the unthinkable


Woman in 911 call says she strangled her autistic children

(Please be warned – the link above is to CNN – it includes a video that plays the recording of the 911 call in which Saiqa Akhter describes how she killed her two year-old daughter and five year-old son. Please do NOT play it around children.)


There are no words to describe the horror of what this woman did to her precious babies.

There are no words to adequately condemn the murder of two innocent souls.

There are no words to contain the grief that we feel for those beautiful children.

There are words, however for what we can do for one another as a community of those who care for children, particularly those who do not fall into the category of the ‘normal children’ that this woman thought she wanted.

We can support one another. We can show those who don’t see the beauty that accompanies the challenges that there is joy in this life. That there is sweetness and faith and celebration and grace in raising a child – or children – with autism.

We can rise above our divisions and come together as a community – a welcoming, respectful, compassionate community that promises to hold each other up through the darkest days.

We can continue to tell our stories.

… to demystify autism.

… to reclaim the word and to reveal the incredible PEOPLE behind it.

… to open the curtains and illuminate the full spectrum of people who stand behind them.

… to personalize our stories – our children’s stories.

… to make people understand that difference is not just OK, but necessary to our survival.

… to get immediate help for those who live far beyond the realm of simple ‘difference’.

… to address the greatest fears of parents – by creating a system that will not just house our children, but will CARE for them when we are gone.

… to find out why autism diagnoses continue to explode.

… to change that.

… NOW.

There are no words for what this woman did. In no sphere through which my mind can travel is there any possible explanation for this monstrosity. Those children deserved a life. They deserved comfort and safety and protection and joy. They didn’t get it.

There are no words.


If you need support, please, please click on the links below to find local autism resource networks.

There is no more noble act than reaching out for help.

ASA Chapters by state

Autism Speaks Resources by state

27 thoughts on “the unthinkable

  1. No words only tears when I saw the articles on this yesterday. I am in her shoes but I just cant imagine doing that to my beautiful, sweet, amazing girls.

  2. My heart broke at hearing of yet another mother of an autistic child who has murdered her child/ren. In the UK there have been more than several high profile cases over the last couple of years which are equally as horrifying.

    I am a parent of 2 autistic teenagers (+3 more NT’s) and despite having lived through some awful and challenging times, I can honestly say that doing something like this has never crossed my mind.

    My heart goes out to the family of these children and I hope that the mother gets the psychiatric treatment she needs as she can’t have been in her right mind to carry out such a horrific act.

  3. I read the article yesterday ~ I just can’t bring myself to listen to the audio. Horrible, horrible tragedy ~ this should not be happening. My heart breaks for those two precious angels that were harmed by their Mother’s hands.Normal is subjective and a state of mind. My normal is not the same as someone else’s, but it’s mine and I own it. Do I sometimes wish it were different? Yes. Would I harm my son because of it? NEVER! People have got to stop comparing their children to others, as hard as it is. Even “normal” kids have problems and behavior issues. Tragic that that woman hadn’t figured that out before she did this to her children.

    One of my favorite autism t’s says: “You laugh because I’m different. I laugh because you’re all the same.”

    I agree with you Jess ~ we do need to come together as a community and support each other, help carry one another when we feel as if we cannot go on. There is strength in numbers and with our help, the world may just recognize the beauty in autism and that having a child on the spectrum is not the end of the world.

  4. I applaud you for including links where parents can reach out for support. Nothing about this tragedy makes any sense.

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  6. I read the article this morning and cried for a bit, it is horrible. I am so thankful that I was able to find such an amazing group of moms online to share all that accompanies raising a child on the spectrum. It is hard but would be so much harder without all of you. I wish she had something like this.

  7. i have to say, while i’m truly saddened by what these two children experienced, i am also horribly saddened by the choice this mother made. as functioning moms, we all know that no one who was stable would do this to their child. ever. and instead of stopping for one second and thinking, “what can i do in my own community to potentially change an outcome?”, so many posters (on other sites) just get their kicks typing some version of, “she’s a monster! i hope she burns in hell!” my guess is that if she killed her own kids, she probably already felt like she was living in hell every single day. granted, that’s a guess, and maybe she is just a monster. but i will be honest and say (as a single, and now very in debt, mother to an autistic daughter), i have experienced lows on this path that i NEVER could have imagined or anticipated. did i ever consider killing my daughter? by the grace of god, no. nonetheless, i want this to be a wake up call to people – HELP the parents around you!! stop judging and comparing. start listening, cooking, watching, being available.

