Who is to blame for our son’s death?


This story is so sad and so avoidable. My son is not so different from Tim Whattler. He is doing OK at the moment.  But this was not always the case. We are not so different from Tim’s parents. We fought similar battles on our son’s behalf. Often we lost. We couldn’t understand it either.

We are lucky. Our son has survived. But it should not be about luck. Tim’s death is a waste; such a loss. It is not a tragedy. It is a crime, though I doubt there will ever be a guilty verdict.


14 thoughts on “Who is to blame for our son’s death?

  1. I am on the other side of the experience. I would like to invite you to read my blog and perhaps post some of your thoughts from the victim’s perspective. (In my blog, I refer to suicidal people as patients and their family and loved ones as the victims. I think this is more accurate given who commits the act and who suffers from it.)
    My blog is at:

    I wish you good luck with your son. Don’t give up on him; that, more than anything else, will help him not give up on himself.


  2. This is what happens with a medical view of autism, and a propensity within the system to change (/fix) the person.

    Same crap went on in my life and it sucked.

    I’m appalled to see that the UK hasn’t improved very much over the last 30 years since the system shat on me.

  3. Check the subheading:

    “The parents of Tim Whattler, who committed suicide aged 17, believe he was fatally let down by the system of care for autism sufferers. Cassandra Jardine reports”

    I’m not going to say the media is to blame. But headlines like this don’t help. Obviously, if you’re suffering, you are more likely to be depressed. There is no evidence that autistics in general suffer of anything except the cultural environment.

    I’m a parent who understands that my son will be autistic when he’s a teen. This sort of stuff is extremely important and I hope it would change a little with time. Regarless, it’s also very important to teach our kids to accept themselves and not assign worth to themselves based on their skills or way of being.

  4. Indeed, Joseph. That sub-heading is pretty misleading as far as I am concerned. I’m autistic and it’s not the autism that I suffer from now (or at any time in my life): it’s people making serious attibution errors on the basis of (in the vast majority of instances) total ignorance (in the sense of not wanting to know my take on something).

  5. ideas2words
    I have read your blog, and while I sympathize with people who have constant suicidal urges, this is not the case with autistic young people.
    In a recent SciAm special report on child development I read that suicide is the third largest cause of death in US teenagers. Autistic teens are under even more pressure than neurotypical teens. That was the basis for my comparing Tim to my son. They both faced similar pressures and were similarly misunderstood by professionals whose job it was to understand them. Thankfully my son did not become suicidal and now the external pressures have been removed he is doing very well.

    David is right. Professionals who medicalize what is essentially a situational problem cause harm by ignoring external reasons for autistic problems.

    well spotted. Most of my son’s problems were not caused by autism. They arose because other people misunderstood his autism (teachers) or seemed to understand it all too well and exploit that knowledge (school bullies).

  6. “David is right. Professionals who medicalize what is essentially a situational problem cause harm by ignoring external reasons for autistic problems.”

    Thanks, Mike.

    The sad thing is that this medicalisation makes it easier for society to enforce its ideas of ‘normality’ on the individual: psychiatry isn’t so much about the remediation of mental health difficulties as the systematic denial of the right to be different (to at least a significant extent). It allows the state to incarcerate the radically different (threat-posing or not), and relieves members of society at large of their human duty to behave humanely towards all people (meaning that it sanctions the inhumane treatment of certain groups it determines to be ‘disturbed’).

    And there’s nothing really scientific in the making of that determination.

  7. It’s obvious this kid wasn’t celebrating the joy of autism. That means Neurodiversity killed him with their writings against curing it.

  8. Hi-

    My name is Sara and I work for Random House- sorry to leave you a note on your comments but you don’t have an email address that I could find. We have a book coming out called Look Me in the Eye (My life with Aspergers) by John Elder Robinson who is the brother of Austen Burroughs-the author of Running with Scissors and we would like to send you a copy. If you are interested please email me at SSmyth@RandomHouse.com.


  9. It would have to be awful to have depressive and suicidal thoughts and then to have the propensity to perseverate on these thoughts would have to be maddening.

    God rest his soul and our thoughts and prayer to his family.

  10. Mike, can you send me an email as I want to send you an email copy of a leaflet? I am putting together a public meeting in London for the 12 September called ‘The Politics of Autism’ and was wondering if you could help me promote it on your blog? I have put my email in the ‘Mail’ box above this comment so you should have it. Thanks.

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