Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Copycat Murders a Concern for Autistics, Most Parents

AMC Theatres is now showing "Who Killed Alex Spourdalakis." The date I notice is October 16 in Dallas at AMC NorthPark 8687 Central Expy 300 Dallas Texas 75225. Does anyone want to organize a protest at the showing? I am not in Dallas or I would be out there with some literature to hand out. This showing does no good, except it makes money for AMC and allows people who want to sidestep the fact that a murder was premeditate and committed to have a very public, national venue in which to (even if unintended) put the idea into people's minds that so-called "mercy-killings" and "angel in heaven" stuff is not as bad as heinous. 

Note: The original press release for this "documentary" was September 1, 2913. K. Stapleton attempted to murder Issy Stapleton on September 3, 2013, two days after the press release. 

Sept. 1, 2013 Press Release of "Who Killed Alex Spourdalakis?"

September 3, 2013 news reporting attempted murder of Issy Stapleton

Do you think this is just coincidence? It might be, of course. Then again, it might not. I am very concerned for my people, and all people with disabilities.

Contact AMC here: https://www.amctheatres.com/contact/feedback

I wrote this to AMC THeatres: I am writing to express my concern about the film called "Who Killed Alex Spourdalakis?" to be shown at Dallas AMC NorthPark 15 on October 16. The video is a thinly-disguised attempt to justify the murder of Alex Spourdalakis by his mother, which included multiple stabbings and  almost severing his hand. seem to be trying to influence the outcome of a murder trial. Since there seem to be some copycat murder attempts shortly after murders of a person with a disability get a lot of media attention, showing this film, which blames the disability and focuses away from the premeditated murder, may be dangerous for those of us with disabilities.  Please reconsider showing this ”documentary.”  

The pre-release of the film was posted on numerous websites that announce upcoming films. Two days later, K. Stapleton attempted to murder Issy Stapleton. With each fresh murder or murder attempt, a bevy of what are sometimes called "supporters" join forces to try to make us "understand" and feel "compassion" for the murderer, not the victim. Some of these people are concerned for themselves, about murdering their own children or people under their care. While attention is needed to the very serious issue of murders of people with disabilities, showing a film that derails the conversation by blaming vaccines, autism, "lack of services" and everything other than the murderer is DANGEROUS for people with disabilities. I have not seen one person write in comment sections on various articles or sites* "Wow, after watching this film, I realized that there is no way I would ever kill my child. I was concerned about myself initially, but now I stand with those who condemn murder." That would be something. That is not what is happening, though.

* (including the Dr. Phil show, which had as one of its effects an attempt to suggest that K. Stapleton not serve time for attempted murder) NOT ONE that I notice

The "Who Killed Alex Spourdalakis (Answer: His Mother)" film is not a documentary offering a "glimpse" into autism or into the workings of the mind of murderers. Instead, the film suggests that "lack of services" leads to the murders of people with disabilities. In news reports after the murder, it appears that the murderers actually turned down services that were offered. The article and the forthcoming video (if it is ever completed) attempt to justify the heinous murder of Alex Spourdalakis, which included multiple stabbings and  almost severing his hand. In fact, the filmmakers, perhaps in collaboration with CBS, seem to be trying to influence the outcome of a murder trial. This "excuse" for murder would never be tolerated in any other circumstance, even difficult circumstances such as poverty. It is not tolerated now, by our community, that of Autistic people, our parents, families, friends, and communities. 

From my previous post on this topic: 

Typically, conspiracy theories, including films, appear after a verdict has been given or when some information is missing, or a person is missing. In this case, CBS and the filmmaker engage in conspiracy tactics before the outcome of the case, and with full information about how the murder was done (pills and knife), where, and how long it might have taken for Alex to die after having been repeatedly stabbed and his hand almost hacked off. There is no "whodunnit" here.

Commentary on the "documentary" by Autistic advocates and parents of Autistic children: 

It is Now OK to Kill Your Child

Whitewashing the Brutal Murder of Alex Spourdalakis

CBS Provides Glimpse into "Documentary" Defending Autistic Teen Alex Spourdalakis' Killers 

Sharyl Attkisson and CBS News: Lying by omission about the murder of autistic teen Alex Spourdalakis

Alex Spourdalakis running, when he was alive
Issy Stapleton

Saturday, September 13, 2014

K. Stapleton Murder Update- Justice for Issy

K. Stapleton, who is being held without bail and faces a life sentence for attempting to murder her Autistic daughter, is getting a day of celebrity on the Dr. Phil show on Monday September 15. The following day, September 16, the program will continue.

