Murderers, Retards, and Geniuses.

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?

By Zephylance Lou

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.

(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.)

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16 Responses to Murderers, Retards, and Geniuses.

  1. Judy says:

    I love your blog for a multitude of reasons. For now all I will say is if people with any degree of autism should be locked up, then half of the NASA scientists will probably be included.

  2. nostromo says:

    It wouldn’t affect my decision. In fact if I thought Autism could make a child dangerous to others or themselves it would be counter-intuitive to my way of thinking to then waver on getting my child checked. On the issue of the shooter and his alleged Autism, even by the brief description of his behaviours you would have to admit on the balance of probabilities he does sound Autistic. Of course Autism does not make a person more dangerous, and probably arguably less so, but if a persons social isolation is severe and is caused by Autism, and the isolation leads to alienation and that incites them to do something like this – then the persons Autism has been a contributing factor. If that is the truth, then that needs to be acknowledged rare though it might be.
    Altogether everything about this is just very sad.

    • Nostromo, if you knew the diagnosis could put your child in danger from the sort of horrible things happening and being said to autistic people right now, I suspect you really would think twice. Any parent would. That you would still decide to get a diagnosis, doesn’t change the point.

      And no, it is far from obvious that the shooter had autism. In fact, a lot of the descriptors being used to say he might have had autism, are better understood in light of the much higher likelihood that he had psychopathy, which has actually being spoken about already by the experts, I’ll find you the link when I get the chance. Psychopathy is actually linked to mass murderers, so it makes a lot more sense than autism.

      Further, if the shooter did have autism, it really is irrelevant to the premeditated violence. It is relevant to small scale frustration and acting out, but not to what happened in that school. Autism – if he had it – did not contribute to what happened in any causative sense that requires autistic people to be treated the way they have been in the wake of this tragedy.

      I’m going to recommend you read the piece of mine I linked to at the end of my post, to see what conditions do actually have links to what happened, it’s important to know the difference and to know why people very wrongly confuse those conditions with autism.

      Here’s the link to the CNN video I mentioned, where psychopathy is talked about: http://edition.cnn.com/video/#/video/bestoftv/2012/12/19/exp-erin-ct-shooting-geneticist-joins-lanza-investigation-dr-drew.cnn?iref=allsearch

      And for the sake of easily finding it, here’s a link to my own post again, which also looks at the conditions that people are confusing with autism and why people get confused:
      https://autismandoughtisms.wordpress.com/2012/08/05/autism-the-wrong-answer-to-the-question-of-mass-murder/

      (I suppose I should add that I don’t want people in the three groups of mental illness that do tend to be relevant, to be targeted either. That would be cruel too. I just want to make it clear that the discussion about autism is not key to what happened, and if we want to have a meaningful discussion about what caused the shootings, we need to be careful what we’re targeting and how, to avoid unnecessary harm to completely innocent and non-violent people.)

      • keith says:

        If autistics are more commonly put in situations where they feel they have to kill people then that should be looked at rather than ignored. Politics shouldn’t come into it, we should search for the truth. The best response to hysterical idiots reacting against all autistics is not to blindly argue back but rather to investigate. Science is relentless, and it’s okay to admit we don’t currently understand something. Fwiw, I think both nostromo and I are autistic, and you’ll find that autistics aren’t easily damaged by untruths (e.g. malicious gossip will be met with annoyance that someone is wrong rather than emotional injury). So, don’t worry about people asking the question. All questions are to be welcomed.

      • Keith, do you honestly think more autistics are out there wanting to kill people than neurotypical people? If you want science, cite some study to back such a horrific suggestion. I have referenced and provided links to experts who themselves cite relevant studies and who have in-depth understanding of the various mental conditions that can be relevant to these situations. Feel free to click through on the many links I have supplied and read them for yourself.

