Friday, August 1, 2014

Flawed Fein Autism Study- "Optimal Outcome" Ignores Actual Autism

The New York Times published an article with the title The Kids Who Beat Autism. I do not have time to dissect the article bit by bit, because I am busy trying to function in a world that demands that I appear "indistinguishable" from non-autistics, who certainly are NOT my "peers."

An important post about the idea of "optimal" and the effects of the pressure of that on Autistics can be found here: The unrecovered.

What I will do is post some quotes from the article itself that show that, yes, these young adults and teens are still Autistic, that is, still on the autism spectrum. I am talking about autism itself, which is a pervasive developmental disability, not whether or not some researcher or therapist has pronounced the person "symptom-free." Note that the non-autistic researchers try to have their cake and eat it too, claiming both that the person is now completely non-autistic yet at the same time has "residual symptoms." Hello. The "symptoms" aren't "residual" any more than "side effects" of medications aren't actual effects.

"By then, it had been three years since a specialist concluded that despite some lingering social deficits, Mark no longer met the criteria for autism."

"Fein’s study found that formerly [sic] autistic people often have residual symptoms, at least initially; these include social awkwardness, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, repetitive movement, mild perseverative interests and subtle difficulties in explaining cause and effect. For Mark, the main remnant is his continued disgust at food that he considers slimy, like omelets, and his dislike for the texture of paper, which he avoids."

"Mild echoes from his autistic days remain. He told me that he still can’t stand wearing tight or stiff clothes, so he opts for sweatpants or loose khakis instead of jeans. And even though he’s a jokester himself, by his own reckoning he still occasionally has difficulty figuring out when someone else is kidding."

"When Matt is by himself watching an exciting game on TV, Laurie sometimes passes by and sees him flap his hands. “It just seems like a leftover from the autism.

"...although he battled A.D.H.D. and occasional social anxiety..."  

Important for any parents reading this:

"[Ari] Ne’eman says society’s effort to squelch autism parallels its historical effort to suppress homosexuality — and is equally detrimental. He points out that in the 1960s and ‘70s, Lovaas’s team used A.B.A. on boys with “deviant sex-role behaviors,” including a 4-year-old boy whom Lovaas called Kraig, with a “swishy” gait and an aversion to “masculine activities.” Lovaas rewarded “masculine” behavior and punished “feminine” behavior. He considered the treatment a success when the boy looked “indistinguishable” from his peers. Years later, Kraig came out as gay, and at 38 he committed suicide; his family blamed the treatment."

Back to quotes from the article.

"I asked him if there was anything he missed about being autistic. “I miss the excitement,” he said. “When I was little, pretty often I was the happiest a person could be. It was the ultimate joy, this rush in your entire body, and you can’t contain it. That went away when my sister started teasing me and I realized flapping wasn’t really acceptable. Listening to really good music is the main time I feel that joy now. I still feel it in my whole body, but I don’t outwardly react to it like I used to.”

Too bad he traded the joy in for "indistiguishability." It's his choice of course, at least now that he is an adult, but I think the idea that we can "recover" from autism is going to make a lot more parents push their children to trade joy for a pseudo-normalcy they (we) can't ever quite attain. To most people I "look" typical. Then they get to know me. Most of them keep their distance once they sense (even if they don't know) that I am not quite like them.

To the parents who did not tell their son he was Autistic until he was 12 or 13- you don't tell a young teen anything about themselves that has the potential of completely changing their self-perception. The early teen years used to be a typical age to draw adopted children aside and say, in grave tones, "Son/daughter, there's something we need to tell you." It has had devastating effects on some people. Read the literature by LDA's (Late Discovery Adoptees)* and learn something. You don't disclose something that will change their entire perception of themselves to a middle-schooler! Tell them when they are babies, tell them again when they are toddlers, tell them when they are in elementary school, and please don't make a big neurotypical drama out of it.

I wish all of the young people in this article well in their lives. Let no one define YOUR "optimal outcome" for YOU.

For a more complete analysis of concerns about this study, read ASAN's statement, drafted by Research Committee Chair Steven Kapp.

ASAN Statement on Fein Study on Autism and “Recovery”

"Indeed, the study failed to investigate executive functioning, mental health, academics, or even the current nonsocial behaviors of ASD. It allowed the youth paraded as “optimal outcomes” and the “typically developing” control group to be disabled in any of these and other areas. The authors’ failure to measure distress or specifically report current restricted, repetitive behavior and interests (RRBIs)  are alarming, given that solid measures included in the study cover these areas. The lack of attention to RRBIs is even more concerning given not only their inclusion in the ASD diagnosis, but also that the study reported on RRBIs for all Autistic participants as young children. In fact, the supposedly “optimal” individuals had comparable RRBI scores to the other Autistics. The authors even acknowledge that across the lifespan, Autistics tend to appear more socially typical over time, while RRBIs remain much more obvious."

