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Autism support groups hoping Stapleton case changes conversation

WEST MICHIGAN (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - Autism support groups are hoping the Kelli Stapleton case changes the conversation.

Just this week, Stapleton was sent to prison for at least 10 years after attempting to kill both herself and her teenage daughter Issy, who suffers from a severe form of autism.

A mother with autism, who also has children with autism, is using social media to change the conversation.

She wants the focus to be on accepting autism, and not trying to fix or change those with the disorder.

Autism groups across the country are still reacting to the Stapleton case, even after she was sentenced to 10 to 22 years in prison for trying to kill herself and her daughter in September 2013.

"Issy has been dehumanized and treated like this violent monster," said Morenike Onaiwu, a mother with autism from Houston, Texas, with two autistic children. She also sits on the board of the Autism Women's Network.

Onaiwu, along with others, took to social media, starting a virtual community, and the hashtag #IAmNotKelliStapleton, in response to a blog called "I Am Kelli Stapleton," which they believed talked about how anyone raising an autistic child could snap and harm them.

"We felt there is no way that we would allow the public to think at any moment it's acceptable to be on the brink of thinking you can kill your child," she said.

She stressed there's always another way, no matter what services are in your area, and the network wants mothers and fathers to think a different way.

"We'r ehoping as more parents realize there's another way, they will have more peace in their home, because the child will accept themselves and the parents will accept a new way, and we can gradually change the conversation around autism from something that you want to change, and fix, and eradicate, to something you accept," Onaiwu said.

The Autism Women's Network is working on a guide for new parents of autistic children.

Members of the network are located all over the country, including Kalamazoo.

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