April 20, 2007

Not Guilty By Association

As I look around today I see a lot of fear from the autism community, both parents of autistic children, and ASD adults, that the fact that Cho Seung-Hui's name has been linked to autism, it will result in increased prejudice against others with autism.

Perhaps it is just hopeful thinking, but I really don't think that will happen. Now we have only been on this road for three years, and we have already been seriously mistreated by those who just didn't understand autism and that should have known better, so I don't by any stretch want to give the impression that I am looking at this through rose colored glasses. Arrogance and prejudice among those whose lives are not touched by autism is real and needs to be taken very seriously.

However, the compassion that I see from the growing majority of people for what people with autism and their families go through while living in a world that just does not work right for them, I believe, will not be largely changed by this.

Even if Cho's diagnosis is confirmed with complete certainty, with autism as pervasive as it is (1 in 150), and autistic killers as rare as they are (I can think of 2 reported cases) people will come to the conclusion that his psychopathology was in addition to autism.

Sure there will be a few people who make the leap that all autistics are potential shooters, but those people are probably looking for a reason to look down on those who are different from them, and would have found another way to do it if not for this. Those people would have been lost to the cause of understanding and respecting those with autism regardless.

I don't know what will come in the days ahead, but it seems to me that the fact that the media is not jumping on the autism piece of this story, and we are not seeing AUTISM! graphics floating across pictures of Cho's face, says that even the 24 hour news networks, who tend to suck the marrow out of every facet of a big story, don't even really think that this guys autism is why he killed.

The autism community is talking about this a lot more than the rest of the world.

Autism is pervasive and almost everyone knows someone with autism now. They see the tenderness and sincerity that can come out of our kids. They won't be fooled into thinking that this incident teaches that autistics are dangerous any more than it teaches that Asians are dangerous.


Anonymous said...

i get the feeling the white house will be gearing up for a war on autism next to gain poularity.
this could destroy so much good work done over the years.

Wade Rankin said...

Like you, I haven't been too worried about any backlash or thoughts that the evil that emrged resulted from autism. It seems pretty clear that the kid was psychotic, and I would hope the public can differentiate.

What we've been wondering about are the isolated reports that the killer was on either anti-depressants or some other kind of psychiatric meds. It will be interesting to see how long he was on them, and whether there might have been an adverse reaction along the way, or whether his descent into ever-increasing paranoia was simply a natural progression. (Before someone starts wailing about Wade blaming Big Pharma for the murders, let me clarify that I'm merely engaging in idle speculation; like everyone else I'd like to think there's some reason for a person to act like that.)

Ginger Taylor said...

On The Big Story on Fox today they mentioned the Autism aspect for a minute, but most of the discussion centered around SSRIs.

The fact that they can create anti-social behavior in some because they disconnect people from their emotions.

To engage in wild speculation with you, there could be a scenario where those who are already only tenuously connected to other people because of autism or anti-social personality disorder (or both) when on anti-depressants loose all emotional connection to others and merely see them as a source of denigration and frustration.

Julie said...

Hi, second attempt at posting here, don't know what I did wrong the first time... I agree with your post, Ginger and am hopeful that this terrible event might cause more sympathy and understanding with regards to the needs of autistic young people. Hopefully the fears being expressed in some forums earlier will be unfounded - as wade also says, the public can differentiate.

Best wishes.

Anonymous said...

Well, you know, it would be nice to believe all that. But you know *I* would consider it wishful thinking. ;)

You see, Someone contacted me this evening, evidently they had an IEP meeting the other day. The teacher said something to the effect of "I hear the killer was autistic; so this is what we have to look forward to from your kid....." I kid you not. It's not just some people thinking this, not if teachers have the nerve to say this to parents!

There is no place for wishful thinking when it comes to our kids, unfortunately. The points we need to make is that autism is usually joined by comorbidities, not usually seen until the children hit puberty, and that all of it can be dealt with successfully and NEEDS to be dealt with. Many parents don't know about the comorbidities until it's too late and hopefully this can open up discussion.

We need to use this to effect real reforms in the school curriculum, the way autism is dealt with in the system, services outside of school, the state legislatures, etc. It's the best way to stress the need for intervention.

I think you haven't heard it on the news for other reasons.... there is more going on than meets the eye. CNN changing their site, to Autism Speaks removing their statement....

I'm not posting about it to stir up trouble. I'm posting about it because the only way to defend yourself is from a point of strength - and that comes with knowledge. The public needs to Know the Truth - the truth about Cho, and the truth about Autism.

Ginger Taylor said...

""I hear the killer was autistic; so this is what we have to look forward to from your kid....." I kid you not."

Moi... you just gave me a tummy ache.


Maddy said...

Oh dear, if I'd just come before moi! [no offense intended] I just wanted to stay on the happy side of the fence.
Fingers crossed dearies

Karianna said...

When my son was diagnosed at age 4.5, the doctor told us to watch out that unless we medicated him he would become a violent, delinquent drug-dealing teenager.

Of course, this is hogwash! (And we chose not to medicate him.)

But... there is such thing as a self-fulfilling prophecy. Teachers expect kids with autism to be trouble, and so they are.

My little guy is a sweet kid, but because of his quirks ends up in trouble alongside the more "naughty" kids. He thinks he is a bad kid.

I fear for his future because of what he's been told about his diagnosis, not who he actually IS.