Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Autism and Violence

Lots of people are talking about violence and autism and you can almost feel it in the air that autistics are about to be tarred like pit bulls with the brush "Dangerous." (And, as with pit bulls, this is utter and unfounded nonsense.) Parents and mental health professionals are weighing in. The media is running with it. Adam Lanza. James Holmes. Jared Loughner.
“Psychobabble reported by the media undermines psychiatry as science,” the [American Psychiatric Association]’s former president, Herbert Sacks, wrote in the late 1990s in a column explaining the history of the [Goldwater] rule. (Covering "Crazy", Columbia Journalism Review)
It's unethical, unprofessional, illogical and just plain stupid to diagnose someone based on the reports of friends, family or neighbors. Being weird in school doesn't mean someone is autistic. Being super-smart but socially awkward is not a diagnosis. Even if Adam Lanza's brother is correct when he says that his brother was autistic, it's still not a diagnosis. He said himself he hadn't spoken to his brother in years. Does he know or is he speculating? And is it appropriate to spew that information to the media?

My daughter isn't an Aspie. She's probably not in much danger of being labeled a killer. Probably. But you can bet your ass I'll be hesitant to share with people (face to face) that she's autistic, something I've never hesitated about before.

When moms like this one write about their kids as being violent, it's not helpful. If your child is violent and autistic, people hear "autistic" and assume violence going forward, when that is simply not the case. People who are in despair over their child's behavioral issues only make things worse for people whose children do not have behavioral problems. Don't lump my kid in with yours, sister. Get help. Help for you, help for your son, but don't try to make it sound like autistics are violent people.

I'm not going to rehash all the news. Here's some links worth reading:
Link between autism and planned violence discounted by experts 
Groups: Autism not to blame for violence
Don’t Blame Autism For Violence, Advocates Say
Asperger's, Autism Not Linked to Violence: Experts
Unfortunately, the more far-fetched an idea, the more appealing it often is to the media, and while it’s natural to ask questions about a gunman’s mental health in the wake of a shooting spree, some outlets inevitably reach too far.  (Lanza, autism and violence, Columbia Journalism Review)
Sensationalism has always been used to sell copy, but this irresponsible behavior is going to hurt an entire community of people who are already struggling to get recognition that they are capable people who deserve respect and basic civil rights. 

No comments: