Murderer, retard, genius. Hacker, monster, miracle with super-human senses.
What is my son to you? What does the word “autism” tell you?
It tells you that he meets the current criteria for a developmental delay. That he falls in to one of five separate conditions that come under the autism spectrum umbrella. Do you know which of the five he is? Do you know the difference between each kind? No?
Let me help you. He has “classic autism.” OK, so can you now tell me what criteria he met to receive that diagnosis? How severely his condition affects him? Whether it makes him violent or gentle, beautiful or ugly, brilliant or moronic?
You can tell me none of those things, because none of them are predetermined by his autism. None. You don’t know his personality, what he wants to do with his life, what he is capable and incapable of. Yet children like my child, are tainted and dismissed and held up in awe, by a confused and misinformed public, looking for easy answers and tidy boxes for messy realities.
The school shooter in the US is just the most recent taint, but is by far the harshest one I have had to witness since my son’s diagnosis. The shooter may or may not have had Aspergers, there is no simple biological post-death test to ascertain this, and with his mother also gone it is unlikely we would ever come close to having enough information to ascertain it. Yet the suggestion that he did, that mere suggestion, has set an enraged and uninformed public lashing out at all autistics. Calling for those with autism to be locked up, to be identified and removed from public.
Even as professionals and experts in multiple fields keep writing and telling them that autism and Aspergers have nothing to do with such a premeditated violent act, these members of the public still set up hateful Facebook groups and send hate mail and leave threatening comments on blogger’s posts, taking it out on completely innocent bystanders who themselves are still reeling from the horror of the shooting. They even ask government agencies to locate and investigate autistic individuals due to concern that they must be the next mass shooter by virtue of their diagnosis.
In the current climate, if you were concerned your child had a developmental delay and needed extra help, do you honestly think you’d go for that help? Or would you be terrified that an autism diagnosis might mark them out as something to be vilified and punished in society? People already have very many reasons to avoid getting a confirmed diagnosis – whether for their child or themselves – this extra reason would easily force them away from that important investigation.
So is that what the public wants: a larger number of undiagnosed children (and adults) not receiving the help they need; gentle kind children being told that they are destined to become mass murderers whether they want to or not; an increase in violent and verbal bullying against innocent children and families who have done no one any harm and are unlikely to ever do so? All for what? What will it get you, what is the point of all this terror?
You want an answer to the horror, you want a reason for the unspeakable, you want to stop it happening again. You want what we all want. Then know this: Autism is not your answer. Autism is many things, hugely diverse, beautiful and scary, but whatever it is and can be, it is NOT the answer to the question of mass murder.
- “Armchair Diagnoses Mislead Us About Sandy Hook Shooting” Slate, Medical Examiner.
- “It’s NOT Autism.” Just a Lil’ Blog.
- “Asperger’s, Autism, Not Linked to Violence: Experts.” US News, Health.
- “Autism experts say no evidence of link between Asperger’s and violence like in Conneticut.” Montreal Gazette.
- “A Letter to Elizabeth J. A. ” Yeah. Good Times.
- “Dear Elizabeth, who thinks that all autistic people should be locked up.” Disability and Representation.
- “The Media’s Post-Newtown Autism Fail.” Mother Jones.
(There are many other excellent pieces out there too, if you would like me to add specific ones you’ve found helpful, let me know through the comments below.)