*LDA reference. Look at the parallels with the way Autistics are "normalized" and encouraged to give up JOY because it will cut down on the teasing. From an article on Late Discovery Adoption:

"In the structure of the LDA's family, the lie serves to protect and cover the perceived shameful "abnormality" of adoption. LDA families appear "normal", and the entire family, the LDA included, is presumed to benefit from this normality, in comparison with other adoptive families. Some family members reap more of this alleged benefit than others, however."

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Statement on Isla Vista Murder Incident

People often post "trigger warnings" (TW) to alert people that a topic may affect people who have PTSD or are sensitive to certain topics. I am preferring to call this a "sensitivity warning" right now. This post may need a warning. Another note is that I have removed the murderer's name from the body of the post, although not the URL, as I can't change that. He wanted attention. I will give him as little as possible.

Another shooting has taken place. The most important thing to remember at a time like this are the victims and their families. The horror and sadness, and feelings of helplessness that surround this incident and any seemingly senseless taking of innocent human lives can be overwhelming. My heart is full of sadness for the victims and their families, and also full of anger at the shooter.

(Sensitivity warning): As a parent I empathize with the parents and family members who have lost loved ones. As a person who has faced (and lived to tell about) the fear that comes with having a gun pointed at your head, I empathize with the sheer terror that must have been present in every victim of this awful crime. 

I am not prepared to divulge details about being a gun-related crime victim (don't bother asking*) but I am bringing it up for the first time because people think "Autistics don't have empathy." Yes, we do, and we are more often victims than perpetrators when it comes to a "link" between autism and violence. Violence against Autistics is a demonstrable real link. The equation of "autism" with "killer" is not. That I write almost immediately about violence against Autistics and media irresponsibility in this blog post does not mean that I do not care about the victims or their families. I do, very much.

I spent many hours last week countering the negligent article by the Washington Post, covering a poorly-designed study that claimed a link between autism, head injury and violence. (Autism Mass Murder Link? Washington Post Needs to Learn to FACT CHECK) My analysis shows that only one of the "six top killers" analyzed had an autism diagnosis, and the "best resource" given for that is sketchy at best. That one person ended up not killing anyone, although he did try to.

I took the weekend off to work and spend time with my child. When I got online to check in with a friend, I saw the headlines about the murder. My first thought was "Oh no, all my work down the drain, if the killer is Autistic." But it is not really that way at all.

Once again, I see media attempts to stress "Asperger's," and once again it turns out that the killer did not have an Asperger's diagnosis, even after years of therapy. I hope that autism does not get an unwarranted amount of focus, as it always has in other cases, whether or not the person actually was on the autism spectrum. Sadly, the takeaway for many people is "the killer had Asperger's," even when it turns out that he did not. (Autism, Aurora Shooter, and Actual Crime Statistics-Update)

In the current killings, one NBC article says "Shifman, the family attorney, said the murderer was being treated by "several" medical professionals for a form of Asperger syndrome, a disorder on the autism spectrum." The article also contains a link to an article that says Asperger's and violence are not linked, which is nice, but that link, even if people click on it, will probably do little to deter the "link" in the public mind, once autism has been brought up. Other news outlets are following suit, not even bothering to fact check. They are quite willing to state that he had an Asperger's diagnosis but that Asperger's has not been linked to violence. In this way, they bring it up to get as much attention as possible for their article, but then backpedal and say "but there's no link to autism." If no link, why bother talking about it? Nothing I can find at this time, which is 3:24 pm on May 26, is a stronger statement than what the lawyer said. 

One article (probably more since many are copycat articles) now conflates Asperger's with gun use. Am I to assume that the person firing multiple rounds from an automatic rifle in my rural neighborhood this morning "as Asperger's?" No, most gun owners are neurotypical. Why put both topics in the same sentence? It does seem a bit purposeful to say "had Asperger's but no history of gun use" as though they are somehow linked. Oh wait. They ARE linked, in the media and public mind.

"Shifman said <the murderer> had been diagnosed at a young age with Asperger's syndrome, a mild form of autism, but did not have a history of gun use."

It turns out that he had no Asperger's (autism) diagnosis: "Astaire said <he> had not been diagnosed with Asperger’s but the family suspected he was on the spectrum, and had been in therapy for years." ( One would assume that after being in therapy for years, a person would have gotten a definitive diagnosis at some point. 

