Thursday, July 22, 2010

Truly heartbreaking...

From CNN

From headlines emblazoned across the wires over the past four or five hours, Saiqa Akhter strangled her two autistic children. She told the 911 operator she did it because they were autistic and she wanted to have normal children. Child Protective Services had investigated the family for neglectful supervision in 2009 when the parents left 5 year old Zain Akhter at home alone while they brought 2 year old Faryaal Akhter to the hospital for a respiratory infection. CPS in Dallas had tried to connect the family with services to assist them. If Texas is anything like Florida those services for autistic children are likely to be few and far between. While there is simply way to excuse Saiqa Akhter's actions, until people have walked a mile in the shoes of a parent caring for not one but two children with illness or disability, I really hope there will be no rush to judgment about what an awful human being she is, etc. She sounds, in fact, like an incredibly depressed and mentally ill human being if you read the CNN report. The Dallas Morning News report suggests that Saiqa Akhter's two year old may in fact have been normal, not autistic, further suggesting that Mrs. Akhter suffers mental health issues. Reportedly, the Akhter family had recently emigrated from Pakistan. I simply cannot imagine the sense of isolation of Ms. Akhter, and the depth of sorrow in their family at having lost the two children, and their mother, all in one fell swoop.

© Bright Nepenthe, 2010


  1. I would never condemn someone in that situation. "There but for the grace of god go I".

    I dislike children-the constant noise, the unrelenting demands for attention, the endless agitation and confusion, the lack of peace and solitude, etc, etc. I would have been a horrible mother-and probably a horrible abusive mother, at that. Having autistic children would increase that general dislike exponentially. There would have come a point where I would have snapped-just as Mrs. Akhter did.

    Fortunately, I realized that very early and have refused to be trapped by conventionality. Sadly, Mrs. Akhter did not have access to the resources I did-and I can only feel sorrow and pity for her.

  2. What is it about the deaths of children that gives news organizations such a hard-on? (I know, I know, it's a ratings-grabber, and ratings are the primary - if not only - focus of the news business. That doesn't make it any less contemptible.)

    My impression (as a Texan) is that Texas' mental health resources are overworked, underfunded, and generally unappreciated. In a lot of Texas, especially the rural areas, any sort of mental health disorder carries the stigma of moral failure with it. ::sigh:: I shouldn't be making generalizations like this, since Texas contains a lot of different environments, and I don't have any solid data to support the view that it's worse here than elsewhere, but that is my impression.

  3. Michael, the point you touch on, the stigma associated with MH issues, is exactly what strikes me in this case. While I can't speak to the specific impression of her distress that may have existed in her family setting, I'm mindful that on top of the stigma associated with MH issues in many rural areas (not that Irving is rural) in the US, treatment for MH problems and depression are also stigmatized in many other cultures. I cannot imagine how isolated Ms. Akhter must have felt, though again, it cannot minimize the horror of what she did.