Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Let’s stop the rush to judgment.

I suggest reading the whole article at the link below.
Another group of people who feel emotions that they might not show are people with schizophrenia.
And a child who is abused might learn to hide their emotions.
In fact, parents and others often train children not to express their emotions.

Asperger’s, Autism, and Mass Murder
Published on December 17, 2012 by John Elder Robison in My Life With Asperger's

Whenever something horrible happens the public and the media look for answers . . . factoids to explain what may be truly inexplicable. Whatever information can be discovered is tossed out into public view in the hope that somehow a bunch of discrete facts and data points will somehow provide the answers everyone is seeking.

This happens whether the event is a catastrophic fire, a plane crash, or a mass killing. Thanks to the Internet, people all over the world speculate about what happened and why, often in the absence of any firsthand information. The result: a rush to judgment, and all too often - innocent people harmed.

Sometimes these early speculations are prescient. When reporters observed an aviation mishap and said, “the same thing happened on another flight a few years ago,” that report led to the discovery of a flaw in an aircraft’s design, and the potential saving of many lives when a design defect was corrected.

Unfortunately, on other occasions, early speculation proves unfounded, wrong, or irrelevant. When that happens, innocent people are often harmed by the rush to judgment. I’m very concerned that is occurring right now, as the public digests news reports about the Sandy Hook school murders.

Reporters are saying the killer had Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of autism. Every time a news story does that – by tying “killer” and “Asperger’s” in the same sentence – they are at some level implying that there is a connection between autism and mass murder.

There’s not.

Statisticians have a phrase for this situation: Correlation does not imply causation.


How about this factoid: Most school shooters are Caucasian males. You might find that statement a little more shocking than the previous one. But it’s true. Does that mean every white male Caucasian who enters a school is a potential mass murderer? Of course not.

Suggesting a mass murderer had Asperger’s is much the same – it may be true, but stating the fact does nothing to explain the crime, nor does it help prevent other crimes in the future. What it does do – and this is important – is paint a whole swath of population – Asperger people – with a brush that says “potential mass murderer.”


Lay people often take those signals to mean we Asperger people don’t have feelings, or we don’t care about them, or that we lack empathy. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

As the definition of autism and Asperger’s says: This is a communication disorder. It’s not a “lack of feeling” disorder. In fact, most clinicians who work with people on the autism spectrum will tell you autistic people tend to care deeply for people in their lives, and have a sweetness; a childlike gentleness – something totally at odds with what you’d expect in a cold blooded killer.

There is nothing in the definition of Asperger’s or autism that would make a person think we are a violent group. That’s reinforced by criminal justice studies telling us that people with autism are much less likely to commit violent crimes than the average person. Indeed, those studies show autistic people are far more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators.


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