And now another article brings out the (non-autistic) experts, who say, belatedly, that autism/Asperger's should not be brought up. It's quite predictable. It's almost an industry. More articles generated on the topic of "violence and autism." I think I am supposed to feel grateful. It's better than not saying anything at all, but of people would actually quit talking about "autism and violence" we Autistics would be safer in this world. (

Update: I have NO intention of purposely writing anything that is misinformation. I am committed to accuracy. Just like the media I criticize, I can make mistakes. Unlike the media (most of the time), I am willing to print corrections. Someone has told me that one news report says the murderer did have "Asperger's." I have not been able to find it in the deluge of media reports and blog entries online. If someone posts the link (if any) I will make a note of it. Nothing else changes. The Sandy Hook Elementary shooter did have an Asperger's diagnosis and I did not shy away from that. Do not blame "autism" or "Asperger's" for something that a tiny fraction of human beings, Autistic or not, ever do.What I have found is what was above- "An attorney for the killers's father said he was diagnosed as a high-functioning patient with Asperger's syndrome and had trouble making friends." And then the friend of the family saying no diagnosis. Lawyer report or friend report, it's not definitely clear that he did have Asperger syndrome, BUT TODAY THE MEDIA including The Scotsman, The Guardian, The Telegraph and too many others, are all reporting Asperger's. So, we have a credibility problem. We is the majority of Autistics who never would kill anyone, who hate violence, who are appalled at this heinous killing, and who fear that we will be targeted like Autistic schoolchildren were after the Sandy Hook shootings. I have also read a couple of articles that skip over naming sources and just say "He was diagnosed with Asperger's as a child." Since these articles also use the exact language of other articles, I am assuming for now that they are also copycat articles and that the author does not have a secret source of information.

As I said in 2012 when writing about the Sandy Hook shootings, "As an Autistic mother, though, I have to think about the effect of media on children with disabilities and mental health conditions, children who may be frightened about their futures because of a determinism that says 'You might grow up to be a killer if you are Autistic.'" (Mother with Asperger Syndrome Grieves Sandy Hook Elementary Victims)

Although I am quite certain that people who kill other people need to be understood, and that "we" as a society need to learn about what could prevent more killings, including gun control, says this survivor of gun violence, I have no patience or respect for individuals who take out other people before killing themselves or who kill innocent victims for whatever reason, whether or not they themselves survive.


 *I am probably not comfortable with posting comments that refer to this part of the post, so please do not write any. I would prefer to focus on the victims of this current crime.


Autism Mass Murder Link? Washington Post Needs to Learn to FACT CHECK

Washington Post: retract the article "‘Significant’ statistical link between mass murder and autism, brain injury."

ASAN Statement on Media Claims Linking Autism and Violence 

AWN Statement on Media Responsibility When Reporting About Autism and Violence

What Mass Killers Want—And How to Stop Them

Autistics for Accuracy in Media Reporting

Tool Kit of Resources from the Autistic Community

Experts: No Link Between Asperger's and Violence. Washington Post Reporter Clouds the Issues  

More on the Link between Autism and Violence

Disability Community Across the Country Mourns Disabled People Murdered by Family Members and Caregivers

This Is Aperger's. This Is Autism.

Mother with Asperger Syndrome Grieves Sandy Hook Elementary Victims 

I will add more links when I get a chance. 

Image of Paula Durbin-Westby on NBC 12 in Richmond Virginia after Sandy Hook shootings. Text says "12 on your side- Parent defends children with autism." I did the interview after media "reporting" linking autism and violence prompted a backlash against students including elementary school children .

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Autism Mass Murder Link? Washington Post Needs to Learn to FACT CHECK

Everything. But. The. Kitchen. Sink.

NOTE: I strongly suggest not clicking on the links to the "study" or the Washington Post article. Although I am using to access the articles, which means that they will not move up higher in search engines, I also really do not want them to get that much attention. They are online though, and can be found in a search, so should be countered. This blog post can be found in any search for the topic, as can those by Emily Willingham and John Elder Robison.

I never saw such a hodge-podge of cobbled-together stuff as the article Neurodevelopmental and psychosocial risk factors in serial killers and mass murderers , written by several researchers, including Clare Allely, and published in the journal "Aggression and Violent Behavior."

Once again I am having to counter speculation about a link between autism and serial killers/mass murderers. Speculation can come from all sorts of sources. In this case, the speculators are people who apparently passed some sort of peer review, even though their article contains within it the seeds of its own credibility problems.

I can only highlight some of the many things wrong with this article. I don't have days to do the research necessary to ferret out every single erroneous and/or misleading and/or inaccurate and/or wild guessing-type comment. So here goes.

