Special Report - Issy's Story

Updated: Monday, March 4 2013, 03:39 PM EST
Special Report - Issy
KALAMAZOO, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - The Kalamazoo area has recently become home to a 13-year-old girl from Northwest Michigan named Isabel Stapleton--Issy for short.

Her parents never dreamed they'd have to live apart from her, but finally decided they had no choice.

It seems Issy is autistic, and prone to extreme violence. Her mom is afraid that she will die at the hands of her own daughter if Issy doesn't complete her treatment here, but they'll have no idea how they will pay for it.

Kelli Stapleton is in the fight of her life, trying to save her daughter Issy from self-destruction and from killing her.

One day, not long ago, Issy reportedly beat Kelli unconscious in their car.

"We were on the highway and she started to overpower me," Kelli said. "She started pulling my hair, pulling the steering wheel; and I knew this was going to be bad."

It was after an even more violent attack that Kelli recorded in a desperate attempt to get help from her local Community Mental Health, that she finally reached her breaking point.

"I was screaming to my local community mental health," Kelli reported. "Without exaggeration, screaming that I needed help."

As sad as Issy's story is, it did have a happy beginning.

Kelli met her husband Matt at Kalamazoo College and they got married right after graduation. Three beautiful children followed, including Issy in the middle.

It wasn't long though before they knew something was wrong.

"We are happy people. And having such an unhappy baby all the time, something wasn't right," Kelli said.

Issy would soon be diagnosed with autism, and her parents, relieved to finally have an answer, began early intervention, which showed promise at first.

As Issy grew older though, her temper grew shorter, and her parents simply couldn't control her.

With no access to behaviorists in Northwest Michigan, the Stapletons tried everything else from medication to pediatric psychiatry.

"We asked for help for a long time, and we were told ridiculous things like 'remodel your garage and put her in the garage;' 'Put her in foster care,'" said Kelli.

In January, the family finally found the Great Lakes Center for Autism Treatment and Research in Portage--a residential facility for children with extreme behavioral problems, willing to take Issy in.

Newschannel 3 spoke with Carly Piacentini, a certified behavior analyst, who's been working to calm the violence in Issy. Quite often, that means becoming the target of her aggression, which has been captured on camera in recent weeks.

One time, it took three adults to restrain her.

Dr. Lloyd Peterson, Clinical Director at the treatment center, found after weeks of observation that she only attacks to gain what's called 'access to tangibles,' that is, things or people she wants--hearing 'no' appears to be her trigger.

The discovery came as a breakthrough for the staff, who can use rewards to teach her replacement behaviors.

"We're able to control the environment, we're able to control our behavior, and by doing so, we're able to control Issy's behavior so that she can get better," Dr. Peterson said.

But Issy still has a long way to go, and her family will have to find a way to pay almost $800 a day--ideally for another 6 months.

Although she's not sure where she'll find the money, Issy's mom is optimistic.

"We're just going to make sure she's a success," she said. "We're not going to let her fail. Whether she gets full treatment or not..."

Issy's mom keeps a blog to track her progress, and they can thank their family, friends, and neighbors for raising money to keep Issy here for now.

The money runs out next month, however, and Issy should be here six more months.

To learn more about Issy's case, you can check out her Facebook page--Team Issy--or follow them on Twitter.

More information on donating can be found in the Links Section of WWMT.com.
Special Report - Issy's Story
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