On Monday and Tuesday, people will use Twitter to let @DrPhil and his audience know that Issy Stapleton is the victim, not the person who tried to murder her. On Facebook the event for this initiative is Tell Doctor Phil and the Media that Issy Stapleton is the VICTIM. The event organizers write:  "When the media reports on cases of violence and abuse against Disabled individuals, we MUST hold them accountable to telling these stories with respect to the actual victims of these crimes. Our lives matter!  When a Disabled person is the victim of a violent crime, we must not allow the media to talk about "lack of services", or the "burden" of what it is like to care for us. This is the rhetoric of fear, of hate, and victim blaming. That is unacceptable." Please use the hashtag #JusticeForIssy in your tweets and posts.

The blurb for Tuesday's Dr. Phil show reads "Dr. Phil continues his exclusive jailhouse interview with Kelli Stapleton, a mother accused of trying to kill herself and her severely autistic 14-year-old daughter, Issy. Kelli recently pleaded guilty to a felony charge of first-degree child abuse. Does she regret her actions that day? And, hear from Kelli’s best friends. Were there any warning signs that Kelli was reaching her breaking point? Then, another mom, Lisa, says she knows Kelli’s pain all too well. She says her autistic son is extremely violent, and she says she contemplated a similar tragic scenario for herself and her son. Plus, find out how you can help Issy secure a healthy and productive future."

I can tell you how to "help secure a healthy and productive future" for Issy and all disabled people who rely on parents or other caregivers, Dr. Phil:

Don't give any positive attention to would-be murderers. Don't call autism a "jail" just because K. Stapleton does. Be respectful in your descriptions of autism and other disabilities. We Autistics are watching. Don't hurt us with your comments. We won't be safe if we are talked about in a way that makes people think we are barely worthy of life. There's NO "future" for some of us if parents and other caregivers get the idea that we really don't deserve to exist. Interview people other than the attacker's friends. Interview Autistic people. Confront/question members of the audience attending the show who might "take the side" of K. Stapleton. Make sure to condemn murder and call for the maximum penalty so that copycat murders do not occur in the wake of your show. Direct your audience to the Tool Kit of Resources from the Autistic Community or similar resources.

I can only hope that Dr. Phil or some of those who are interviewed will come out strongly against K. Stapleton and in defense of Issy and all disabled people's right to our own lives. 

Note: I only used Stapleton's first name in order to make this post accessible in search engines. I would prefer to not use her first name: many people have pointed out that she gets called by her first name, almost as if everyone is on an intimate basis with her (especially people who pressure those of us who condemn the murder attempt to walk in her shoes) while Issy's name is often not even used. Let us remember who the real victim is here: Issy Stapleton. I am sorry that this mother made this choice, but no excuses for murder/attempted murder of another human being are acceptable. (Shortended link for the post is http://bit.ly/1quEJxI).

The "understanding" that is being called for is often a thinly disguised plea to "go easy on her." The disabled community cannot afford to do that, when one compares the dialogue around the murders of people with disabilities to other murders. Calls for understanding the murderer are part and parcel of any discussion about the murder of a disabled person. This focus on the "humanity of the murderer" rarely happens in other murder settings. Because of this pervasive societal attitude, tipped toward dismissing our lives in a very concrete way, disabled people are in harm's way, all of the time. Many of us are at the mercy of family or other caregivers. A strong stance against violence against us must be maintained in order to counter the tendency to see our lives as not worth living.

For anyone who is concerned that they or someone they know might murder a disabled family member, please look at the Tool Kit of Resources from the Autistic Community which has information and links that can be helpful. Remember, murder is NOT really your "only option."

Short link for this post is http://bit.ly/1q13Gut

Issy Stapleton

Image says #disabilityisnotacrime #JusticeForIssy #OurLivesMatter This image is from the Facebook event linked above.