I did some of the research that Washington Post writer Terrence McCoy should have done, or that the editor who approved this sensationalist garbage should have done. I hope I can even begin to counter the Post's negligence toward people who have an autism diagnosis. I am referring to the article luridly titled  Study: ‘Significant’ statistical link between mass murder and autism, brain injury"  

NEW: Please sign the petition to the Washington Post and share. Please do NOT directly link to the WP article or the "study" but use the donotlink links, so those pages will not move up in popularity. 

Washington Post: retract the article "‘Significant’ statistical link between mass murder and autism, brain injury." 

This post will show that, rather than a significant statistical link between autism and mass murder, all that can be found is that links exist when one googles (or does other searches) for two related terms. Much of the "literature" about autism is speculation and opinion. To search for two terms in that opinionated and often biased literature does not mean a link exists between actual autism and actual murder. It means that many written materials include both terms.
 Literature reviews are supposed to have some standards. While the authors claim to have conducted a "systematic review, following PRISMA guidelines," one has to wonder that the inclusion of "murderpedia," "" and the "dailymail," a British tabloid newspaper, ( as reliable sources of information that is going to be used to make a scientific claim.

"Among all the 239 eligible killers, 28.03% (N = 67) had definite, highly probable or possible ASD." It turns out that only 6 had "definite" ASD and of those 6, several have no reliable sources to back up the diagnosis and at least one contains testimony by an expert witness that the killer did not have an autism diagnosis.

The authors go on to say that "most of the literature is anecdotal and speculative," but go on to make their own speculative statements seem factual and important.

Some authors have suggested a link between autism and violent killing. Nothing new there, but for these authors, "this has led us to explore the phenomenon of serial and mass killings in relation to these risk factors in a unique systematic review of the literature" I will say that it is somewhat unique to get away with using tabloids and "pedias" that are collections of news articles in what purports to be a serious research endeavor. One of the authors is a Michael Fitzgerald, who writes a book that suggests "a new diagnostic Criminal Autistic Psychopathy, which he identifies as a subcategory of Asperger’s syndrome. This has had a far greater explanatory power than previously realised. Persons with callous, unemotional traits - often called empathy deficits - are very much associated with Autistic Psychopathy" Fitzgerald falls squarely in the camp of people who think that we have "unemotional traits," lack empathy, and that therefore we are criminals in the making. You can't prediagnose someone as a criminal.

See Emily Willingham's excellent article for a reminder to these authors that Asperger's is no longer a category, as well as a scientific takedown of the whole article. 

Back to Fitzgerald for a moment. His book has the look of a sensationalist, popular book, with a picture of a fist and red, swirly, "angry"-looking airbrushed background and three people, I suppose someone's idea of what a Criminal Autistic Pyschopath might look like. At any rate, this Fitzgerald book, along with the murderpedia and tabloid citations, is the centerpiece of a paragraph that concludes that, therefore, a systematic review is needed that puts together autism, psychosocial stressors, and head injury. Head injuries, it turns out, were not correlated AT ALL with autism in this study, by the author's own admission.

"Because the peer-reviewed literature was so limited, we paid particular attention to additional sources of literature. These included online articles; newspaper articles; court transcripts and in particular two comprehensive online resources: (1) (The Encyclopedia of Murderers) which has 5410 entries," although only 34 hits show up if you do a search on "autism," and 36 if you search on "Asperger's" (some of these overlap, so it's not even 70, out of the "5410 entries!!!) If you go to murderpedia and do a search on "autism," in the first seven hits are FIVE people who MURDERED AUTISTICS, not the other way around. The other two, William Freund and Jeffrey Dahmer, are often speculated to have Asperger's, although to my knowledge, they did not have any formal diagnosis. With most of the perpetrators who are said to be Autistic, the "diagnosis" was done posthumously, or from a distance, by an "expert" who said the person appeared "unemotional." Few of the perpetrators seem to have an actual autism diagnosis, although I have not read all the profiles, as I am trying to get this blog entry out. The list goes on from there but I do not have time to look at all of it at this time.

OK, let's look at the conflation of various conditions that were looked at in this "systematic review:" "Certainly the combined effects of psychosocial stressors, head injury, and ASD have never previously been examined in a systematic review." There is NOT ONE study, including this one, that cites an actual relationship between head injury, ASD, and violence. Let's look at this sentence:

"most research and speculation has centered around the role of ASD (Silva et al., 2004) and head injury (Freedman and Hemenway, 2000, Grafman et al., 1996, Langevin et al., 1988, Pallone and Hennessy, 1998 and Sarapata et al., 1998." One might suppose that this sentence shows that a connection has been seen between ASD, head injury, and violence. NO. Of these citations, the first (Silva) is about autism, and the others are about head injuries (and also about "transvestism,""sadism," brain injuries in Vietnam veterans, and traumatic brain injuries and violence), but not traumatic brain injuries, autism, and violence. NOTHING in the studies cited shows a link between these three variables. Just because researchers do a systematic literature review using quite a few variables does not mean the variables are linked at all.

