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Alex SpourdalakisMy heart broke when I read the tragic story of Alex Spourdalakis, the fourteen-year-old child with autism and severe behavioural challenges killed by his mother and godmother as part of a murder/double-suicide pact (Zennie, M.). The two women survived the suicide attempt after being discovered by authorities who were contacted after Alex’s dad tried repeatedly to reach them without success. The women were found near Alex’s body, heavily medicated after an attempt to overdose. Alex himself had been stabbed—after an attempt to kill him with an overdose of medication—and his mother had slashed his wrist so deeply she nearly severed his hand. In a suicide note the women explained that Alex’s needs had become too much for them to handle.

Parents Who Are At the Edge
Alex’s story left me deeply saddened and horrified. I wish I could say it also left me shocked, but it didn’t. I am thankful that I have never worked with a family that got to the point that Alex’s mother did. But I have worked with families that have gotten close. On more than one occasion I have had to access emergency safe beds and crisis services because I was working with parents who were at the edge—close to the point where despair is so powerful that death starts to seem like the only way out.

What can we learn from Alex’s tragic story? I wish I could come up with some neat lessons—like some kind of silver lining where at least we learned something from these horrors. But there aren’t any tidy, tied-with-a-bow lessons, are there?