According to neighbors and former teachers, George Hodgins was a pleasant adult with autism. He was non-verbal and afraid of the neighborhood dogs but enjoyed hikes, going on walks, and listening to music. This past week, however, things took a sad turn for the worst. George's mother shot her only child in his bedroom and turned the gun on herself. Her husband, George's father, found them a few hours later.
I am angry and sad and outraged all at the same time. Hearing stories such as this is like getting a glimpse into my future. I have a non-verbal son with autism. I know resources when he ages out of the education system at 21 are limited. I know how difficult it can sometimes be to raise a child with significant special needs. I'm sad that Elizabeth Hodgins felt so desperate and snapped. I'm outraged at the lack of services available to adults like George. And I'm angry that the media is using this as yet another example of how "tragic" it can be to raise a child with special needs. The truth is, no matter how you slice it, GEORGE is the victim here. His mother isn't a saint or a martyr. George lost his life, in his very own home, by one of the people who is supposed to protect and care for him most -- his own mother.
The truth is this: There is a very limited amount of services and resources for an adult with special needs once he or she ages out of the school system. Believe it or not, I'm already searching for options for my 9-year-old because some lists take YEARS to get to the top. Independent living situations, sheltered job workshops, employment coaching, and adult daily care are all limited and there are long, long lines. Getting any grants or stipends take a miracle since there is such a limited amount of money available, especially in this economic environment when education and services to the most vulnerable members of our society are cut in favor of padding politicians wallets.
I'm one of the fortunate ones. There are currently several programs in my area. I have a large family and a great network of friends and neighbors for support and help. But most of my friends don't have any family or friends and feel isolated and trapped. If it wasn't for monthly coffee outings while our children are at school, many of us would never get out to socialize. It's just too difficult to schedule sometimes. Yes, my life can be isolating and difficult. But at the same time it is wonderful and warm, happy and rewarding. I have the support I currently need to raise a child with special needs. And I don't think I'm doing anything out of the ordinary or difficult or tragic. Just doing what I'm supposed to do! I'm supposed to work my tail off to raise my child, special or not.
This sad story highlights the need for support after the traditional age of 21. It also highlights the need for friends and family to offer help and support wherever possible. Raising a child like George and my own means needing a community with options, support, encouragement and respite.
Still, I can't help but be angry that this woman killed her son. I don't mean to vilify her, but if a typical 22-year-old man was killed by his mother, the public would be outraged. For some reason when a special-needs child is killed the public feels sorry for the parents, talks about what wonderful parents they were and how much they sacrificed. Wonderful parents do not kill their children. This isn't the first time it has happened and, sadly, will probably not be the last.
Are you outraged over George's death?