The authors also throw adoption into the mix, although adoption presumably has not one thing to do with autism or head injuries. Adoption is in there because, from the citations that I could view, non-adopted people presume that an adoptee has all kinds of unresolved "emotional hunger" issues that could lead them to be violent. Like no non-adopted people have "emotional hunger" issues, or, if they do, they don't kill people, but adoptees do? So, I went back to that key resource, murderpedia, and put in the word "adopt." I found pages and pages of adopted children who had been murdered, not the other way around, and a few instances where a person who was adopted committed a murder and the defense used "adopted" as a strategy, and a lot of instances of "adopt" as in "the court adopts such-and-such measure." It looks like in some cases the murderer adopted children so that she or he would have more kids to murder. I am not assuming that there is something about being an adopted child that makes people want to murder you, and I will not be accepting comments that suggest that there is. Why the writers of this article put in adoption is not clear at all. Note that the keywords chosen for this article (who did the choosing???) are:

  • Autistic Spectrum Disorder;
  • Serial killer;
  • Mass murder;
  • Brain injury;
  • Psychosocial stressors
but not "adoption," "narcissism" -which the authors try to equate with autism, by the way: "It has also been suggested that autistic psychopathology may be an important factor in promoting dangerous sexual fantasies in some serial killers." Who is the "it" in "it has been suggested?" No, you don't get to get away with using the passive voice to hide lack of a good citation. Specify your sources.

Speaking of sources, "Of the 165 articles/books/web resources included in the results section, there were: [only] 22 were peer reviewed articles, 118 web resources, 20 books, 4 book chapters, and 1 policy/public report."

The methods here are really- "Just do a Google search!" 

" The name of the killer was entered into the search engine ‘Google’ followed by ‘AND’ and each of the following search terms were explored separately: ‘brain’; ‘head injury’; ‘asperger’; ‘autis*’" 

and, if they came up with something, that counted as significant, I guess. So, if, say, Joe Scarborough opined that a killer was Autistic, that counted.  Autism, Aurora Shooter, and Actual Crime Statistics-Update  For all I know, my own blog entries were used. For example,  Mother with Asperger Syndrome Grieves Sandy Hook Elementary Victim does have the words "autism," "Asperger's," "killer," and even "dangerous loner." 

A Venn diagram is labeled "Venn Diagram shows the proportion and overlaps between both head injury and/or ASD and psychosocial stressors," but neglects to say that it is an overlap based on whether or not a Google search, a speculative article, or a book, was used to show the "overlap."

Now, let us look at the SIX, yes, ONLY SIX, out of "239 killers" who had a "definitive autism diagnosis" and one of these other factors. Not ONE of them had a "head injury" listed. All of them had "psychosocial factors." Most people who kill have "psychosocial factors." Most people have "psychosocial" difficulties at one point or another, although they might be mild, and most of them don't kill people.  Let's look at the "best resource" listed. (Washington Post, you do this along with me.)

Of SIX out of 239, 0r 2.5% of the sample, with a "definitive" autism diagnosis, one was refuted by the psychiatrist who did a psychiatric report for the defense, one had an Asperger's dx along with paranoid schizophrenia diagnosis (I am not blaming one dx or the other, just noting this), one has no available information online and also is very anti-immigrant, and immigrants were his targets, one has no information available, and the last one says "mild autism" but does not have link to any further information. NOTE: One person has suggested that I am implying schizophrenia (or substitute any other mental health condition) is to blame. I am not doing that. I am pointing out that the authors cherry pick through diagnoses and information, including leaving out diagnoses, leaving out hate and xenophobia, and if we add the Isla Vista murders (which happened after I wrote this blog post), perhaps extreme misogyny and hatred of women.

1. Martin Bryant. The sources given were either not adequate, did not mention autism, or were inaccessible to me. I found this: It is the actual psychiatric report submitted. I could say "You would think the authors would use this source" but I am, at this point, saying nothing of the sort. It's really dismaying that I can find this when they can't. Yet they are getting MAJOR MEDIA ATTENTION THAT IS GOING TO MAKE THINGS WORSE FOR AUTISTIC PEOPLE. "Mr Bryant also lacks, in my opinion, the central features of this condition which are repetitive activities, unusual skills with all absorbing obsessive interests and problems with motor coordination. He also showed marked delay in the acquisition of language skills and required remedial therapy for this language deficit which is contrary to the picture found in those with Asperger's Syndrome."

2. Robert Clive Napper. Had an Aperger's diagnosis and also paranoid schizophrenia, which, interestingly, was not in the laudry list of stuff "systematically reviewed" above.

