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

Embrace What Makes You Unique: Why we need more people like Draven Rodriguez & Graham Moore

Draven-Rodriguez-01_t300_b1-black                           stay weird

From Seriously Not Boring: “Embrace What Makes You Unique~ Why we need more people like Draven Rodriguez & Graham Moore” by Jennifer Roberts Bittner 

Embrace what makes you unique! I have long held tight to that sentiment. That is the heart of this website’s title, “Seriously Not Boring.” I LOVE people who are “different.” People who offer diverse and interesting experiences, personalities, and skills. People who live passionately, love deeply, and create freely. Who see things in this world that the rest of us miss. Who refuse to conform to the rigid standards imposed upon them by the expectations of society. People who realize that beauty and strength can be found in the midst of struggle and loss. People whose different abilities give them a unique perspective of the world around them. It makes the world such an interesting place!

I think that was why I liked Draven Rodriguez SO much, although I never told him. His glorious creation for his High School yearbook was inspiring. To me it was the epitome of “Be Yourself, Be Different.” For those of you who don’t know the story, he posed with his cat on a laser background in an effort to create an UNFORGETTABLE yearbook photo. He succeeded, and the internet went wild. Sadly, not everyone was kind. Some mocked his photo and wrote rude, cruel things about him. Others praised Draven and his bravery. The school ultimately declined to allow the photo in the student section, but the Principal offered a compromise. She and her chihuahua held a special photo shoot with Draven and his cat to help raise awareness for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and the image was featured on her page.

I thought his whole experience was incredible, and was inspired by Draven’s tenacity and creativity. His picture not only created a stir, it also made a difference. Draven was also involved in anti-bullying campaigns. What we know of him shows an interesting, caring young man. He seemed like someone I would have liked to meet, someone I would have been friends with in high school. I was proud of him and didn’t even know him. I saw it as a victory for our people: the different ones. Draven knew that he had become an internet meme, but I wonder if he knew how many people, like me, he had truly inspired with his picture.

Months later the world learned the sad news that Draven had died of suicide. And I wept. A LOT. Several times. I wept for a boy I never knew but felt like I knew. I wept for the world because we had lost yet another unique, sensitive soul. And I wept with Draven for the pain that he faced. I wept for myself for the times that I felt alone and different. And I wept for my son, who has Asperger’s, for the moments he feels the same way. I wept out of fear that he will face the same cruelty as Draven, simply because he is different. My son is proud of his unique brain, as am I, but insensitive, intolerant treatment by others can turn pride into shame.

Aside from being mocked on the internet I don’t know what specific struggles Draven faced. I don’t know if his troubles came from without or from within. But I do know that the world is not always kind to those who are different. I also know that quite often those who are the most creative can feel the most conflicted inside. Whatever his struggles, I grieve for what he suffered, and I grieve for our loss. The world is less interesting without him in it. Please let me be clear: I do not celebrate how he died, but I celebrate how he lived prior to that.

After I learned of his death I spent the rest of the weekend with my heart hurting, thinking about all the children who feel mocked and isolated. Thinking about how cruel the world can be. Thinking about all those people who are afraid to show their true inner sleeves for fear of how others would react.

And THEN… Graham Moore. Oh my heavens what amazing timing. Just a day after we learned of the suicide of a boy who was “different”, this man stands on a stage to accept an ACADEMY AWARD and tells the world just what it needed to hear: “I tried to commit suicide at 16 and now I’m standing here,” he said. “I would like for this moment to be for that kid out there who feels like she doesn’t fit in anywhere. You do. Stay weird. Stay different, and then when it’s your turn and you are standing on this stage please pass the same message along.” And I started crying again. Oh Draven, his words were for you!

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The Warrior Ranger: Be brave and be yourself

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The brave Pink Warrior Ranger

Happy Halloween! I wanted to share with you this awesome picture of a brave, unique young man and real-life superhero. He has enjoyed the Power Rangers since he was very little, and his favorites happened to be the Pink and Yellow Rangers. It didn’t bother him that they were girls, he just knew that they were awesome. He also greatly respects and admires his mother, and her favorite color is pink. To top it all off, October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. So this cool dude came up with a plan to wear this Pink Ranger costume to his elementary school.

At this point I think the best description would be the words written by his proud mother:

So proud of this child who, true to himself, wore this costume to school. When the teasing peaked, the critics were silenced when he told them he wore it for Breast Cancer Awareness. His critics became his defenders as his teacher is battling this disease. 

That’s right. The other reason that this brave little individual wore pink to school was to support his beloved teacher who was fighting breast cancer. By the way, he is only in SECOND grade. So young, but already such a leader. He has also overcome many obstacles in his own life. I can’t give you details, but believe me when I say that he is a fighter! This little guy has a big heart and and even bigger strength of character. He courageously stood up for someone he cared about AND was true to himself. He didn’t care that what he wore was unusual, he just knew that it made him happy and it was something he wanted to do. Even if it was “different.” Even if he might get teased. THAT is strength. That is beauty. That is uniqueness. And that is SERIOUSLY not boring.

Rock on, young Ranger! Way to be a Warrior!

Seriously Not Lame

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I ran into this tutu-adorned guy at a 10k expo today and liked him immediately. He oozes awesome. But if you asked SELF magazine, they would say he was lame.

The Huffington Post reported that the April issue of SELF ran a picture of Monika Allen in the “Lame” column of their “BS METER” with the following caption, “A racing tutu epidemic has struck NYC’s Central Park, and it’s all because people think these froufrou skirts make you run faster… Now, if you told us they made people run from you faster, maybe we would believe it.”  They had contacted Monika for permission, but neglected to mention their less-than-honorable purpose for running the picture. Monika assumed it was possibly to highlight her tutu-selling company, Glam Runner, that also helps raise money for a non-profit that focuses on empowering young girls.  Or maybe it was because the picture was taken during her first marathon since receiving a BRAIN CANCER diagnosis. Yup. Not only is Monika tough enough to run a Marathon, but she was doing it while undergoing treatment for CANCER.

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In His Own World (repost)

This earlier post sheds some light on why watching my son play with Sophie the Sea Lion last Sunday resonated so deeply.

https://seriouslynotboring.wordpress.com/2013/04/14/in-his-own-world/

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