Related posts:

Petition for maximum sentence:

Changing Conversations: When Parents Murder Disabled Children



I will come back and do more links later. Very tired with reading and writing about this. Please post your appropriate, non-supportive of murder links in the comments section.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Citizen Autistic-New Film Release

Citizen Autistic by William Davenport will be released as a DVD on September 9 2014. That's tomorrow, from my vantage point here on the 8th at 3:03 am. :)

"Citizen Autistic offers an inside look at the activists on the frontlines of the autism war the fight for human rights and self-advocacy. Featuring interviews with Ari Ne'eman, President of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, Landon Bryce, founder of thAutcast.com, artist Robyn Steward, Clarissa Kripke, MD, and activist Zoe Gross, who discuss how Autism Speaks, one of the largest organizations in America, relies on propaganda to raise funds for genetic research without considering families touched by autism. Directed by William Davenport (Too Sane for this World), Citizen Autistic seeks to expose the controversies provoked by the organization's so-called advocacy by giving voice to some of the most articulate members of the communities it claims to represent."

The film also interviews Melody Latimer, Shannon Des Roches Rosa and Paula C. Durbin-Westby. A few people in the film I don't know (or don't recognize!). I will add their names once I learn or re-learn who they are.

This is one autism documentary I like. I am not saying this because I am in it, because we all know that I don't necessarily like films that I am in. I was initially not interested in being in another film but when I saw the material that had been done so far, I realized that this was a project I in which I could safely be involved and contribute something that I hope will help make the world a better place for Autistic people.

Reasons I like Citizen Autistic include:

- The film lets Autistics speak for ourselves, saying what we want to say.
- The people interviewed get a chance to fully talk about their views without being editorialized.
- We are not accompanied by creepy music.
- Our words are not taken out of context. Any additional material in the segments enhances what the Autistic person is saying rather than "mitigating" the effect of our sometimes rather strong words.
- Promotional material is respectful- it does not create a nonexistent story line, nor capitalize on the interviewees in a way that calls our words and our lives into question.
-The film dares to (finally!) counter Autism Speaks' anti-Autistic rhetoric, and it counters the Judge Rotenberg Center's atrocities.

Who else is doing this cutting-edge, difficult, no-holds-barred activism work in documentary version right now?! No one that I know of. Please support Citizen Autistic by buying the film if you can, or by promoting it on your social media. An indiegogo fundraiser for the film is here: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/support-citizen-autistic-screening-tour

Citizen Autistic Trailer is here.

Autism Speaks Walk - San Jose.. (Citizen Autistic excerpt) interview with Zoe Gross

DC Autism Speaks Walk - Citizen Autistic Excerpt...

TRIGGER WARNING for murder of people with disabilities: Vigil - Citizen Autistic Excerpt... interview with Lydia Brown

TRIGGER WARNING- includes JRC Torture Video: "The Judge - Citizen Autistic Excerpt..." Interviews with Ari Ne'eman and Clarissa Kripke

Gay Rights - Citizen Autistic Excerpt...

This is an image of the beginning of the film. It does NOT lead to a link to view the film. The images is a black background with white lettering that says "CITIZEN AUTISTIC" and below that "The Judge-Citizen Autistic Excerpt. by William Davenport."

Image has CITIZEN  AUTISTIC at the top, a person wearing a green hat ("apple green?"), with headphones and buttons holding a sign that says "I am NOT a puzzle, I am a person," with a blue puzzle piece crossed out in a red circle.

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." http://www.adopting.org/LDA.html

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." (http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-frantic-parents-isla-vista-shootings-20140525-story.html) 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. (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/blaming-shootings-on-autism-a-mistake-experts-2014-05-25

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 donotlink.com 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," "zerohedge.com" and the "dailymail," a British tabloid newspaper, (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daily_Mail) 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 http://www.forbes.com/sites/emilywillingham/2014/05/21/no-timothy-mcveigh-was-not-autistic/ 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) http://murderpedia.org/ (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: http://kildall.apana.org.au/autism/articles/bryant.html 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. (http://www.westernmorningnews.co.uk/Plymouth-terrorist-Nicky-Reilly-regrets-attempted/story-21079866-detail/story.html)

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: http://www2.fbi.gov/ucr/cius2006/offenses/violent_crime/index.html

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: http://paulacdurbinwestbyautisticblog.blogspot.com/2014/05/washington-post-autism-mass-murder.html

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 bit.ly link to this blog post- http://bit.ly/RWn6Yn

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: