Lane Lesko

Photo of Lane Lesko, a young man with fair skin and brown hair, wearing a denim shirt.Name: Lane Lesko
Died: June 21, 2016
Age at death: 19
Cause of death: Police shooting
Location: Peterborough, New Hampshire, USA

Lane had graduated from high school a semester ahead of time and wanted to go to college to study political science. In his spare time, he did volunteer work at his synagogue, at a local homeless shelter, and at a nature and science camp. At school he was a delegate for his Model UN and started a club for Jewish students.

But he had autism and bipolar disorder and had gotten into trouble with the law during manic episodes. When he was seventeen years old, he went to a car dealership and asked to test-drive a car, saying he was an FBI agent; then he drove off with the car, which he crashed. When police arrived at the scene of the accident, he told them he was an FBI agent too. Later, out on bail for that crime, Lane broke into a neighbor's house.

Instead of being jailed, Lane was sent to a wilderness program for troubled teens. But Lane managed to escape the program, stealing a canoe, then a pontoon boat, and finally a truck.

Police tracked him down and chased him. When he crashed the truck, he tried to run away, but police shot him and killed him. He was holding only a BB gun.

Lane leaves behind two mothers and a younger brother. The shooting was ruled as justified.

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Andromeda Brown

Name: Andromeda Brown.
Died: June 21, 2016.
Age at death: 21.
Cause of death: Suicide (After long-term harassment).
Location: High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, England, UK.

Andromeda had autism and fibromyalgia. She had been bullied constantly over her lifetime. She was also having menstrual pain that was so bad she wanted a hysterectomy–but she was denied it because she was "a young woman".

Andromeda killed herself with an overdose of medication.

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Jia Jia Zhang

Photo of Jia Jia. He is a Chinese toddler dressed in a heavy coat and hat. An adult is pushing his chin up with a finger to make him look at the camera. He has his lips pursed as though he is kissing the camera.Name: Jia Jia Zhang
Died: April 27, 2016
Age at death: 3
Cause of death: Untreated pneumonia
Location: Guangzhou, China

When Jia Jia was diagnosed with autism, his mother began searching for a cure. When she read about a treatment center that claimed to have cured children of autism, she sent Jia Jia.

The autism "treatment center" where Jia Jia had been sent forced him to walk long distances each day. The toddler was made to walk 19 km a day while dressed in heavy coats, tied to a staff member by a rope to force him to keep going.

The center is run by a practitioner who believes that autism is a disease of spoiled, lazy rich children. The children were given a diet of rice, vegetables, and fruit (a protein-poor diet), force-fed water, and made to lie in hot saunas. They were cut off from all contact with their parents.

Jia Jia collapsed and died at the end of one of the long walks. He had been suffering from viral pneumonia for several weeks, and it had been untreated. Despite his fever and illness, he had been made to do the usual day's exercise. He wasn't taken to the hospital until he had been unconscious for half an hour.

A medical examiner concluded that Jia Jia died of "bleeding from the lungs and an inflammation of the brain, and hand, foot, and mouth disease", just a few months short of his fourth birthday.

The center was closed, and ten other children there were sent home.

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Elric Eiffert

Close-up photo of Elric Eiffert, somewhat blurred. He is a young man with fair skin and brown hair and eyes; his smile shows white, straight teeth.Name: Elric Eiffert
Died: April 13, 2016
Age at death: 34
Cause of death: Undetermined
Location: Maidstone, England, UK

Elric's family was initially told that he died because he drowned in the bathtub during a seizure. Since Elric had epilepsy, he should have been monitored during baths.

But the investigation into Elric's death hasn't yet come to a conclusion, and his family worry that there might be more to his death than simple negligence. During their last visit to him while he was alive, he was thin and shaky. When they went to view his body, they saw that Elric was emaciated and looked dirty and neglected.

The care home had a history of failing inspections because of an unsafe environment, with boiling water being left unattended in the kitchen and two incidents in which residents were given double the medication they should have had.

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Kayden Clarke

Photo of Kayden Clarke. He is a young man with short brown hair and glasses; he is smiling and holding up a small pillow decorated with a picture of a dog.Name: Kayden Clarke
Died: February 4, 2016
Age at death: 24
Cause of death: Police shooting
Location: Mesa, Arizona, USA

Kayden was active in the online autism community, posting videos of himself on YouTube in which he talked about autism and mental illness, about gender, and about his life in general. One of his videos received international attention; in it, Kayden shows how his dog Samson helps him pull through an autistic meltdown. As he begins to cry and hit himself, Samson insistently paws and nudges at him until finally Kayden sits down on the floor, holding and petting the dog.

Samson, a Rottweiler rescue dog, was Kayden’s service dog. Since the age of thirteen, Kayden had been doing volunteer work for HALO Animal Rescue, a no-kill dog shelter in Phoenix. He adopted Samson and found the dog to be an intelligent, calm, empathetic animal well-suited to be a service dog; so he and Samson began service dog training.

Kayden desperately wanted to go to college, but career coaches kept telling him he “wasn’t ready” and couldn’t do what he wanted to do. He had worked very hard at high school, earning a 3.7 grade point average despite a diagnosis of “cognitive impairment” and learning disability. Kayden posted a video explaining that they were denying him accommodations and refusing to even let him try college because of his disabilities; it was, he said, like “telling a kindergartner they were going to fail trigonometry”.

As an adult, still unwilling to give up on his dreams of college, Kayden got an apartment and a job at Target.

In addition to being autistic, Kayden faced prejudice because he was a transgender man. Assigned female at birth, by his twenties he was transitioning and had chosen Kayden Clarke as his new name. Like many transgender people, he struggled with depression; he had survived one suicide attempt two years previously. Because he was autistic, Kayden faced even more opposition from doctors than most transgender people; one doctor outright denied him hormone therapy.

Despite this, Kayden’s transition was going generally well. In December 2015 he excitedly announced to his YouTube followers that his insurance would pay for surgery. In January 2016, he came out at work and got a new name tag with his new name.

Police officers were called to Kayden’s home due to calls about a possibly suicidal individual there. When police arrived, they found Kayden holding a knife and shot him in the stomach, killing him.

The autism and transgender communities will always miss Kayden Clarke. Despite all the trouble he faced, Kayden was a loving individual who would have given his last dollar to a perfect stranger. He was an advocate for dogs, for individuals with autism, for people with mental illness, and for transgender people. Though he had to deal with so much hate from the world at large, Kayden’s life was still defined by his love for others.

Samson, Kayden’s faithful service dog, is now living with Kayden’s parents.

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