Traverse City Record-Eagle


September 6, 2013

Parents of autistic children offer perspective


The alleged murder-suicide attempt came shortly after Kelli Stapleton posted on her blog, “The Status Woe,” that her daughter, Issy, 14, could not attend class at Frankfort Junior-Senior High School. Stapleton acknowledged Issy was capable of “great violence” and many schools would not accept her, but expressed frustration with the apparent decision.

Richards believes Stapleton must have been deeply disappointed, especially after seeking out an expensive treatment program last February.

“You can be certain Issy also felt hurt and sadness and all those same emotions,” she said.

Chris Morey of Traverse City said school was the only break for he and his wife, who, quite literally, couldn’t leave their young son, Guy, alone for a minute. Their son would throw a 16-ounce candle at his face with “perfect accuracy,” hit him in the head with a crowbar, walk into the middle of a busy street, or send the TV crashing to the floor.

“They weren’t isolated occurrences — they occurred daily — many times, for more than a decade,” he said.

When Guy was 11, a psychiatrist worked with an autism expert and dispensed two drugs that finally broke the cycle of violence. His is now 21 and much better, but the couple worries about what his future holds when he leaves school several years from now.

Andrea Hentschel, president of the Autism Network of Northwest Michigan, said she was “heartbroken in every direction” after learning the news.

She said there’s a lack of support and hope for families with children who exhibit a wide range of problems, from schizophrenia to bipolar disorder. Parents not only deal with the stress of their child, but also getting help.

Blue Cross/Blue Shield, for example, requires children get a diagnosis to qualify for extra services, but they must be seen by a “Center of Excellence.” There are only five such centers in Michigan, all downstate, she said.

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