Blenheim woman Donella Knox details the struggles caring for her autistic daughter

Blenheim author Donella Knox, right, with her daughter Ruby.
SELINA POWELL/FAIRFAX NZ

Blenheim author Donella Knox, right, with her daughter Ruby.

This article about the book Rubies and Pearls, written by Blenheim woman Donella Knox, was first published on May 13, 2016. It gave an insight into the challenges Knox faced raising her autistic daughter Ruby. Three days after the article was published, Knox handed herself in to police, saying she had killed her daughter, and was subsequently charged with murder. Reporter Selina Powell, who wrote this article, was questioned by police during their investigations. Donella Knox was sentenced to four years in prison on December 16, 2016. Her name suppression was extended until the appeal period ended on Friday. We have republished Selina's story to provide context around the struggles Donella faced in the years before Ruby's death.

Writing is a form of therapy for Donella Knox.

The Blenheim resident has written a book about her experience as a sole caregiver for her 20-year-old autistic daughter Ruby. 

Rubies and Pearls, published in April, details five years in the lives of Donella and Ruby.

Ruby, who has spina bifida and cannot speak, suffered from a series of health problems growing up. 

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Donella says she did not intend to write a novel when she started writing about life with Ruby. 

"Sometimes I would be feeling despairing or alone and sad at our situation.

"Any strong emotion that was overwhelming me, I would write it out. 

"I found it helped. It was almost like I became my own best friend." 

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Ruby struggled with pain and would sometimes get aggressive, head butting and biting Donella. 

Donella says it was difficult to find respite carers for her daughter because of her behaviour.

Slowly their social contact became virtually non-existent, Donella says. 

"I tried really hard to do normal everyday social things but it was so difficult because everywhere we went someone would be hurt." 

Ruby became less aggressive after surgery helped ease some of her pain. 

The surgery also meant Ruby became more responsive and was able to interact with people. 

"She would give me little kisses instead of head butts." 

Donella says she hopes other caregivers will read her experiences of looking after Ruby and feel less alone.

"I felt my story needed to be heard.

"People don't know what goes on behind closed doors. There might be others in similar situations." 

Rubies and Pearls is available through Blenheim company Prisma Print and online as an Amazon eBook. 

 - The Marlborough Express

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