On July 22, 2010, a news story broke in Dallas, Texas of a 30-year-old mother of two young children who had strangled her children because they were Autistic. Zain Akhter, 5, and his sister, Faraal, 2, refused the bathroom cleaning chemicals mom attempted to make them drink . Their mother Saiqa Akhter then took a wire and strangled both children killing Zain immediately. Faraal was in a coma and died the next day. Saiqa faces two counts of capital murder. In Texas if a murder of a child under the age of six occurs it is directly a capital murder.
The news reports lack detail about how Saiqa determined her children were autistic. Saiqa claims that Zain showed signs of Autism. However, Saiqa does not establish proper identification of Autism by a medical professional. It was a possibility Faraal would also have Autism. Again, here was nothing stating in the news reports of diagnosis of Autism.
Saiqa and her husband Rashid Akhter emigrated from Pakistan in the 1990’s. The recording of the 911 call released demonstrates patent issues with Saiqa’s English skills. However, she did seem to have a firm grasp on the English language.
With that said, questions remain as to why Saiqa believed her children had Autism but did not seek medical and mental health services for her children. The number of supports available to families with children diagnosed with Autism is available. There are agencies available to provide respite care at the very minimum.
Most children with Autism are able to obtain developmental therapies and assistance with their primary care needs taken care of by a support staff. Physical, occupational and speech therapies can be present with detection by a medical professional. There are groups online and in person that help parents of children with diagnosis of Autism which offer advice, techniques, tips and friendship often needed by the main care-taker parent.
The aftermath of this news story is more than just the sadness of two young and innocent children losing their lives. The answer is how this affects the perception the public has on children with diagnosis of Autism. Children with diagnosis of Autism do not deserve to be killed because they are ‘not normal’ as Saiqa wanted her children to be. Children with diagnosis of Autism are as valuable to society as children with juvenile diabetes, vision or hearing problems, physical abnormalities and learning disabilities. Their contributions may not be immediately obvious to the world until they take the time to get to know the child.
For anyone, a mother included to take a life of a child diagnosed with Autism is unacceptable.
Autism awareness includes being aware of what the signs and symptoms of Autism are. It also includes recognition of how valuable they are to society.
By Dannett Frey
* Stories From the Heart is an ongoing series of user contributed heart warming stories, that shine light on the Autism and special needs experience.