    • katie et al,

      there’s a thought-provoking dialogue that began over on diary’s facebook page that i think bears copying here. it’s been a very respectful sharing of perspectives and ideas around this situation.

      please feel free to either join the dialogue on facebook (by clicking on the facebook button in the top right of the blog) or to comment here.

      i think it’s vital for us – as a community – to figure out how to support those among us who are in crisis or headed that way. please see the facebook dialogue below in a separate comment field.


  8. what follows are the comments from diary’s facebook page. (you can join the page by clicking on the button at the top right of the blog.) i thought it was important to copy the dialogue here so that we all can benefit from one another’s different takes on it. thank you all for keeping this highly emotional debate respectful and remaining open to each other’s perspectives.

    LUNA – While I, of course, think this is absolutely tragic, I understand how the brain works and I get why she did it. She cracked. The interview wondered if she felt isolated and mentioned the organizations that were in contact with her. But, …sometimes, those jaded ‘professionals’ can make you feel even more isolated. Instead of just shaking our heads and moving onto the next post, we should take this as a wake up call and decide what we’re going to do about it. We need to support each other and our different perspectives. On the Autism Speaks posts, I often see parents debating over the correct attitude towards cures or debating over the fine line between autism and Aspies. I think less judging and more understanding is in order.

    SARAH – I agree that we need to support each other, which is why we are all following Jess’ blog and involved in these networks… BUT, Luna, I have absolutely no understanding for the ability to murder your children. Period.

    DAWN – OMG have mercy…

    LUNA – ‎@Sarah ~yes, I’m sure a vast majority of the population cannot understand such a heinous act, especially against a child. I’m not sure why I can. Maybe it’s b/c I’ve felt that extreme isolation. It distorts your reality. That was before …I had children, however. It’s really a case of severe disconnect. Some soldiers experience it during combat. Other people experience during times of extreme stress or trauma, as the victim of a violent crime. The brain stops secreting certain hormones/enzymes that control emotion. There is no feeling whatsoever. Even in the tape, she says she feels nothing. It’s been suggested that it’s a survival instinct buried deep in our past. Animals kill their young often, especially if there is something amiss. Fortunately, most of us have evolved past that barbaric instinct.

    Now, don’t misunderstand me. I don’t even see the need for a trial in these cases. We know she did it. Insanity plea? Please. Anyone who commits any violent crime is insane, really. Who cares if she realized what she was doing…she DID it. I think her sentence should involve the drinking of bathroom cleaner and then a slow strangulation.

    SHEILA – Luna you are correct that there is a disconnect. Psychosis, if this is what she experienced, simply means ones loss of reality. We, non psychotics, are all deeply connected in the real world and can not understand/fathom what would drive so…meone to behave in such a barbaric way.
    As for punishment, that I can’t speak on, not my place. What I will say, is this is a wake up call, and will anything really be done?

    DAMARIS – If we cant put ourselves in her shoes then people like her will never get the help they need so that no more of these tragedies occur. Ive read a few stories like these lately, enough to see some similarities in their states of mind and sit…uation (not just the fact that their kids were autistic).
    I’m not saying you should try to sympathize with what she did… but there must be people out there feeling like she did and I would hope that people in the mental health arena put some focus on the effects of autism on the parents. Not everyone reacts like this but Ive seen many many others at their wits end.. they just express it differently (divorce, loss of a job, distancing from friends out of embarrassment for their child’s behavior, depression…etc).
    Not everyone has had their “Welcome to Holland” moment and awareness is all we can do for now.

    Jess, if you ever tire of writing your blog, please keep in mind that, for me at least, reading your stories and all the comments from people who are in the same trenches as we, is what keeps me sane when I am at MY wits end. xoxo

    DIARY OF A MOM (ME) – oh, damaris, i’ll be here in some shape or form for as long as i can and as long as y’all will have me.

    sheila, i think there are things that can be done in the near term to help. kim stagliano said yesterday that she is working with NAA on… setting up a hotline for parents in crisis, which i think is a FABULOUS idea. i am meeting with the president of autism speaks this week and i will be talking to him about how we can use their resources and reach to help as well. the thing is that as valuable as a hotline is, it’s only useful if the people that need it know it exists, so it’s going to take an ‘ad campaign’ of some sort to get the word out.

    in the meantime, i agree with damaris that awareness can make all the difference. for me, the concept of awareness is a responsibility that i take very personally.

    i think that being visible in our own communities is the best thing we can do. by doing so, we slowly chip away at the stigma. we come out of the shadows and we show the world who we are. a conversation at a playground, a friendly chat at the supermarket, or a wave in a church, synagogue or mosque can sometimes be the difference between isolation and community.