3. John Ausonius. I found no references to autism. I found a LOT of xenophobia and hatred of "immigrants and foreigners."  Unless the authors are prepared to say that every racist and xenophobic person is Autistic (and discounting those of us who are anti-racist), I think I have said enough here. Produce an actually "definitive" diagnosis/link and I will change this one.

4. Nicky Reilly. Has an Asperger's diagnosis. He did not kill anyone, although he intended to. Once again, we need to talk about the other factors that are conveniently left out in this "research." Reilly was groomed by extremists who encouraged him to commit an act of terrorism. This is a touchy subject, but unless we are prepared to say that every person who commits or intends to commit an act of terrorism "has Asperger's," we need to proceed with caution when picking out only one aspect of a person and demonizing that. (

5. Ragnar Nillson. I can find nothing about him in English, and nothing that is not a media article.

6. Cary Stayner. The Radford resource says he has a "mild autism" diagnosis. The murderpedia link also given has nothing about autism. Some news articles also mention mild autism. This is the stuff of literature reviews? I AM NOT IMPRESSED. I AM ANGRY.

The "best resources available" for the following three murderers are all the same link, to an article in which "Han har påfallende mange av symptomene. Han framstår svært organisert, fiksert og ekstremt målbevisst på et hovedmål." which violates the author's own exclusion criteria of not using non-English language sources. But, since the same article is used for all three murderers, it must be an editing error. Editing errors happen, but they should be corrected before publication.

Let me put in my own research here, which is based neither on tabloids, popular books, or murderpedia sites. It is based on FBI Uniform Crime Report statistics and figures that the Autism Society (USA) obtained a number of years ago.

In 2007, the Autism Society reported that 22 people in a 5-year period used Asperger syndrome as a defense in a violent crime case, or about 4.5 per year. For comparison, the FBI Uniform Crime Report statistics for 2006, shows 1,417,745 violent crimes committed. 4.5 of almost 1.5 million violent crimes. Clearly, autism is not the prime suspect in violent crimes of any type.

The link to the FBI Uniform Crime Reports that I used to find violent crime statistics for just one year (a year close to the years used by the Autism Society) is here:

Two images are below. They contain a lot of text. I will put a transcript and description of the text at the end of the blog rather than in a caption, which would be very long. The first image is the Allely Venn diagram that is being widely disseminated in the news media. The other is the chart of six killers with a "definite" diagnosis of ASD, head injury, and "psychosocial stressors." Please scroll to the bottom of this page to find the transcripts. 

Image of the Allelly et al. Venn diagram that attempts to show a link between autism and killers. The diagram actually proves that there is no link. I have inserted comments, one of which is "Only 6, not 67, of the 239 killers have "definite" autism diagnoses, according to authors, and only ONE (1) of those can be verified using authors' reources. The one person who is said to have an Asperger's dx did not actually kill anyone, although he intended to. He was part of a terrorist group. This fact should be accounted for in some way rather than picking out one aspect of a person." Other diagnoses and social and other life circumstances are conveniently brushed under the rug by the authors.

Original post of the Venn diagram. I have made more changes in the larger one above but am leaving this since many people are linking to it. If you got here via another link, please read the entire post here:

WASHINGTON POST, how about you do some FACT CHECKING before you come out with your sensationalist headline "Study: Significant statistical link between mass murder and autism, brain injury." Print an apology, a retraction, or other follow-up indicating that your headline is faulty, misleading, and discriminatory toward people with disabilities including autism.

A link to this blog post-

Image of me at NBC 12 in Richmond, VA, USA, after the Sandy Hook shootings. People were speculating that Autistics are violent and Autistic children were getting harassed at school. The caption says "12 on your side. Parent defends children with autism."

Image 1: Venn diagram, including the text "

Allely et al. have a study that attempts to show a linkage between autism, head injury, and mass murder/serial killing. The study does nothing of the sort, although it makes the attempt. I apologize for the small print in this chart. Since the chart is being copied by news outlets using the sensational headline “Recipe for a serial killer?” I decided to use the author’s own chart to refute the alarmist “recipe” hype. This current “study” is just another version of the damaging stereotypes of autism that are negligently and deliberately put out by the media and researchers looking to cash in on popular and discriminatory images of autism."

Image 2: Chart of six killers with a "definite" ASD diagnosis. Only one, Reilly, has information that suggests a definite diagnosis. The others are not verifiable with the information given by the study authors.

Other links: 


Friday, May 2, 2014

Murder of Autistics- Excuses, Excuses

Another murder of an Autistic person has taken place. Because I have several time-consuming things going on, I thought I would simply monitor the Autistic Community Vigil site and post links. I should have known better.

