Remembering George Hodgins But Forgetting His Name
Remember George Hodgins
Video version of this blog post:
Update: I have changed the title of this post because the Autism Society of America has apologized, and this serves as my best summary of what happened after the death of George Hodgins. I want to be able to link to this without feeling like I'm attacking the ASA.
Last night, I went to a vigil for George Hodgins. Zoe Gross did a wonderful job of organizing it. Please go to her blog Illusion of Competence, where you can both see a news video about the vigil (Max and I appear in it extremely briefly) and read her remarks.
An excerpt from what she said:
Because he was autistic, George is being erased from the story of his own murder.
The story of George Hodgins’ death is being discussed and presented as the story of a mother who snapped, and the story of other parents who have felt the same way. It’s being told as a story about a lack of services for families with special-needs children, as though a lack of services is a justification for murder.
When disabled people are murdered by their families, this is the story people want to hear. It’s the same story that we saw in newspapers after Katie McCarron was murdered, and after Jeremy Fraser was murdered, and after Glen Freaney was murdered, and after Zain and Faryaal Akhter were murdered. The story goes like this: it is understandable that someone would kill their disabled relative if they don’t get help to care for them.
The vigil was a very moving experience.
It was very disturbing when Max drew my attention this morning to a letter in the San Jose Mercury News that did exactly what Zoe described-- it erased George from the story of his own murder:
Cuts to adult disability support are devastating
The tragic story of Elizabeth Hodgins, who last week took her own life and that of her 22-year-old son with autism, leaves us truly devastated. While this incident is an anomaly, it shows that high stress on parents is very common in the autism community. We fear that stories such as these will continue if families still feel hopeless in their struggles.
According to the Mercury News, Hodgins was exhausted trying to find a program for her son. Like most states, California provides little or no appropriate support to individuals with developmental disabilities once they turn 22. In addition, California has cut $1 billion in developmental disabilities services during the past three years, and the Department of Developmental Services will cut another $200 million within the next year.
We cannot wait long for change. Autism diagnosis is experiencing a staggering growth rate. Today, 65 percent of all state regional center intakes relate to autism. The divorce rate among parents with a child with autism is as high as 70 percent due to the pressure.
President and COO Autism Society of America
President Autism Society of California
Two presidents of the Autism Society signed a letter about George's murder that uses him for a political cause without even mentioning his name. This is not okay.
I have in the past suggested that people investigate their local chapters of the Autism Society of America and consider donating to them.
But both the national president and the California president have shown that they have infinitely more sympathy for George's killer than they have for him.
One thing I said at George's vigil last night is that I am not just sad about him-- I am sad that Elizabeth is gone, too. But she killed him, and then herself. She made that choice. He did not. Our first sympathy must be with him.
And I see no sympathy for him in this letter, signed by two presidents.
So I can no longer recommend that you support the Autism Society of America.
I do suggest you contact them and let them know that this is unacceptable.