  9. More from Facebook ..

    SHEILA – Jess, we must remember that shame is very often what keeps people from reaching out. Even those of us who are “okay” still sometimes feel shame or embarassment in our situations and we need to feel safe enough to talk about what is going …on in our lives.
    Thrilled to hear that KS is proposing the hotline and Jess I am sure that you will make make those words count at weeks end. xo.

    DIARY OF A MOM (ME) – Agreed – but I believe that the shame comes from the stigma and – as idealistic as it may sound – i think that’s something we can change.

    I’ve talked before about the need to break down the stigmas regarding mental health. It’s yet another one of those things that remains hidden away because we as a society nod our passive agreement that needing help for emotional / mental challenges is not ok.

    I passionately believe that we do ourselves and our children a tremendous disservice by teaching them that any of these challenges need to be kept in the dark. Imagine the revolution that could come from blowing the doors off of the closets? If we allowed ourselves as a society to speak freely about who we are?

    It starts with one person standing up and living openly. Then another. And another. And the next thing you know, we all realize that our challenges are not so unique after all. As the stigma goes, so goes the shame.

  10. I’m late to this, and your FB dialogue sort of says it all, but wow. Unbelievably shocking and painful.

    And while the mother clearly, CLEARLY was unbalanced and lost it, it says so much about how we as a community, how the world at large needs to support our families. Not condoning. But if autism weren’t a stigma? If it were treated as any another disability?

    Outcome might have been different.

  11. I’m late to this, too, and had not heard about this. Such a horrific tragedy. I loved your last line, “There is no more noble act than reaching out for help.” And I’m with Drama Mama about the fact that the outcome of this situation may well have been different had the disabilities of the kids been different and adequate support been in place.

  12. I tried for 2 years to get help for me and my son; yet we slipped through the cracks and people and my sons pediatrician said we just needed to spank our child. What I was told time and time again was that I just couldn’t parent effectively – I was just a bad mom. The rages and meltdowns were a constant thing in our house, a full meltdown followed by a silent seizure 8 times a day, for 45 minutes at a time. I emailed everyone, I went through early intervention (we were too young, then too old, blah blah blah). It was living in a warzone for years with my autistic child and his NT (but sickly) twin – while my husband only was home during their sleeping hours due to a long commute. Most of the autistic community gave me political crap and asked for money – told me the only way to get help was to 2nd mortgage my house and beg borrow and steal $4k/month or they wouldn’t/couldn’t help.

    I can understand. You lock yourself into a shell. There is no feeling anymore. There is no feeling of hope, no feeling of life, no feeling of anything other than a dark world of hell: numb and unending.

    I can understand. Everyone has a breaking point. Most never get pushed to that limit, by the grace of God. But some do. Some HAVE reached out, but nobody hears because we are all so busy with our own lives, our own children – and then the world is a gasp at the consequences.

    • Tina, your story is heart-wrenching. I can’t imagine the pain that you lived through during that time. 

      We MUST figure this out, both as a community and as a society at large. There simply MUST be support available. 

      It starts with awareness – had your son’s pediatrician been taught to look for the early signs of autism, s/he could have been able to lead you in the right direction from the start, rather than add to your pain.

      Then it continues with dedicated resources to offer support – WITHOUT mortgaging our lives. Insurance reform is a start. 
      I’m so sorry for your experience. And I’m afraid it’s not remotely unique. This is one hell of a wake-up call.    

  13. This tragedy is indeed a wake-up call. Part of me wants to be compassionate, but part of me is remembering my own days of isolation and the severity of my son’s autism at the time, plus my younger son’s special needs, and I remember how I had to leave the room and then shut myself in another room to scream into a pillow and pound the floor in agony. Many times. And I thought that I had snapped. But I guess not completely.

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