Whenever the murder of an Autistic or other disabled person takes place, something very predictable happens. Disabled people and some nondisabled people who are horrified by the murder condemn it publicly. Other people, and they seem to be in the majority, which is utterly scary, come out in defense of the murder and/or (and please note, I do actually understand the points of view of these people, but do not condone them and find them problematic) aspects of the murder situation. Yes, I am talking about those people who bring up lack of services and supports as reasons for murder, often veering off suddenly, when challenged, into "Well, you don't have compassion  for the 'mother'!" [scare quotes around the word mother are mine]. A few times I have been genuinely surprised, thinking that the person did want to have a discussion about services and supports, even though there is a grave error in conflating the two distinctly separate topics of 1. murder and 2. services and supports. All too often, it turns out that the person wants to talk about services and supports in the context of saying that we should feel sorry for the murderer. As parent and advocate Shannon Des Roches Rosa points out in her writings and in the interview linked below, this linkage of services and murder can lead to the literally dangerous thought processes that surround "give us resources or our kids will die."

The reason I am writing yet another blog post about murders of Autistics is that I have heard some  new excuses for murder this time. I thought I had heard it all over the years. I hadn't. I am going to put in some actual quotes, although I will not identify the person who said them or where I got them.

The weather. I kid you not. More than one person talking about how we should have compassion for Robert Robinson's "mother" brought up the fact that Prince Rupert, the location where they lived, has dismal weather.

Other people, more than one, say that "his mother did what she thought was for the best." Some even have asked for certitude that their Autistic family member would be OK in a foster or other situation, if they had to make the choice of giving them up (in the case where the person was seriously considering or about to murder someone). The last time I thought about it, there is no certitude whatsoever in life. If having to be certain of someone's entire future before committing a murder is a requirement for not doing it, then almost everyone has the perfect excuses to murder anyone else (disabled or not), due to worry that they are "not going to be OK" at some point. I am so grateful that the law does not accept "I was worried about my family member, so I killed them in cold blood" as an excuse.

More than one person has called the murder of 16 year old Robert Robinson an "infanticide." Infancy ends way before age 16. There is no excuse for murdering an infant, either.

Mental illness is trotted out as an excuse. This is not new but I would like to mention it. "Who's the real victim....the child or the parent" is a common refrain. My response to this particular person was "The real victim is the murdered person. That's pretty simple. In the case of suicide, the person still actually MURDERED another human being before they took their own life. If you want to kill yourself, don't take out other people." I have nothing but disrespect, actually, for people who kill other people along with themselves, for any reason. I am not listing the many possible reasons for killing someone on purpose (aka murder) here so as to stay on topic. Jocelyn Eastman made it very clear that "Furthermore, as a mentally ill person, it casts further portrayal on them that "those poor mentally ill will kill. Feel bad for them." I don't want to be seen in that light." Most people who are mentally ill people (using Jocelyn's terms) do not kill other people. It is problematic to use mental illness as a prop for calling for understanding.

The necessity to prove premeditation was discussed. If the person cannot be said to have premeditated a murder, we are supposed to show compassion for that person. "...<>when you state that the mother CHOSE to kill her child... it assumes, pretty much, that this was pre-meditated, that the mother was in a frame of mind to stop herself....What if, god forbid, it had been an autistic child who had murdered the parent in the midst of a "meltdown"? Would your perspective be different then?"

My response: " Whether or not she chose as in premeditated (is there some sort of time limit on how long a person has to "premeditate"?) she actually did MURDER him. Yes there needs to be a conversation, and action, about supports and services. It is DIFFERENT conversation than condemning a murder. How many people are going to kill their disabled family member and say "I didn't think about it for THAT long..." Yes, there have been cases where Autistic people have killed family members. I don't support that either. The number of people who kill Autistics and other people with disabilities is drastically higher than the number of Autistics who kill/murder their family member. There are a few cases of such killings. On the other hand, there are dozens of cases of people with disabilities who have been murdered."

The next responses are to two comments by different people. I was asked: "Imagine an autistic person in the midst of a meltdown, Paula. Would that person likely be able to step back, gather themselves, and call 911?"And another person wrote:

"We need a support network that actually works, so that if this mom HAD decided to give up custody, she would have KNOWN, with CERTAINTY, that the people/place that she gave him up to would actually treat him properly and not just throw him in some cage and ignore him."

