DKS Editors

Wishing for one last e-mail from Trudy

Dear Editor:

I met Trudy in the Fall of 2004. She laughed at me for having color-coded tabs to mark potential classes, and then proceeded to influence my life for the next four years.

She assisted me in every stage of my college career, from helping me get my internship position and fueling my passion for women’s rights advocacy and research to directing my thesis. Regardless of how busy she was, Trudy was always there to guide me, teach me, constructively criticize me, listen to me and laugh with me.

She taught me to be strong, exemplified a mother’s love (to Sky and to me) and offered herself as a pillar of constant support.

She became one of the strongest female role models in my life.

Each day, her death becomes more of a reality, and each day I wish I could have exchanged one last goofy e-mail with her or stopped by her office unexpectedly, eaten all of her Almond Joys and made us both late for class.

Despite our loss, Trudy’s vibrancy will continue on beyond her passing and, I have no doubt, continue to influence policy and lives.

– Jessica Joseph,

December 2008 graduate in political science and psychology

Calls for justice ignorant of truths about autism

Dear Editor:

Some outrageous comments regarding Mrs. Steuernagel’s son’s responsibility for the tragedy have prompted this response.

From 1999 to 2001, I worked as a direct care worker with an autistic young man, whom I will call Adam here.

The position was a “live-in,” which meant that Adam had his own place, and rotating staff provided the service for him. When Adam had been in seventh grade and doing rather well (I saw a video of him confidently reciting poetry in front of a school audience), two of the “normal” kids had provoked him into a fight where they broke both of his legs. Adam had never been the same ever since. The parents sued the school district for negligence and, because of the settlement, were able to buy Adam his own home and afford his care.

I worked mostly night shifts and weekends. I tried to stick to the regimen as much as I could. I grew very fond of him quickly, and after a while he started greeting me by name. The night shifts were easy.

The weekend gigs were much more challenging. On Sundays his parents and brothers visited, and we went on outings. It was nice to see that, during the outings, Adam would show a bit more affection and emotion than usual; on the downside, he would also get pretty agitated after.

Besides the obvious reasons that he missed them, there was a more imminent problem: He had been diagnosed with diabetes and had to be on a strict diet; however, his parents, both medical doctors, would give him whatever food he wanted during the visit. I and the other staff had to pick up the pieces, sometimes literally.

One Sunday, after his parents left, he seemed more agitated than usual. I told the guy who took over from me that I would stay at least till after dinner, just in case. Two minutes after we had given him his dinner and left the kitchen (as we were supposed to), Adam threw the full dinner plate into the living room. My co-worker and I told him to clean up the mess and, somewhat to our surprise, he did without a response.

Once back in the kitchen, when I thought the worst was over, Adam let out a terrifying scream, a scream more intense, desperate and sad than anything I had ever heard before. It went straight through my entire body. I froze instantly, and it seemed to take me an eternity to pull myself together to be ready to administer a possible restraint, but luckily nothing happened. I stayed with my co-worker until Adam went to bed that night, and he went peacefully.

Apart from my lay knowledge about autism, this incident made me realize the extent of frustration that someone who suffers from the disease must feel from being unable to communicate.

To someone who asks to bring an autistic person who has acted out violently and injured or killed someone “to justice,” I have this in response: Put yourself in the shoes of a person who has been walled in by (our) grimaces, gestures and gutturals for good, and who has only a vague concept of his own wailing.

To prosecute people who suffer from mental illness is a crime that needs to be prosecuted.

– Frank Rosen,

graduate student in English