Special Report: A Mother's Nightmare - A struggle with autism
Imagine living with your child, fearful that one day, she could kill you. That's a reality for Benzie County mother Kelli Stapleton, who's 13-year-old daughter Isabelle has autism and that's created the problem behavior of aggression.
Not all children with autism behave this way, but Issy sometimes does. Kelli remembers that when Issy was little, she had disturbing temper tantrums and as she got older, the aggression got worse.
"I started having significant injuries like black eyes. I was sent to the hospital many times with sprained fingers," Kelli says.
But that wasn't the worst of it. Issy has knocked her mother unconscious twice. The most recent time was so bad that Kelli ended up suffering a level two trauma and had to stay at Munson Medical Center for a few weeks. As the injuries keep happening, Kelli doesn't fear for herself, she fears for her daughter.
"It's a terrible thing because what's going to happen to her? If she's that kid that just killed her mom, then what happens?" Kelli says.
The Stapleton's decided they needed help and found it at the Great Lakes Center for Autism Treatment and Research in Kalamazoo. The center the agreed to take Isabelle, but her aggression wasn't the only problem facing Kelli The treatment center isn't covered by her insurance or the community mental health program. The center wants to keep Isabelle for 263 days, but right now with their own funds and donations, the Stapleton's can only afford 60. Kelli's afraid they are set-up to fail if Issy doesn't get far enough in her treatment.
Isabelle is experiencing what they call extinction bursts, meaning her aggression is getting worse before it gets better. Bringing her home now could make Kelli's worst fear a reality.
"This is a terrible way to live, nobody should have to tell this story again, " Kelli says.
To prevent that, Kelli is calling herself a "reluctant pioneer." She's sharing her story to try and create change that could protect others from sharing her nightmare.
"Our congressmen make laws to protect and we all pay into that system. We should have something in place where if you have a terrifically bad situation like this you can get help," Kelli says. "The insurance companies, the state of Michigan, they're not going to deny this kid services if everybody is watching."
With the eyes of state health experts on her, Kelli is hoping for the best and dreaming of her daughter's future.
"We want to do treatment one time and then we want her home for the next 70 years," Kelli says. "This is our plan for her, she's our little girl, we want her with us forever."
For more information, you can follow Kelli's blog:
The Status Woe