Autism DOES NOT Create Mass Murderers

Today

Autism does NOT equal mass shooter. However, the media often includes information in their stories that may lead the general public to make that assumption. Right now the tragic and senseless shooting at Umpqua Community College in Oregon is all over the news, as well as the subject of Autism. For example, the Today show ran a news clip on 10/6/2015 (the day of this post), with the description that “Information about the gunman in last week’s mass shooting in Oregon is emerging, indicating that his mother may have had an impact on his fascination with guns.” Then the first part of the piece proceeded to discuss not guns, but Autism. Here is a link to the clip:

http://www.today.com/video/new-details-emerge-about-oregon-shooters-mother-539317827583

The reporter Miguel Amaguer says, “Starling new revelations about the mother of Chris Harper-Mercer, a shooter who killed nine people at Umpqua Community College last week. For over a decade Laurel Harper, a registered nurse, offered online advice on various medical issues like Asperger’s Syndrome, an Autism Spectrum disorder that she wrote both she and her son struggled with.”

The story also mentioned that Harper wrote of dealing with a “screaming autistic head banger.” Why was that necessary? It then without explanation segued into the portion that was actually related to the story’s description: that the mother’s involvement with guns and the way she exposed her son to them may have possibly helped contribute to her son’s obsession with firearms.

So what was the link that viewers were supposed to make between the “new information” about Autism within the family, and the new information about their involvement with guns? What was Today trying to imply? Why was Autism even relevant to a story that seemed to be about the fact that the mother taught her son how to shoot guns?

It seemed to me to be to be a sensationalistic treatment of Autism, NOT relevant to the story, and disrespectful to Autistic people in general.

Stories like these are potentially damaging and can help foster the fear and stigma that is so often faced by Autistic individuals.

(Update: I did not address the gun issue in this post because this is a discussion about Autism. My point is that the news report purported to be about guns, but then also included seemingly unrelated information about Autism. I am not making any sort of commentary about guns one way or another. While it is an important discussion, that was not my focus here.)

Years ago, while the world was reeling from what transpired at Sandy Hook, best-selling Author John Elder Robison wrote an article for Psychology Today called “Asperger’s, Autism, and Mass Murder.” Speculation had arisen then, as now, that the shooter may have had Asperger’s. Robison is himself Autistic (he describes himself using both terms Asperger’s and Autistic), and warned, “Let’s stop the rush to judgment.” He also stated plainly, “Correlation does not imply causation.”  Continue reading

The Top Five Autism-Related Posts from Seriously Not Boring

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Another Autism Awareness/Acceptance/Action month is drawing to a close, and I hope that everyone’s efforts made a difference. This world becomes a better place every time someone new reads about Autism and learns to be more accepting. To close out the month here are this page’s Top Five posts about Autism in the hopes that you might find them helpful. These are the topics that seem to have resonated the most with readers, even years later. I feel honored and overwhelmed that when we share our journey it has the potential to help others.

#5. Autism, Meltdowns, and the Unexpected Kindness of Strangers in a Supermarket. Many years ago, when the Ninjas were very small, we were new to the Autism world and spent a lot of time feeling confused and overwhelmed. A difficult incident happened in a grocery store, but the graciousness and compassion showed to us by the employees there helped us through it. I wrote this piece for the Parents Magazine special needs blog. NOTE: This is a change from the original article that was featured at #5. Because reasons.

#4. The Talk: How I explained my son’s Autism diagnosis to him.

MightyNinja

There is no shame in Autism. When my son was old enough I wanted to explain his unique brain to him in a positive way, because how you do it is incredibly important and can affect a child’s self-image for the rest of their life. I wrote: “… I had to be very careful with my words and how I presented Autism. There is still so much stigma in attached to special needs, or even to simply being different (not in my mind, but society seems to feel otherwise). I didn’t want him to see himself as flawed, or view his diagnosis as restrictive, limiting his expectations of what he could achieve in life. I did not want the truth to be damaging. I wanted it to be illuminative and empowering. I hoped that having knowledge of Autism would improve his understanding of how his brain works and help him be more patient with himself.” A version of this story also appeared on the website The MightyContinue reading

The Star: Telling my son’s first grade class about autism

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Yesterday my youngest turned seven. SEVEN! He is in First Grade, and every student is his class has an opportunity to be Star Student of the Week near the time of their birthday. He was instructed to make a poster about himself and present it to his classmates. He was also allowed to bring someone with him to help explain more about himself and his heritage. My son and I decided that this was the perfect time to explain to his classmates about Autism. Earlier this year we explained it to him for the first time, and he was glad to learn more about how his unique brain worked, and is now proud to share that information with other people.

I have long wanted to talk with my son’s class about Autism (let’s call him Josh), and that desire has increased as the school year progressed. Most of his classmates are very kind to him, but a few have started to notice and comment negatively on some of his behaviors. He struggles at times with peer interaction, so I thought maybe things would get easier for him if I explained more about his personality to the other children. Continue reading

Pokémon Acts of Kindness

I think the world could use more kindness today. Behold the awesome. My 1st grader’s elementary school is running a “Kindness Campaign” and encouraged students to make posters. My son came home from school one day and whipped this out. All his own ideas, done in his own unique way. He even read them on the morning announcements that are shown throughout his school via live video feed, followed with a dramatic, “And I want YOU to be kind!”

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the Pokémon Acts of Kindness~

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1. Be kind.
2. Don’t be mean.
3. Don’t fight for food.
4. Play together.
5. Say hello. Don’t just fall in love.

Words to live by. And totally not boring.

In His Own World (and that’s right where he needs to be sometimes)

ninjalex

All the kids on my cul-de-sac are playing outside… all the kids except my youngest, who has Autism. At this point I know better than to make him go outside. In a bit I will, but he just got home from school and I know he needs time to decompress. Sometimes it breaks my heart to see him be so isolated, hear the joyful shrieks coming from outside while I watch him playing alone in the den, but I know that is about ME. At the moment it doesn’t bother HIM. I remind myself that this alone time is actually what he needs after a long, taxing day at school where he had to interact with people, navigate rules, struggle to pay attention, and constantly regulate his behavior. The problem is that what usually happens is in an hour or so after he has recharged his batteries he will suddenly decide he wants to go outside and see the other kids. Sadly, that tends to be when the other kids decide they are done and ready to go inside. And then he cries and cries, and I cry with him. So today, to avoid the inevitable tears, I will try to encourage him to go outside and play after allowing 30 minutes of down time. I just hope that the other kids are still out there.

It is so painful sometimes, watching my son interact, attempt to interact, or refuse to interact, with those other children. It’s not that I don’t love or accept him for who he is, but it hurts when I see him struggle. He has a dynamic personality (VERY not boring!), is a natural performer, and can be quite engaging. I want others to see that~ despite the fact that he is still working at learning social skills, handling frustration, and understanding that some bodily function jokes are NOT appropriate.  EVER.  Continue reading