I addressed both of these comments/concepts. The following three quotes are from me and I will put them in another color for people who can see color, although I know some people can not or are using reading software and not looking at the text on the page:

"Asking me if I would accept an Autistic person killing someone "because of a meltdown," (whatever you think "meltdown" means) and then "excuse" their actions? No, I would not. Not all people might be able to call 911, of course. Kelly Stapleton for example, taking all the time in the world to light her charcoals burners, etc., could not possibly have called 911. Of course, there are people who say even THAT was not "premeditated" because: AUTISM." And, I added, "Suggesting that if an Autistic person can't call 911 in the middle of a meltdown, that's parallel to someone planning, for however long or short a time, no matter their mental condition, to take the life of another person, and then that somehow STILL excuses the murder..." My comment was not worded very clearly so I will say that I meant that I was completely taken aback by someone asking me" What if" someone who was Autistic killed/murdered someone would I think of it differently (no) and implying that therefore I did not have a leg to stand on when I condemn anyone for murdering a person with a disability. Because a person with a disability might do it and not be able to call 911.

This quote is from Emily Paige Ballou, and I am putting in almost the entire quote because it is important: "You can be physically overwhelmed by a kid whose needs you can't understand, and you STILL have all the power and all the choices--to call 911, to walk away, to do literally anything but kill a kid. A kid can't get themselves out of a situation, probably. A parent *always* can. It might not feel like a great choice to make, but to preserve your kid's chance at life is the right one, always. Children have a *right* to their lives, no matter how overwhelmed their parents are, no matter how painful the available choices might be. We would not even be talking about this if the victim were a non-disabled kid. Seriously, who here believes you would be making the same arguments if we were talking about a non-disabled kid? You wouldn't. And that's ableism, everyone. The lives of kids with difficult needs are considered worth far, far less, and we are  appropriately tired of it."

Guess what. If you are a parent, you have a responsibility to PROTECT your child, no matter what, no matter their age, no matter their disability. This overrides everything else. If your family member is attacking you in some way that might cause your death, you need to protect yourself, of course. I do not agree (and I think some might not like me saying this but I am willing to) that you have to let someone kill you. But, in ALL of the MANY murder cases that have come to light and that are being documented and recorded and listed and mourned and grieved by my community/ies, not one of them was a "killing in self-defense." They are murders, not "mercy killings," not "self-defense" (and "future self defense because one has been attacked by a large family member does not count- that's when you call 911, even without the "certitude" that your family member will be taken care of. Your family member might actually be harmed or even killed by law enforcement in the process. It happens. This does NOT mean you get to kill the family member in advance. First responders are slowly being trained to more appropriate responses, and there will always be first responders who kill anyway, disability or not). 

Parent Andrew Dell'Antonio addresses the idea that the "level of disability" means we should be more forgiving, somehow, of murder: 

"It's precisely the fact that people reiterate that there was no choice, that what the parent did was understandable, that helps people who might be feeling especially desperate to decide that death for their child is preferable to life.
"I am the parent of a child who can easily be characterized as "severely" autistic - nonspeaking, seizures, etc. I have gone through many moments of exasperation and hopelessness (although many fewer since I accepted my child's uniqueness as part of her, rather than trying to "cure" it). There have been times when I have thought I couldn't possibly continue caring for her for the rest of her life. But I would -- and I will -- entrust her to others who can care for her before I take any steps toward harming her, or inconceivably worse, take it upon myself to decide that she doesn't deserve to live."

Finally, from one person "Do you want prevention or sanctimonious condemnation?"

I will post Shannon Des Roches Rosa's incisive response to that: "I do not understand what is sanctimonious about asking people not to murder their children." I echo Shannon's statement and say that I will always err on the side of being "sanctimonious" when it comes to condemning murders of disabled people.

Prince Rupert mom left murder-suicide note saying she could no longer care for severely autistic son

When autistic children are murdered, are they treated as victims or triggers?

Autistic Community Vigil in Memory of Alex Spourdalakis, Murder Attempt on Issy Stapleton, and All Those Murdered Because They Are Disabled

The Tool Kit of Resources from the Autistic Community is here:

A note: I made the mistake of getting Robert Robinson's last name wrong when I first wrote the post. I have fairly often made the mistake of getting Robertson, Robinson, and Richardson mixed up, most of my life. Apologies.

Another note: I have thought a lot about whether or not I should paraphrase rather than quote some of the people who have commented. Where I have quoted someone's name, I have obtained permission. I think paraphrasing waters down the impact of these statements so am leaving them as is for now. I also want to say that I have not used *entire* statements from most people, whether on one "side" or the other. Some of the comments I have used as illustrative of problematic concepts have said that they do not condone murder. Often it is "I do not condone murder, but..." It is the BUT that many of us have problems with. "But" does not come into play when people who are not disabled are murdered.

I have (maybe temporarily) turned off comments for this post. I do not have the bandwidth to read comments, whether supportive of my view or not. I might turn them on later. 

Image is photo of Robert Robinson, aged 16, murdered by his mother. Rest In Peace, Robert.