      • nostromo says:

        The accounts I read of him describes him as a seemingly fearful person. Someone whose mother spoke for him. Someone who had severe deficits in interpersonal skills. Who dressed oddly, and always the same, and carried a briefcase to school.
        Rule orientated. It has even been described how meticulously careful he was about gun safety and protocol. Intelligent.
        Hardly ever talked. Didn’t have friends.
        I mean its just a couple of snippets, what does that sound like to you?
        – Turn it around IS there any other logical explanation for such behaviour?

        By contrast Psychopaths are generally good with people. Also they show lowered fear levels compared to a normal person.
        That doesn’t sound like this guy.

        As I said, and you have said, and nearly every other informed commentator has said Autism itself has no correlation with violence in general.

        But Autism often correlates to social isolation, loneliness, depression. We know that.

        From the link you provided it breaks mass killers down into three categories and one of those is the clinically depressed. One of the Columbine killers was extremely depressed. Also “78 percent of shooters had a history of suicide attempts or suicidal thoughts. Sixty-one percent had a documented history of extreme depression or desperation”.

      • keith says:

        That’s exactly my point. I don’t know whether autistics are unusually compelled to murder. I want science to answer the question. It’s helpful to admit we don’t have the answers until we go looking for them. Knowing that other groups of people are more likely to mass murder is useful in a rhetorical battle but it doesn’t address the question. Rhetorical battles are important in society because people are easily led and laws depend on the will of the masses, but I think the question of whether autistics are prone to violence is important because if the answer is “Yes” then we can ask “Why?” and “What can be done about it?”

        If the answer is yes and we decline to ask the question, no one can be helped.

      • Keith, the point is that studies show the answer to be “no.” To elaborate, autistics can be more violent on the small scale of lashing out in frustration at the moment of frustration, but they do not go around planning mass murder because of Aspergers. There is no link between Aspergers and the violence we are talking about here. It is an entirely different type of violence, premeditated mass murder is something special all of its own.

      • Nostromo, he could have had Aspergers and psychopathy. He could have had Aspergers and being suicidally depressed. In both those examples, the Aspergers is a side diagnosis to a much deeper, more serious, and more relevant problem; not the key to what happened. Focussing of the Aspergers – if it is even there, remember that he was never diagnosed and could not be from the grave – is like focussing on his eye colour or the shape of his mouth; it’s not key to the outcome of mass murder. It also gives us no power to stop this happening again, these events are extraordinarily rare and hardly if ever fully understood. That remains a cruel truth.

      • keith says:

        Maybe I should have clarified that obviously I don’t suspect there is a direct link between autism and violence, so at least everyone in this thread is on the same page. The further question of whether autistics are unusually subject to pressures that cause them to react violently is an important one that oughtn’t be swept under the carpet just because it makes us uncomfortable, or because it can be confused with a question that nobody sensible is asking.

      • Keith, I think I need to better explain my problem with raising that concern right now:

        Many many people are wrongly thinking Aspergers is linked with mass murder, and because they think this, many autistic people are afraid and their mothers and families are afraid, and with good reason, because autistics are already being targeted with hate speech and calls to exclude them from society. If there are issues around violence being done to and by those with autism, those questions are important – they were important a month ago and a month from now. But raising them as if they are central to what happened in Newtown – raising them as if they must be dealt with urgently in light of what happened – just perpetuates the wrong link between autism and mass murder that people have at this point in time. Too many people are making the link and acting on it, now is not the time to be pushing that separate (albeit important) agenda.

        I hope that makes sense. From what I can see we are largely in agreement on the important points.

      • keith says:

        Now is exactly the right time to ask why Adam Lanza killed lots of people. If he was autistic then now is the right time to ask why an autistic would kill lots of people. Like I said, I’m less interested in rhetorical battles and tabloid newspapers.

      • I don’t think I’ve got my point across, but that’s probably my fault for not expressing it clearly enough, not yours. Either that or we remains at odds about the damage this is doing and about what is truly in the best interests of autistic people in the current climate of fear and terror. So I’ll leave it at that with you Keith; at the “agree to disagree” status.

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