenue. Alex’s father discovered him, so he might have been a resource. In desperate circumstances, high needs children can be surrendered to the state for care. It’s an extreme move, yes, but much less extreme than cold-blooded murder.

A murder that was well thought-out. Well planned and wanted. When the sleeping pills failed to kill him, his mother stabbed him repeatedly with a knife. She then slit his wrist to ensure his death.

The pair then proceeded to kill the family cat, and swallow a bunch of sleeping pills themselves. The pills failed again.

I am of the belief that their attempted suicides were not due to grief. I think they didn’t want to pay for their crime. Their horrible, heinous crime. And to that end, I’m pretty certain karma took the wheel.

Andrew Wakefield didn’t kill Alex. Jenny McCarthy didn’t kill Alex. Age of Autism, DAN, and all of the other sketchy entities in the autism universe did not kill him. When you’re dealing with unstable people, though, suggestions matter. Alex’s mother was made to believe that if she could not afford to “cure” her son, she needed to put him out of his misery. That his life was worth nothing. That there would be no happy ending for him.

At the end of the day it was her choice to believe the shysters. Her choice to take away Alex’s future. Her choice to end his life. She was just unstable enough to do it.

Because he was inconvenient. Because he was expensive. Because she didn’t want to live in his reality anymore.

Nobody will ever know what could have been for Alex.

I hope this story serves as both a lesson and a warning.

To parents who think they have no choices left, reach out for help. There is always an answer, even if it means surrendering your child to keep him/her alive.

To those who would profit from autism, you disgust me. You prey on the vulnerable, and your demise can not come soon enough.

To everyone, be aware of the special needs families in your lives. Reach out to them in any way you are able. Even the smallest gesture can make a rough time easier. Learn a little about autism, and autistic individuals.

Alex Spourdalakis did not have to die. But because he did, we will learn to be better.

We have to.



*If you are not aware of Mr. Wakefield, suffice to say he’s the doctor who lost his license to practice after falsely claiming to correlate vaccines and autism, the banner that Jenny McCarthy took up and ran with to absurdity.

**Although the argument could be made that Jenny is in it solely for the attention.

Image Credit: Wendy Baskin

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